Electric Smoker Vs Propane Smoker
If you want to upgrade your backyard barbecues and take your grilling game to the next level, it’s important to consider the differences between electric smoker vs propane smokers. Both offer unique advantages and drawbacks, including heat retention, mobility, taste, and cost savings.
However, choosing between the two can be a challenge if you don’t have all the information. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you decide which type of smoker is best for your needs.
With our breakdown of the pros and cons of electric smokers vs propane smokers, you’ll be well-equipped to make the right choice for your next outdoor cooking adventure.
Electric Smoker Overview
Electric smokers are an exceptional way to down-home cook your meals at low, slow temperatures. These kitchen staples use heating elements similar to ovens to blow hot air through the cooking chambers, taking your cooking to the next level.
To start, plug in your electric smoker and allow the heating element some time to warm up so that you can start cooking. Unlike gas smokers requiring little to no warm-up time, the heating element powers the cooking process.
Additionally, high-end versions of electric smokers come with a woodchip tray used to infuse that classic, delicious smoky flavor into your food. The water pan also helps maintain the moisture of the meat you’re cooking to keep everything juicy while you cook.
-Electric Smoker Pros:
Electric smokers are a great option for both beginners and professionals alike. With their ease of use, precise temperature control, and budget-friendly pricing, it’s no wonder they are a common choice for many.
Compared to other smokers on the market, electric smokers are by far the easiest to use, especially when they come with a digital thermostat and control panel. With its reliable temperature control and the ability to convert it into a cold smoker, electric smokers are perfect for smoking delicate food items, like fish or dehydrating jerky.
In addition to being easy to use, electric smokers are also super safe. Since no propane tanks or flammable gasses are involved, there isn’t much risk associated with using them. This makes them ideal for those just starting to break into the smoking scene.
Furthermore, electric smokers can often be used in apartment blocks where charcoal and gas smokers are not permitted. On top of this, electric smokers are usually slightly more expensive than propane smokers but more affordable than other types, making them a budget-friendly option.
With an electric smoker, it’s as easy as setting your temperature and walking away, letting you get on with your day while your food cooks perfectly.
-Electric Smoker Cons:
When it comes to smokers, electric models are a great alternative to propane ones – they offer improved ease of use and the ability to cook at lower temperatures for longer periods. However, like most things, they come with their own set of pros and cons.
Firstly, portability can be an issue with electric smokers, as they need to be plugged into an outlet. This makes them less versatile than other options, especially when cooking outdoors. To overcome this, you may need to bring along an extension cord or generator, which can be inconvenient.
Secondly, while electric smokers can offer delicious smoky flavor when combined with wood chips, they have a minimum temperature range, meaning you won’t be able to fully use your wood chips.
Repairs can be more complicated, and replacement parts may be harder to source. Also, electric models are unsuitable for bad weather due to their control panels and electronics.
To help you navigate the world of electric smokers, we’ve rounded up our top picks in our guide to the best electric smokers. We also recommend looking at pellet smokers if your budget allows, as they offer more versatility and convenience when using wood pellets. Check out our pellet smoker vs electric smoker guide for all the pros and cons.
In short, electric smokers can be great to use, but keep in mind their limitations.
Propane Smoker Overview
Propane smokers are a popular choice among BBQ enthusiasts. They provide great temperature control, allowing you to achieve high temperatures by simply cranking up the gas. A gas burner at the bottom heats wood chips, which impart a delicious smoky flavor to your food as it rises through the smoker’s body.
While gas smokers are often compared to charcoal smokers, many people attest that the taste of charcoal-grilled food can never be replicated. Nevertheless, gas smokers are still popular, especially in commercial barbecue establishments.
There are two main types of propane smokers – those that use a standard propane tank and those connected to a natural gas line. However, finding a natural gas burner can be challenging.
One advantage of propane smokers is that they come with a temperature gauge that allows you to adjust the gas flow, thereby changing the cooking chamber’s temperature. Moreover, the best propane smokers come with a water bowl that maintains moisture in the food while cooking.
So if you’re in the market for a smoker with great temperature control and deliciously smoky results, consider a propane smoker. There is always something new to discover about cooking – and isn’t that part of what makes it so fun and enticing?
