Electric Smoker Buying Guide 2014
Barbecuing and grilling are two of the best ways to prepare food for your family, whether it is a regular day or there is a special occasion. If you plan to prepare barbeque for your family and you do not have the patience to light a fire, using an electric smoker is your best option. But before you buy one, you should first understand how it works and know the right type for your home. Electric smokers are durable and last long, making them good investments in every household.
Contrary to what you might think, electric smokers do not consume much electricity and therefore will not hurt your pocket. They are ideal to bring out the best flavor for fish, meat, or any poultry food in less time. In addition, such machines are lightweight and very easy to maintain. Prices mainly depend on size, brand, model, and craftsmanship. Some people hesitate to buy one because they think they are expensive. But the truth is, you can save money in the long run. If you are looking for the best electric smokers, we are here to help you choose through our wide collection of electric smokers reviews.
How Electric Smokers Work
Just like electric ovens, electric smokers use a heating element and sawdust or wood shavings to give off the smoke, making them convenient to use for home cooking. They are easy to use; you do not need to spend so much time in monitoring. The inside temperature is usually 200-250 F, and the thermostat makes it sure that it is neither too high nor too low. This is the main reason why cooking enthusiasts call electric smokers as “set it and forget it.”
After preparing the food, all you need to do is to place wood chips inside your electric smoker, plug it into an electric outlet, turn it on, and set it or your desired temperature. When the temperature is reached, place the meat inside and you can now start smoking your meat. Therefore, using this machine is almost “hands-free.” The best electric smokers are those that can produce the right temperature so that the desired color of meat being grilled is obtained. If you plan to use this machine in your backyard, all you need is heavy duty extension cord with a sufficient length.
Temperature Control System
As mentioned earlier, the thermostat in electric smokers automatically adjusts the temperature for you. But in older and cheaper versions, rheostat is being used as the temperature control system. However, it is important that you understand that thermostats stops the temperature when it already reaches the minimum and maximum settings. On the other hand, rheostat-type smokers only decrease their capacity to adjust the temperature and do not provide the on-off control. This can result into higher power consumption and higher electric bills.
In some cases, some people modify their electric smokers and use a dimmer switch. Despite the fact that a rheostat and a dimmer have almost the same functions, using the latter is not advisable. A rheostat adds more resistance, while a dimmer switch uses a solid state circuit to change the voltage. You have to use a high-wattage dimmer and you have to monitor the temperature and adjust it if necessary.
Types of Electric Smokers
Electric smokers come in different sizes and with different, technical specifications. But generally speaking, there are only types of electric smokers: the vertical electric smoker and the horizontal electric smoker.
Vertical electric smokers
Sometimes called electric water smokers, vertical electric smokers have their electrical components in the bottom or base. A vertical electric smoker is cylindrical in shape and has a removable top, making it look like a small metal garbage can. The area where the wood shavings are placed is directly above the source of the heat, while the grills are located in the mid section of the machine. In most cases, there is a small water container that can help keep the food moist. And because its performance highly depends on temperature and wind, using one during winter season is not recommendable. The best season where you can use your vertical electric smoker efficiently is during warmer months.
Horizontal electric smokers
For obvious reasons, horizontal electric smokers are also referred to as electric cabinet smokers. A standard-sized horizontal electric smoker is much bigger than a normal vertical electric smoker. But unlike vertical electric smokers, cabinet-type smokers may or may not need water depending on the model type. In some models, the heat source is also below the wood area. However, most of them have a dedicated area for wood on the side of the cabinet. Despite being more expensive than vertical smokers, horizontal smokers have been temperature control and can therefore be used in all kinds of seasons.
How to Buy the Best Electric Smoker
If you plan to buy an electric smoker soon, it is very important that you know how to choose the best one for you. Note that no product is a hundred percent perfect, but you can find the best one for you. Besides the types of electric smokers and the temperature control systems, here are some of the important factors to consider before you buy one:
Vertical electric smokers consume smaller spaces than that of the horizontal-type. Many smokers with a size of 20 inches by 30 inches can already produce enough food for an average-sized family. But then, you should how much barbeque you would need to satisfy every family member. To give you an idea, an average person consume about 1 pound of meat per serving. So if you have a larger family or you invite guests at home frequently, you would want to buy a bigger smoker.
Note that storage capacity of an electric smoker does not depend on its size. Many huge smokers have small spaces for storage, and may have the same capacity to some small smokers. Choosing an electric smoker with a lot of shelves means slower smoking process and higher electric consumption. So to avoid empty shelves during smoking, you should buy only those that you are sure all the shelves will be filled in.
Is the door easy to open and close? Is it easy to put wood chips inside? Is the inside temperature gauge visible enough? Is it easy to lift and transfer from one place to another? Does it removable shelves for easy cleaning? These are only some of the questions that you should find answers if you are looking for convenience. Some of the top electric smokers have other added features such as digital controls and RF remote control; but of course they come with a higher price.
Generally speaking, all electric smokers are safe to use. However, there are some safety concerns that you should consider. First of all, the unit should stand flat on the floor. Next, you would want to choose the one with a good protective cover against sun and rain in case you want to use it on outdoor. If there is none, do you have an option to buy one and install it? More importantly, check the company if it had previous recalls regarding fire hazard.
Beware; the outside body may fool you. Besides choosing the one that has a stainless steel body, make sure that it can withstand vibration. Check the moving parts, as well as the hinges, seals and connections and see it to it that they are made of high quality materials. Note also that bad thermostats may result to inconsistent temperature. Some models have also rare spare parts or will cost much in terms or repair. It will be helpful if you buy only from reputable brands and read a lot of electric smokers reviews.
This is probably the most ignored factor when choosing for the best electric smokers. Most first-time buyers do not realize that proper insulation is very important in maintaining the heat range inside the unit. Note that the heating element is sensitive to the outside temperature, especially if you plan to use your electric smoker during winter or cold months. If you are not sure of the quality of the insulation, you can buy a separate insulation blanket, which will also help you save operating costs.
For obvious reasons, the price of electric smokers mainly depends on the features and quality. With a low end unit, you may need to put wood more often. You should sacrifice a little if you want to save some money. However, there are also cheaper brands that offer the same features as the high end ones. It is therefore important that you do some comparisons before you finally buy one. Some brands offer huge sale discount, depending on the model.
As a conclusion, electric smokers are great even if you are living in the 2nd floor of an apartment of condo. In some cases, house rent includes the electric bill and therefore allows you to use smokers for free. Despite the fact that there could be a difference in taste as compared to charcoal smokers, it is the kind of wood chips that you use in your electric smoker that determines the flavor of the meat. Not to mention, you would always want prepare barbeque in the most convenient way.