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Propane vs Electric Smoker

Updated On September 29, 2020

After testing each of these smokers we have determined the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Here you will find a complete comparison between propane vs. electric smokers.

Throughout this review we will cover the following points:
  • The main differences between each smoker
  • A complete analysis of each
  • The advantages and disadvantages of both
  • The most important aspects you should consider

All these points will be useful for you to obtain the right smoker. This will allow you to avoid spending money on the wrong option. At the same time, each one of these devices does not offer the same level performance which we will cover below.


Main differences between propane vs. electric smoking

The obvious difference here is that of the energy input. For smokers it is not necessary to have a large amount of money to get one of them.. Also, they are very easy to use and also very affordable. So, they have certainly gained a lot of popularity over the years.

Here it is necessary to consider what different sources of energy are involved. So the results during meal cooking are not the same. In principle, we should mention that the electrical source is one of the most affordable energy sources among all the others. Of course, this also depends on the quality of the electrical network in each territory.

Here both the use and the temperature control that can offer electricity are more than appropriate. That is why an electric smoker is one of the most popular options today. For this reason, people need a constant power supply when using this type of smoker.

However, not all features are positive because this type of smoker can reach a somewhat limited temperature range. On the contrary, people can obtain a wider level of versatility and temperature range with propane. In this sense, not only can a higher temperature be achieved, but other useful characteristics as well.
In particular, a propane burner offers greater wireless portability. Of course, this is an excellent advantage when you don't just want to cook in your home. Beyond that, it is necessary to purchase a high-quality propane burner.

Otherwise, the temperature can be somewhat unstable which of course impairs the cooking of any food. Therefore, an electric burner is much easier to use. To better understand each of these options, an analysis of each smoker is necessary.

Electric Smoker - Main Features 

As the name suggests, electricity is used here to produce heat and cook food. Therefore, the reliability of this method depends on the electrical network where a certain person lives. 

The heating elements allow us to do a great part of all the work. In combination with that, there are also some ways to control the temperature during cooking. This includes ventilation in electric smokers. The user can regulate the temperature according to the cooking being done.

However, it is necessary to bear in mind that the user must wait a few moments before being able to start cooking. In principle, this happens due to the same functionality of the electric smoker. Therefore, the element needs some time to reach the desired temperature. If you need to perform simmering, an electric smoker might be the best option.

This is why an electric smoker is comparable to a slow, constant power oven. Of course, here too there is the possibility of incorporating some small pieces of wood. This is the key element to get a meal smoked during cooking. In turn, this can generally offer good results. Let's look at the main advantages and disadvantages of an electric smoker

Propane vs Electric Smoker

Which one you should go for?

As the name suggests, electricity is used here to produce heat and cook food. Therefore, the reliability of this method depends on the electrical network where a certain person lives. 

The heating elements allow us to do a great part of all the work. In combination with that, there are also some ways to control the temperature during cooking. This includes ventilation in electric smokers. The user can regulate the temperature according to the cooking being done.

However, it is necessary to bear in mind that the user must wait a few moments before being able to start cooking. In principle, this happens due to the same functionality of the electric smoker. Therefore, the element needs some time to reach the desired temperature. If you need to perform simmering, an electric smoker might be the best option.

This is why an electric smoker is comparable to a slow, constant power oven. Of course, here too there is the possibility of incorporating some small pieces of wood. This is the key element to get a meal smoked during cooking. In turn, this can generally offer good results. Let's look at the main advantages and disadvantages of an electric smoker.

PROS

  • Whether it is a cheap or expensive unit, the truth is that temperature control is always present. In many different models, you can find high, medium, and low configurations. Even the use of this aspect is very simple since you only have to use a knob or dial.
  • Of course, having the right temperature for cooking saves you time and effort. So the temperature setting gives you excellent comfort during cooking. This can be especially useful for beginners.
  • As we have mentioned, electricity is used here as a source of energy. So problems due to fuel leaks are unlikely. Therefore, an electric smoker is one of the safest to use.
  • Some gas smokers are not allowed in homes. In the same way, an electric smoker is much more versatile and adapts to any type of home.
  • The flexibility of operation can also be adapted to the different ingredients you need to cook. In fact, without too much effort you can turn this type of smoker into a cold smoker. So it is another advantage when cooking.

