When it comes to the choice of picking a new smoker, if you are choosing between an electric vs charcoal smoker, you have come to the right place. In this article we are going to uncover all the differences.
If you’re a fan of electric smokers it may be because it’s convenient and simple to use. When it comes down to managing temperature settings you can be sure the electric smoker is the way to go. But, charcoal smokers give you more smokehouse flavor and a broader smoking experience.
But a whole lot of other factors can make either smoker the better one for you. Which is why I’ve put this comparison review together – so you can select the best smoker type for your personal style and needs.
While convenience, versatility and temperature control are important factors, you should also look at the end results of your food smoked in both types. What cooking capacity do both smokers have and have you the space to keep one in your home?
How about the hopper capacity? And, do you like the idea of going digital when using a smoker? Let’s also talk about the kind of maintenance each smoker requires, how reliable they are and what happens if the weather turns bad.
Of course, price plays a huge role in any decision-making process when you’re wondering which smoker is your best bet. Factor in the running costs of each type and you’ll know quickly enough which one is right for your own budget.
I’m covering everything you need to know about these two types of smokers so you no longer need to be in a Catch-22 situation!
At a Glance: Electric vs Charcoal Smoker
|A less intense smoky flavor but more likely to get perfectly cooked food
|Great smoky flavors but run the risk of not cooking the food well
|Convenience / Versatility
|Very convenient, easy to use, great for beginners/can only be used for smoking/smart features available
|Takes some learning, skill and commitment/can be used for roasting and grill (if option available)
|Temperate Range / Control
|Low to high range: 100⁰F to 275⁰F/thermostat keeps consistent temperature
|Low to high range: You’ll battle to keep at 100⁰F for a long time/highest temperature 350⁰F/temperature control and consistency comes with practice and requires management of airflow and burn
|Average 18 x 18 x 34 “
|Can range from 34 x 57 x 54 “to 21 x 19 x 41 “to 50 x 22 x 21 “
|Sufficient depending on size
|More options to go larger
|Minimal to zero
|Risk having electrical faults/parts breaking
|More solid option/less can go wrong
|Can’t be used in rainy conditions
|Fairly weatherproof but cold and wet conditions pose a challenge with temperature control
|Easy to clean/easy to maintain as long as parts don’t break
|Requires more cleaning/easy to maintain
|Often more expensive
|Cheaper models available
|May includes thermostat, meat probe, temperature gauge
|May include thermometer and temperature gauge
Table of Contents
- 1 Electric vs Charcoal Smoker Comparison
- 1.1 Food: Quality Produced
- 1.2 Convenience and Versatility
- 1.3 Temperature: Control and Range
- 1.4 Size: What Space is Needed
- 1.5 Moveable or Not?
- 1.6 Cooking Area and Capacity
- 1.7 Hopper Capacity
- 1.8 Which One is More Reliable?
- 1.9 Weather Considerations
- 1.10 Maintenance Requirements
- 1.11 Price
- 1.12 How Much Does it Cost to Run Each Smoker?
- 1.13 Accessories
- 1.14 Which One is Most Popular?
- 2 Which One is Best for Who
- 3 Final Thoughts
Electric vs Charcoal Smoker Comparison
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the differences between the electric smoker and the charcoal smoker.
Food: Quality Produced
If you’re into intense, smoky flavors with a crisp coating on your meats, the charcoal smoker wins. You can get more smoke out of the charcoal smoker compared to an electric smoker. And, smoke equals flavor!
The electric smoker offers more consistency so you’re likely to get all-round subtle flavors and meat that’s properly cooked. This could be a challenge you face with a charcoal smoker – food that’s not cooked in the center if you’re not able to manage the temperature settings consistently.
Convenience and Versatility
While a charcoal smoker can be fired up anywhere, an electric smoker can be plugged in, set to the right temperature and left to do the job. How’s that for convenience?
But, if you’re looking for more versatility, you can do more with a charcoal smoker if you get one with an option to grill. And, if you like to roast you can give it go with this smoker type.
A versatile feature of the electric smoker not to be ignored are the ones with smart features. This includes using a Wi-Fi connection and Bluetooth to operate it.
Temperature: Control and Range
If there’s one area of smoking that frustrates many smokers it would be the temperature setting. Temperature must be low and slow.
Charcoal smokers take practice and patience to get a low temperature and then to keep it steady. You’ll battle to bring the temperature down to below 125⁰F but if you fire it up nicely you may get a high temperature of 350⁰F.
The electric smoker, however, has been designed to give you temperatures ranging from 100⁰F to 275⁰F. And, it’s easier to keep it at a consistent low temperature which is perfect for low and slow smoking.
Size: What Space is Needed
Smokers come in a wide range of sizes so it’s important to measure up the space where you intend putting your smoker.
The average size electric smoker is about 18 x 18 x 34 inches but this varies depending on the model you choose. You can get even smaller units and of course, bigger models.
A barrel and offset charcoal smoker can easily be 34 x 57 x 54 inches but if you pick a Weber smoker you can find one measuring 21 x 19 x 41 inches. A vertical charcoal smoker could be on average around 50 x 22 x 21 inches.
Moveable or Not?
If you don’t like the idea of leaving your smoker on your patio or you like to clean regularly around the smoker area, then mobility features are important.
Most charcoal and electric smokers come with wheels while charcoal smoker handles are heat-resistant. An electric smoker is often easier to shift while charcoal smokers can be more cumbersome and heavier.
