Perhaps that’s why smoked meat has a powerful allure for humans. It’s because our ancestors were doing it long before we even knew how to string words together.
However, several smoking techniques have emerged since then, with most of the innovation being driven by technology. The most popular implements that we have at our disposal for smoking meat are the gas smoker and the electric smoker.
Both of these tools are fairly recent inventions that represent man’s foray into technological innovation. Of course, these implements allow the user to access different smoking techniques and each has different strengths and weaknesses.
While the gas smoker might work for certain occasions, it may not work for other situations that are better suited to its electric counterpart, and vice versa.
If you’re thinking of buying either a gas or electric smoker (FULL guide on that here) then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a helpful guide that will help you determine which option is best for your needs.
We did some research to find out what the main characteristics of each machine are, and then we proceeded to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Our goal is to help you make an informed buying decision. We know how stressful it can be to end up with a product that’s completely different from what you expected.
Unfortunately, this happens all the time and its main cause is a lack of information on the product.
In this post we'll cover:
What is an Electric Smoker?
An electric smoker is powered by thermal energy and it comes with an internal heating element that’s designed to yield electric heat.
The smoker uses this heat to fire up the wood chips you chuck into it and out comes smoke on the other side.
There are quite a few distinguishing factors that make electric smokers unique from other types of smokers on the market.
For one, it has a digital control panel that you won’t find on a gas smoker, and this feature alone makes life so much easier for the user.
The control panel is what you use to determine temperature settings and you can use it to customize the smoking process by choosing a particular type of meat.
Switching your electric smoker is as easy as clicking a single button and it will automatically take care of the rest.
Of course, you’ll have to set the temperature to your preferred level and choose the type of meat you’d like to smoke but that only takes a few seconds at best.
As the name implies, electric smokers are powered by electric energy, which heats up the internal heating element to produce heat.
From there, the smoker can easily operate for five hours on the same wood chips and without constant supervision. Plus, all you need is four wood chip cups that will last for that entire time period.
As with anything, electric smokers have their pros and cons which we’ve detailed below for you to see:
- Electric smokers generally offer generous cooking space and allow you to cook different types of food with ease.
- The digital control panel allows you to “set it and forget it” so you can spend more of your time socializing instead of constantly checking on the meat.
- It’s really easy to use and switches on at the press of a button.
- Electric smokers usually feature a modern and sleek design which means they won’t look out of place in a modern kitchen.
- Features like the integrated thermometer reduce the number of “extras” that you need to buy, and it makes it much more convenient to use compared to gas-powered models.
- It’s perfect for slow smoking.
- Since it does most of the tasks on its own, the electric smoker is ideal for anyone that leads a busy lifestyle because it enables you to multitask.
- They’re safer to use thanks to the integrated insulation, which is a missing feature in most gas smokers.
- It’s pricier than its gas counterparts.
- It’s bulkier and heavier than a gas smoker.
- The quality of the food smoked by an electric smoker pales in comparison to that of a gas smoker.
- It takes longer to cook food.
- You can’t use it without electricity access.
- It’s not portable.
- It has a limited temperature range that only goes up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. A natural gas smoker, on the other hand, can go up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing you to smoke meat at high temperatures.
You should read this post as well if you’re wondering if you can have an electric smoker in your apartment
What is a Gas Smoker?
A gas smoker sources heat from natural gas or propane gas. It has an internal heating element that’s responsible for creating the smoke needed for smoking meat.
The only difference is that gas smokers are a bit more demanding of your attention and they require quite a bit of oversight.
You’ll have to keep an eye on the heat to make sure that the temperature doesn’t lead to over or under cooking. Gas smokers have a wide temperature range that can easily reach 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
The type of wood chips you put into the smoker will play a huge role in the smoker’s temperature and the flavor of your meat.
Although there are a lot of benefits to using a gas smoker, it also comes with its own limitations. Read on for the pros and cons of using a gas smoker.
- You can use your gas smoker anywhere as it doesn’t require any electrical power to work.
- It’s a cost-effective option compared to an electric smoker.
- It’s ideal for use on the road because it heats up quickly and speeds up cooking time.
- It’s easy to use and doesn’t require any technical experience to set up or operate.
- It’s portable so you can take it with you when boating or camping. It’s also perfect for professional mobile chefs like food truck owners.
- It has a wide temperature range which gives you more freedom when smoking different types of meat.
- It’s time-consuming. You need to be present at all times to regulate the temperature because none of its functions are automatic.
- It’s an analog piece of machinery that doesn’t have useful features like an integrated food thermometer. This makes it less convenient to work with when compared to an electric smoker.
- A fair amount of know-how is required if you want to make the most of your gas smoker.
- It’s smaller in size so there isn’t much cooking space which may limit your catering ability.
- It’s not insulated and can be hazardous to handle if you’re not familiar with it.
Differences between Propane and Electric Smokers
Now that you more or less understand what each option has to offer, we’re going to compare the two based on a few key features.
We recommend that you consider your needs as you read through this comparison guide as that will help you figure out which option is best for you.
Lastly, we’ll reveal what our preferred option is between the two and why we recommend it specifically.
Ease of Use
Electric smokers are designed for convenience and ease of use, which is something that’s missing with gas smokers.
Plus, electric smokers come with great features that make your life easier, such as a LED display, a control panel, internal thermometer and others that allow you to automate the smoking process.
Electric smokers are designed with safety in mind, as shown by the amount of insulation that they provide. On the other hand, the propane in gas smokers can potentially leak and cause explosions and they’re not insulated so handling them is not easy (although you can get insulation blankets like these separately).
Electric smokers cost significantly more than gas smokers, with prices starting from $200 to $400. On the other hand, you can easily find a good quality gas smoker for just $150.
Quality of Food Smoked
Gas smokers allow you to smoke meat at high temperatures that you cannot achieve with an electric smoker. As a result, some people prefer gas smokers because they provide better flavor overall.
Design and Size
Electric smokers typically offer generous cooking space and feature up to four racks each. The gas smoker has a smaller cooking surface which limits the amount of meat that you can cook in one go.
Gas vs Electric Smoker: Which is Better
Based on general customer needs and requirements, we’ve come to the conclusion that electric smokers are a better option compared to gas smokers.
That’s because electric smokers offer more convenience, and they’re safer and easier to use.
As we’ve noted in this article, gas smokers have their benefits but they’ve fallen behind when it comes to innovation. That’s why we’re willing to put our money on electric smokers and recommend them for pros and beginners alike.