Most of us look at the price when buying things but, as any savvy buyer will tell you, there are other factors to consider that can make the difference between a good buy and a poor one. Electric smokers are no different in that respect – like every other kind of consumer item, it pays to shop around, read some reviews and then weight up the options. So, if you are new to the world of electric smokers, here are a few things to consider when buying one.
Smokers come in a range of sizes so you need to decide how much you’re going to want to smoke at a time. Big isn’t necessarily best in this respect so, if you’re only going to use it to smoke, say, a brisket or a few racks of ribs, you won’t need a huge smoker – or even an average-sized one. Choose one that is going to give you enough room for all your food to have space on all sides for air so that the smoke can penetrate evenly.
Vertical vs Horizontal
The difference between the two is where the smoke and heat source is located in relation to the cooking chamber.
A vertical smoker’s heat source is right below the cooking area and will typically be in the same chamber as the food. Since the heat lies directly below the food, it cooks quicker which is good for some foods and not so much for others. The temperature is also easier to control as opposed to charcoal smokers.
Horizontal smokers will have a smoke chamber on the side of the cooking chamber and it’s normally mounted a few inches lower than the actual cooking chamber. The benefit of this type of smoker is that the temperature during cooking will remain lower, creating a more authentic BBQ.
Electric smokers have a heating element, pretty similar to an electric oven. The element heats the wood shavings, wood biscuits or sawdust to emit the smoke. The smokers can be used wherever there is an outlet (but always use it outdoors).
Attainable Temperature Range
It’s important that you’re able to keep a consistent temperature inside the cooking chamber. You don’t really need a smoker that reaches 500 degrees, though, since most hot smoking is typically done between 200 and 350 degrees. Cold smoking can be done below 200 degrees and is ideal for smoking fish, bacon and cheese. Just about all smokers can produce hot smoke but not all of them can produce cold smoke. So be sure to choose a model that will fit your needs.
Smoke Producing Media
- Wood chips are about ¾ inch in diameter and about a ¼ inch thick. They’re ideal mostly for gas and charcoal smokers.
- Wood shreds or sawdust are tiny pieces of hardwood that are typically used in electric smokers. They have a high ratio of size to surface area so they can produce smoke at a much lower temperature which is ideal for cold smoking.
- Wood biscuits work well in electric smokers too. They’re about 2 inches in diameter and ½ an inch thick.
These are a number of the decisions you will have to consider when choosing the best electric smoker for your needs. It all comes down to preferences and there aren’t any wrong answers – just the answers customized to suit your unique situation.