-Propane Smoker Pros:
Gas smokers offer a host of benefits that make them an ideal choice for both novices and experienced pitmasters. They’re incredibly portable, require minimal upkeep, and produce some of the tastiest food around. But the benefits continue beyond there. Propane smokers are cost-effective, have low ongoing costs, are simple to use, and have fewer parts, making them easy to maintain.
Moreover, gas smokers offer unparalleled convenience. You don’t have to worry about power outlets or a power outage since they work independently of electric power. Whether camping, tailgating, or just wanting to cook up a storm in your backyard, a gas smoker is the way to go.
In fact, if you talk to most propane smoker fans, they’ll tell you that the results are closer to a traditional charcoal smoker than an electric unit can produce. Plus, you can usually pick up a fair-quality propane smoker at a fraction of the price of an electric one.
So if you’re looking for a budget-friendly, simplistic, and delicious way to cook up some BBQ, a gas smoker is the way to go.
-Propane Smoker Cons:
Gas smokers have a lot to offer, but they also have some downsides. For instance, refilling your propane tank can be a hassle, especially if you use your machine a lot. It’s also worth noting that off-brand models tend to heat up too fast, so controlling the temperature in your chamber could be more challenging.
Another drawback of gas smokers is their poor insulation. This can lead to performance problems in adverse weather conditions. To make matters worse, some unit complexes prohibit the use of gas smokers.
Compared to electric units, gas smokers are low-tech. This means you may miss out on premium gadgets like Bluetooth connectivity. However, their advantage over their electric counterparts is that they tend to run hot, making them perfect for smoking meats.
Electric Smokers and Propane Smokers – Head to Head (A Detailed Comparison of Electric vs Propane Smokers)
Gas smokers are typically cheaper to buy. Although, be cautious of quality with cheaper gas models. On the other hand, many cost-effective electric smokers are available, but if you want cutting-edge features like Bluetooth connectivity, they can get pricey compared to entry-level propane smokers.
Determining which is cheaper to run (gas or electric) can take time since prices vary based on location. However, in most cases, electric smokers are cheaper to run.
Cost is a big factor in the final decision. Propane smokers are slightly less expensive than electric smokers because electric smokers often come equipped with more features. Keep in mind the cost of running a propane smoker could surpass that of an electric smoker in the long run.
A propane tank refill typically costs around $20 and lasts roughly 35 hours. If frequent use is a factor, then the cost-effectiveness of an electric smoker could sway your decision.
-Ease Of Use:
When it comes to choosing the right smoker, ease of use is a top priority. Both electric and propane smokers offer similar convenience, allowing you to set the temperature and focus on other things. However, there are some notable differences between the two.
For instance, wood chips can be a hassle to reload for both types of smokers. While smoke smokers have a wood tray to simplify the process, we find that pellet smokers are even more convenient as they can hold wood pellets for up to 12 hours of continuous smoke production.
Electric smokers are often considered the easiest option, making them perfect for beginners. With digital electric smokers, you turn it on, set the temperature, and load it up with your food – it’s that simple!
However, using a propane smoker may take some practice to perfect. You’ll need to keep an eye on the temperature while cooking as they don’t automatically regulate it. Masterbuilt’s MPS 330G MB20050716 Thermotemp Propane Smoker is an excellent option with a sensor that controls the burner to maintain your desired temperature.
When it comes to ignition and start-up time, electric smokers have a slight advantage for a quicker start-up, while propane smoker users will have to manually open the gas tap before igniting. However, depending on your preferences, these factors may be insignificant.
Electric smokers are easier to use, but propane smokers can still be a good option with manual temperature control. Keep in mind that propane smokers usually don’t come with smartphone app features and Wi-Fi connectivity like some electric smokers do.
-Taste of Food:
Regarding whether electric or gas smokers are better, opinions vary widely.
While Meathead Goldwyn from amazingribs.com is staunchly against electric smokers, the community over at smokingmeatforums.com sings their praises.
Examining the evidence, many argue that gas smokers are superior. If you want your food to adopt charcoal smokers’ rich, smoky flavor and appearance, propane is the go-to fuel.
