Electric Smoker vs. Gas Smoker-Which One to Choose?
As far as being able to set up your protein, and go into fix it and forget it mode, the electric smoker would be the winner here. The heating element is contained within the body of the unit and is electronically monitored with appropriate safety modules to counteract any accidents which may arise. In my mind, it’s the crock pot of smoking … and I mean that with no disrespect at all.
Gas smokers are certainly not unsafe, but an open propane line should be monitored on some level and not left unattended for hours at a time. That being said, moisture levels must be adjusted for longer cooking durations, too.
2: Ease Of Use
Gas smokers are relatively low tech, so in order to use one effectively, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of how a gas smoker works. There are items that have to be taken into account such as the outside temperature and proper use of vents. So, yes, you would need to do a slight bit of research to fully understand how to make the best of what a propane smoker has to offer … but if you’re reading this, you’re already on the right track.
Electric smokers are as turnkey as the oven in your indoor kitchen Not only are the digital displays easy to work, some of them even have apps that connect the smoker wirelessly to your mobile device enabling control even when you’re away from home. Electric smokers require that you know less about the smoking method itself, and more about the protein being used.
3: Heating Mechanism
Electric smokers, as the name suggests, use electricity as the main heat source. The is a heating unit produces high intensity radiant waves which cook the food. The interior cooking temperature is constantly monitored and the appliance regulates heat waves to provide a consistent temperature. Many of the electric smokers make use of wood pellets which are “fed” to the unit on an interval basis to provide the smoke aspect. As with any electronic device or appliance, the counter claim is going to be that there is more that CAN go wrong with the device itself through the lifetime of the product. Technology is great … as long as it works.
Gas smokers use the natural gas or propane as the main heat source. There is definitely more of a bond created between man (or woman) and the propane smoker. The gas level and level of flame must be monitored and adjusted throughout the smoking process to achieve consistent cooking temperatures. The benefit, though, is that propane powered smokers can achieve much higher temperatures than the electric cohorts. If you’re looking for a high temperature finish to your protein, you simply won’t be able to get that with an electric smoker. A gas smoker also allows you to increase or decrease the smoke based on the chips used and their placement within the smoker.
4: Size and Price
Both the propane smoker and electric smokers vary from tabletop to smokehouse, and the price is commensurate with the size. Branded electric smokers begin in the $300 to $400 range and prices do, of course, rise significantly for the higher end models. To properly analyze the long term cost, it’s necessary to take into account the cost of electricity used through the cooking process, as well.
Propane smokers generally begin in the $150 range and require a propane tank (1 gallon of propane equals 27 kWh – Kilowatt hours). The benefit here is that propane smokers are usually a better buy for the roomier styles and propane can be depended on despite weather conditions, making these models a good, reliable choice.
Size does matter. Nothing’s more frustrating than the protein not fitting into the smoker. I like to maximize the use of my smoker and cook multiple proteins at one time or cook larger portions of meat. There are some nice double door versions that allow enough space for a full rack of ribs or brisket to be laid straight across. Some narrow upright versions will require that you butcher meat accordingly prior to smoking.
There’s never going to be a definitive winner across the board, but there is a preference depending on the proteins being used. The electric smokers are able to achieve very low temperatures which are used for dehydrating tomatoes or smoking salmon. It is very difficult to achieve the smoke or cure on delicate proteins with a propane powered smoker.
A propane smoker does allow for higher cooking temperatures and this ability does add in another layer of quality. There have been reports that the aesthetic qualitiy of propane smoked food is better than that of the electric smoker. An electric smoker does not provide the smoke ring and the exterior of the meat is more of a bronze color instead of the slightly charred exterior that propane enables.
I believe that in choosing one cooking style over another, we’ve covered most of the bases, but the decision truly comes down to what is convenient for you and your cooking style. If you hurry off to work each morning and like to come home to nicely smoked meat without the worry of what may be happening at home while you’re away, then electric is going to be a worthwhile investment. If you truly relish the relationship between man and the smoker and you enjoy having something to tend to, then you’re most definitely going to choose the propane route. Many of the hurdles of flavor profiles, etc. can be combatted through seasonings, temperatures, sauces and knowledge of the protein. The true decision making factor is what makes it fun for your personal cooking style.