Electric smokers are the modern-day equivalents to outdoor grilling. These smokers are powered by electricity and produce twice as much smoke as traditional smokers. Many people have resorted to the electric variant. This is due to their low energy cost and interactive design. But while many want to buy one, they still don’t know how to use an electric smoker.
Knowing your way around your smoker will save you time and fuel. Sometimes, reading the manual isn’t enough. Many smokers don’t come with manuals. Many are second hand. And most have other features that the manual won’t tell you about.
So you’re wondering how to operate an electric smoker? Well, here are a few tips to help you get started.
How to use an electric smoker?
Read the manual:
The first and foremost thing you need to do is to read the manual. We can’t stress this enough. Many people resort to the internet to learn how to use an electric smoker when the answer is right with them. While we will list the general methods of operating an electric smoker, it is best to read the manual first.
The manual will list specs such as maximum temperature, how to switch on, and many more things. It will also highlight what features your smoker has and how to get the best out of each of them. While most smokers are operated the same way, it is best to check whether yours is a special kind or not.
Season your electric smoker:
If your electric smoker is brand new, the first thing you should do is to season it. Seasoning means running the smoker when it’s empty. This is a neat tactic used by professionals to get rid of any dust or pungent smells. It also helps to remove solvents or other residues that might have remained behind during the manufacturing process.
Seasoning is simple. First, you must wipe the interior and the racks with a bit of cooking oil. Then turn the smoker on and leave it running for about 2-3 hours (preferable temperature is 250 degrees Fahrenheit). Now turn the smoker off and open the door to allow the internal components to cool.
Turn on the smoker:
Pressing the power button on the smoker will only put it on stand-by.
The smoker will only start heating the interior until you’ve set your desired temperature and time. The power button should be easy to locate. It’s usually at the very front of the smoker. Remember to make sure that the smoker is plugged in. The power cord shouldn’t have any obstructions.
Add wood chips:
Many electric smokers have the wood chip tray located near the bottom right side. All you need to do is pull it out and fill it with the preferred wood chips. Once the chips are in, push the tray back in and rotate the handle in a counter-clockwise direction. This will dump all the chips into the electrical heating element.
Preheat the smoker:
Now that you’ve prepared the smoker, it’s time for preheating it. In a way, smokers work a lot as regular ovens do. To preheat the smoker, press the up or down buttons to set the temperature. If your smoker has a knob, turn the knob until it points to your desired temperature.
It is recommended to preheat the smoker to about 200 to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave the smoker to preheat for up to 45 minutes. Remember that most smokers display temperature in Fahrenheit. Be sure to check which unit your smoker uses for temperatures.
Place a container of water:
After your smoker has preheated, add a full container of water near the bottom of the chamber. The container should come included with the smoker. If you don’t have one, any regular-sized metal cup can work. This cup of water will provide moisture and steam as your food cooks.
An optional but pretty devious technique is to use apple juice, beer, or other liquids instead of water. This will give your food a slight aroma of your preferred liquid. It’s a great way to step up your smoking game and make delicious food.
Prepare the meat:
Once the smoker is preheated, now it’s time to prepare the meat. Season the meat by rubbing or marinating it in various spices. This really depends on what recipe you’re using, so we won’t give many instructions here. A general rule of thumb is to dry-rub larger pieces of meat, and soak/marinate more tender cuts.
If the recipe you’re using doesn’t require seasoning, then this step can be skipped. Feel free to experiment with different seasonings and marinades to enhance the flavor.
Place the meat in the smoker:
This step is pretty simple. Take the meat you’re cooking and place it on the racks. Depending on what smoker you have, you can fit multiple pieces of meat in one chamber. It is advised to use a spatula or tongs to transfer the meat carefully. The meat won’t be hot, but the racks will be.
It is advised to place bigger items on the wider bottom racks and smaller ones on the top. In this way, you utilize all the space there is. You can even use your electric smoker for vegetables and seafood.
Now it’s time to start cooking. Lock the door and let the meat smoke for the required time. This varies from recipe to recipe. Most can take anywhere between 2 to 8 hours to smoke. It is best to refer to a recipe to know how long to smoke it.
Most tender cuts take a couple of hours while thicker pieces can be longer. It’s always good to follow a recipe instead of just jumping right in and smoking the meat. Different types and cuts of meat take different times to cook at different temperatures. And the time and temperature affect the taste, texture, rarity, and the temperature of your food.