But, for those who seek greater control and accuracy when smoking more delicate foods such as fish and cheese, electric smokers are a top choice.
Regardless of your preference, owning a smoker is truly the key to unlocking exquisite and delicious food hot off the grill.
-Bad Weather Considerations:
Smoking meat like a pro is no easy feat, especially when you factor in all the variables that come with using an outdoor smoker. Are you going to be a four-season smoker, or limit your smoking to the warm, sunny days of summer?
Choosing the right smoker for your needs can mean the difference between success and failure. If you’re considering a propane smoker, keep in mind that they often lack the proper insulation to perform well in cold, wet, and windy conditions. This can lead to a longer smoking process and increased gas consumption.
On the other hand, electric smokers provide good insulation, but their reliance on electricity can make them unsafe to use in the rain. Water and electricity can spell disaster and cause the electrical parts of the smoker to malfunction and stop functioning.
Electric smokers are a high-quality, reliable choice, giving users complete control over the smoking process. As long as you have power, you’re set to create great smoked food.
On the other hand, gas smokers may be less dependable, particularly if they are of inferior quality.
Fortunately, if something goes awry, gas smokers may be easier to fix than their electric counterparts, as they tend to have fewer tech components.
-Temperature Range and Versatility
Electric smokers are great for low and slow cooking. They excel at creating a smoke-infused flavor profile that’s perfect for meats like ribs, chicken, brisket, and even turkey. But they’re also capable of cold-smoking foods like cheese, jerky, and nuts – a feature that gas smokers only sometimes have.
Gas smokers heat up quickly and reach high temperatures – up to 400°F – making them ideal for roasting and baking. They’re also more versatile than electric smokers, as they can grill, smoke, and roast all in one.
Regarding temperature range, propane smokers have the upper hand – they can maintain a temperature as low as 150°F and as high as 400°F. On the other hand, electric smokers are limited to a range of 100–275°F. This makes them ideal for dedicated smoking and dehydration.
An offset gas smoker is the way to go if you want ultimate flexibility. Though they take up much space, they offer unparalleled cooking options and produce mouth-watering results.
Even though they’re well-priced, Electric and propane smokers don’t always meet our quality standards. You can expect to experience issues with electrical components over time.
While the low cost might seem appealing, they’re not durable to last a lifetime. If you’re looking for better quality, check out the Smokin-It range.
Although not the most aesthetically pleasing, they’re sturdier than most brands.
Cleaning electric and propane grills are straightforward, especially compared to their charcoal counterparts.
But propane models may require a little extra elbow grease. The fuel usage, hot heat, and smoke cause fat to drip down, making cleaning more challenging.
Nonetheless, with a few cleaning tips, you can ensure your grill lasts a lifetime.
-Meat Flavor, Smoke Ring, and Bark
Although electric smokers have a reputation for falling short of the results of other types of smokers, they still produce delectable barbeque. With electric smoking, meat is cooked low and slow, giving it a signature smoked flavor.
The woodchips help create that smokiness; however, the real magic happens with a real flame. That’s where propane smokers steal the show, creating the kind of thick pink smoke ring with a crispy bark that competition judges love.
Despite that, with electric smokers, you can still achieve delectable results. If you can’t get your hands on a propane smoker, an electric smoker won’t let you down, producing succulent barbeque, but don’t expect that sought-after competition-grade finish.
-Size and Cooking Capacity
You have a great selection whether you opt for electric or propane.
If you require an extra-large capacity, propane may be the better option, but this should not be the only factor in your decision-making process.
It’s worth noting that both propane and electric smokers are designed to sit upright, meaning they take up minimal ground space while offering ample cooking room inside.
An electric smoker is a safer choice due to its built-in heating source, which protects users from direct exposure and minimizes the risk of unintentional burns. Furthermore, it is fully insulated, making it easier to use with confidence.
On the other hand, natural gas smokers use propane gas pipelines and pose a fire hazard if gas leaks occur. To avoid such accidents, make sure to inspect the smoker and tank thoroughly before every smoking session. With these precautions in mind, an electric smoker is the perfect option for those looking to enhance their smoking experience without compromising safety.
