There’s nothing quite like the taste of smoked food. It has a richness and depth of flavor that’s hard to beat. What’s more, it’s among the nation’s favorite. People want smoked everything, from BBQ sauce to tofu.
The majority of consumers believe that smoking is a specialty process. It’s something that food manufacturers and high-end restaurants do, but not a food prep method they can indulge in at home. This belief, however, isn’t true – quite the opposite.
Technology has made it possible for smoked food lovers to create smokey flavors from home. Companies now offer what has come to be known as electric smokers – cabinet-sized devices that’ll smoke whatever you want them to, giving you that unique and distinctive flavor.
In this review article, we’re going to take a look at five of the most compelling products on the market. We will look at each, and ask the question, which is the best electric smoker on the market today? Take a look at the following.
There are a number of different companies producing smokers these days, but some are clearly better than others. Based upon features, owner feedback, and price here are our pick for the best electric smokers on the market:
When Bradley was putting together its 6-rack digital electric smoker, the firm wanted to create something that would offer not only massive capacity but longevity too. Everything about the company’s Digital 6-Rack Smoker smacks of quality, from the choice of casing materials to the stunning engraving of the company logo on the door.
The Bradley Digital 6 Rack Smoker is aimed at the smoke-loving aficionado. It’s for people who want to share their love of smoked food with their friends and family and entertain large parties of people. The four smoking trays provide ample space for all but the most massive cuts of meat, allowing a regular home user to prepare a genuine feast.
Bradley also takes the issue of the safety of its smokers seriously. One of the problems with smokers is that they have to ignite material to create the smoke effect. Even in electric systems, you still need to burn something somewhere. The company, therefore, incorporates a host of safety features into the device, including warning codes if it thinks that there’s a problem.
The other great thing about the device is the ease with which you can set the temperature. You can do so using a simple dial on the generator and get an accurate read-out of the actual temperatures in the chamber. You also have an outstanding degree of control over the heat, which is a good thing. Some types of food, like meat, smoke well at high temperatures, while others, like fish, tend to do better at cooler settings. The Bradley Digital 6 Rack smoker gives you this subtle level of control, making it ideal for those who want to experiment with things other than a rack of ribs.
The Masterbuilt 30” Digital Electric Smoker differs considerably from the Bradley.
You can immediately tell that the Masterbuilt 30” smoker was built by people who love smoked food. For starters, it’s a self-contained unit: there’s no woodchip pellet “bisquette” hopper to the side that you need to consider. Instead, it uses the company’s patented side-loading system where you can add wood chips to the furnace without having to open the door. The last thing you want is for all the smoke you’ve created to escape, just because you need to top up your wood chip supplies. You want it to circulate and really get into the food that you’re trying to create.
The other great thing about the Masterbuilt is that it retains its heat exceptionally well. The people behind it put considerable effort into designing the housing in such a way that it keeps food warm for long periods, with minimal energy input.
Are there any issues with the Masterbuilt? Sure there are. One of the main concerns is the fact that the device can struggle to create enough smoke for some people’s taste. If your idea of smokey food is something that reeks of smoke, then this might not be the device for you. The smoker will create plenty of smoke for mild curing, but it won’t give you anything particularly strong. (The smoke issue is probably why they developed their side-loading system).
Creating an electric smoker is not the easiest thing to do. Traditional smoking ovens rely on the direct burning of wood of one kind or another. It wasn’t a clinical or refined process. It was a matter of making a fire and pumping the smoke into a room or oven.
Electric, portable smokers don’t have that luxury: they have to provide everything from within the unit itself. Masterbuilt tries to do this but bumps up against the limitations of the technology in some instances.
The Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker does two things differently from the equipment we’ve investigated so far. For starters, it’s a more compact unit, offering 544 square inches of cooking space over three chrome racks. And secondly, it’s an entirely analog piece of kit.
Whether you like this aspect of the device depends on your preferences. Many people love the fact that digital technology is seeping into practically every device that you can buy. Others want something that will get on with the job in the traditional way. After all, smokers worked perfectly well in the past and didn’t need digital chicanery to make them better.
If the latter type of person sounds like you, then you’ll appreciate what Char-Broil has done here. It’s Analog Electric Smoker is heavily geared toward people who like how smoke ovens worked in the past. It features a dial on the front that shows you the temperature on a traditional display. It also benefits from the company’s trademark heavy-duty construction. While heating elements can burn out quickly on other models, that seems unlikely with the Char-Broil.
If there’s one downside, it’s the tendency for the black paint to peel after a few months of operation. It would have been better if the company had found a different way to give their device that dark color we’ve become accustomed to on the electric smoker market. There are ways of creating a great aesthetic that doesn’t involve using paint that can peel.
Smoke Hollow has commercial pedigree, so it’s exciting to see that the company is targeting the domestic market with a small-scale electric smoker, perfect for use at home.
The positives of the company’s 26-inch smoker are considerable. The first is the powerful 1,500-watt heating element which delivers ample power to heat the smoking pellets and the rest of the cabinet. The construction is typically heavy-duty, giving you the sense that this is the type of product you could use multiple times per week, not just on special occasions.
Smoke Hollow has also taken pains to ensure that the unit also provides a wide range of temperatures, from 175 to 375 F, allowing you to smoke everything from the most delicate cuts of meat to giant chunks of rib.
It’s not a plug-and-play product, though. First, users must cure in the inside of the unit with canola oil or something else to prevent it from becoming ingrained with soot. You also need to make sure that you place the smoker on top of something that will collect run-off. The smoker doesn’t come with seals around the bottom of the door, meaning that fat can accumulate the drip down the side. Finally, you’ll need a supply of fresh wood chips and to replace them every three to five hours of use.
The Southern Country Smokers 2 in 1 Electric Water Smoker
If you’re in the market for a small electric grill, then you will probably want to consider Southern Country Smoker’s 2-in-1 Water Smoker. The smoker has several positives. For starters, it’s beginner-friendly. Everything is relatively intuitive, and there are easy-to-follow instructions that make the first-time setup a breeze.
The device itself is relatively small, so it’s easy to move around. And you can quickly separate the top section from the bottom with a quick twist. The rounded top and barrel-like shape also look great and are a welcome addition to any outdoor kitchen, veranda or patio. The pictures online don’t do it justice.
Are there any downsides you might want to consider? First, if you’re in the market for a smoker that’ll provide enough food for a dinner party, then the Southern Country Smokers electric smoker might not be for you. The two chrome trays are spacious, but you’ll struggle to feed more than the family and a couple of guests.
There’s also the issue of the drip pan. While the pan will function perfectly well if you use the smoker on the odd occasion throughout the year, it’s not designed for daily use. You may, therefore, find yourself looking for an aftermarket pan that is more durable than the aluminum one that the company provides.
Despite the entry-level pricing on the unit, it’s worth pointing out that this is still a heavy-duty piece of kit. The savings come from making it smaller, not any less reliable or capable. Southern Country Smokers has not cut corners in terms of build quality here. They’ve just made something that is more geared towards quiet family meals instead of massive dinner parties with dozens of guests.
Just having a great smoker does not guarantee you’ll have excellent meat. It takes some practice to get the most out of your equipment. The good news is there are a number of online tutorials to help you shorten the learning curve. This is a good YouTube video that demonstrates how to use an electric smoker properly: