Electric vs Pellet Smoker: Which One is Better?

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An excellent smoker is an invaluable tool for any chef. It allows you to maximize your food’s flavor, mainly through maintaining low temperatures and capturing enough smoke.

Its role in providing you with authentic meat flavors is astounding, assuring you of an unrivaled cooking experience.

There are three main types of smokers, including the vertical, cabinet, and offset firebox smokers. Vertical, alternatively called cylindrical smokers, are the most common and easy to use.

Offset firebox smokers boast a redefined design, and they can be used as standard grills. On the other hand, cabinet smokers are almost similar to the vertical ones.

The only difference is that cabinet smokers have more vents, assuring you of better heating.

You could also categorize smokers depending on their source of power. For instance, there are pellet, electric, kamado, and charcoal smokers.

This article discusses the difference between electric and pellet smokers and which one has the edge over the other.

What is an Electric Smoker?

An electric smoker is a cooking device used to smoke food and whose source of heat is electric rods. This smoker requires you to plug it in an electrical power source to heat your food, as it also relies on electricity.

These electric smokers boast advanced technology, highlighting vents that help control temperatures. They also feature thermostats that minimize instances of accidents or sudden fires.

Their internal thermometers ensure that you know when your meat is ready.

The temperature ratings often vary from one device to another. Typically, the temperature ranges from 100 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. An excellent heat element will assure you of enhanced longevity.

What is a Pellet Smoker?

Choosing a pellet grill is one of the wisest moves you could make. Its fuel source is pellets, which are natural hardwood sawdust compacted and extruded in relatively small round pieces.

These wood pellets have a somewhat predictable BTU, meaning you are sure of a consistent, authentic, light smoke flavor.

These pellet smokers feature an external storage bin called a hopper, which is filled with wood pellets. An auger turns the hopper and delivers the pellets into an internal firepot, producing heat and smoke.

Usually, you will be free to adjust the cooking temperatures in these pellet smokers. You could also rely on computerized settings to achieve the same goal.

Things to Consider When Deciding Between Electric and Pellet Smokers

Electric and pellet smokers bear significant similarities, meaning choosing between the two can be an uphill task.

However, suppose you were to compare the flavor, ease of use, operation costs, acquisition costs, and versatility. In that case, it will be easier to settle on one.

Here are a few insights into these factors.

Ease of Use

Everyone looks forward to a device that is relatively easy to use. Both pellet and electric smokers are straightforward to set up and use. All you have to do is set up the temperature, load your meat, and wait until your food is ready.

After using your pellet smoker, you have to clean out any accumulated ashes. On the other hand, electric smokers require you to remove the remaining charred wood chunks. You will also need to get rid of the used tin foil on the surface.

Using a pellet smoker is almost a hands-free experience, thanks to the enhanced automation.

This process involves no more than plugging in your device and placing your meat on the grill.

On the other hand, electric smokers come with advanced technology. Their self-regulation implies that you can sit back and relax.

Flavor

Undeniably, people will often prioritize when choosing smokers. Electric and pellet smokers provide you with distinct flavors, thanks to the different power sources.

An electric smoker has heat elements that heat the box, consequently smoking the meat. It then smolders the wood to produce smoke, highlighting no combustion.

Typically, you expect a relatively lighter flavor when you use electric smokers. This meat comes with no smoke ring, and it has a softer bark.

Conversely, pellet smokers work like a conventional oven. That means you do not have to worry about uneven smoking. Its pellet grill ensures that you do not over-smoke, assuring you of a strong smoke flavor.

Comparing the two smokers, pellet smokers provide you with a more authentic flavor. The pellet smoker ensures that you get a smoke ring, bark, and smokey flavor.

Operation Costs

An electric smoker often uses electricity or a few ounces of wood, both of which are relatively affordable. Electric smokers allow you to use different brands or types of wood.

Suppose you have a Bradley Electric Smoker. It does not limit you to using Bradley briquettes only. Instead, you could consider proprietary options or wood chips as well.

On the other hand, pellet smokers are a little restricted. While they also rely on electricity, they tend to consume more energy. That means you must have a constant supply of pellets, as they are a little more affordable.

These smokers will consume at least $10 for pellets enough to cook for ten hours.

Comparatively, electric smokers seem less pricey to maintain and even operate. The electricity consumed is barely too much. The wood chips and other proprietary options will not leave a dent in your budget.

Conversely, you will spend a fortune on operating pellet smokers.

Size

Electric smokers are compact and easy to use, making them a great choice for beginner smokers. Pellet smokers have a more traditional design that resembles an outdoor grill, and they offer a wide variety of features that allow for more advanced cooking techniques.

When choosing between an electric smoker and a pellet smoker, it is important to consider your individual needs and preferences.

If you are looking for an easy-to-use smoker that is compact and easy to store, an electric smoker is a great option. If you want a smoker that offers more advanced cooking features and takes up more space on your deck or patio, a pellet smoker may be the better choice.

