How Does An Electric Smoker Work

How Does An Electric Smoker Work

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Wow, you are ‘this close’ to bringing home a new electric smoker, but maybe there’s a thing irking in your head making you unsure. You have probably heard of arguments by charcoal smoker fans talking inferiorly about electric smokers for not producing a smoke ring or not delivering the authentic taste of BBQ.

Well, your fears are not unfounded, but most of the above arguments arise from old-fashioned barbeque traditionalists. The fact is, times change and an electric smoker is a gift of advanced technology that allows you to enjoy outdoor smoking without burning charcoals.

So, how does an electric smoker work? These new-generation units use an electric heating rod instead of charcoals to produce heat and wood chunks are added to the wood box to infuse a smoky flavor. You just need to place the seasoned meat on the furnace and set the temperature to a desired level.

An electric smoker gives you the ‘set-and-forget’ convenience as there’s no need to stand by the cooking area. Made from a few components, it is capable of smoking food by heating a cooking chamber. The hot air circulates within the chamber, cooking food via convection.

5 Essential Parts Of An Electric Smoker

Similar to the propane gas smokers and charcoal smokers, this type of electric smoker is aligned vertically with a cooking area at the top and a heat source at the bottom. A typical electric smoker is made up of the following components:

1. Heating rods

Located at the bottom section of the smoker, the electric heating rods increase the inner temperature by heating the space. This helps in slowly cooking the meat.

2. Water pan

There is a water pan situated just above the wood chip tray. It is filled with cold water when the smoking process starts to prevent the inner temperature from rising too quickly. As the water starts heating, it releases steam that helps in convection cooking.

3. Wood chip tray

The electric heater is usually flanked by a wood chip tray where you can add hardwood chunks of different varieties (maple, mesquite, hickory, oak, cherry, and alder) to born slowly and produce a smoky aroma. Once the smoking process is about a quarter done, you may add cups of wood chunks, chips, or pellets to the firebox.

4. Grill racks

Most models of electric smokers come with stainless steel grill racks where you can directly place the marinated meat. It also helps in holding the cast iron skillets in which you can roast food.

5. Vents and dampers

The flames in an electric smoker are powered by oxygen, hence the temperature settings are regulated by increasing or decreasing the airflow. At the bottom end, there are heavy-duty dampers that can be opened to allow more air to gush into the device.

When more oxygen is fed to the device, the temperature increases automatically. To reduce the temperature, the vents located at the top are opened to allow the heat to escape. As less oxygen is fed, the flame is reduced slowly to bring down the temperature

See Also: Charcoal Grill Vs Gas Grill : Pros And Cons

Steps In Which An Electric Smoker Works

If you dream of barbequing outdoors but charcoal or gas grills are just not your thing then an electric smoker will help you fulfill that coveted desire of being the in-house BBQ chef. So, if you have got a new electric smoker, here are a few things you need to do before you start cooking.

Step 1: Season it!

Just like any grill or smoker, you need to first season or set up the device. If you are using an electric smoker for the first time, this will include running it empty for a few minutes to get rid of any odor, solvent residue, or dust particles. Here are the steps for seasoning correctly:

  • Start by rubbing the inner surfaces with cooking oil
  • Set the temperature between 250 to 275 degrees F
  • Let the smoker run empty for 2-3 hours
  • Turn off and allow it to cool down

Remember that you will need to season your smoker when it is new. Some models do not require any seasoning, so make sure you follow the manufacturers’ instructions.

Step 2: Press the start button

Most electric smoker models come with a start button while a few will have a switch. The standby mode ensures that the smoker does not start heating until you program it. The latest models come with a digital control panel that helps you figure out the options (including temperature range) easily.

Set the right and required temperature based on what you are trying to smoke. You simply need to set the panel and regulate the temperature. This feature ensures that you do not over or undercook your meat.

The smoker walls are 100% insulated to ensure that the meat is thoroughly cooked. It comes with an automatic shut-off feature that ensures you enjoy the perfect taste and texture. You need to adjust the settings based on your personal preference.

Step 3: Now, add wood chips

The smoky flavor you get from this electric device is because it allows you to use wood chunks or chips. If you are an ardent lover of smoked food, the combustion of wood will let you add a superior BBQ taste to your food. In a few models, there’s a wood tray located at the bottom. Pull it out, add chips and slide it back.

Most manufacturers suggest that you use at least 600 grams of wood chips in every 3 hours. This means you will need to keep a check and fill in the tray at frequent intervals. We strongly suggest that you only use good quality hardwoods because the softwood variety burns fast and produces unappetizing flavors.

Step 4: Next, preheat the smoker

After adding the wood chips, preheat the smoker to 200-225 degrees F, which is the ideal temperature range. Adjust the settings from the control panel or knob depending on the type of food you are cooking.

Take a small metal cup filled with water and put it at the bottom of the smoker. This helps in maintaining the temperature and also keeps the meat moist. Keep checking in between because the water may evaporate quickly rendering the meat juiceless and dry. You may use apple juice, wine, or beer in the place of plain water to add extra flavor to the meat.

Step 5: Prepare meat and set the smoker

Now, let’s come to the main rule of the game. Start by rubbing the pork shoulders, ribs, or brisket with spices. Marinade the delicate meat like chicken and fish the night before. If you want a mild flavor, consider using an adjustable air dampener and for a robust taste, fully close the dampener

Keep a check on the smoke to know when to add more wood chips. When you see the smoke slowing down or stopping, add another load to resume it. There are some meats that can be smoked perfectly using just one tray of wood chips. Over smoking, the meat may yield unpleasant flavors.

