Electric vs. Charcoal Smoker: Which one is for you?

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Smoked foods come to us like an inheritance of our ancestors. This phenomenal goodness is always on demand since then. And now this food has become one of the main elements of our summer afternoon parties. 

When the invitees (BBQ lovers) are discussing with one another and asking about the recipes, a well-known debate goes on about the medium of cooking. Some prefer to get their hands dirty with an old-fashioned charcoal smoker. Others will want to choose the tidy, trouble-free modern electric smoker. 

In the confrontation of electric vs. charcoal smoker, both types have upsides and downsides. They both are capable of standing brightly on their own. Let’s find out which one can meet your needs.

Electric vs. Charcoal Smoker: The Comparison Overview

Are you ‘this close” to buying your electric or charcoal smoker, but a little voice is buzzing in your head for double-checking your preferences?  There might be a lot to mull over before selecting your one, and ending up with the wrong choice is the last thing we want. After scouring through all the important factors, we find the following topics need to weigh before buying.

  • Quality of smoked food
  • Convenience
  • Portability
  • Relative cost to buy
  • Running cost
  • Maintenance
  • Users
  • Place for installation
  • Cold smoking
  • Temp Checking
  • Warranty
  • And more
Electric vs. Charcoal Smoker
Electric vs. Charcoal Smoker

Features

Electric Smoker

Charcoal Smoker

Quality of smoked food

Considerable

Premium and classic taste

Convenience

No babysitting needed

Need experience of using the machine

Portability

No, require an electricity source

Yes

Relative cost to buy

Higher than the other

Quite affordable

Running cost

10 times more than the other as fuel required

Not so much{ without considering replacement parts}

Maintenance

Just clean it regularly

Hectic work for cleaning if creosote builds up

Users

For beginners

For Pros

Place for installation

Mainly for indoors

For outdoors especially

Cold smoking

Can be done by using kits

Quite difficult

Temp Checking

Set and forget type

Continuous checking needed

Warranty

For around 1-3 years

For a long period{ 6 years or more}

The Features We've Considered

Which one can infuse better flavor into every crevice of the meat?

There is no doubt both of the machines produce luscious pieces of meat. But if we really have to declare a winner, we might say even the food critics will agree with us. Our traditional charcoal smoker takes this, hands down. 

The authentic smoked flavor is the main reason for our smoking the beautiful piece of meat in the first place. And with good wood chips, the perfect piece of meat, and the right temperature on the charcoal machine, you will be offering yourselves the perfect summer meal with infused charcoal flavor. The burning charcoal with intensive smoke gives a complex taste. 

But if you are a beginner and want consistency in your grilling, you prefer you to have an electric smoker grill. You don’t need to hover over it all the time to maintain the temperature. The right heating process will save you from burning your meat. But the digital capabilities will more or less pale the genuine flavor.

Which one is more convenient: charcoal vs. electric?

We must say that it is hard to beat the electric model in the convenience category. Thanks to its plug-in and turn-on set up. If you have sufficient power source, you will have an uninterrupted grilling session without any baffling of temperature or charcoal. 

With the right operation of the thermostat, you will have your juicy meat even before you know it. On the contrary, the charcoal smoker lacks in the digital accessories, and you need to hawk during the entire cooking process. And for an electric one, you can do other household chores in your pending lists. 

You can keep your guesswork aside and follow the precise recipe by using an electric model. However, you might have proficiency in a variety of smoking techniques, using the air ventilation and know how to maintain the charcoal grilling temperature. Then, it would be a piece of cake for you to cook ultimate grilled foods on charcoal. 

Which one is portable?

When you are in the mode of camping or RVing or taking off into the woods for a weekend of barbecue and vodka, the charcoal grill has got your backs. Portability is the name of the game for it, as you can fire up anywhere. On the contrary, if you care to tote your electric one, you sure to have an outlet right there where you need it. Above all, if we consider portability, we can’t beat charcoal machine in comparison with propane vs. electric smoker vs. pellet smoker.

How much space is required for various types of smokers?

The question is kind of puzzling as we should ask how much space we have inside or outside of our home for it. You might not be going to use them every day rather than weekends or holidays. So, they are going to occupy the space according to their shape and size. 

For both electric vs. charcoal smoker, the barrel shapes or vertical shapes are available. And they consume around 2 feet by 2 feet area depending on the capacity like you can get Masterbuilt Electric smoker or Weber charcoal smoker. On the other hand, if you want to go for an offset charcoal smoker, it will require more space like 6 feet wide. 

What about the cooking capacity?

Are you going to feed an army? Or, the four members of your family going to devour the succulent pork ribs? In these scenarios, you need to estimate the amount of grilling and then act likewise. There is an array of electric vs. charcoal smoker with a wide range of capacity. In the past, charcoal devices have variety, but nowadays, electric ones are not lagging. However, vertical models allow us to cook for more people than offsets. 

Which one fits your budget?

You have to look at your wallet before purchasing it! The differences in price range lie in the quality of durability and workmanship. So, the budget varies from person to person. However, you will be amazed to know that you are going to save a couple of hundred bucks by buying charcoal grill comparing with other smoker electric vs. propane. Generally, the price of digital technology with Bluetooth interfaces needs extra penny. 

But you have to think about the ongoing cost to run. These include the fuel source and the repair. In this part, we are going to say the electric one wins the prize. The charcoal, even the low-quality ones, will need at least 10 times more money to be allocated to purchase than woodchips. 

I am afraid the parts of electric models tend to break down. Unfortunately, the repairing or replacing job will have some obvious ramifications on your budget. 

