If you want to get into smoking meat, and you’re on a budget, an electric smoker may be the way to go. For a beginner, this is a great choice because it’s easier to control temperature than with other types of smokers. So, today, in this post we are going to be answering all of your questions, and, of course, we will uncover what we believe is the best electric smoker for beginners. So, let’s get started.
Electric smokers are easy to use and maintain, they’re cheap enough for any beginner, but they also have the capacity for a serious backyard pit master.
These smokers can be used year-round because there is no extreme heat to break down during cold temperatures. Since temperatures are easily controlled and monitored, you will be able to smoke right through from spring to fall in any climate.
So, before we run you through the best electric smokers for beginners, let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of these devices so that you understand what to factor into your buying decision.
Our Top Picks
What to Look for When Buying an Electric Smoker
There are a few things you need to know when it comes to picking an electric smoker and we’re going to take you through them so that you have full knowledge of what to look for when choosing a device.
The first thing to understand is that electric smokers don’t actually give off any smoke at all, rather they use heat to slowly cook the meats. That means that you don’t have to worry about smoke detectors going off or unwanted visitors when there is a big game on TV.
These smokers are also designed to be portable and easy to set up, take down, and clean. What’s more, even though they don’t give off any smoke at all, these devices still add a delicious smoked flavor to your meat, and they are ideal for beginners, families, and those who live in apartments or areas where open pit smoking is not allowed.
Of course, the power source is electricity, so you are going to have to be near a mains point or generator to use one, but they do heat up quickly, so there is little waiting around for the device to get started. What’s more, as these devices are powered by electricity, you don’t need to worry about running out of propane or any other kind of fuel, which not only makes them convenient but also very cheap to operate.
When you smoke meat with an electrical smoker, there is little waiting around in between smoking periods. What’s more, these devices are known for their consistent temperature, and that means that your meat will never be overcooked or undercooked while using one.
Vertical vs Horizontal Electric Smokers
The most common types of electric smokers are the vertical water smoker and the horizontal offset smoker. Both come in models that hold anywhere from one to 12 briskets, but this is generally not a concern for beginners. The decision between these two styles will probably come down to personal preference, but you should consider the following points while making your decision:
A horizontal unit has a greater surface area, which means it will have a hotter fire. If you are going to buy an electric smoker as your first model and you want to learn how to really smoke meat, this is most likely not the best choice for you.
A vertical unit creates more even heat in the main cooking chamber, although there will be a bit hotter fire near the heating source, just like a water bath. A vertically designed smoker is also easier to keep clean.
Smoke chamber size
The size of a vertical/water smoker is important because the longer the smoke time, the more meat you can smoke in one session. This may or may not be an issue for beginners. It’s up to you and how much you want to learn about smoking meat.
You must be able to move your new smoker easily from one place to another if you need to. What’s more, you also want a small, manageable size so that you can set it up on the patio or deck easily and quickly.
How Much Smoke Should I Use?
When using an electric smoker, it is important to understand how much smoke is just enough and too much. What’s more, you need to know what type of wood smoking chips will add that perfect aroma and flavor to your meat. The good news is that there are a lot of resources online to help you figure out how much smoke is right for your meat type, but we’re going to give you a quick rundown of some general guidelines so that you always end up with the perfect amount.
- For chicken and pork shoulders, ribs, and briskets: 1 pound of chips or chunks for between 5 and 6 hours of smoking
- Whole chicken: 1/2 pound of chips or chunks for 4 hours of smoking
- Whole turkey: 3/4 pound of chips or chunks for 8 hours of smoking
- Pork loin, ham: 2 pounds
- Poultry: 1 to 1.5 pounds for about 4 hours.
As you can see, the amount of smoke needed for smoking meat varies depending on what you are cooking. What’s more, if you don’t have a lot of experience with smoking, then it is probably best to start off slow and add more chips or chunks before the end of your session.
