Take your grilling game to the next level. Learn everything you need to know to use an electric smoker.
There is no better art of cooking than smoking.
To this day, it’s still one of my favorite ways of cooking outdoors. No other type of kitchen gives you the same space to experiment or improvise.
The quickest and easiest way to cook is with an electric smoker. It’s a beginner-friendly way to replicate charcoal or pellet smoking without having to go through the steep learning curve.
They are safer and cheaper to use, with excellent quality and performance.
Their real attraction lies in the way you get to be with them. This is one of the big differences between electric smokers and propane smokers. Their temperatures are digitally monitored and controlled. This means that once you’ve got your meat and heat dial set, you can more or less let it do its thing.
However, not everything is easy.
To take your grill to the next level, follow our simple electric smoker tips.
You will learn how to make the most of the water pans, pellet tubes and vent regulators that come with your electric smoker.
If you get this right, you’ll be cooking deliciously tender and juicy smoked meat time after time.
Let’s get into that.
Choose your grill
Bottom Line: Choose a cabinet smoker with digital controls, a water pan, and an easily accessible chip feeder.
The most common (and fun!) step: choose your smoker.
Due to their excellent characteristics, electric smokers are divided into two categories: vertical water and electric cabinet. Vertical water models work very well in hot climates, but not so well in cold climates.
However, electric cabinet smokers have much better core temperature control, making them more effective during the colder months.
When choosing between the two, the key question to ask yourself is “When am I going to use this?” If you’re likely to use it year-round, go for Cabinet Smoker. However, if you only use it in the summer, I would suggest choosing a vertical water smoker.
Also an important consideration is how much the digital controller gives you. The number pad is the brain behind the operation versus physical strength.
A great digital control panel helps you manage timers, set temperatures and keep track of cooking times.
The incense drip tray is also important. This component IS placed to catch any juices that drip from the meat during cooking. While this also has the obvious benefit of keeping the smoker unit clean, it helps regulate its internal temperature.
One last thing to consider is the location of the smoker’s wood chip bin. During smoking you will need to refill your incense chips on a regular basis, so it is important that the container is easily accessible with no obstacles between you and you.
If you have to open the main chamber of your smoker too far, you will affect the temperature levels and airflow inside the smoker and affect the quality of your cooked meat.
Season your smoker
In short: coat the racks and the inside of the camera with a thin layer of oil. Heat your smoker to allow the oil to settle. Wash with soap and water after cooling.
This is a crucial step and unfortunately often overlooked. It is important that you season your electric smoker before use as it will help remove dust and odors from its interior and grates.
Start by using cooking oil to mark your grates and any other interior surfaces. Then turn it on for 1-2 hours at moderate temperature. Turn it off and leave the door open to cool. After cooling the grates and internal surfaces with salt seasoning.
Insert wood chips
Bottom Line: If your smoker has a wood chip tray or insert, fill it with our select chips (e.g. Hickory, Walnut, Oak) and then insert it into the smoker base.
Wood chips aren’t too hard to come by. You can easily buy them online as well as at many grocery or hardware stores. However, it is imperative that you get the right wood chips. Some smokers only work with certain types, and some electric smoker recipes suit certain types much better than others.
Types of wood chips include cedar, maple, and hickory. This can vary from brand to brand, but generally you need about 4 cups of fries for every 4 hours of grilling.
It’s worth noting that not all smokers are designed to hold wood chips, but they can be customized to use them. If you don’t have a stand for them, you can simply put them in a pot or tin and place them at the base of your smoker just above the heating element.
If you’re adjusting your pot or dose for her, only fill it three-quarters full. Then fold the top of the pot over to quickly cover the fries.This keeps the chips from being exposed to too much air and instead just lets them smolder.
When you’re ready to place them in the smoker, use tongs and stand the can or pot upright on the lava slab at the base of the rack. Once the smoker has reached the desired temperature, the internal heat is sufficient to smolder the chips.
Prepare the meat
Bottom Line: Apply a good grill mix to your chosen meat and leave it in the fridge while the smoker heats up.
The way you did this step has done a lot of the meat you are working with, but many cuts will remain in brine or marinate before grilling.
Salting in particular can take several hours (sometimes even a day), so plan ahead and take into account the preparation time required.
Alternatively, if you just want to season the meat, use a dry marinade or herbs and salt before storing in your fridge overnight.
Preheat smoker and add water
Bottom Line: Fill your smoker’s water pan insert. You can add a little cider or beer to add a smoky flavor if you like. Switch on the smoker and set the cooking target temperature
If you have an electric water smoker, you have a bowl of water. Fill them out.
The purpose of adding water to your smoker is to create vapor when heated. This steam helps to tenderize and protect your meat with moisture so it doesn’t dry out.
Also, an added benefit of the water tank is that you can add ingredients to it that will carry aromas and flavors to the meat. Firm barbecue favorites include cider, orange and citrus peel, beer and wine.
Keep in mind that your water reservoir will likely run out during the smoking process, so keep an eye on it as you cook and refill it if it looks like it’s going to run out.
Tip: Fill your water tank with hot water instead of cold water. This helps keep temperatures consistent and reduces the risk of steam flow disruption.
Check the temperature of your grill
Bottom Line: Check your smoker’s built-in temperature indicators. Aim for a target of 107°C (225°F). Use a specially designed smoking thermometer for the most accurate results.
Different electric smokers take different amounts of time to heat up. Also, to get an accurate idea of how long your meat will take to smoke, it’s important to get them to the right temperature first.
Many smokers have a temperature gauge and controls so you know when they’re ready for your meat, but not all do.
If you need a thermometer, I recommend getting an air probe. Many grill thermometers are designed to measure the temperature of meat, but what you need is an air probe to measure the internal temperature of the smoker.
Be sure to wait until the smoker has fully reached the desired temperature and not before. On average, an electric smoker takes 30-45 minutes to heat up.
Conclusion: When it reaches 107 °C, carefully put the meat in the smoker. Control the internal temperature of your meat for best results.
Once you reach that target temperature, you’re good to go. Place your meat on the grates in the smoker, making sure to close the lid or smoker door securely.
Depending on the meat you choose, smoking can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. Be sure to monitor your food regularly with a meat thermometer to check the internal heat of your food. If you don’t already have one, check out my guides to the best meat thermometers here .
What is grilling?
Smoking is a process in which food (usually meat) is cooked at a lower temperature for a long period of time. This often results in far tastier yields than grilling or baking, as the sustained temperatures break down and melt meat’s fats and connective tissues, allowing the meat to stew in its own juices.
It usually takes between 4-6 hours and requires prior brine or marinating time, so is very time consuming. However, its results speak for themselves and it remains one of the most recognized grilling aids among BBQ enthusiasts around the world.
How does an electric smoker work?
The heat in more traditional types of grills or smokers comes from combustion, and when mixed with wood are given off to flavor the meat gases. In electric smokers, the used metal stick helps to smolder the wood, which will cook the food.
There’s a misconception that electric smokers don’t compare to the quality of charcoal, gas, or wood pellet stoves, but that’s not the case.
What Meat Works Best in an Electric Smoker?
There is not much difference between this type of smoker and traditional kitchens. The pork and beef roasts hold up fantastically well, as does the brisket and sausage. You can even smoke the ribs in an electric smoker.
The trick is to choose slightly cheaper cuts of meat with a higher fat content, as this will give them more flavor. Check out my guide to the best meats to smoke for a full guide .