8 Things You Need To Know About Electric vs. Charcoal Smoker - Alvinology (2022)

We have all heard this debate on the barbeque party decks. The electric smoker and the charcoal smoker both have their own perks, usages, and drawbacks; but, the debate about which one is better still continues.

The main difference that gets pointed out is that electric smokers can not create the same smoke flavor that a charcoal smoker can. Although some argue there is a subtle difference, a lot of people won’t be able to tell the flavor difference between the food cooked in electric vs charcoal.

There is no denying the usefulness of an electric smoker when it comes to convenience. With an electric one, you won’t have to worry about setting the right temperature. It also requires less experience to work with.

There are other things to consider. We are going to point out the differences between the two and tell you everything you need to know. So you can choose what’s best for you-

1. Difference in price and ongoing cost

Electric smokers come at a higher price range. The price is higher than the average charcoal smokers and will usually be above $350. Even the lower-end models are costlier than the average charcoal smokers. However, this one will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Charcoal smokers have tons of different models. They also come in many shapes. You are bound to find something you will love. The best part is that they come at a wide range of affordable prices. While there are smokers that will cost more than $500, you will find your average charcoal smokers under $300.

Speaking of prices, although charcoal smokers come at a low price, electric smokers are a safer bet in the long run. Electricity is cheaper than all the wood chips, charcoal, and wood needed to be used in a charcoal smoker.

So before deciding to buy a smoker, it’s best to fix a budget and also think about how often you will be using your smoker.

2. Temperature range

Electric smokers can not produce the same amount of temperature as charcoal ones. They are limited to 100-275F (35-140 C).

Charcoal smokers can create and withstand significantly higher temperatures. The average range is 125-350F (50-175C).

The temperature on charcoal smokers can be raised even higher if needed by using wood chips and charcoal but the temperatures of both devices are enough to smoke your average barbeque fare.

3. Best for cold smoking

Cold smoking is a process of enhancing the flavors of the food and preserving it. It does not prepare the meal for eating, it just increases the shelf life of it. Cold smoking requires a specific and steady temperature of around 80F or 30C.

Because of the ability to select and maintain low temperatures, electric smokers can be easily used for cold smoking. However, keep in mind that among the electric smokers only the digital ones with digital thermometers can be used for cold smoking

Cold smoking can also be done in a charcoal smoker but it is very difficult to maintain that right and low temperature. So when it comes to low-temperature control, electric smokers are far more reliable and convenient for the beginner.

4. Weather effects

Electric smokers are best used indoors for two reasons. One is the ease of plugging it in. Another is that electric smokers should not be used anywhere it can be exposed to moisture like rain, hail, fog, etc. Rain or snow can be extremely harmful to the device.

If you are planning on a little outdoor adventure and even if the weather is not that great, you can still rely on a charcoal smoker to do its job. Even if it gets wet, you would not have to worry too much because moisture won’t cause any damage to its parts.

5. Health effects

Charcoal smoker produces a lot of smoke. Normally barbequing or smoking are done outdoors so that the smoke can easily be cleared away. Prolonged and direct inhalation of this smoke can be harmful.

When using a charcoal smoker, the meat is placed above the charcoal. Fat from meat drips down onto the charcoal. This creates the smoke that gives the food that smokey flavor. This fat dripping creates carcinogenic particles that cover the food while smoking it and these particles are harmful to our health.

With this type, you don’t have to worry about the fat drips and smokes. You may not get that traditional smokiness but you will get much healthier food.

6. Maintenance and durability

You will have a harder time cleaning up after smoking with a charcoal smoker. Charcoal ones will produce a lot of smoke and ash which makes cleaning it every time a bit tedious.

On the plus side, you won’t have to worry about maintenance that much. These do not have any complex parts that require extra attention, and the weather also doesn’t have that much of an effect on it. The only thing you will have to do is keep it safe from rusting.

Electric smokers are easy to clean because they don’t produce that much smoke and produces no ash. However, you should clean the racks after every use and wipe the exterior properly to control any moisture issue. Electric smokers can also be damaged pretty easily if exposed to water.

Your electric smoker can be easily cleaned but a charcoal smoker can sure take a beating.

7. Cooking capacity

Electric smokers are typically smaller than the charcoal ones. The charcoal smokers come in many shapes and sizes. Some of them are big enough to feed a whole party and some of them are ideal for a family of five.

Electric smokers can easily smoke meats for a meal to feed a small family. But if you want to cook enough for a party then you’ll need the charcoal ones.

8. Prior experience

Electric smokers do a lot of the work for you – which is why there is a bit of a premium on the price. From maintaining a set temperature to giving you reminders these machines do most of the work for you. That is why even if you are new to smoking you can easily figure things out. It’s fairly set-it-and-forget-it usage.

Charcoal smokers, on the other hand, are best used by experienced grillers. There are a lot of things to consider when you use charcoal smokers. Things like, what is the right temperature? Or what materials burn and create more heat versus more smoke? If you are serious about cooking and want to learn more about starting with a charcoal smoker will surely be a challenging adventure for you.

However, if you are not very experienced and charcoal intimidates you, then electric is the way to go. If you do it occasionally and want a hassle-free experience, its best to use an electric smoker. If you prefer to add your personal touch to the food and have more than enough experience, then you would want to try out a charcoal smoker.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have all the information to compare charcoal and electric smoker, you can make an informed decision and put the debate to rest – at least in your household. If you are not that enthusiastic about smoking your food and lack the time to perfect your skill level, then electric smokers should be your choice. But if you love good old outdoorsy traditional smoking and would love to add your personal touch then definitely go for a charcoal smoker. Happy grilling!

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Which is better a charcoal smoker or an electric smoker? ›

The electric unit has problems with moisture retention but a charcoal grill is more efficient in this factor due to its ventilation. In addition to that, a more complex flavor profile will be created by charcoal burning creating smoke. It adds complex compounds to the meat while it is burning.

Is an electric smoker as good as a wood smoker? ›

When compared to electric smokers, wood smokers provide better flavor. They release more of the flavorful compounds from the wood, resulting in better-tasting food.

Are electric smokers faster? ›

Cooking Speed

Since it uses burning gas as its heat source, the heat is greater. The time it takes to cook depends on what food is being grilled. However, compared to how long it will take for electric smokers to do the same job, gas grills are faster.

Are charcoal smokers better? ›

Both are capable of delivering good results. If you're new to smoking, your first efforts with gas will almost certainly be better than your first with charcoal just because it's harder to mess up. Once you get the hang of it, though, charcoal smokers can create killer smoked meat.

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