Electric Smokers: What Different Types Can You Get?
Ever since man first cooked a side of mammoth over a smoky fire, humans have had a hankering for meat with an authentic, smoky flavor. It brings out the hungry caveman in all of us. For generations, people have wrestled with wood, charcoal and wood pellets in order to experience meat with a smokey flavor that can’t be achieved with electricity. Or can it?
Since about 1973, people have been able to enjoy the best of both worlds, modern and ancient, by combining the ease of electricity with the deliciousness of smoky flavored meat. Electric smokers are usually designed to be simple, with either analog or digital controls. They are usually vertical upright smokers with a series of racks for meat and a heating element at the bottom. Over the heating element is usually a vented box for placing your preferred wood chips for a smoky flavor.
Are Analog or Digital Style Electric Smokers Better?
If it’s an analog type smoker, you simply set the dial for the temperature and it’s maintained by an inside thermostat. They generally have a simple on/off switch with a manually operated thermostat. They are simple and easy to use, ideal for beginners or those who don’t want the hassle of worrying about problems with digital controls and prefer the simplicity of manual controls.
Digital smokers have more complex options so you can set the appropriate temperature for the meat you are trying to smoke. You can easily set the temperature and then just go about your business without having to watch and worry over what’s happening inside your smoker. The electric thermostat controls the heating element to maintain the proper level of both heat and smoke. These are generally fairly basic and easy to use and offer dependably delicious results.
Other electric smokers now have Bluetooth options that allow you to connect your smartphone to your smoker and basically use your phone as a remote.
The best electric smokers are well insulated so after it’s preheated you can load in the wood chips, wait about 15 minutes until they begin to smoke and then place your cuts of meat on the racks above. The temperature is then lowered for slow cooking. Wood chips should be replaced several times during cooking in order to keep up the level of smoke you need. With an electric smoker, you can have delicious, smoky flavored meat just like your ancient ancestors enjoyed in anywhere from two to four hours.
Electric Smoker With Water Pans or Bowls
Most electric smokers also come with a water bowl. When filled to the proper level, the water bowl steams and allows moisture to envelop meat to keep it from drying out. Water pans are generally placed above the burner and the water stays below the boiling level. The water blocks direct heat from the burner and allows you to cook with indirect heat. It also helps to stabilize the temperature inside your smoker. Water vapor adheres to the outside of the meat to keep it moist enough for more smoke flavor to stick to it. Besides water, you can experiment with other liquids in your water pan, such as beer, wine, apple juice, orange juice, or even brandy. Some people go a step further and add onions and spices. Whether or not these other liquids really add their flavor to the smoked meat is debatable, but no one argues about the fact that adding other liquids and spices makes the meat smell delicious while it’s smoking.
How to Choose Glass vs. Metal Doors on Smokers
Like nearly everything related to barbecuing or smoking meat, meat masters all have strong opinions about smokers with glass doors or solid doors, usually of stainless steel. Solid doors have some benefits. Many smoked meat lovers believe the temperature stays better insulated and regulated behind a solid metal door. Also, glass doors get dingy and fogged with smoke fairly quickly and involve a lot of cleaning. However, others swear by the glass doors because they offer the benefit of being able to keep an eye on the progress of the meat, the wood chips, and the water pan without having to repeatedly open the door and allow meat and smoke to escape. Added to that is the mouthwatering, appetite-building bonus of being able to watch your delicious meat as it slowly cooks into smoky perfection.
No matter which type of electric smoker you choose, you’re sure to enjoy the results. You can eat like a caveman, and all from the comfort of your recliner while your smoker does the work on your back porch at the touch of a button. Beating your chest is optional.