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Updated Jun 15, 2022 4:28 PM

It’s hard to argue with the culinary magnificence of slow smoked barbecue, and thankfully, electric smokers give us that without all the hassle of traditional barbecue methods. It’s hard to devote the time and attention a traditional barbecue pit requires and juggle whatever else life demands. But with electric smokers, you just add the food, set the smoker at your desired temperature and cook time, and go do something else. The smokers do the work for you. Just check on it a time or two over the cooking cycle, and dig in when it’s finished.   

Modern electric smokers use technology like PID (Proportional, Integral, Derivative) control units that instantly adjust temperatures to maintain a steady cooking level. They also utilize fans to maintain consistent air and smoke flow around the meat and timer controls that turn smoker features on and off at preset times. All of these make slow smoked food much more attainable, especially if time is at a premium. For this review, I tested the best electric smokers to see which ones produced the most consistent barbecue flavors with ease.

Things to Consider When Buying an Electric Smoker

Size

Of course, bigger smokers hold more meat, but that larger size requires larger storage and cooking space, more electricity, and more wood fuel to maintain a good smoke level. If you’re only cooking for your immediate family, a smaller electric smoker with two to three smoking racks will probably suffice. If you like to cook for a crowd or cook large cuts like whole pork shoulders or entire packer beef briskets, go ahead and invest in a smoker with a little more size.

Fuel Type

For smoking, you need to use wood chips or other wood fuels like charcoal, pressed briquettes of wood shavings, or pellets. With any of the fuel choices, you have an option of traditional hickory or oak and fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach. Mesquite also makes a great option. For this test, I tried two smokers with wood chips, two with pressed wood discs, and one with a mixture of charcoal and wood chunks. Each wood lends a slightly different flavor to the smoke. Try them all and see which one you prefer.

Control Style

Choose the best smoker with controls that match your cooking style. The most intuitive smoker in the test simply required turning a dial to the desired temperature, while the most complex smoker I tested allows you to control smoking time and the amount you need independently of temperature. You can even program recipes complete with cooking cycles or insert a USB for additional custom recipes on this smoker as well. Other smokers I tested fell somewhere in the middle. If you’re a smoker who likes to experiment and loves the extra control, go with a more complex unit. If you want to throw something in the smoker and carry on with your day, choose one with a basic control style.

Best Overall: Bradley Smoker Professional P10

Bradley

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Key Features

  • PID controller
  • Four racks
  • 10 hours of smoking before refuel
  • Insulated, stainless steel body
  • Holds 50 programmable recipes

Why It Made the Cut

Bradley’s new P10 will do everything you want in a smoker plus more, and really separates from the rest of the pack with its no-heat smoking capabilities. 

Pros

  • Large cooking space
  • Smoke level and heat can be controlled independently
  • Easy-to-clean drip tray
  • Fastest to bring chicken to 165 degrees

Cons

  • Complex control system takes a few cooks to learn

Product Description

With a fully-insulated stainless steel body, four cooking racks, dual temperature probes, and a fully digital PID control system, Bradley’s new P10 is both easy to use for the beginner and advanced enough to keep an experienced or commercial smoke master happy. During the test, temperature levels remained steady throughout cook times and only varied a few degrees above or below the preset level. Cleanup simply required emptying the burned Bisquettes and wiping down the drip tray.

Loading the P10 with the Bradley Bisquettes. Michael Pendley

I’ve used one of the original-style Bradley smokers for several years now with great results. But the new P10 adds a ton of versatility to the design with better control options like the ability to add smoke without heat and heat without smoke, and you can even control the amount of smoke you want to use. The fully-insulated body holds steadier temperatures throughout the cook time better than the original. It also regains the set temperature faster after you open the door. Bradley Smokers only burn each Bisquette for 20 minutes. They claim the short burn time leads to cleaner smoke with less of a bitter flavor that sometimes results when wood fuel burns completely. I have to agree. The smoke flavor from the Bradley smoker tasted cleaner than other smokers in the test, with less bitter or acrid aftertaste.

Best Wood Chip: Masterbuilt 30-inch Digital Electric Smoker with Window

Masterbuilt

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Key Features

  • Digital temperature control
  • Side loading chip system
  • Check window
  • Fully insulated
  • Four racks
  • Adjustable air dampers
  • 275-degree max temp

Why It Made the Cut

The 30-inch Masterbuilt allows you to load wood chips from the side without opening the door, so you can maintain consistent temps throughout the entire smoking process.