But it’s not ideal to take the electric smoker on holiday with you as it has more delicate parts which can be broken during transport.
Cooking Area and Capacity
Now, it you’re one for having huge crowds of friends and family for meals then you need to make sure the cooking capacity of your smoker can handle the load!
A vertical charcoal smoker will give you more cooking space especially if a number of removable cooking racks are included. You can find an electric smoker that’ll easily smoke a couple of turkeys, some pork belly and a chicken in one go.
So, the factor deciding your cooking area is going to be determined by the space you have to keep your smoker, the price you’re willing to pay and going with a vertical option for more capacity.
Hands down to the charcoal smoker for hopper capacity. But it does mean you’re loading fuel, sometimes large quantities to smoke your food.
An electric smoker has less hopper capacity, if any, relying on electricity to fuel it. Wood chips are added for the smoky flavors and these often fit into a wood chip tray. Some electric smokers have a feeder outside of the smoker itself.
Which One is More Reliable?
When it comes to having a smoker that’s solid and durable, you can’t go wrong with a charcoal smoker. Very little can go wrong except rusting in a charcoal smoker. You may need to check for airtight sealing of lids and hinges but otherwise, you can rely on a charcoal smoker to be with you for a very long time.
Electric smokers can also be reliable. But they’ve the potential to give you hiccups when you least need them with its different electrical components.
Leaving your electric smoker in the rain is a recipe for disaster! And if water enters your charcoal smoker via the chimney, well, let’s say you’re going to battle even more.
A charcoal smoker will have you cursing the wind as you battle the gusts with opening and closing the vents all the time. Your electric smoker won’t have such challenges.
As long as both smoker types are well insulated then cold days shouldn’t pose a problem.
Charcoal smokers need a lot of cleaning out during and after a smoking session. The ash build-up alone means you’ll be emptying the tray often. The amount of smoke produced also means giving the cooking chamber and chimney a thorough cleaning every now and then.
An electric smoker is easier to clean out and simply needs to be wiped down after each session.
Both smokers will have grates that need to be washed with hot soapy water but often the electric smoker will be easier due to less smoke and grease build-up.
Charcoal smokers come in cheaper most times compared to electric smokers especially for entry-level smokers. If you opt for a high-end charcoal smoker you could end up paying a lot of bucks.
The more complex the electric smoker design, the more expensive it’s going to be such as one with Bluetooth and WIFI technology.
How Much Does it Cost to Run Each Smoker?
It’s way cheaper using an electric smoker compared to a charcoal smoker. Electricity, in most countries, is relatively cheap and an indirect household cost.
On the other hand, buying charcoal supplies is expensive especially if you planning to smoke for up to eight hours in one stretch.
More accessories such as cooking utensils, a meat probe and a thermometer are needed for charcoal smoking. Many electric smokers come with a thermostat installed. Some will also include a meat probe. But, comparatively, both need similar accessories for efficient operation.
Which One is Most Popular?
The ever-so-popular charcoal smoker wins this battle. For many cooks, smoking with charcoal is all about the experience. This smoker types allows you to spend a day outdoors, relaxing while you watch over it with a drink in the hand. It gives the cook the chance to master the art of temperature control while producing the ultimate meal.
Electric smokers appeal to a smaller group of people who’re looking more for convenient, hassle-free smoking.
Which One is Best for Who
If you’re looking for a smoker that’s not heavy on your budget and you enjoy entertaining your guests outdoors, the charcoal smoker is your best bet. But if convenience is more your style of smoking, you can’t go wrong with an electric smoker.
A charcoal smoker requires patience, skill and dedication while the electric smoker is quicker and easier to use. For bbq smokers beginners, I would recommend the electric smoker. But, ultimately flavor plays a huge role so if you’re a gourmet of smoked meats, your pick will be the charcoal smoker.
Check the review below of an electric smoker compared to a charcoal smoker.
Masterbuilt MB20073519 Bluetooth Digital Electric Smoker
This 30-inch electrical smoker uses Bluetooth technology to turn the smoker on and control the temperate settings. You can also use the digital control panel if you wish to operate without a smart device.
A thermostat controls the temperature allowing for consistent temperature throughout the smoking time. A built-in meat probe helps you to gauge the internal meat temperature. The wood chips are loaded from the side meaning you don’t have to keep opening the door.
Four smoking racks allows you to smoke a variety of food items or simply load up with 6 chickens all at one go.
You can find out more on Amazon clicking on this link.
Dyna-Glo GG01176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker
Slow cooking is allowed with the offset design of this smoker. The vertical design improves heat control and smoke flavor. With six adjustable cooking grates and up to 784 square inches of smoking space, you’ll be able to cook a large quantity of food. The total cooking space is 1176 square inches.
The cooking chamber lined with porcelain-enamel keeps the charcoal well stacked for better burn. A large removable ash tray makes for easy clean up and the adjustable flue on the stack makes for better management of air flow. A built-in thermometer tells you when the smoker has reached ideal temperature for smoke infusion with a temperature gauge set in on the smoker.
Find out more on Amazon clicking on this link.
The electric vs charcoal smoker debate is often a personal one and depends on so many different factors. By reading this article you’ll have a more informed idea of how each smoker works and their pros and cons.
While charcoal smokers may seem intimidating for first time users, once you’ve mastered it you’ll be pleased with the outcome. But the electric smoker has its merits too and you won’t be disappointed if your first smoker is digital.