Some people complain about the lack of smoke and the taste that causes, but it can be more than made up for a few ways:
- Pairing with other sources of smoke (i.e. chunks or chips)
- Use higher quality meat to begin with. I’ve smoked some amazing briskets and hams in my propane smoker —this stuff will make you weep.
- Using a Minion Method type of smoking to get more smoke in.
Check out this video from MeatTip for more on the Minion Method and electric smokers (I use an electric smoker). Make sure you watch right to the end:
Which Make of Smoker Should I Buy?
There are two main companies that make electric or propane smokers, Bradley and Masterbuilt. There are other brands out there like Cuisinart and Pit Boss, but these are less well known. Of course, these days, most smokers are all made in China and have the same components and parts, so the brand isn’t a huge consideration.
Masterbuilt smokers are typically cheaper than Bradley. They’re also a bit lighter, which some people like and some don’t. They get great reviews from customers and their reputation seems to be excellent. The only problem I have heard of is that they can rust pretty badly if you don’t take care of them properly.
Bradley smokers get great reviews from customers as well, and their reputation is also excellent. What’s more, their products are known to be extremely durable (heavy duty) and long-lasting. Of course, they are a bit heavier and more expensive than Masterbult, but that’s the nature of the beast. Masterbuilt, however, has a lot of models to choose from.
So, on balance, I would recommend Masterbuilt. They are made in the USA from good quality (if not top quality) materials and come in a range of prices with a range of features. If you are just starting out, I would not spend more than $200, so the Masterbuilt MB20070210 Analog Electric Smoker, at around $190, is a great choice.
If you need something a bit more substantial, then why not consider a Bradley, such as the Bradley BS611B which is not only feature-packed but also superb build quality—of course, this comes at a price.
How Should I Control The Temperature?
One problem with electric smokers is that if you let them go too high in temperature, the meat can become dry and tough no matter how long you smoke it. Because of that consistent heat in a vertical water smoker, it’s important to have it well insulated. Most home smokers are made of thin steel that performs adequately but does not provide great long-term service. If you’re going to buy a smoker like this for the purpose of learning how to smoke meat, keep in mind that you will need a new one in just a few years.
Brinkmann smokers will probably last longer than Masterbuilt, but I can’t say with any authority since I’ve never owned one. If you need something for the long-term, maybe you should consider a large build-it-yourself model from The Green Egg or a product like an electric or gas smoker from Bradley Smokers.
So, what’s The Best Electric Smoker For Beginners?
To answer the question, on my first try smoking salmon I used an electric Brinkmann vertical water smoker. It was easy and effortless to use, and I’m pretty sure I have smoked salmon 20 times since then. What’s more, it was excellent the first time and every time afterward. What’s even better is that the smoker didn’t cost very much at all because Brinkmann smokers are incredibly cheap!
However, after a few more smoking sessions under my belt, I began to realize that I didn’t have a lot of control over the temperature. What’s more, the outside of the smoker became extremely hot to the touch and there was nothing I could do about it. The water pan on top was also easy to remove and reposition as needed which allowed me to lower or raise the height of my chips while smoking.
They’re all made in China and have the same components and parts, so what difference does it make what brand it is?
Except for the controller, there’s not much difference between a Brinkmann vertical water smoker and one from Masterbuilt. Also, both are priced within $25 of each other. What’s even better is that you generally won’t find these smokers on sale. So, what’s the bottom line? Well, if you want something that is easy to use and will last a long time, then I would absolutely recommend a Brinkmann smoker.
Here’s my top choice for beginners—available from Amazon now.
Top Choice Electric Smoker For Beginners
If you’re not looking for anything fancy, there are some very nice electric smokers available for less than $200. These are perfect for someone who doesn’t want to get too serious yet, and they’ll also be great once you get more experienced and decide that you need something bigger with a little more power.
There are a lot of factors to take into account when buying an electric smoker for beginners. We hope our guide has been helpful in narrowing down your choices by considering what you want it for, how much you can spend, and the features that matter most. While supplies last, it’s now time to grab a great deal on your first electric smoker!
I hope you have found this article useful and, remember, leave a comment below.