Step 6: Put meat on the chamber

Be careful because the smoking chamber is hot by now, so use a pair of tongs to carefully place the meat on the racks. Arrange in a way to have the small items on the upper rack and the bigger ones on the lower rack. Most smokers include a large cooking area, nearly 700-1000 square inches.

Make heavy cuts on pork butts and ribs to let the heat penetrate into the meat. Double-check the unit to ensure that the door is properly locked to prevent the heat from escaping. You may need to open the door in between to check the meat if you wish although it’s not needed to check so often.

Wear a pair of barbecuing gloves to protect your hands against burns. Smoking meat requires a lot of patience, but the advantage of using an electric smoker is that you don’t need to constantly regulate the temperature. Many models come with a thermostat to keep a check on the internal temperature.

Step 7: Let the meat cool

When the food is thoroughly cooked, turn off the smoker and open the door using the built-in handle. Remove the meat from the grilling rack and put them in a separate area. Let the meat cool and serve when it is still warm enough. You may use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat.

Step 8: Clean the electric smoker

Just like in the case of a charcoal or gas grill, you must clean an electric smoker after use to keep it in good condition for many years to come. After the smoker cools down completely, turn off the switch and remove the power cord.

Although electric smokers don’t get as dirty as other grills, there may be charred buildup of food waste that needs cleaning. Spend some time after each smoking session to clean the cooking grates and cast iron pans. We suggest that you use a drip tray while smoking meat to avoid the mess.

Tips To Make The Most Out Of Your Electric Smoker

  • Most smokers will come with a built-in thermostat but this may be of lower quality. We suggest that you invest in a good quality digital thermometer for better results.
  • When you start a smoker for the first time, give it enough time to get adjusted to the desired temperature before you place the meat into it.
  • Try some simple food items for the first time to get a hang of the settings before trying the complicated recipes. Even if you make a few mistakes with an easier dish, it will be more forgiving.
  • No matter which brand of model smoker you get, always read the customer products manual and manufacturer instructions to follow them closely.
  • Clean the smoker after every use by removing the removable parts and spraying them with cleaner and washing thoroughly. The outer stainless steel body can also be cleaned to look shiny.
  • The smokers are designed to slow cook the meat at a lower temperature than a gas grill or charcoal grill. To attain the best flavor and texture, it may take several hours to perfectly smoke a rack of ribs. It may take an entire day to d a whole turkey.
  • Use different types of hardwood to enhance the flavor of different types of meat and veggies. Chicken tastes best when smoked with maple and oak. Fish goes best with oak, alder, or mesquite, while the veggies taste best when smoked using pecan, hickory, and maple.
  • We suggest that you get an electric smoker with a large cooking space so that you can prepare your meat with precision. A tall vertical smoker can almost double your cooking space while a wider smoker can help you smoke large pieces of meat together.

Reasons Why You Should Get An Electric Smoker

They are perfect for beginners

If you are a beginner, an electric smoker can take the guesswork out of barbequing and make it look less intimidating. If you have used an electric oven before, you can perfectly use an electric smoker too.

They give great value for money

Electric smokers are one of the most affordable smokers out there, not just in terms of price but the long term value that they provide. Just like the pellet grills, they give you a set-and-forget type of convenience.

They are easy to operate

Most of the things out here are automated so you are spared the need to light the charcoal, manually control the airflow or learn about the nuances of temperature spikes. As the unit is so easy to run, you have plenty of time to yourself to focus on the brines, sauces, and salads to go as sides.

They can be used in areas with a fire ban

In some states, they may impose a fire ban during the summer so using a charcoal grill or gas grill is out of the question. Fortunately, you may still use an electric smoker in such places. Also, if you live in an apartment, using a charcoal grill may not be allowed but you can host summer parties using an electric smoker.

Reasons To Not Get An Electric Smoker

They lack smoke rings

These are the pink coloration just under the meat. It occurs when chemicals released during the process of combustion react with the chemicals present in meat. This is lacking in an electric smoker, because no matter how much wood chips or pellets you use, the temperature in which the wood smolders does not get high enough to cause rings.

They are not portable

As electric smokers need a power outlet to run, taking them to the woods for camping is not a feasible option at all. The units are slightly bulky and you will need a power source to install them on your deck or patio. So, all the benefits and convenience associated with electric smokers come with a few compromises as mentioned above.

A breakdown can be expensive

Unlike a traditional backyard grill that you can troubleshoot and repair yourself to some extent, the breakdown of an electrical smoker can be more expensive. These products are much more intricate and technical than traditional smokers, so you will need a professional technician every time to repair them.

See Also: How To Season An Electric Smoker

Related Questions

Does the lack of smoke rings impact the taste

No, it does not impact the taste. The smoke rings are formed when the nitrogen oxide released by the combustion of woods reacts with the moist surface of the meat. They look pretty impressive but they do not impact the taste or flavor of meat in any way.

Do electric smokers consume a lot of power

No, most of the electric smoker models use 800 watts per hour, so you may use the product without having to worry about the high electricity bills. The thick steel body of the smoker absorbs heat and redistributes it evenly within the heating chamber.

What makes an electric smoker suitable for different types of meat

The unique and intuitive design of these units is such that the racks are adjusted in a way to suit the different types of meat. The inner cooking area is also comparatively spacious, so this enables you to smoke different varieties of meat at once.

See Also: How Does a Smokeless Grill Work?