electric smoker vs charcoal smoker

electric smoker vs charcoal smoker 2021 (updated)

(Last Updated On: January 19, 2021)

Electric smoker vs Charcoal smoker

The taste of food mostly depends on the process of cooking and how they are being prepared. Smoking of food can provide a feast and diverse taste which can be gain by the flame of a stove or a flame broil.

If you are a meat lover, you should know that the difference of taste of the meat mainly relying upon the style in how it’s cooked.

The best way to get a diverse taste from meat is to smoke it. And to smoke, you just need a smoker. And while using your smoker, you may satisfy with that which you already have but maybe something waiting for you which can be given a better result. So to define what is good for you, 

You should learn about other available types of smokers in the market. 

There are a lot of types and variations in the smoker. Electric smokers and charcoal smokers basically do the same job in a general sense. So it is a matter of question what is better between them and why? Are the taste is the same? 

You will get all the answers from this article.

So let’s start, “Electric smoker vs Charcoal smoker.” 

First thing first,

What is an electric smoker?

electric smoker vs charcoal smoker

 

It is a device for those people who love smoked food. This smoker has a digital control panel and it is a very convenient device. Just start the smoker. Set the desired temperature, time refill the wood chips container and the water tank to start smoking food. After stating the smoker just relax, the smoker will do everything for you. On the other hand, other types of smokers require constant temperature control as well as refill fuel as ell as many other things. The electric smoker has many useful features depending on brands, price, and model. The main advantages of electric are the convenience and simplicity of use. 

Since electric smoker needs to be plugged into an outlet, it is not portable like other smokers. 

An electric smoker has both analog and digital styles to adjust the temperature with the thermostat dial. An electric smoker can cook food faster but won’t be able to give you the richest and best smoky flavor.

Now Charcoal Smoker,

So, What is a charcoal smoker?

electric smoker vs charcoal smoker

Charcoal Smoker:

If you want the most authentic smoker to your food, you should use the charcoal smoker. And in a charcoal smoker, you need to do some things like start, stock, watch, dispose of charcoal, just like you would with a charcoal grill. A charcoal smoker allows adding two levels of flavor to good by burning flavored charcoal and wood chips together, this process will help you to get deep and nuanced flavors, It is the best choice of a gourmet smoking enthusiast.

Now we shall begin the head to head comparison of a Charcoal smoker and Electric smoker:

In this post, our main topic is electric smoker vs charcoal smoker and which of them is better. We believe that “think and find” will be able to give you some information which will help you to find the best model to make your decision on this matter. 

If you are thinking about real BBQ with smoky failover just buy a charcoal smoker because nothing can be compared to the charcoal smoker for smoky flavor in the BBQ.

Lates face the confrontation of electric smokers and charcoal smokers. Without any doubt, the charcoal smoker is the winner if you want to get the best but if you want convenience and simplicity there is nothing like an electric smoker. 

Both types of smokers have upsides and downsides. We will discuss them in a broad way so that you can learn every detail about them and you can decide in this battle who is the winner 

Electric Smoker General Overview

Electric smoker overview

In the electric smoker, A heating element near the bottom of the smoker provides the necessary heat to the wood chips smoldering.

The heat and smoke together cook and add flavor to the food which you have set on the racks or in any grates or chamber of the smoker. If you are good at operating an electric oven, then using an electric smoker will be more easy for you.

Charcoal Smoker General Overview

The reality is, a Charcoal smoker is the most basic of all types of smokers. It is an offset smoker while the charcoal burns at the side of the smoker. Generally, old charcoal burns at the bottom of the smoker to generate heat, and flavored wood chips or chunks burn at the top or right to add flavor to the food. As heats are generating from the bottom and your foods sit upper in the grates it becomes cooked very well while gaining smoky flavor. 

We have mentioned that it is and basic smoker, it doesn’t mean it’s very easy to use. Rather it takes more attention than any other type of available smoker in the market. You need to monitor the temperature to keep it constant, adjust the dampers and most importantly fill the wood chips and charcoal during longer smoker. 

Electric vs Charcoal Smoker – Summary

Maybe you want to know what is actually important to you, the food”s flavor or speed? Already it is clear that a Charcoal smoker will give you the unbeatable flavor but at a slow speed, where electric smoker will give you a good speed but taste not like the charcoal smoker. 