ImageSmokerSizeWeight
Masterbuilt Electric Smoker 30 Inch19.9 x 20.5 x 33.3 inches (LxWxH)50.3 lbs
Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grill50.2 x 24.02 x 39.8 inches96 lbs

Purchase Costs

Are you conscious of your budget? Taking the time to understand smokers’ acquisition costs helps decide whether you will get value for your money. There is a big difference in the prices of electric smokers and pellet smokers.

Pellet smokers are more expensive. Their costs vary with brand, size, and performance. Often, you will spend between $400 and over $1000 for a decent pellet smoker.

However, some brands, including Traeger, can be comically expensive, costing you over $1,700. Besides that, you might need a pellet grill, which could cost you up to $1,000. This amount makes the general acquisition cost of a pellet grill relatively high.  

Electric smokers are decently priced, allowing you to choose from a wide array. It is easy to select a suitable option from the various brands and sizes at your disposal.

Mostly, these electric smokers will cost you under $100. You could spend over $500 for a more advanced option or a relatively reputable brand.

Versatility

The performance of a smoker will always impact your convenience. Usually, it would be best to choose a device that can handle more than one job, including smoking different foods other than meat.

Excellent temperature control will ensure that you enjoy such versatility.

Electric smokers have proven to be some of the most versatile options available. They allow you to adjust temperatures between 100 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the food you want to smoke.

These electric smokers depend on both electricity and wood chips. Such flexibility allows you to select an easily accessible or convenient power source.

Its compact design allows you to move around with your smoker, whether indoors or outdoors. Enhanced mobility provides you with the comfort you need when smoking your product.

On the other hand, pellet smokers barely allow you to adjust the temperatures. Sometimes, these temperatures could be way too high, limiting you from smoking some foods, including fish.

A pellet smoker’s design might not be the most suitable for enhanced portability. While it provides you with enough cooking space, it denies you the freedom to move around with it.

Safety

If you’re looking for a smoker that you can leave unattended, an electric smoker is your best bet. These smokers are much safer than pellet grills, which burn an actual fire at the bottom of the smoker. Whenever you have a fire, you need to be close by in case anything happens.

Back burns in the pellet hopper are also a common problem with pellet grills, which can cause excess smoke. Electric smokers are a safer, more hassle-free option for smoking meats.

Cold Smoking

One of the great advantages of electric smokers is that they can be used for cold smoking. Cold smoking refers to the process of smoking food at lower temperatures, typically below 90°F. This is perfect for smoking delicate items such as cheese, which would melt if exposed to higher temperatures.

It can be difficult to achieve such low temperatures on a pellet grill, as the lowest setting on most grills is around 170°F. However, by using ice trays or other methods, it is possible to drop the temperature of a pellet grill to the desired level.

As a result, electric smokers offer a versatile cooking option for those who want to experiment with different smoking techniques.

Temperature Range

Pellet smokers offer a much wider temperature range than electric smokers, making them more versatile and allowing for more consistent results. Electric smokers are only able to reach about 270°F, which is not hot enough to get a crispy skin on poultry.

As a result, many people who use electric smokers end up with rubbery chicken or turkey skin. The only way to achieve a crispy skin with an electric smoker is to finish the bird in the oven.

However, pellet smokers can reach temperatures between 150-500°F, making it possible to get a crispy skin without using the oven. In addition, pellet smokers are easier to regulate and maintain consistent temperatures, which further enhances the quality of the cooked meat.

For all these reasons, pellet smokers are a better option than electric smokers for those who want to achieve perfectly cooked poultry.

Grilling Area

When deciding between a pellet smoker and an electric smoker, it’s important to consider how much food you’ll be cooking at one time. Pellet smokers have a larger grilling area than electric smokers, so they can accommodate more food.

Electric smokers are vertical and the cooking racks are narrow, which means that you can’t spread the food out as much. This can be a problem if you’re trying to cook a lot of food at once.

Pellet grills, on the other hand, have a wider cooking area which allows for more food to be spread out across the grill. This makes them a better option if you’re trying to cook a large amount of food at one time.

Amount of Smoke

While it is true that electric smokers can lack the amount of smoke that some people desire, there are ways to get around this. One way is to use smoking tubes inside the smoker. These tubes are filled with wood chips or pellets, and as they heat up, they release a steady stream of smoke.

Another option is to use a pellet grill. These grills are fueled by wood pellets, which not only provide heat for cooking but also produce a good amount of smoke. The key is to cook low and slow in order to give the meat plenty of time to absorb the smoky flavor.

Related: How To Use Wood Chips In An Electric Smoker

Electricity

Although pellet grills and electric smokers both use electricity, they are very different smokers. Pellet smokers use electricity to power the fan, the digital controller, and the auger to feed pellets into the fire pot. The major difference between the electric and pellet smoker is with an electric smoker, the heat comes from a metal rod, while the pellet smoker produces heat through burning wood.

However, they have some things in common. Both types of smokers use indirect heat to cook food. This means that the food is not placed directly over the heat source, but rather to the side or underneath it.