Top Electric and Propane Brands
Purchasing an electric or propane smoker can be a great investment for those who love barbecuing.
However, with so many brands on the market, it can take time to choose the right one.
Regarding electric smokers, the well-known brands of Masterbuilt and Char-Broil lead the industry with top-quality products.
Smoke Hollow offers a range of options worth considering for those on a budget.
Even for propane smokers, Masterbuilt, Char-Broil, and Smoke Hollow are reliable choices. If finances are a serious concern, look at budget-friendly options from Camp Chef.
The right smoker depends on individual needs, so look at each brand’s offerings to find the right fit and begin a journey of delicious home-cooked smoked meats.
Should I Buy A Propane Smoker?
Whether you should buy a propane smoker depends completely on your needs. Propane smokers can heat up quickly, reach higher temperatures than electric smokers, and provide an impressive smoke ring and bark for competition-grade barbeque.
However, they are not as safe or reliable as electric smokers. If safety and convenience are a priority for you, an electric smoker may be the better option.
- Experienced grillers
- Individuals who require portability
- Individuals who are open to a learning curve
Electric can be a better option if:
- You prioritize convenience lack experience with a gas heat source
- You have an electricity supply available.
In the end, you should assess your needs and budget to make an informed decision on which smoker is right for you. With a little research, you can find the perfect fit to help you achieve delicious smoked meats from the comfort of your home.
Should I Buy An Electric Smoker?
If you’re looking for a smoker that’s easy to use and provides consistent heat, an electric smoker is the way to go. It offers greater control over temperature and time, allowing users to create succulent barbeque with minimal effort.
Electric smokers are much safer than gas models, with safety features like auto shut-off options and temperature control.
Have a look at this checklist:
- Novices or individuals who lack familiarity with gas
- Occasional users
- Individuals with a busy schedule who cannot give constant attention to their smoker
- Individuals who face difficulty in procuring propane
Gas can be a better option if:
- You prioritize portability
- You place more importance on taste than convenience
- You already utilize propane as a heat source
Electric smokers are an ideal choice for those who want to create delicious smoked food without worrying about the hazards of a traditional open flame. With the right care, you can enjoy smoke-infused meals in your backyard for many years.
FAQs About Electric Smokers Vs. Propane Smokers
Is Electric or Propane Better for a Smoker?
The best type of smoker depends on individual needs and preferences. Electric smokers are great for those looking for convenience, low maintenance, and safety features like auto shut-off options and temperature control. Propane smokers offer more intense heat, producing that sought-after smoke ring and crispy bark that competition judges love.
How Long Does a 20lb Propane Tank Last on a Smoker?
A 20lb propane tank should last 10-12 hours on a smoker. This may vary depending on the size of the smoker and other factors such as weather conditions or airflow.
Final Words: Electric Smoker Vs Propane Smoker
If you’re debating between buying an electric smoker and a propane smoker, it ultimately comes down to what you want in your smoking experience. If you prefer the convenience of a set-it-and-forget-it approach, an electric smoker may be the way to go, as it allows you to smoke more delicate proteins easily.
However, a propane smoker may be the better choice if you’re seeking a unit that can rapidly smoke your food and produce results close to those of a charcoal smoker. Keep in mind that propane smokers require more babysitting and regular temperature tweaks.
Ultimately, the decision is yours, and both smokers can provide an equally enjoyable smoking process. Have any additional thoughts about electric smokers vs propane smokers? Please share them in the comments below.
Pitmaster Lives in Eugene, USA. Bio: I’m Billy McCallum, and I love barbecue. I’m the president and founder of Billy Mac’s Bar & Grill, with over 20 years of experience in the field. I’m an exceptional pitmaster and grill expert who uses charcoal, wood, and fire to craft extraordinary culinary masterpieces. My mission is to educate others how to master their grills and cook a diverse range of foods on them. I have extensive expertise smoking briskets, pork shoulders using charcoal, wood, or propane grills/smokers.
I also review kitchent appliances such as grills, smoke, and more. I’ve tried out almost every model available, so if you’re in the market for any of these items be sure to check out my reviews!