You know, a charcoal smoker is a symbol of tradition with fun and solid smoky flavor for the meat. No one cannot ignore the BBQ cooked in this type of smoker. And you just need to take a responsibilities of getting the charcoal burning, adjusting the vent of air, you will find a great fun from the activity of this type of cookies and you will feel that you are really cooking something and you will get the credit of taste, while the others will do everything for you, you just need to plug and play in the electric smoker. 

In the summery of electric smoker, It is a synonym of speed, easy and comfortable. A specific controller will allow you to smoke meat nearly maintenance-free, just set and forget about it, Smoker will cook and will stop automatically while it is done. Of course, it will provide flavor to your meat, which is still good or enough for you but never like a charcoal smoker. The electric smoker does not produce smoke interested ff it, a bowl with wood chips is used. As a result, it can not able to produce the same result as charcoal or wood. 

Now answer yourself asking a question of what types of a person while smoking, And how much time and effort you have to give while cooking food or meat in the smoker. Then choose what is best for you. Remember one thing, If you want to use the smoke in the outdoor or outdoor party electric smoker is not for you, because it needs to plug in an electric socket. 

Charcoal Vs Electric Smoker: Contrasts and Comparisons

There are a lot of things to think deeply when you are choosing a smoker. 

Now read this part carefully to find out the most important factors to think before you buy and what is most important for you.

Quality and Consistency of Finished Foods

What is our ultimate goal? Of course, the goal is to have the most delicious food from the smoker. 

If you have never smoked food before, you will get the most consistent results from an electric smoker because a good electric smoker always holds a constant temperature without your help to hovering it all the time of cooking, and keeping the constant temperature is essential for a smoke food. 

If you can maintain a constant temperature with a charcoal smoker by hanging with it, which is very tough but you will get an excellent result form a charcoal smoker.  

Again, when it the question of quality, there is no comparison, the charcoal smoker is winning in this topic easily. 

For example, to crisping skin or creating a killer bark, electric smokers can not do a great job. Because of the overlay moisture retention, But as a charcoal smoker has their ventilation there is no problem for cooking these types of food. 

A charcoal smoker generates different and more complex flavor profile with charcoal while burning charcoal it creat more smoke and more smoke means more flavor to the food and meat. 

Ease of Use and Convenience:

In this category absolute winner is an electric smoker. You can’t beat plug and play, and the simple and easy process of cooking with this electric smoker. While electricity is on, it stays on how much time it needs and no need to refiling charcoal during a long time cooking session. 

Because of the instant-on element, you will be able to smoke very fast with an electric smoker. With the digital electric smoker. You just set your temperature and will do the rest of the work. You do not need to worry about vents, baffles or adjusting for wind and drafts.

But be sure about a heavy-duty extension cord if the outlet is not right where you need to use it. A charcoal smoker can be fired up anywhere including camping, cottaging or RVing but electric smokers will not give you this facility. 

Versatility:​

An electric smoker can only be used for smoking you can no do drill or roast effectively in it. Cold smoking is not possible here, you can just perform some appearance of cold smoking at low temperature, but true cold smoking nead temperature around 85 F, So it is not for cold smoking.

From the side of charcoal smoker, Direct heat grilling is not possible in the charcoal smoker, at least not on barrel or vertical style smoker. 

Some offset smoker offers a small grilling zone at over the top grate of the charcoal. And it is not a big deal to get a temperature of roasting like about 350 F (177c) from your smoker.

So if you like two or three options, a Charcoal smoker is covering it.

Temperature Range – High Heat and Low Heat

An electric smoker has a limited temperature range which can only smoke anything, they are exclusively built for smoking only. A typical electric smoker can provide 100-275 F (38-135 C). It is good enough for low and slow smoking and for some low-end smoking like cheese, nuts veg, and fruits. But what about searing and roasting? 

Keeping low temperatures in a charcoal smoker is very hard. The temperature might go down to 100 F but you need to work hard to keep a charcoal fire low. Here your practical lower limit will be closer to 125 f and the upper will be up to 350 f.  A roaring fire can provide you the slightly higher temperatures, but you should not miss the option. 

If your offset smoker carries a cooking grate in the firebox, that means you are able to sear as a bonus, if you build up the fire. 

Size, Footprint and Space Required:​

It is not the question is, how much space the smoker will take, better give the answer how much space do you have for your smoker. Figure out your ability and then buy a smoker according to your space. 

All types of smokers have a footprint up to about 2 feet by 2 feet depending on capacity, no matter that is electric or charcoal smoker. Some smokers are larger and some are fewer.

With charcoal smoke, you have the option of using an offset smoker. This will give more footprint in line with a standard grill. It may need a space up to three to four feet deep and six feet wide.

