Gas smokers and electric smokers are two of the primary types of smokers. The third one is the charcoal smoker, but we won’t be covering it in this post. Whether you are a seasoned professional or just getting started, we will provide you with all the information on how do these two smokers differ from each other and what are their pros and cons. It will enable you to decide which type is best for you.
So without any further ado, let’s get started!
Difference between gas smokers & electric smokers
A general comparison - Gas smoker vs. electric smoker
All smokers use different types of heat source for cooking food at a low temperature (somewhere between 225 F and 250 F). These smokers cause the wood to smolder and smoke. This smoke infuses in your food and provides you with that mouth-watering flavor that you crave for.
More like your stove, an electric smoker uses electricity for heating a coil or grill that is located underneath the wood pellets or chips. On the higher racks, the food cooks and gets all the flavors from the smoldering wood from the lower racks. Gas smokers either use natural gas or liquid propane as fuel and above the flames; you will find a place for your pellets or wood chips.
Controlling the temperature with a gas smoker is very much like a gas grill where you just turn the knob to either decrease or increase the flow rate of gas for altering temperatures. In case of a propane smoker, there will be an external tank, and for natural gas, there will be a hook directly connected with your home’s supply of natural gas.
Electric smokers are convenient to use. You can literally set it and forget it. Wondering why?
There is an inbuilt thermostat for maintaining the temperatures consistently and the smoker doesn’t need any further input from you.
The consistency and quality of the food
Remember, the key here is to maintain a steady temperature for your food! So, you might find an electric smoker more convenient as you don’t have to do much after you have set it. As a beginner, you should go for an electric smoker.
The minute you get hold of smoking food using a gas smoker, you will achieve better results than with the electric unit. There is not much venting when we talk about a gas smoker so the food will retain a good quantity of moisture. This means that your meat is going to be tender, but you have to say goodbye to that crispy skin of chicken or that nice bark on the brisket.
In an electric unit due to electric combustion, not much of the gas is released so you won’t have that smoke ring. The ring doesn’t add anything to the flavor, but to most people, this is the great BBQ’s calling card.
So the clear winner in this department is the gas smoker for exceptional flavors.
Convenience and user-friendliness
As a beginner, you have to be on a learning curve until you become an expert on using gas smokers. You will have to spend a good period of time in making adjustments to the dampers, vents and of course maintain the temperatures. But with the passage of time, you will get better.
If you don’t want to handle all this, then consider buying an electric smoker. It’s going to be plug-and-play for you. Needless to say, you need a power source to use them so it might not be a good idea to use them in outdoor BBQ plans. They are easy to ignite, and then you just have to set the temperature and leave. Being a newbie at smoking, you need to go for the electric units because they are way simpler to use than gas smokers.
And if you want to make BBQ super easy, then we will strongly suggest going for a unit that comes with a digital thermostat and thermometer to keep the temperature steady. Remote controlled models are also available that won’t even let you leave your seat for any adjustments to the smoker.
When we talk about speed, then a gas smoker will be much faster in achieving high temperatures as compared to its electric counterpart. The electric unit will turn on the flame pretty quickly, but its electric element needs some time to heat up.
A gas smoker is going to work very well for large outdoor parties or commercial BBQ restaurants where you have to serve a large number of gathering.
When we consider versatility, then an electric smoker is more of a one-hit-wonder. It will smoke the food and will maintain the temperature for you, and that’s all. Some models of electric smokers can also enable you to reduce the temperatures enough for making quasi-cold smoking cheese and nuts.
Gas smokers, on the other hand, won’t go as low as their electric counterparts in terms of heat. But they can certainly go high enough to cook the meat at 400 F while infusing all the smoke.
This is something that doesn’t require any special skills, and you can achieve it with no issues whatsoever. However, you will have to turn the heat and open the vents up all the way to ensure maximum airflow.
An offset gas unit will allow you to smoke and grill at the same time, which is mind-blowing. These units will be large in size, but if you have enough room, having them will be extremely useful. So for us, gas units take the victory here over electric smokers because of their versatility.
Usually, an electric unit has a temperature range of 100 F to 275 F. It is perfect for all the smoking needs, especially for those low and slow recipes. But you won’t roast or sear anything with these numbers. On the other hand, gas smokers offer a much wider range from 175 F to 400 F so you can also do grilling or searing with these units.
So, again, the winner here is the gas smoker. However, it all depends on what you want to achieve with your smoker. If you want to try out different recipes, then a gas smoker is the way to go. But if you are only interested in smoking, then electric units will get the job done for you.
Footprint and cooking space
Both gas and electric models are available in a variety of sizes. The vertical models will be more on height and will have a small footprint. Some models are even small enough for you to place them on your tabletop or you can take them on camping trips too. The average footprint will be around 24 x 24 inches, but the bigger ones can also reach up to 4 feet in height.
The electric smoker is going to win this round because they don’t have a fuel tank so they won’t take much space either. If you are looking to go for an offset smoker, then you must reserve a space of 3 x 5 feet at least.
If you are looking for larger cooking space, then a gas smoker is the way to go, regardless of its vertical or horizontal construction. The reason behind that is there is a wider variety available of gas smokers as compared to the electric smokers.
Not much maintenance is needed whether you go for a gas model or an electric one. In both cases, you will have to wipe the grates after smoking along with the exterior too. This will minimize any chances of rusting or corrosion. Both the models leave ash behind for dumping, and the amount of grease that drips down into the drip pan is the same too.
However, electric smokers don’t produce much soot as compared to gas smokers because they have a cleaner source of heat. We will give a slight edge here to the electric smoker, but it’s only slight.
Initial and running costs
Due to all the electronic parts and components inside, electric units will cost more. But with electric units, you also get the convenience of setting it and forgetting it. There are both cheap and expensive models available. So it all depends on your budget!
Overall, electric smokers are costlier than gas units. Cost of running an electric unit will entirely depend on the electricity rate of your local area. However, running an electric model on solar panels will not cost you anything.
On the other hand, a disposable propane tank of 14 to 16 ounces can last for about one and a half to two hours. A standard 20lb tank can go for about 18 to 20 hours. So you can see the difference in cost!
The electric units are going to win this round. This is because they have a much cleaner source of heating than gas smokers. But if you dig down deep then consuming too much smoked meat is not good for health. So we would suggest that you consume your smoked meat in a regulated fashion. Gas smokers can sear and roast as well.
Now that can be a good thing for your taste buds, but not that good for your overall health! So we would suggest that if you do a lot of smoking, then it’s better to go for an electric smoker. However, it will only give you a slight advantage over the gas unit. Therefore, consuming regulated smoked food, in general, is the best option.
If you’re a four-season smoker then you need to consider the bad weather factor i.e. how well it is going to perform under bad weather. For electric smokers you only need to worry about the power source.
Contrary to this, gas smokers are made for tough weather conditions but they lack of insulation. So you have to re-access your cooking temperature because a windy, cold and wet condition will impact your smoker’s temperature.
Overall, gas smokers have a significant lead over electric models in almost every aspect. A gas smoker is much more versatile because with it you can manage a variety of recipes. But you have to have some kind of experience of smoking to get great results. This experience will only come with time.
On the other hand, electric smokers are high on ease of use. Plus, of course, you can be a beginner at smoking to use these units. In terms of health effects, electric smokers are better than gas units. But they both don’t matter if your rate of consuming smoked food is properly regulated.
So have you made your decision yet?
Great information about electric vs gas burner for smoking meat. I still must decide but at this point gas is winning.