Additionally, both electric and pellet smokers typically have a water pan that can be used to add moisture to the smoking chamber. This is especially important when smoking meats, as it helps to prevent them from drying out. By understanding the similarities and differences between these two types of smokers, you can make an informed decision about which type is right for you.

Weather

Electric smokers are a great option for those who want to enjoy the flavor of smoked meats all year round, regardless of the weather. While it is important to keep electric smokers out of the rain to prevent any damage, they are otherwise not affected by either hot or cold temperatures. This makes them ideal for use in all seasons, whether you’re smoking a holiday turkey or summer BBQ ribs.

Another advantage of electric smokers is that they are not as affected by wind as other types of smokers, so you don’t have to worry about fluctuations in temperature. And if you do find yourself smoking in cold weather, you can simply wrap your smoker in insulation to help keep the heat in.

So whatever the weather, an electric smoker is a versatile option for the home chef.

Comparison of Electric and Pellet Smokers

Char-Broil 17202004 Digital Electric SmokerZ Grills ZPG-1000D Pellet Smoker
Power SourceCorded ElectricWood Pellet
Cooking Space725 square inch432 square inch
Temperature Range100°F to 275°F180°F to 450°F
Weight50.2 pounds110 pounds
Warranty1 year3 years

Are Electric Smokers Worth It?

This aspect will depend on the merits and demerits drawn by the device. Here are a few details about the advantages and disadvantages of using electric smokers.

Limited Electricity Consumption

Electric smokers do not consume too much electricity. In most cases, they use approximately 800 watts an hour, which translates to about 6.4 kilowatt-hours if you were to cook for 8 hours a day.

Electric smokers will consume around 192 kilowatt-hours in a month. Suppose the price per kWh is 13 cents, your total expenditure on electricity will be approximately $25.

Low Maintenance Costs

You do not need to supervise your electric smoker constantly. That is because you do not have to worry about the depletion of fuel or incidences of fire.

Its thermometer and thermostat help enhance self-regulation. This aspect implies that there will be minimal chance of getting into an accident. You will also barely burn your food in the long run.

Consistency

You can barely overlook the value of smooth and authentic flavor. Its consistency will always depend on temperature regulation.

Electric smokers assure you of enhanced temperature consistency, cushioning you against burned food. Besides, you will be free to adjust the temperature, depending on personal preferences.

Enhanced Safety

The dangers associated with electric smokers are very few. These smokers come with unrivaled safety standards, and technology ensures that you are protected at all times.

Whether you use it under severe or ordinary weather, you will have no reason to worry.

Sturdy Construction

Electric smokers boast a robust construction, assuring you of longevity. They are made from premium materials, meaning they are less susceptible to rust and damage. Their heaviness allows them to withstand pressure from strong winds.

Easy to Clean

Cleaning electric smokers take a relatively short time, thanks to the stainless steel construction. This construction does not allow food to stick on the sides, meaning you do not have much cleaning to do after smoking.

The best way to clean your smoker would be to follow the instructions in the manufacturer’s manual.

Disadvantages of Electric Smokers

  • This product assures you of no high heat.
  • You must have a power source.
  • It gives you no smoke ring.
  • Its repair costs could be relatively high.

Are Pellet Smokers Worth It?

Pellet smokers come with various benefits, including the following.

Versatile

Pellet smokers are some of the most versatile options you will get. They ensure that you get your food ready within a short time, cushioning you against time wastage.

You can use these smokers to prepare any meal. You will also use them wherever you are, including indoors and outdoors.

Speed

These smokers produce too much heat, allowing you to prepare your food within a relatively short time.

Typically, this option relies on wood fire pellets, which heat and produce significant amounts of heat. As long as you want to save time, this will be an ideal option.

Consistency

Pellet smokers enhance evenness when cooking. The balanced heat ensures that your food cooks properly from all angles. This smoker comes with a heat diffuser, which improves the smoke effect.

Temperature Regulation

This smoker does not allow for temperature fluctuation. You will remain in charge of the temperature, ensuring that your food does not burn. However, it would be best to keep monitoring the smoker.

Multiple Choices

With a wide variety to choose from, you will easily get something that appeals to your preferences. Pellet smokers come in various shapes, designs, and sizes, allowing you to select something that befits your needs.

Flavor

Pellet smokers provide you with a smokey and authentic flavor. Besides that, they assure you of a smoke ring.

Disadvantages of Pellet Smokers

  • Pellet smokers consume significant amounts of electricity.
  • It might not be as durable.
  • It might take longer to get the best food results.
  • Pellet smokers are often a little too pricy for most people.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, everyone aims at getting value for their money. Choosing between pellet smokers and electric smokers is all about what you get from the selected option. If there were a winner between these two, it would be the electric smoker.

The electric smoker is relatively more affordable to acquire, yet it is the most durable option. Its low maintenance costs and enhanced energy efficiency make it an appealing choice for anyone on a budget.

Besides, it assures you of an incredible flavor. The catch would be in what device and brand you buy, as it determines how long it will last.