Cooking Capacity:

Generally, we think that a charcoal smoker will provide more space than electric, but it is not true, really is the difference is very small with the electric smoker while you are buying the same size smoker.

But the options for various size is widely available in the charcoal smoker, where the electric smoker can smoke average 6 turkeys at the same time. You will get a small size for every model, but definitely, you will have more choices in charcoal. 

The vertical smoker offers more space than an offset smoker because of stacking racks vertically. 

Reliability

Comparatively, the charcoal grill has fewer things that can go wrong with it, unless you buy a lighter one. As there is no electric or electronic part for frying or an element to damage. Actually, there is not present any part which is very complicated to damage. But be careful about rust, but with proper maintenance and storage, this problem also can be solved.

Electronics smoker smokes your food by holding an ideal smoking temperature with some pretty sophisticated circuits inside it. They are really complex but not a proven technology, so the electronics and outdoor elements can be damaged easily and maximum time the keypad becomes wear out after long time using.

We are not saying that electronic smoker is less reliable than a charcoal smoker, but as has electronic elements it can be damaged and the repairs can be costly if your smoker is out of warranty coverage.

Bad Weather Effects​

By good insulation, the impact of cold weather can be reduced. The build quality of a Cheap smoker is not good, so it will always perform worse than an expensive one in the cold weather. No matter it is an electric or charcoal smoker. 

If the insulation is the same, an electric smoker will face difficulty to keep the temperature to your target, because typically they have lower maximum temperature than a charcoal c=smoker can produce.

For wind, an electric smoker is hassel free. Because it doesn’t use vent or chimneys. So there is no way for winds to enter inside the smoker and muck things. Even if it could, there is no flame inside like charcoal smoker which can be extinguished. 

While you are smoking with a charcoal smoker but there is a lot of wind just find a way to block or divert the way of wind to keep the things kosher inside cooking in the smoker.

Precipitation is a considerable factor while using a smoker. No matter where you live, you will face rain and if you live in far enough north you will face snow. Rain and snow can chill your charcoal smoker as well as they can get into the chimney, If you have a hood over the top then don’t worry about these things if the blow comes from the sideway. And maybe you are not there for smoking in the situation of heavy rain. 

Wet conditions are harmful to an electric smoker. If moisture enters the control panel with any small cracks it will totally ruin it. Please do not smoke in the rain with an electric smoker and always cover it when not in use if there any chance to get wet. 

A charcoal smoker is a winner in this section because the moister can not do any harm to it. 

Maintenance Required

Electric smokers don’t produce a lot of smoke so cleaning is very minimal here but it is important to wipe the exterior to control the moisture issue. Always scrape off racks between every use. 

A charcoal smoker will need more cleaning for the higher value of smoke. If you accidentally make a more thin smoke, your cleaning job will be harder. To allow smoke to flow freely you need to clean the creosote made by burning of charcoal. 

Initial Cost to Buy

The average price for an electric smoker is higher than for a charcoal smoker. So it’s up to how much money you want to spend on your new smoker. 

If you want to buy an entry-level smoker, go for a charcoal smoker, there are a lot of charcoal smokers which is available at very low cost. 

Both types of smokers have a lot of expensive models, Typically the offset smoker will be a higher price, or if you want a complex electric smoker such as Bluetooth or wifi enable will cost more.

Ongoing Cost to Run

In this section who is the winner? Guess. Yes. The electric smoker is a clear winner because you can ignore the cost of wood chips, charcoal, wood here.  The per-hour cost of wood chips and charcoal is many, and very higher than an electric smoker minimum 10 times.

Electricity is cheap everywhere if you live in a remote area that’s another topic. You can use an electric smoker for a long time with the cost of one bag of charcoal. 

Even the cheapest charcoal available in the market will drain your moneybag faster than using an electric smoker. 

Popularity and Community

It is time for the charcoal smoker. In this category charcoal smoker is clearly the winner. It uses classic fuel and it is extremely popular. There are a lot of websites and social media groups for reference and support.  And Not need to mention the videos of youtube. If you buy a charcoal smoker you are not smoking alone. 

The electric smoker has a very small community as well. They are moderately popular for their ease of use. But not the same level of deviation and dedication like charcoal smoker community. 

Quality And Properties Of Charcoal Smoker

Look, there is two very importation function, one is wood chips and another is charcoal. Charcoal delivers heat to create warmth and wood chips consume the warmth to produce smoke.