CONS

  • One of the main disadvantages of an electric smoker is that it is not possible to obtain a high temperature. Those who need a high temperature should choose a propane smoker.
  • Not all places are suitable for using an electric smoker. You should take into consideration that you always need an outlet. Therefore, only if you have an electric generator will you be able to use an electric smoker in a camp.
  • Here, since you do not have a high temperature, then the wood you use will not be able to burn too much. Here it is much more difficult to obtain abundant smoke rings for cooking.
  • This type of unit has a higher technology compared to propane smokers. If there is a malfunction, you will need more money for repair. 

Propane Smoker - Main Features 

As you may notice, a natural gas such as propane is needed here to use this unit. Of course, this is a propane smoker although many users often use other gas options. In principle, it is possible here to achieve high temperatures during cooking.

The control over temperature and food is much greater in this case. Besides, you will not need much time for the unit to reach a certain temperature. Since you are using propane gas, then the temperature rises much faster.

At the bottom of the unit is a gas burner. Above the burner, you will find a shelf for the necessary wood. Here the wood chips will start to burn-in exactly the way the user wants. Because you have control over the temperature you can also control the amount of smoke you can get.

Additionally, above this wood chip tray, you will find another water tray. These three components are the ones that allow you to obtain the amount of smoke needed for your meals. One of the devices that have many similarities is the charcoal smoker. Here you will get similar results when you analyze each food your cooking.

Propane vs Electric Smoker

You can find propane smokers or simply gas smokers in many restaurants. In fact, in those places that are dedicated to barbecues, this type of cooking offers many advantages. Let's see the main advantages and disadvantages of this unit.

PROS

  • Since you don't use an outlet, then you don't have to worry about where to use your propane smoker. So this allows you to get much more versatile and flexible functionality. It's a perfect choice when you want to enjoy a more complete campsite.
  • In this case, the failure or damage of these units is not expensive. So you won't need much money to repair a propane smoker.
  • In combination with the above, you do not need electricity here. You don't have to worry about power outages right at the time of cooking either.
  • In general, electric smokers tend to be more expensive than propane smokers. In principle, this is because units that use electricity include more advanced technology.
  • A large number of people believe that this type of unit is the closest to those that use charcoal. 

CONS

  • It's common for a propane smoker's entire body to become hot and overheat. Therefore, it is necessary to control the temperature at all times.
  • Low temperature or wind could damage the cooking. This often happens because the structure of a very cheap unit is not usually efficiently sealed.
  • As we have mentioned, a propane smoker cannot offer much technology. So here you cannot get some functions like Bluetooth connectivity offered by an electric unit.
  • You will be able to use a propane burner depending on the home you are in. In the vast majority of apartments, it is not allowed to use a propane smoker. 

Comparison between propane smokers and electric smokers

To complete a comparative analysis of these options, it is necessary to consider the main aspects. In this way, you will be able to choose the most precise option for your needs. In principle, an electric smoker could be the answer for certain types of meals that require a slow fire.

On the other hand, other people wish to obtain a propane smoker for foods that are not delicate. So, the latter option may also be the most appropriate for finding a flavor similar to one of the best portable charcoal grill. Although if you are still confused, then the following aspects are the most important for your decision. 

1. How to use it

Of course, the mode of use is one of the main aspects that need to be analyzed. As we have mentioned, you can get high ease of use with the electrical option. So, here you get stable temperatures over a long time. You only have to worry about finding the ideal temperature and continue with other activities.

Of course, a propane smoker is not too difficult to use. The disadvantage here is that the temperature does not provide adequate stability over time. Therefore, you will have to pay much more attention to this type of unit. Otherwise, the temperature could change and the cooking could deteriorate very easily.

