How Does an Electric Smoker Work? (And Tips for Using Yours)

TheGrillingDad.com is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no added cost to you.

If you want to know exactly how an electric smoker works, you’ve come to the right place!

In this TheGrillingDad.com guide we will cover:

  • How an electric smoker works
  • Tips for using your electric smoker
  • And much more!
how electric smokers work

Jump To A Section

How Exactly Does an Electric Smoker Work?

An electric smoker needs electricity to function, so if you’re looking at purchasing one, first check to ensure that you have space for your smoker near an outdoor outlet.

When you plug in an electric smoker and turn it on this heats up rods that have a pan on top of them at the base of the smoker.

In this pan there are wood chips, which, when heated, begin to smolder, releasing smoke. This smoke flows upwards to the rack where your meats are waiting to be cooked.

The smoke can additionally be controlled by the user via something called an air dampener. The user can move this to let either more or less smoke in the cooking chamber.

There is also a fan that the user controls with buttons to increase or decrease the convective air in the cooking chamber.

Not all electric smokers are the same and some also have a water pan that is heated to create steam. The steam can help to add flair to different types of food and can be helpful when cleaning your electric smoker.

Tips for Using Your Electric Smoker

Have you already purchased your electric smoker and you are looking for some tips to get the best results? Below are some basic tips for using your electric smoker.

Tip 1: Season Your Smoker

Even though your smoker is electric, you should still season it before your first smoking session. Seasoning your smoker adds a layer of smoke to the interior of the smoker that can help your meat to have a better stronger flavor as well as help you learn how to use your smoker before you put the expensive meets in.

Tip 2: Learn About the Air Damper

Electric smokers have an air damper that can help you to dictate how much smoke is in your electric smoker. If you want a milder flavor, leave the damper open. If you want something stronger, close the damper.

Tip 3: Read the Owner’s Manual

An electric smoker is an expensive piece of equipment. Before you begin using it, take the time to read the owner’s manual. This can help you to become familiar with the settings of your smoker as well as learn more about what you should and shouldn’t cook in it.

Tip 4: Clean Your Smoker

Many people think that once you season your smoker, you aren’t supposed to clean it ever again. This couldn’t be further from the truth. After every use you will want to do a basic cleaning that includes rubbing burnt food bits off the food grate.

You don’t need to use soap after every  use, but every now and then you should clean the inside of your smoker with soap and water. Most owner’s manuals will let you know how often your smoker needs to be clean. If it doesn’t say, we recommend once per season.

Don’t forget to re-season your smoker after an especially deep clean which removes the layer of smoke from the inside of the smoker.

Tip 5: Don’t Toss Out Your Drippings

Most electric smokers will have some sort of tray for collecting the meat drippings. Don’t throw these away! Instead, use them to make a variety of tasty and delicious sauces.

Clean your drip tray after each use, otherwise mold and other bacteria can grow in it. Do not use old drippings from a previous smoke session to make a sauce.

fact about electric smokers

Why Should You Consider an Electric Smoker?

Electric smokers are becoming increasingly more popular as the years go by and it’s easy to see why. There are several benefits to owning one.

First of all, an electric smoker produces less smoke. Even though you may think this is a bit counterproductive, don’t panic, as it still makes enough to cook your meat, but is great for people who only have a small yard and neighbors who may complain about the amounts of smoke billowing over the fence.

Secondly, they require much less fussing over than other types of smokers. Once they  are turned on, you don’t have to check the wood chips or the temperature, as the smoker will monitor all of that for you, providing you a much more consistent smoking experience.

Not to mention that there are no bulky propane tanks or complicated lighting processes making an electric smoker much less stressful to use for someone who is new to smoking.

The Pros and Cons of an Electric Smoker

As you can see we have many great things to say about electric smokers, but there is always a downside of every  appliance you need to be aware of before you buy. Below we have broken down the pros and cons of an electric smoker for you.

Pros:

  • Consistent temperature
  • Easy to use
  • Can be used with a variety of foods
  • Less smoke
  • Needs less monitoring than a traditional smoker
  • Easier to clean

Cons:

  • Can be less roomy than a traditional smoker
  • Not as developed of a smoke flavor
  • Needs an outlet nearby to work
  • Preset settings don’t always work
  • More expensive than other types of smokers

Things to Consider When Purchasing an Electric Smoker

Are you sold on the idea of purchasing an electric smoker? Us too! But before you head out shopping, there are a few things you need to consider.

The Space Available for Cooking

Electric smokers are known for coming in every shape and size, and some can be very small. If you are looking to cook a certain meal, say 2 turkeys at once for the Thanksgiving holiday, ensure you check that your smoker can handle this ahead of time.

Electric smokers are frequently more vertically built than other smokers, allowing you to have more racks, but also not giving you the width for a full rack of ribs. Keep this in mind as you shop.

Settings Available

Electric smokers are extremely easy  to use, even if you are new to smoking. But, some electric smokers are easier to use than others and you will want to take a look at these before you buy.

If you want to cold smoke, check to make sure this is an option on your smoker. Or maybe you want to smoke a brisket all day long—just double check that you can do this on the electric smoker before you buy because there is such a wide variety of options.

Evaluate Woodchip Options

A cool thing about an electric smoker is you can use different flavors of woodchips to achieve different flavors in your meat. But woodchips burn differently that pellets or charcoal, so ensure you are ready to practice a bit to get used to the woodchips before your next big event.

While it isn’t the end of the world if your woodchips get wet, it will be pretty gross if they get wet with rain water then you use them to cook food. So you’ll want to prepare a bin for storing your precious woodchips in advance.

The Best Meats to Smoke on an Electric Smoker

While you can smoke almost any type of meat on your electric smoker, there are certain meats that are simply better with this cooking method.

Because electric smokers provide a lower level of smoke, it is generally better to do thinner cuts of meats like chicken, pork, and beef to ensure the smoke flavor gets all the way through. Sure, you can smoke an entire brisket in an electric smoker, but for best results you may  want to cut it in half to get that smoky flavor throughout. You have all of those racks, put them to use!

Beef jerky and vegetables are an amazing choice for an electric smoker because they have multiple racks and the temperature can easily be adjusted for these items. We also highly recommend trying out your fish smoking skills in an electric smoker.

Whatever meats you decide to make in your electric smoker, we recommend placing them directly on the rack as putting them on aluminum foil can allow aluminum to get into the flavor of your food.

Final Thoughts on How an Electric Smoker Works

Basically, an electric smoker works by electrically heating the wood chips to produce smoke. While this method of smoking is less smoky and generally easier to adapt to, there is still a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using an electric smoker.

Before you buy one, take the time to learn all the aspects and settings of the brand you are interested in so you can cook the exact meats you desire. Then, when you do take one home, season it before you start, and follow the rest of our tips and you are sure to have a great experience with your electric smoker.

Hope Davis

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

About The Grilling Dad

You’ve got grilling questions. We’ve got the best grilling answers from a network of seasoned grilling pros.

Our team has spent hundreds of hours researching products. Learn more about why you can trust our recommendations.

Recently Published Guides