How Does An Electric Smoker Work?

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Electric smokers have become all the rage in recent years! 

This is down to a number of reasons including the fact that they create less smoke, mess, and are a doddle to use. 

You can also expect to get incredible tasting food out of an electric smoker in much less time than with a traditional smoker. 

That being said, die hard smoker fans sometimes complain about clinical feel and approach of an electric smoker. Some argue they lack a certain rustic charm and character associated with a charcoal or propane smoker.

Here at backyardcookingworld.com we like to live by the saying “each to their own.”

What an electric smoker lacks in producing depth of flavor they make up for in consistency of the cook and trustworthy results. 

With all this in mind, how exactly does an electric smoker work? 

In this article, we’ll be answering this question, along with a selection of closely related questions. 

So if you’re interested in how an electric smoker works, read on!

Contents

How Does An Electric Smoker Work? 

How Does An Electric Smoker Work? 

Whilst there are a myriad of brands of electric smokers on the market each with their own features, feel, and design, the basic premise of how each work is the same. 

Once the electric smoker is connected to a power source and turned on, an element at the base of the smoker will heat a cooking chamber. 

This heat is circulated internally, giving the chamber a consistent temperature. Once food is placed inside the cooking chamber, it is heated through a process called convection. 

The basic structure of most electric smoker units is make up of an electric heating element, cooking chamber, and grill racks. 

There are models of electric smokers which have water pans and the option for a wood pan to add an authentic smokey flavor to food.

Water pans are a feature that allow you to keep meat cooked inside the electric smoker tender and moist. Once you’ve finished cooking and need to clean the smoker, steaming it with the water pan will make cleaning it a lot easier. 

Does An Electric Smoker Affect Food In The Same Way A Traditional Smoker Does? 

At this point you might be wondering if an electric smoker has a different effect on food than a traditional smoker. 

The important thing to remember is that, on a biochemical level, food cooked in an electric smoker goes through the same process as a traditional smoker. 

Whilst the overall biochemical effect is the same, there will be nuanced differences in taste. 

Without stating the obvious too much, food cooked in a traditional smoker is exposed, generally, to a larger amount of smoke which becomes infused in the food. 

Pros And Cons Of An Electric Smoker

Now that we’ve discussed how an electric smoker works, let’s take a look at some potential pros and cons of electric smokers. 

Pros And Cons Of An Electric Smoker

Pros

  • Temperature Control: One of the biggest drawbacks of a traditional smoker is the fine art of temperature control. With an electric smoker, the guess work has been all but removed. Nearly all models will have either a dial designed to adjust temperature, with some higher end models having digital interfaces.
  • Convenience: Right off the back of temperature control is the convenience of setting a temperature and stepping away. As electric smokers can get to and maintain an even temperature throughout a cook, set and forget is easy with one of these.
  • Safety: When cooking with combustible gasses and materials there should always be an element of concern. Even a seasoned cook using a traditional smoker will need to consider the dangers of using gas/materials. This is simply not the case with an electric smoker.
  • Easily Converts To A Cold Smoker: Due to the design and nature of an electric smoker, they can easily be converted to a cold smoker. They’re also great for dehydrating food (jerky for example) and cooking delicate food like fish.

Cons

  • Limitations On Heat: You should not expect to get the same level of heat from an electric smoker as you would from a traditional one.
  • Requires A Power Outlet: The fact that you can’t use an electric smoker without a power source, we feel, detracts from their convenience. Taking an electric smoker on the road/camping with you is out of the question, unless you can access a power source.
  • Repairs Can Be Expensive: Not only are repairs usually more expensive with an electric smoker (there’s more that can break on these smokers), usually these repairs are also more complicated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should You Open Vent On An Electric Smoker? 

Whether to keep the vent open on an electric smoker or not is something which most people agree on. 

The general rule of thumb is that it’s advisable to leave the vent on your electric smoker fully open when you’re applying smoke to the food inside. 

This prevents the risk of creosote gathering on the food. 

Creosote not only tastes foul but is also highly carcinogenic (linked to causing cancer). 

Do You Need Wood Chips For An Electric Smoker?

One of the great things about electric smokers is that using wood chips is optional. They don’t need them to be able to cook great tasting food. 

However, nearly all models of electric smokers have been designed to accommodate wood chips. This means that you have the option of using them to further enhance the taste and overall quality of the food. 

Where Should I Place The Electric Smoker? 

The general rule of thumb is that an electric smoker should be at least 10 feet from your house when in use. 

It’s always a good idea to place it somewhere that’s semi-sheltered to avoid being toppled by the wind. 

Summing Up

Despite the obvious step away from traditional cooking methods using propane/solid fuel smokers, electric smokers are on the whole, able to recreate these smokers effects. 

To this end, they’re fantastic if you’re a beginner due to their ease of use. 

Electric smokers can produce high quality food on a consistent basis, something which traditional smokers have always struggled with. 

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