Electric vs Charcoal Smoker – Which one is better?

Electric Smoker or Charcoal Smoker ? It is one of the hottest topics among the BBQ enthusiasts. Today I will try to present my opinion on the topic as well as show you the key differences between these two smokers.

Sadly, I can’t give you a clear answer right at the beginning but I can assure you that after reading this few minute long article you’ll be able to see for yourself what’s better for you and that is my main goal right now.

When comparing electric vs charcoal smoker, one has to take into account other aspects and not just the food’s flavor. Which is exactly why I have prepared a brief description of both smokers and presented their strongest upsides and downsides, you can find all of that below.


On Electric Smoker

Without a doubt, it is the most convenient type of smoker that has a lot of upsides as well as few downsides. First and foremost, it is very easy to use which is why it’s chosen by many beginners who can’t handle the traditional BBQ or simply prefer convenience.

The second very big advantage is low temperature range, which combined with the right accessories makes this smoker a very versatile device. For example, the electric smoker is great for cold smoking, having a low enough temperature range that makes it possible.

You might be thinking: “but low temperatures mean problems with small amount of smoke”, and it’s true, which is why plenty of manufacturers have opted for a cold smoking kit sold separately, which converts a regular electric smoker into a great cold smoking machine.

Another advantage is undoubtedly the speed, all you have to do is plug in the smoker, start it, choose the temperature and after about 15-20 minutes you can start smoking.

It is a typical set&forget style smoker which means that once you start it and select the temperature, you don’t have to worry about temperature control. The heating element and controller are precise enough for stable temperature not to be a problem during the right weather conditions.

Now it’s probably time for the downsides, first and foremost it’s not a mobile smoker. It relies on electricity, which requires having an extension cord in the backyard etc.

It can’t be used in the rain! Remember that, water is the greatest enemy of all electric components, which is why you should avoid rain if you don’t want to risk a costly malfunction of your smoker.

The last downside in terms of traditional BBQ is of course the flavor, an electric smoker makes it possible to use wood chips, but the difference in flavor is still pretty huge. It doesn’t change the fact, though, that food is still very delicious, it just lacks the distinctive smoky flavor that many people know from the charcoal smoker.

Upsides

  • Convenience and speed
  • Great for beginners
  • Great for cold smoking
  • Cleaning

Downsides

  • Mobility
  • Cannot be used in the rain!
  • Short warranty period

On Charcoal Smoker

Despite this type of smoker not really needing an introduction, I will still do that. The Charcoal Smoker is the most popular type of smoker, everyone who’s into smoking has one in their backyard.

It makes me think of the traditional BBQ, which requires a lot of involvement in the entire smoking process. Starting from getting the charcoal burning, to adjusting air vents, amount of fuel and all the way to temperature control. Contrary to a popular belief, all of that requires some experience and takes a lot of time, but the results are worth it.

If BBQ is something more than just the food for you, the charcoal smoker will make a great suggestion to consider. It requires a lot of attention, it is not a maintenance-free smoker, which I realize is very important to many.

The greatest advantage of the charcoal smoker is the results of smoking, I’m mostly talking about the very distinctive and intense smoky charcoal flavor. It is something that without a doubt cannot be copied with any other type of smoker. Most people will unanimously agree that food from a charcoal smoker is the best among all the other types of smokers. Can an average person tell the difference? I’m not sure, but everyone who often comes across smoked meat will certainly tell the difference in flavor.

Another huge advantage is a pretty affordable starting price for a new model. A charcoal smoker is quite a technically simple structure without unnecessary gadgets, which is why many manufacturers have devoted more attention to quality and durability.

After all those years some of the models have been perfected to such degree that the manufacturers declare as many as 10 years of warranty for their product that, contrary to a popular belief, doesn’t cost a fortune.

Be aware that a charcoal smoker is a suggestion for those who like BBQ and have time to watch over everything throughout many hours of the smoking process. It is certainly not a set&forget style smoker, you have to actually put in a lot of work here to get great results.

Upsides

  • Definitely the flavor
  • Traditional BBQ and fun
  • Decent starting price
  • Durability and warranty

Downsides

  • It requires a lot of your time
  • Ash removal
  • Necessity to get the charcoal burning

Conclusion

After all that you’ve read here, you shouldn’t have any problems choosing between charcoal vs electric smoker. If you still have any doubts, however, I have prepared a brief summary for you.

You want to have the best flavor possible as well as traditional BBQ where you need to take care of everything yourself ? Choose the charcoal smoker, and you won’t be disappointed about the food nor quality. Sadly, you have to keep in mind that smoking with this type of smoker requires not only skills but most of all a whole lot of time.

You value convenience, speed and decent results of smoking? Choose the electric smoker, which makes a great alternative for those who hate the traditional, time-consuming BBQ. An electric smoker is very easy to use and great for beginners. It’s a set&forget style smoker where once you start it you don’t have to worry about anything. Sadly, their downside is a huge risk of malfunction when exposed to water, poor mobility and short warranty period.

Still not convinced what to choose? Looking for something else? You should definitely check out my other guides where you will learn about other types of smokers.

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