It goes without saying that not all electric smokers are equally good. Even if some are, they may not have the same set of features, and you may find that while the product you’ve bought is excellent from a value for money angle, it needs to be modified extensively to work according to your needs. Further, a lot of shady manufacturers seeking a quick buck try to dupe customers by including apparently useful but practically unproductive features, while omitting really useful features. Introduce price factoring into this complex web of features and specifications, and choosing key features and specifications when buying an electric smoker starts looking like a really difficult job. It isn’t however, if you follow the points mentioned below.
While low end products retail for as little as $100, some of the best electric smokers can cost higher than $1,000. In general, if you are seeking a simple electric smoker for your family and close friends, be prepared to shell out between $200 and $500. If you have a very large family or wish to host parties, a semi commercial smoker costing aboe $500-600 would be ideal. If you wish to set up a professional business of course, go for a commercial smoker from the start, so as to provide customers with an uniform taste from day one.
If you have a family of four members (plus a pet), then a smoker of 15lbs or so should suffice. In fact, most conventional electric smokers tend to offer more than adequate space. The problem arises when you go in for some specialized or fast smoking smokers that sacrifice space for additional power or attachments. In such circumstances, it would be wise to go in for a higher priced model that provides at least 15lbs capacity.
Glass vs Metal Door
Anyone who knows how to use an electric smoker understands the importance of regularly checking the status of the foods. Glass doors ensure that the user does not have to open the smoker to check on the food. However, glass doors are generally available only on higher end models that have multiple racks for cooking. Lower end products, though excellent value for money propositions in every other aspect, tend to have metal doors which have to be opened to check the food status. Indeed, if you’re smoking at night, you may need a flashlight to see the foodstuffs in detail. However, given that excessively frequent checking of the food status may be detrimental to the smoking itself, this is not likely to be a major issue.
Metal Body and Fittings
As our electric smoker reviews indicate, the best products most often come with a thick metal casing. This helps absorb heat effectively, spread it in a homogenous manner and radiate it back at all angles into the foodstuffs. Thin bodies on the other hand tend to radiate the heat outwards, which is inefficient and can make touching the smoker a health hazard. Of course, electric smokers with thick metal bodies tend to be that much heavier, and may require more than 1 person to shift from one place to another. IF portability is that much of a concern, you may want to take a thin body smoker, but be prepared for the risks involved.
Equally important is the quality of the fittings. They should be snug and the joints should be well oiled. Otherwise there is always the chance of there being loose fittings which leak out heat or worse, malfunction. There is nothing worse than ruining a perfect smoking by not being able to open a jammed wood chips box insertion door or the main smoker door.
The above point makes it clear that one of the key features and specifications to look for when buying an electric smoker is the presence of a thick metal body and great joints. However, not just any metal would do. Ideally, the smoker should come with a thick sheet steel outer body that has anti-corrosive properties. Further, it should be noted that most good quality smokers have a coating of epoxy paint on the outside to further resist corrosion. This is important because unlike other household implements, the smoker is often kept in the backyard and despite taking adequate precautions, it might be exposed to rain or snow.
However, it is not necessary that the smoker should be an all metal one. An all metal smoker is highly durable, it is true, but can be costly and almost impossible to move without professional help. Indeed, provided the manufacturer has not cut corners, it may not be a bad idea to go in for some plastic parts as well.
Another oft neglected of the key features and specifications to look for when buying an electric smoker is the presence of sturdy legs. Shaking the smoker a few times when it is delivered should give you a fair idea. As you may have guessed, a slight tilt to one side makes virtually no difference to the smoking process, so you if you find this to be the case, you don’t have to send it back immediately. However, if there appears to be clear and present danger of the product becoming unstable due to a weak leg/s, get the product changed. Otherwise it may just topple over one fine day, trapping your food table, your pet or even you underneath it. Further, there may be rear wheels provided with the smoker, which improve the mobility of the smoker.
Temperature Control and Range
One of our tips for perfect smoked foods had been to avoid using a lot of wood. While this is universally true, one of the ways in which this problem can be mitigated midway through a smoking session is by raising the temperature considerably for a short period of time. High quality electric smokers like the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker have a maximum temperature of 275 degree F (135 degree Celsius), which can be regarded as the ideal standard as far as electric smokers go. The minimum temperature should at least be 100 degrees Celsius.
Further, the electric smoker should have good temperature control mechanisms that can moderate the electric heating element at short notice.
Special features In Higher End Products
If you have a higher budget and are looking for special features (but not sure what they are), you could consider inquiring about the following –
- Meat Probe: A meat probe helps increase the reach of the meat thermometer. High end models should have at least one meat probe built in.
- Thermometer: If there is an inside thermometer, you won’t have to manually open the door to check the temperature inside.
- Digital Control: While electric smokers with analog controls may be cheaper, those with digital controls are easier to handle and pose lower risks of malfunctioning. Companies like Masterbuilt offer blue LED displays that can be viewed even in direct sunlight.
- Full Foam Insulation: Full foam insulation ensures that the heat stays inside and does not leak out, or worse, heat the user-operated parts and cause an unintended injury.
- Power: Good electric smokers generally require about 800 watts of electricity. While this number may be higher (with some going as high as 1500W), do not trust the product if it is much lower than 800W.
As the above list shows, there are compromises to be made if you want a smoker in a lower price range. However, while you can compromise on some (such as use of plastic) you must not compromise on others (eg. Temperature range). Furthermore, just in case you are planning on installing the product indoors, key features and specifications to look for when buying an electric smoker would be the space occupied by the model. When this is combined with the points listed above and the product is bought from a quality manufacturer (all of whom are available on Amazon), there is no reason to worry about incompatibility or poor output, either in the short or the long run.