To obtain the best results it is advisable to have some cooking knowledge. This way, you will be able to use a propane smoker without spoiling the food in the process. However, you do not need to have any knowledge to be able to use an electric smoker. So, there is certainly another advantage of the electric unit here.

2. Costs

In principle, it is fair to mention that you will need much less money to buy a propane smoker. These types of units do not have very innovative or advanced technology. So, this gives you a chance to have a high-quality propane smoker. Conversely, cheaper options may include some structural damage and leaks.

If you have a larger budget, you may be able to access an electric smoker. Here you will notice that superior technology is included compared to the propane smoker. In turn, high-quality options also often include Bluetooth connection and other innovative technologies. (1)

Of course, the cost of electricity and propane gas are not the same in all areas. So, here we must talk about averages between both prices in most areas. In general, using electric energy requires lower costs than using propane gas. So if your budget can support it then there will be no problem.

3. Cooking Results and flavour

Each of these options can give you different results during cooking. Of course, this also allows you to get a certain flavor in the food. This is even a very subjective aspect that needs to be considered. Nowadays, there are a lot of users who give their opinion about food with an electric smoker.

Therefore, food can be very delicious when using this type of device. However, most opinions agree that it is preferable to opt for charcoal or gas. At the same time, here is also the fact that it is possible to obtain more abundant smoke rings with these last two options.

Of course, when it comes to delicate foods or ingredients it is preferable to have an electric smoker. However, if you only enjoy the best aroma and taste of charcoal, propane gas is preferable. As we have mentioned, here you do not get the same result but something very similar.

4. Flexibility in use

One of these devices can be used in a large number of spaces and places. It is one of the best compliments to obtain delicious food in a camp. When you want to cook outdoors it would be better to have a propane smoker. Especially here you don't need any electricity, as gas is more than enough. (2)

On the other hand, an electric smoker is not always a good choice for outdoor use. For that, you will need a generator if you don't have any outlets nearby. Also, it is not recommended at all to use an electric smoker in bad weather and rain. Remember that you are using electricity for cooking.

Of course, this can be easily solved if you have a tarp that provides adequate safety and protection. At the same time, an electric unit can be used in any type of apartment which is not possible with a gas smoker. 

5. Reliability in use

As we have mentioned, an electric smoker is one of the easiest devices to use. Here you will notice that the controls are very simple for any type of user. So you don't need to have too much-advanced knowledge to do it.

Additionally, it is also necessary to mention that gas smokers can present some inconveniences. Those units that are too cheap have a structure that may contain faults. Some parts may not be completely sealed. Of course, this is detrimental to the cooking inside.

On the other hand, an electric smoker has more technology inside. So even though it is a much more expensive unit, the truth is that it is always much more convenient to use. (3)

Conclusion

After considering all the advantages and disadvantages of each option you will be able to make a better decision. As mentioned, you will need an electric unit to cook in your home or your yard.

When you want to go camping you should have a propane smoker.

In turn, delicate foods such as cheese or fish will need an electric option. Whenever you want to find a flavor similar to charcoal, the propane unit is the best option.

No matter what your decision is, every smoker has its strengths, choose one that fits and resonates with you! 

You may also check our other reviews comparing two brands this time, the Weber Spirit vs Genesis grill. And you can also check some of our guides for propane and electric smokers such: Best Gas Grill Under 300, and Best Grill Smoker Combo

For other reviews, you may click here. We hope this guide helps you choose the best grill for you!

References:
(1) Bluetooth - https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-how-does-bluetooth-work
(2) electricity - https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/what-is-electricity/all
(3) technology - https://www.britannica.com/technology/technology

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About the author 

Albert Thompson

Albert hails from Kentucky where grilling is a lifestyle. He brings with him his years of experience in the cooking sector and the product sector, but dont let that fool you, he practices what he preaches and enjoys a big rack of ribs every weekend.


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