Keep an eye on the cooker:
When the food is cooking, it is best to leave the smoker untouched. Only open the smoker to change the water bowl or make adjustments. If you have a smart electric smoker, you can even get alerts on your phone. You can set a timer on your smoker to alert you when your food is done. Once done, take the food out carefully with tongs or a spatula. Garnish and serve.
How to use wood chips in an electric smoker?
Wood chips are used as a primary source of smoke in an electric smoker. Also known as wood pellets, these can be bought at any retail store in various flavors.
In order to use them, you must locate the wood chip tray at the bottom right of your smoker. Open it, and dump all the chips inside until the tray is full or as directed in the recipe. Then push the tray back inside and turn the handle to dump the chips into the heating chamber.
Electric smoker tips and tricks
It goes without saying that you want to get the most out of your smoker. While there are always some hidden tricks that are left for you to discover, here are a few we know about:
No chip tray:
While using the chip tray, you may have noticed how small it is and how often you have to refill it. Well, some people suggest ditching the tray entirely and going for a pellet tube smoker. These devices can create a lot of smoke and can hold more pellets.
Don’t over smoke:
It is important to not over smoke the food. This can ruin the texture and create an almost suffocating layer of smoke on the food. You generally want to follow the guide and keep the food smoking for only the required time.
Cold or slow smoking can take hours at a time, but it gives great flavor. In this type of smoking, the temperature is set moderately low. The food cooks very slowly. Some meats are best cooked via cold smoking. Almost every electric smoker has a cold smoking option. Buy a model that has this feature to get the best flavor in your food.
Cover your racks with foil:
Cleanup after each smoke is necessary. Leaving the food with seasonings and marinade on the racks for hours can leave a lot of grease on the racks. Instead of pulling out the racks and trying to remove grease from them, try covering them with foil. You can simply unwrap the foil from the racks and discard it. In this way, you save time cleaning the racks and save lots of water and detergent too.
What if electric smoker wood chips are not burning?
There can be many reasons. Be sure to check whether you’ve placed the chips in the correct tray. Also, remember to turn the handle counter-clockwise to dump the chips into the heating chamber.
Look at the type of chips you have. Wooden chips need a level amount of moisture in them to produce smoke. Kiln-dried wood chips won’t produce smoke and are the best for a smoker.
How often to add wood chips to a smoker?
It is recommended to keep adding more and more chips until the food reaches about 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This should normally be about half the cook time. If your food is heating up too quickly, simply soak the chips in water.
As stated above, moisture creates more smoke and less heat. A food thermometer should tell you how hot your food is. You’ll generally only need to add the chips once for the first 20 minutes. Then the next load should be after an hour or so.
Is there any difference between the setting up of a digital electric smoker and an analog electric smoker?
Digital and analog electric smokers are essentially the same thing. They both smoke up the food in the exact same way. However, there are differences with regards to their accessibility. Digital smokers have interactive LED screens, and many of them have Wi-Fi connectivity.
Analog smokers just have a knob to control the temperature and no internet connectivity. Furthermore, many analog units are insulated and keep the heat in for longer.
However, analog units can easily be wired to a digital PID temperature controller. A PID temperature controller is best for getting accurate temperature readings. It reduces the error and is easier to use than the built-in thermostat. On digital electric smokers, it is notoriously difficult to wire a PID controller. You need to reprogram the entire thing.
Can you use electric smokers in the winter?
The snow and extreme cold can make outdoor smoking difficult. It is harder to reach the right temperature. The easiest way to overcome this problem is to keep the smoker shut. Many people have a habit of opening the smoker to check up on their food. This will not only allow a lot of smoke to escape, but it also invites the cold inside the smoker.
It is thus wiser to utilize digital thermometers. They will tell you what temperature your food is at. Additionally, you can smoke indoors where the heater is on to avoid elongated cooking times.
Or you could buy an insulating jacket for your smoker. Insulators for furnaces and water heaters can work as well. But remember not to keep the vents covered. Above all, be patient with your food. In the winters, it will take longer to smoke.
Electric smokers are way better than their traditional variants. A lot of people don’t prefer them due to the electricity they consume. And you’ll have to leave them on for hours. But rest assured you’re better off spending on electricity than gas tanks. Electric smokers are the revolution of today’s tailgate industry and now you know how to use them.
We discovered a lot today about electric smokers and their hidden features. And we hope that you learned a lot too.