Meat smokers are a great addition to an outdoor kitchen or backyard deck. Smoking is a traditional method of cooking, but today, the same delicious results can be achieved with modern smokers that will allow any home chef to cook like a pro. Two of the most popular varieties of meat smokers are electric and propane-powered. Each has its benefits, and you can upgrade your outdoor living space with the one that is right for you.
Propane and Electric: Which is better?
Both propane and electric smokers come in a variety of styles with many useful features, so there are significant price ranges for both. Small, simple units of each type can be found for under $100, or you can pay several hundred dollars for more space and features. However, propane smokers tend to be simpler than electric models, meaning there are fewer things to go wrong. If repairs are needed on a propane smoker, they tend to be simpler and less expensive than with electric units.¹
Electric smokers typically provide more technical options, with some offering digital temperature displays and even bluetooth capabilities. For those just wanting a simple smoker without the fancy add-ons, propane delivers. However, many propane smokers still offer benefits such as built-in temperature gauges and push-button ignitions.
Propane smokers also provide a different type of convenience. Of course, electric smokers require electricity, so they must be used near an outlet or with a generator. In contrast, propane smokers can be used anywhere, so they are more portable, making them ideal for camping trips or tailgates.¹
Ease of Use
Electric smokers are very easy to use since you can essentially set the temperature and the timer and walk away until the food is done. However, for a more experienced chef who wants a more traditional flavor, propane is the way to go. Propane smokers require more attention throughout the process, as the temperature can fluctuate, but they can also reach much higher temperatures than electric smokers, allowing a burst of heat to seal the meat before settling back into low-and-slow cooking.¹
Temperature control varies among models. Some electric units allow for precise control, while simpler models only have low, medium and high settings.¹ With propane, the temperature is controlled by increasing or decreasing the flame, which allows for precise control.
Since electric smokers can’t achieve the same temperatures as propane, they may be more ideal for cold smoking or dehydrating meats. Electric smokers also take longer to reach their target temperature, but propane smokers are ready to use soon after the fire is lit.
Flavor is naturally one of the most important factors to consider when buying a smoker. While everyone’s tastes are different, propane tends to be the choice of professionals, since it produces similar results as charcoal smoking. Propane smokers will also give meat the coveted smoke ring since they burn actual wood. Wood can be added to an electric smoker for flavor, but it may not get hot enough to create the smoke needed for a smoke ring.¹ Some propane smokers even include a “smoke flavor” gauge that detects the ideal level of smoke for flavoring the type of food in the smoker.²
Both types of smokers have benefits, so the choice comes down to your needs. Electric smokers are user-friendly for beginners while offering several additional options. Propane smokers provide an authentic smoky flavor, temperature control and portability. Cooking with propane is safe, efficient and fast, and can upgrade your backyard BBQ. For traditional taste with a professional feel, consider adding a propane smoker to your outdoor living area and see what propane can do.