Pros

  • Digital panel controls both cooking temperature and time
  • Convenient front window
  • Side chip loading
  • Ton of cooking area
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Lack of side handles made moving smoker difficult

Product Description

Perhaps the best thing about the 30-inch model is Masterbuilt’s side loading chip system. This allows you to load additional chips throughout the cooking process without opening the main door and releasing heat. This feature comes in handy on long cooks like brisket or pork butts that need multiple chip refills. And with other features like a digital thermostat control, four chrome plated racks, and intuitive air dampers, this smoker will accommodate both beginner and experienced cooks. 

This one was just about ready to go out of the box. After a short assembly and seasoning process, I filled the chip tube with a blend of hickory and cherry wood chips and set the smoker for 250 degrees. It didn’t take long to see a nice plume of smoke wafting from the vents. I seasoned the chicken and added it directly to the shelf. Midway through the two-hour cooking process, I noticed the smoke tapered off, so I refilled the chip tube for additional smoke flavor. Cleanup wasn’t bad for one chicken, but adding an aluminum drip pan on the shelf below the food would make it even easier.

Best Beginner: Cuisinart 30-inch Electric Smoker

Cuisinart

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Key Features

  • 100-400 degree temperature range
  • Easy-to-read thermometer
  • Side handles
  • Weight: 59 pounds
  • Three chrome coated racks

Why It Made the Cut

If you’re new to smoking, this smoker is as easy to use as it gets. Dial it to your desired temp and you’re ready to smoke. 

Pros

  • User friendly
  • Water pan keeps food moist
  • Door mounted thermometer
  • Easy transportation

Cons

  • Difficult to clean
  • Have to open door to refill chips
  • Slower than other options
With the Cuisinart 30-inch Electric, you simply set the temperature and start smoking. Michael Pendley

Product Description

While this smoker eliminates most of the guesswork, it lacks some of the bells and whistles found on the other options, and it didn’t take long to notice. To reload additional wood chips during the cooking process, you have to open the door to do so, which releases heat and lengthens the cooking process. This smoker took longer to clean since it lacks a drip pan to collect falling grease. Not having a digital temperature controller made it tougher to dial in the desired cooking temperature. And the included thermometer varied as much as 30-50 degrees from the actual temperature inside, which I measured with a calibrated thermometer. That being said, you can’t find a more user-friendly smoker. If you want to set the temperature and walk away until your food finishes, this makes a great option.

Best Automated Controls: Bradley Smoker Digital 4 Rack 31-inch

Bradley

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Key Features

  • Insulated stainless steel interior
  • 9 hours of cook time per load
  • Updated digital control unit
  • Separate burners for temperature and smoke
  • Internal thermostat
  • Four shelves with 572 square inches of cooking space

Why It Made the Cut

The digital controls on this Bradley smoker allow you to fine tune your settings and smoke your favorite meats without babysitting the entire process.

Pros

  • Easy to clean
  • Great controls
  • Plenty of space
  • Hands-off smoking

Cons

  • Bradley Bisquettes not as available as wood chips
The advanced controls on the Bradley Digital 4 Rack allows you to smoke food without having to monitor the entire process. Michael Pendley

Product Description 

One of the great things about electric smokers is their ease of use. And the Bradley 4 Rack Digital Smoker is just about ready to go as soon as you unpack it. It took about 10-15 minutes to put together, and it was ready to go. The upgraded digital control takes a bit of study to get to the desired settings, but once you figure it out, it’s easy to set. In fact, this control is easier to use than the Bradley P10 Professional.

A whole chicken smoked on the Bradley 4 Rack. Michael Pendley

I really enjoyed the separate burners to control the smoke and temperature independently of each other that allow you to use heavy smoke levels and lower temperatures for foods like brisket or pork shoulder or with higher temperature and lighter smoke for things like fish. This unit also allows you to smoke for a certain amount of time, and then continue cooking without smoke. I’ll be using this one for venison jerky in the near future with heavier smoke at low temperature. 

Best Charcoal Powered: Masterbuilt Gravity Series 800 Digital Charcoal Griddle + Grill + Smoker

Masterbuilt

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Key Features

  • Includes flat top griddle and cast iron cooking grates
  • Digital controls
  • Gravity fed charcoal hopper 
  • 10 hours of cooking without refill
  • Max temperature of 700 degrees
  • Folding stainless steel front shelf for prep area
  • Includes a temperature probe

Why It Made the Cut

The Masterbuilt Charcoal Powered Gravity Series 800 offers the convenience of an electric smoker with the capacity and flavor of a charcoal grill.

