Smoked foods are a delicacy worth your time.
You know smoking can take hours, even a day. But if you love to smoke meat, cheese, and seafood, you know that a good smoker makes all the difference.
So, you’re likely wondering whether the Big Green Egg is worth it or it’s better to choose an electric smoker.
The main difference between the electric smoker and the Green Egg is that the first is a smoker that runs on electricity and heats food with a heating rod. It is easy to use but doesn’t offer the same intense smoky flavor as a top durable quality charcoal grill. The Green Egg is a Kamado-style multifunctional charcoal unit that can grill, bake, roast, and smoke. Electric smokers are controlled digitally, while the big egg is an analog unit. The temperature is controlled manually with dampers and vents.
If you’re looking for a smoker only, then the electric smoker is convenient because it’s easy to use – simply set the temperature, add water and wood chips, and you can leave it for hours until it’s done cooking.
But, if you want the ability to cook, smoke, bake, grill, and roast, nothing beats a good charcoal unit like the Green Egg.
Keep reading to find out about similarities and differences between the two units.
What is an electric smoker?
If you’re not a newbie to smoking, you’ve probably heard pitmasters raving about how easy electric smokers are to use.
An electric smoker is a unit that runs on electricity. The heating source is one or two electric rods that cook the food for hours.
The electric smoker is designed for low and slow cooking all kinds of foods. You can smoke meat, healthy vegetables (like these ideas), cheese, nuts, and more.
While electric smokers are easy to use, they don’t offer quite the same intense smoky flavors of charcoal grills.
How to use an electric smoker
To set up an electric smoker, you need to have a good plug so you can connect to the electrical source.
Then, to start smoking, connect your smoker to the outlet and turn on the ignition. Unlike with other smokers, you don’t have to light a spark or struggle to heat up the coals.
You can then start to add the food. The food, usually meat, can be marinated ahead of time, or you can use a dry rub as the seasoning.
Keep in mind that you’ll add wood, too, which gives the meat that smoky flavor you’re after.
Fill the water pan with water and add the wood chips into the special wood tray. Then, you can place the meat of the grill grates or in cast-iron skillets.
Find the exact temperature you want on the timer gauge and set up the cooking temperature on the smoker. Electric smokers have electronic displays, so it’s easy to see the settings.
Once cooking is underway, you can occasionally check to see the temperature with a special thermostat.
You can open and close vents and dampers as needed. Controlling airflow is easy with electric smokers.
Find my complete electric smokers guide here: how to choose 1, AND use your pick!
Best electric smoker
If you’re looking for an electric smoker that’s affordable and big enough to smoke all your favorite foods, the best pick is the Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital.
The smoker is insulated, and you can use it outside all year.
It’s also one of the best beginner-friendly vertical smokers because you can add wood chips easily at the unit’s side.
Then, you simply fill up the water pan (should you?), place the food on the racks, and then set the temperature you want. For the next few hours, you can relax while the smoker does the work for you.
Check prices and availability here
Is an electric smoker better than a charcoal smoker?
An electric smoker is an excellent unit if your main goal is to smoke foods. However, one thing to note though is that compared to charcoal smokers, they have a limited temperature range.
Most electric smokers can cold smoke too, but the Green Egg, for example, can also cold smoke, so it’s more versatile.
In general, the electric smoker is easier to use and better for newbies.
Looking for recipe inspiration? Check out my top 5 best electric smoker cookbooks
What is the Big Green Egg?
The Big Green Egg is a Kamado-style grill and smoker made of green ceramic material and shaped like a big egg. It is a charcoal grill and comes in a variety of sizes.
Notably, the Green Egg is multifunctional and acts like a smoker, a grill, and an oven so you can cook all kinds of foods.
It’s even suitable for cold smoking if you add a plate of ice and use the special ceramic plate called the CONVEGGTOR, which is designed for smoking.
Here’s a heat deflector for your Big Green Egg. Make sure to pick the right size.
The Big Green Egg is considered to be a “premium” cooker because it’s made of the best kind of ceramic material developed by NASA.
As well, it is very durable, strong, and provides the best kind of insulation compared to other charcoal grills.
Can the Big Green Egg be used as a smoker?
Yes, the Green Egg is an excellent smoker for meat, cheese, seafood, nuts, and vegetables.
It can smoke dishes just as well as any other type of smoker and even makes the food moist and juicy. It infuses the food with a tasty smoky flavor and subtle aromas.
How to use the Green Egg
I admit, using the Green Egg is harder than using an electric smoker. It takes more monitoring and set up time. But, the food is so delicious, the fuss is worth it!
When you start to smoke, it’s best to use a full load of lump charcoal. The egg’s shape makes it much like a big chimney, so you don’t need to use a a separate chimney starter and lighter fluid.
Steven Raichlen of Barbecue Bible recommends you light about 5 pounds of lump coal with a paraffin lighter cube or electric lighter.
Also, make sure to keep the lid open for 10 minutes when lighting the charcoal. The vents must be open too!
When the grill gets hot, you have to lift up the lid and close it a few times to avoid back flashes.
Now, here’s where using the Green Egg takes a turn compared to an electric smoker.
If you want to use the egg as grill cook meat like hamburgers directly, then you need to preheat the unit to about 600-700 degrees F.
But, if you want to smoke foods with the low and slow method, you have to install the CONVEGGTOR, which is a plate setter. It goes into the bottom part of the firebox and it is a three-legged ceramic plate.