Moreover, both models confirm their words for a warranty package. Generally, the charcoal model comes with more years, but both packages will definitely save you in the long run. 

Which one offers more versatility and temperature range?

You may opt for investing more cash for your ultimate smoking machine. So, you are thinking outside of the fundamental factors to buy. As we always strive to be upfront with our customers, a couple of things we are putting up that might be deal-breakers for you. 

High heat – Creating roaring fire is the forte of the charcoal model. Once you have lighted a charcoal smoker, it is quite tough to maintain the fire. But for barbecue enthusiasts? The lower limit is around 125F, and the higher limit is about 350F and even more. Now you can do roasting or have crispy skin or killer bark for its great ventilation system. However, for vertical-style, you can’t really arrange direct heat for every grate. 

Low heat and cold smoking – If you have made up your mind for cold smoking on charcoal, you have to be the people with skills and patience. And people out there who are novices or always in a hurry, electric models have come to rescue. 

The digital set-up with about 100°F – 275°F range is ideal for low and slow smoking. Generally, the actual temperature need for cold smoking is around 85F. But are you thinking low temperature means a small amount of smoke? Manufacturers have thought about this and go for a cold smoking kit separately. Now, you can turn your ordinary electric machine into a great cold smoking model. Again, you can use a wood chip tray or wood pellet tube smoker to create smoke without interrupting the temperature. 

Fuel source – Other than electricity, the electric model doesn’t need any fuel comparing with the gas vs. charcoal model. We are sharing an estimate data. A common 800w electric model will cost you not more than $1.50 each time you cook. Whereas you are going to spend $5 to $30 each time you grill on charcoal depending on the amount. 

Smoke Ring – The beauty of old-fashioned barbecue is the pink coloration under the surface of the meat, known as the smoke ring. When the charcoal burns, it releases chemical. The chemical reacts with the chemical elements of meat and thus create smoke rings. The temperature at which the wood chips smolder in the electric model is not enough for creating this look. But, let me tell you, it will not put any impact on the taste. 

Which one wins based on Readability?

When a device tasks the duty of lighting the charcoal, controlling the airflow, following the nuances of temperature spikes, many technologies can go wrong. On the other hand, there is nothing so complicated configuration than a hinge. If any malfunction happens, you can take care of the issue in an affordable way. I am not saying you can’t manage the electric model, but you need to take the help of electricians to fix the problems.

What about the maintenance and weather effects?

The mantra of persistent beauty lies in its care. You need to keep an eye on the smoker, whether it is electric or charcoal or gas. But the amount of maintenance varies. 

Precipitation and winds can create rust on your charcoal griller as they tend to use outside. You should use a cover to protect them. And you need to focus on the cleaning too. You have to wait until all the ashes burn itself out. Otherwise, the bits of ash will destroy your precious machine. 

The electric one gets the point here as you can easily clean the grates. But be aware of the moisture. Moisture can seep into the seams and ruin the machine. 

Electric vs. charcoal smoker – which one has better health effects?

Since we are talking about a food item, we can’t forget our health aspects. In this category, we may announce a winner. 

When the fat drips on the charcoal, it creates smoke. And the smoke can bear carcinogenic particles. However, it is better than frying in oil. 

The counterpart named electric model is the winner here as it doesn’t create any hazardous chemicals. 

Charcoal is not combustible, and so it will not explode when left up in hot areas.

Which one wins in terms of popularity?

If we are discussing this topic among the pitmasters, they will take the name of a charcoal griller without even thinking twice. 

On the contrary, if the discussion is going on among novices, an electric smoker is a popular and convenient choice for them.

Electric Vs. Charcoal Smoker: Final Feedback

electric smoker
Electric Smoker

Electric smoker feedback: The combo of heat and smoldering wood chips at the bottom delivers stunning flavor to your food. With a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ approach to cooking, this one is preferable to the condominium dwellers. This model symbolizes speed and ease. The parts should be taken care of properly as humidity is its biggest enemy. 

charcoal smoker
Charcoal Smoker

Charcoal smoker feedback: You always get the sweet result by having patience. And this one is no exception. With constant monitoring and replenished charcoal, you hope to have juiciest pieces of bbq meats.  Here the learning curve is kind of steep, and the main thing is to learn how to stable temperature for hours. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There is no specific type that is best for novices. We recommend you buy one which is easy to set up and use. And the one which comes with bells to notify you of the cooking state. You can have one between electric vs. propane smokers as they are convenient.

This answer varies for users to users. The charcoal smoker is best suited to barbecue enthusiasts, people looking for budget-friendly options, and people with patience. The electric smoker is best suited to beginners or city dwellers, people who could not spend hours on smoking, and those who could not manage charcoal. The propane smoker is best suited to the people who have a large space, and people who want to enjoy more features than charcoal or electric ones. 

We recommendations you to buy one as the machines come with bad-quality thermometers. Choose a digital thermometer with Bluetooth interfaces or other technical features to help you control the temperature. 

Charcoal is human-made, which is made by heating wood in the absence of oxygen. Charcoal is clearer than coal as the impurities leave the carbon. 

Are Electric Or Charcoal Smokers Better?

Voila! What do you think? Does our head-to-head challenge of electric vs. charcoal smokers come to an end? We hope we have properly addressed the dilemma. All of your doubts will be clear if we look around your space.

If you have space in your backyard and yearn for having ultimate bbq, be on the charcoal team. And if we want to grill the meat in your home while doing other jobs, an electric one is good to go. Now get one and share with us your grilling experience. Happy grilling! 

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