Charcoal smokers are made to produce strong heat to utilize in smoking. Already we have mentioned that the temperature is very important while cooking to remain constant because the natural smoky flavor come from the wood and fluctuation of temperature can ruin the flavor. 

There are three parts of a charcoal smoker. One is a firebox, another is a water chamber and the other is the cook chamber. There are a lot of innovation s now in the smoker but the charcoal smoker is considered a tradition everywhere. 

Strength and weakness of a charcoal smoker: 

It is very important to know every detail like advantages and disadvantages while buying any product. So if you planning to buy a charcoal smoker, before purchasing, know its strong and week points.

Advantages of Charcoal Smoker:

If you can include the correct wood chips the chance to achieve a particular flavor is very from a charcoal smoker. It rapidly archives its highest point of warning. A charcoal smoker is built for top quality smoking because it produces the right temperature always. 

Ok, let’s make some point, which will help you to know the advantages quickly:

  • TASTE: Charcoal smokers produce great taste.
  • GREAT CONTROL: There is a lot of chance to control the cooking by yourself.
  • VALUE: the great value of money.
  • EASIER TO TRANSPORT: very easier to transport anywhere, no need any outlet socket.
  • STARTERS FOR FAST IGNITION: take less time for starting the fire.
  • HOTTER: Produce more temperature than any other competitors.
  • REPAIRS: Easy to repair and the coast of repairing is very low

Disadvantages of Charcoal Smoker

Cooking Time: It is an important matter to think about. Some smoking takes a lot of time but a charcoal smoker cooking time is only 30-45 minutes. After reaching its pick temperature it cools down rapidly, If you add more charcoal it will take another 10-15 minutes to reach to the cooking temperature.  

Need good quality fuel: Cheap charcoal can contain unusable dust. So you need to use the very good quality fuel like Weber Lumpwood Charcoal

Dealing with ash: It will be a big problem after cooking is finished. it takes a lot of time to clean the smoker. 

Ignition: Though we think it is easy some people face a problem who doesn’t use a chimney smoker. 

Control: Sometimes it is harder to control the temperature you need the move the fuel to create direct and indirect for particular areas. 

Cleaning time: They take more time clean than an electric smoker. 

Quality And Properties of Electric Smoker

The electric smoker uses electricity as its power source. As most programs can be set by the operator its makes the work of the user very easy. Maximum controls are done automatically. 

Here, the heating elements, timers, and thermostat are program features by the control board. 

If your meats are in the smoker but suddenly you become busy with some staff, don’t worry. This smoker will maintain the temperature at a constant rate with its heating rods while you are not present. 

Its do not require extra cleaning process like charcoal smoker because there is no flammable item is used inside it. It is faster than any other smoker in the market. No matter you are a beginner or expert, as it utilizes insulation features, it is safe for all types of people. 

For the meat lover who wants to make their coking process hassel free an electric smoker is suggested for them.

Advantages of Electric Smoker

As your meat mate electric smoker is very faster and practical for your cooking. Let’s have a glance at its advantages:

Use less electricity: When it is called an electric smoker, you may think it can consume a lot of electricity. But the answer is no. An electric smoker consumes very little electricity for its advanced technology. 

Constant Supervision: An eclectic smoker does not need to continue supervision because it can control the temperature automatically. 

Environment-friendly: As it uses clean energy it is environment-friendly, you can call it green cooking. 

Out of danger: Some electric smokers equipped with a rheostat and thermoset, so if there is an irritant of the volt of electricity the smoker will be safe. 

Littel experience: An electric smoker requires very less or sometime no expericen because it is just plug and play, but read the manual carefully before use. 

It is safe because no heat and warn are cominng outsite for its own insultaion. 

Little resiudue: After cooking it prodcue very less of junk.

Easy to clean: Esy to clean beciuase there is nothing which can make dirt. 

Energy eiificient: As it consumes very less electrcictiy it is energy efficient. 

Disadvantages of Electric Smoker

Expensive: some time it is expensive then any other smoker, If it contains a lot of features it cost a lot. 

Problem of power vut: Sudden power cut hamper your cooking process. 

Power souce: You will face a lot of of problem, and you can t do anything if there is no electriciyt. 

Outdoor usgae: For outdoor it is not a good smoker. And always be concern aiyut rain, if oyu use it outside. 

Taste : It will produce relatively less taste than a charcoal smoker. 