You can now add the flavored wood chips over the charcoal. Use 2 or 3 handfuls of chips depending on the size of your egg.
What makes this kamado grill so good is that the lit charcoal in the middle light up the rest of the coals slowly. Then the wood chips also ignite slow and start to smoke.
With one load of charcoal, you can smoke for up to 18 hours.
If you’re looking for recipes for your Big Green Egg, check out the official Big Green Egg Cookbook and learn to smoke sausages, brisket, chicken and so much more!
Can you use regular charcoal in the Big Green Egg?
Unfortunately, you cannot use regular charcoal with the big egg.
So-called “charcoal briquettes” aren’t actually pure charcoal. They are a mix of charcoal and other ingredients that are molded into lumps.
For the big egg, you must use all-natural wood lump charcoal, but you can easily find it at most hardware stores, supermarkets, or you can pick up the Fogo Premium Oak Lump Charcoal from Amazon.
How do you store the Green Egg?
When you store the Big Green Egg, make sure both caps are in place. Also, the egg must be covered with a protective material when not in use.
While it’s okay to store it outdoors, make sure to wipe it off occasionally and keep it clean.
Many people also wonder:
Will the Green Egg crack in cold weather?
If water gets inside the Green Egg, it is possible that it can crack in cold weather. The internal ceramic component is porous so water and condensation can fill the pores and crack in freezing temperatures.
The bottom line is that you can use the Green Egg all year, regardless of the weather but you must cover it and wipe it dry after rain.
When it’s cold though, it takes a little longer for the grill to heat up.
Find my Recommended Kamado Buy here: Blaze Aluminum Kamado Grill
Origin of Kamado cookers
In ancient China and Japan, the kamado was a clay cooker. It was a type of clay cooking vessel. Kamado is the Japanese word for “cooking range” or “stove”.
Wood and charcoal fueled these cookers, and usually, people used to cook rice in them by hanging the pots. There was also a cooking grate on which they grilled meat.
Then in the 17th century, the Kamados were raised off the ground and put on a platform, to become easier to use.
Electric smoker vs Green Egg: what is the difference?
The biggest difference between the two is that the electric smoker is just that – a smoker that works with electricity and a heated rod smokes and cooks the meat using the low and slow method.
The Green Egg is a versatile charcoal grill that can cook and smoke. It is shaped like an egg.
The advantage of an electric smoker is that you place the food, set the temperature, and leave for a while while the smoker does the work.
It’s basically a set-it-and-leave-it type of cooker. On the other hand, with the Green Egg, you still have to go and check on it occasionally.
However, it’s worth noting that the Green Egg can hit both very low and very high temperatures; thus it has a broader temperature range than most electric smokers.
Another benefit is that this type of grill can hold the desired temperature for a very long time compared to regular charcoal grills. After you set and stabilize the temperature you want, you can walk away and come back later.
Many people claim that you can’t really walk away from charcoal smokers like you can with electrics.
But Wes Siller claims that you can set the big egg for an eight-hour smoke to make brisket and walk away because the egg will maintain a constant temperature during that time.
The Green Egg and other charcoal smokers are much better at infusing food with that classic smoky flavor.
An electric smoker can’t give the same smoke intensity and the same subtleties when it comes to aromas.
Pros and cons of electric smokers
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using an electric smoker:
Electric smoker pros
- Most electric smokers are portable.
- They are insulated and won’t smoke up the whole place if used correctly.
- The cooking surface distributes heat evenly.
- There are outdoor and indoor electric smokers.
- Easy to clean and maintain.
- You can walk away from the smoker while it cooks for hours because it doesn’t require constant monitoring.
- Well priced, and some are under $200.
- The meat is moist and tender.
- You can add water and flavored wood chips.
- It gives food a crispy outer layer.
Electric smoker cons
- The large commercial electric smokers are very pricey.
- Assembly takes time, and you need to season the smoker before the first use.
- Some models can leak smoke and make the whole house smelly.
- You can only use it in places where you have an electrical outlet close by.
- You have to clean the grease plates constantly to avoid fires.
- The smoker must be well protected from rain and snow, usually with protective covers.
Pros and cons of the Big Green Egg
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using the Big Green Egg:
Green Egg pros
- It makes the meat extremely juicy, tender, and delicious.
- Comes with a lifetime warranty because it’s very high-quality and made of expensive materials.
- Versatile: you can smoke, cook, grill, roast, bake.
- It has a very airtight ceramic cooking chamber so it maintains a constant temperature through the precision flow draft door.
- The Green Egg comes in many different sizes from balcony size small to 2XL.
- There are many cool accessories to use with the smoker grill.
- The exterior ceramic shell doesn’t get hot, even though the inside temperature is very hot, so it’s safe and easy to
Green Egg cons
- The Green Egg is very expensive and costs between $400 for the smallest model to $2000 for the biggest.
- The stand for the unit is sold separately so it costs even more to buy the whole thing.
- It’s hard to choose what size you need without trying it.
- Can only use lump charcoal, so no briquettes, unfortunately.
- Very heavy and hard to move around.
The bottom line is that some people prefer the convenience of electric smokers which you can set and leave. The food is still smoky and delicious but there’s less of a hassle when you smoke.
Then, there are those who like to have multifunctional cooker so they can grill on direct heat when they want or smoke low and slow when the mood strikes.
If your budget allows it, the Big Green Egg is an excellent lifelong investment that’ll have you cooking outdoors for years to come.
Read next: How to use a BBQ smoker: easy guide to your first smoked meat