Electric Smokers: Is It Worth It To Buy One?
As fall fast approaches, we often find ourselves eagerly anticipating this time of year, with all its simple pleasures. From the cool, crisp air, to the colorful, fallen leaves, and the ever-present scent of barbecue as it wafts through the air. You don’t even have to be the carnivorous type to appreciate the aroma of freshly smoked meat. There’s just something about the smell that’s so comforting, a fragrant reminder of the changing seasons.
But what if you’re not exactly the Pitmaster type? You may have gone to plenty of cookouts — as a guest but without ever donning a chef hat or apron. Fortunately, even for the rookie griller, there exists a simple way to begin smoking meats.
Electric smokers are known for their ease of use, especially for beginners, due to the lack of an open flame, which is what causes meat to burn. The fear of scalding a $40 bird can deter many folks from giving outdoor cooking a go, which is why electric smokers may be a great entry-level piece of equipment.
But can electric smokers really cook a decent feast, or do their promises just go up in smoke? Let’s take a look at their features and limitations as we foray into the world of electric smokers and determine if they are in fact worth buying.
Is Thermostat a Must?
If you’re considering an electric smoker, the good news is they’re often touted as the most beginner-friendly way to dive into barbecuing. But to get the most evenly cooked food, you’ll need to purchase an electric smoker that has a thermostat, which controls the temperature and cooking speed of the meat. Cheaper electric smokers use a rheostat, which controls the flow of electricity to the coil, and is basically a glorified hot plate. So, for best results, and especially if you’re a grilling newbie, you’ll want to spend extra for a model with a thermostat, to maintain precise temperature control while cooking.
How to Set it and Forget it
If you’re more the hands-off type when it comes to cooking and prefer tossing ingredients into a slow cooker before work, you’ll likely appreciate the set it and forget it nature of an electric smoker. Unlike charcoal, pellet or gas, electric smokers are the only type that needs no tending throughout the day. Just add a few ounces of wood and ensure that your smoker is well insulated if you plan to use it in colder weather.
What are the Potential Drawbacks of an electric smoker?
Before you rush out and buy an electric smoker, you’ll need to be aware of some important factors that may influence your purchasing decision. First, an obvious piece of advice: They are called “electric” smokers for a reason, which means yes, you’ll have to plug them in. You’ll need an outdoor outlet that can support 10-20 amps, which is the typical output of electric smokers, or at the very least, an extension cord capable of supporting this.
Another consideration: If you’re from the South or just love a good smoke ring, the pink layer formed on the outside of meat from charcoal cooking, you’re out of luck, as this smoky, chemical reaction won’t occur from electric.
It also won’t give meats that crispy crust that comes from other types of smokers, but instead provides an all-over moist flavor, which, depending on your barbecue preferences, may be a positive or a negative. The moistness of electric-cooked meat comes from the small water cup that is inside the smoker, which you’ll want to refill each time you cook. While not necessary for the smoker to operate, if you don’t add water to the cup, your meat will instead turn dry and rubbery, which isn’t the texture anyone is going for. So, don’t try to skip out on the water cup in hopes of achieving a crispy coating to your meat, as it won’t turn out the way you’ve planned!
Overall, Is An Electric Smoker A Good Idea?
Overall, whether an electric smoker is worth purchasing is entirely up to your tastes and skill-level. If you’re not a seasoned griller, and just want to have an easy, low fuss alternative to a Crock-Pot supper, definitely give an electronic smoker a try! Just don’t set your hopes on entering any pro-barbecuing contests, as, sadly, electric smokers are snubbed by most grilling competitions.