Pros

  • Large cooking surface
  • Steady cooking temperatures
  • Bluetooth and wifi controls
  • Includes griddle for added versatility
  • Built in temperature gauge and meat probe
  • Reaches 700 degrees in 14 minutes

Cons

  • Large footprint
  • Cumbersome lighting process

Product Description

The Masterbuilt Gravity Series is the perfect do-it-all machine. With three cooking racks for a total of 800 square inches of cooking surface, this smoker will feed a crowd. The included griddle insert is perfect for smash burgers or a large breakfast, and it’s one of the most versatile smokers I’ve ever tested.

This grill can do it all and feed a crowd. Michael Pendley

Even though this smoker looks more like the best charcoal grills on the market than an electric smoker, I included it in this test because the digital electronic control precisely maintains the set temperature during the cooking process. Unlike other smokers I tested, the Masterbuilt Gravity Series uses traditional charcoal in either lump or briquette form. For true wood fired flavor, you can add chunks of hickory, oak, pecan, fruit, mesquite, or other cooking woods to the fuel chamber. Once you light the fire, the digital control unit operates a fan that controls the air flow to create heat and smoke. And the fan cycles on or off to hold the temperature at the set level.

The Gravity Series 800 produced great flavors and excellent bark on brisket. Michael Pendley

I really enjoyed this smoker. Besides the test chicken, I grilled ribeyes and strip steaks at 450 degrees and slow smoked a full packer beef brisket with a mixture of Masterbuilt Lump Charcoal and oak chunks. The finished products on both cooks were perfect with great flavor, bark, and a juicy, tender interior on the brisket. The large cooking area gives this unit a bit more versatility than the other smokers in the test, especially when it comes to smoking large cuts of meat or feeding big crowds. And with a maximum temperature of 700 degrees, you can sear things like steaks and burgers with perfect grill marks.

FAQs

Q: What are the advantages of an electric smoker over charcoal or gas?

Electric smokers get the nod when it comes to ease of use, better temperature control, and better smoke flavor on the food. Electric smokers produce a clean smoke flavored finished product without the hassle and possible off flavor that comes with propane units. And it’s easier to regulate temperature and smoke for those times when you need precise timing for things like deer jerky. The only time a propane smoker gets the nod is in situations where electric power isn’t available.

Q: Can you grill on an electric smoker?

Like the best electric grills, you can cook foods like steaks and burgers on an electric smoker, but keep in mind that most of them are designed to run at low temperatures in the 200- to 300-degree range. Sure, those temps will cook your steak, but you won’t get that caramelized exterior and those nice grill marks you get at hotter temperatures. That said, one of my favorite ways to cook a steak or a section of whitetail or elk backstrap is to slow smoke it at a low temperature until it reaches the doneness level I’m looking for, then rest the meat for a few minutes before searing it in a hot cast iron skillet. The process is known as reverse sear cooking, and if you haven’t tried it, you should.

Q: Is it OK to mix different wood types while smoking meat, and how often should I keep replenishing the smoker with chips or other fuel?

Absolutely, it is. Try a mixture of hickory and a fruit wood like apple, peach, or cherry for pork. Or a mix of oak and mesquite for venison or beef. Meat will absorb smoke flavor until it reaches about 165 degrees on the exterior of the meat. For large cuts in particular, that can take hours. Replenish your smoking fuel whenever it burns down and quits smoking. In some smoker models, that means refilling a small tray in the bottom of the smoker with chips or pellets. In other models, a metal tube inserted near the bottom of the smoker holds the pellets and allows the user to refill the smoker with wood chips without opening the main door and releasing the heat. Still other models feed pressed wood discs into the smoker at regular intervals, meaning the user doesn’t have to worry about adding additional fuel.

Methodology

To test the best electric smokers, I looked for several variables that have an affect on the cooking process and finished product. The test meat for each smoker was a similar sized whole chicken, seasoned identically with a commercial barbecue chicken rub, and I set each smoker at 250 degrees for the duration of the cook. Here’s what I looked for before, during, and after the cooking process:

  • Set temperature and start process
  • Consistent or varied temperatures
  • How to add fuel during the cooking process
  • Temperature and smoke control during the cooking process
  • How long did it take the chicken to reach the 165 degree internal temperature? 
  • Ease of cleaning

Final Thoughts

With any of the best electric smokers, you’d be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t conveniently create tasty wood-smoked food. Figure out your preferred cooking methods and how much food you’ll realistically want to cook, and get to smoking.