Smoking is one of the most popular ways of cooking, and when done well, you get to enjoy flavorful and tender meat. From pitmasters with decades of experience to casual backyard get-togethers, people who enjoy smoking meat can do so in a variety of circumstances. All that really matters is that it’s done well, and you have an outstanding meal on your hands. If you are looking for a smoker to cook your meat with, there are some things that you need to consider beforehand. Buying your own smoker can be an investment, not only financially but in terms of effort and time. So how do you know what kind of smoker is right for you?
Two of the main types of smokers on the market are offset smokers and an electric food smokers. Each type has its pros and cons which will be discussed below. If you are not sure which smoker to buy, hopefully, this article can help make your decision a little easier.
Temperature is a hugely important factor when it comes to smoking meat. From the amount of smoke will be impaired to the food, to getting the right doneness, it can all be related to temperature control.
Electric food smokers are equipped with thermostats and other devices capable of regulating the temperature inside the unit. Not only it will allow you to set the desired temperature and wait for it to be reached, the electric components work on keeping the same level of temperature throughout the cooking processes. This can help ensure that your meat is not overcooked or undercooked. Most electric smokers give you full control over the heat and smoke produced by the unit.
Offset smokers, on the other hand, do not have thermostats. They, therefore, do not provide temperature control as it will depend on the wood management you worked on. They rely on the experience and knowledge about smoking, and hands-on involvement, to ensure the meal comes out properly. You have to constantly adjust the vents on the smoker, as well as to tent to the amount of wood burning to maintain the ideal cooking temperature. This can take a lot of time and effort.
It also takes longer to heat up the offset smoker to the desired temperature. You need to plan ahead and factor that into your preparations.
For both electric and offset food smokers wood is going to be the source for smoke, while also being the source of heat for the offset smoker, but not for the electric smoker as discussed before. Managing to feed the wood to the smoker for it to work shows the greatest difference from the two types, especially when you decide to cook for long hours, as for brisket or pulled pork.
On offset smokers you’ll need to cut and store wood for your cooking (or spend a bit more to purchase it the way you want it) than start a fire and take care of it to make sure you’ve reached the right temperature and desired amount of smoke, making sure to monitor how it changes not to ruin your preparation.
Electric smokers show a huge advantage regarding wood management, as it will work only to generate the smoke and not the heat. This way you can enjoy the convenience of automatic wood feeders, or manage fewer visits to the smoker to refuel the wood.
Electric smokers are much smaller and lighter than offset smokers and can be easily transported from one place to another. This makes them a great choice for those who want to be able to move their smoker around with ease. By being able to use your smoker at home, then bring it over to a friend’s house for another special occasion, you’re more likely to get your money’s worth than if it’s stationary.
Offset smokers are large, bulky, and difficult to move around. They are best suited to those who have a lot of space for setting up the smoker in one location, or we can see people that take the extra time and money to set it up on a trailer so your truck can carry it. This is perfect for those who love smoking meat in the privacy of their own home and want the meat smoker to be part of their long-term smoking journey.
Electric food smokers are available in different sizes and most models allow you to smoke between 30 to 100 pounds of meat at once depending on their exact capacity. It is already a small crowd capacity, only needing a bit of planning if you want to cook smaller items to hundreds of people (as it takes rack space. Or when you want huge items as a full hog to be smoked at once.
Offset smokers are much larger and can accommodate much more meat than electric smokers. They typically have a capacity of between 250 pounds and 500 pounds of meat. This is ideal for those who want to smoke large quantities of meat at one time.
Electric smokers are generally more expensive than offset smokers (the exception would be the huge offset one, or the ones built on trailers), but they are also much easier to maintain. When considering an electric smoker, it’s important to look at the cost/benefit analysis, and consider multiple other factors as well.
Offset smokers tend to be cheaper since there are no specific thermostats or automatic temperature control features that need replacing or fixing regularly. However, offsets do require more frequent cleaning. You also have to be careful to not let the smoke and heat escape from the smoker.
Ease of Use
Electric smokers are very easy to use since all you have to do is set the desired temperature and timer and then let the smoker do its job. There is no need to constantly adjust the vents on the smoker to keep the temperature at a specific level.
Offset smokers can be more difficult and hands-on to use than electric smokers. You have to adjust the vents constantly to maintain the right temperature, and then you have no control over the final product since it all depends on how long you smoke your meat.
Some people will say that electric smokers produce less smokiness than offset smokers, and that can be related to the amount of wood you can burn at the same time (more limited on electric than offset). That can be a good or bad thing depending on your preference, electric smokers would release enough smoke to impair great taste but at the same time offset is not as air tight and you lose lots of the smoke produced. If you’re an experienced smoker with a nuanced understanding of how to control the smoke, an offset smoker would work just fine, but if you don’t want the wood and fire babysitting you’ll probably prefer electric options.
Ease of Cleaning
Electric smokers are the easiest smokers to clean. All you have to do is wipe down the interior and exterior with a damp cloth. There is no need to scrub or clean any parts of the smoker with soap and water. (sometime troing racks into the dishwasher is all you need)
Offset smokers are more difficult to clean than electric smokers. The interior of the smoker needs to be scrubbed with soap and water, and all of the parts need to be dried completely before use.
So which smoker is right for you? If you are looking for a smoker that is easy to use and can maintain low or high cooking temperatures, then an electric smoker is the best option. If you are an experienced meat smoker with the time to manage it or looking for something that can accommodate a huge quantity of meat, then an offset smoker is probably the right choice for you.
Whichever smoker you decide to buy, make sure to do your research first so that you know exactly what to expect from it. For more great ideas check out our articles on our Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.