Electric Smoker vs. Charcoal- Which One is Better?

electric smoker vs charcoal

1. Popularity

Popularity charcoal smoker

As the prices of electric smokers drop, their popularity increases. A base model electric smoker is about $100 and can be used both indoors and out. This alone allows an entire segment of apartment dwellers to have the ability to smoke items at home. That being said, charcoal smokers have been around for a very long time and have cult followings in many of the top BBQ regions of the United States.

2. Size

size comparison

Electric smokers are, for the most part, going to be on the smaller size. The heating element requires less room than coals and wood do. and air flow is not as important because the heat is continually monitored and maintained by electric devices. Charcoal smokers require enough room for a hefty set of coals to provide heat throughout the cook time. There also has to be enough space for the cook to maneuver the heat source and wood for smoke. Once the space for heat source is allocated, the size of the smoker will be determined by its capacity. Both electric and charcoal lines of smokers have models from small to smokehouse, volume will not be the limitation of your choice.

3. Space Requirement

space requirement

Where do you prefer to cook? Charcoal is going to be an outside only affair due to safety precautions. Depending on the model, electric smoking can be done either indoors or outdoors. Some models, like the Bradley Electric Smoker, are outdoors only as there are precautionary measures due to the bisquettes which are heated to provide the continuous smoke. Other models like the Smokin-It may be used indoors or outdoors. Charcoal smokers not only need to be used outdoors, but there does need to be a significant area cleared around the smoker during use to avoid fire hazards. The Charcoal smoker is likely to be stored outdoors, as well. Some of the electric smokers are more portable and may be used on a tabletop or placed on a cart for easier mobility.

4. Fuel Source

fuel electric vs charcoal

The fuel source and your temperature goals are going to be the key factors in determining what type of smoker best suits your needs. Electric smokers, even high end electric smokers, don’t attain temperatures much higher than 325 to 350 degrees. Some of the lower end electric versions will not get higher than 200 degrees, making it truly a cool smoker or a dehydrator that infuses smoke. Charcoal and wood smokers have a much more variant temperature spectrum, but also require the knowledge of how to build and maintain the heat source. Charcoal smokers allow you to cook your protein low and slow and then finish off at a higher temperature for a nice burnished crust on the exterior.

5. Flavor

Other than flavor from seasoning and the protein itself, even the best electric smokers are not going to infuse as much smoky flavor as a charcoal smoker does. Having heat release the tannins and natural oils from the wood and allow them to mingle over low heat and really lock flavor into the protein. Charcoal smokers are tops in this regard. Their flavor is far better than electric smokers.

taste electric

6. Heating or Cooking Process

An electric smoker generates high intensity radiant waves producing heat and then powers off. After that it re-energizes the heat coils on a timer or whenever the temperature drops. This is much like cooking with an indirect heat source because the heat is maintained mainly by the thermostat and the insulation of the smokebox.

electric smoker and charcoal

Charcoal smokers provide continuous heat that breaks down the fibers of the protein and yields tender, juicy results. In my opinion, the results are in direct proportion to the skill of the cook. Maintaining continuous, slow heat is its own art form and does require patience, practice and being accessible throughout the cooking process.

Electric Smoker Summary – and Who Should Buy One?

Are you leaning towards electric? Review this quick checklist to be sure.

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What We Like

Never runs out of fuel (barring a power outage)

Easy to learn

Doesn’t need constant attention

Cheap to run

What We Don’t Like

The smoke flavor is less intense

No smoking if the power goes out

Needs to be close to an outlet

Less weather-tolerant than charcoal

Who are They Best Suited to?

Smoking beginners

People who don’t want to/can’t spend hours monitoring a smoker

Anyone who doesn’t want to handle messy charcoal

Casual or occasional smokers

You May Prefer Charcoal if…

You like a strong taste of smoke

You’re experienced with charcoal grilling / already own a charcoal grill

You don’t have easy access to electricity

You want to smoke away from home

Charcoal Smoker Summary – and Who Should Buy One?

Ready to join Team Charcoal? Consider these points first.

What We Like

  • Strongest smoke taste of any category
  • Flavored charcoal options
  • Feels more “hands-on” than electric
  • Tons of online support available

What We Don’t Like

Takes longer to set up and get to temperature

Harder to hold your target temperature

Steeper learning curve

Costs a lot more to run than other kinds of smoker

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Who are They Best Suited to?

Experienced charcoal grillers

Barbecue enthusiasts

People with patience

Anyone who wants to smoke on the road (tailgating, cottage, etc.)

You May Prefer Electric if…

You’ve never used charcoal before

You have a convenient outlet, anyway

You prefer a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach to cooking

You’d rather have less smoke

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