Charcoal Smoker vs Electric Smoker: Head to Head Comparison
All of us foodies know how hard it is to ignore the craving for juicy meaty steaks. Be it late at night or during the strenuous hours of office, a well-cooked smoky dish can truly make us feel rejuvenated again!
But isn’t it annoying to do all that dress-up and traveling to go to a restaurant just to get a steak? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just make our own version of a perfect steak in the comfort of our home?
Well, smokers let you do just that! This amazing cooking apparatus is specifically built for creating smoky dishes in a controlled environment. It is very popular for cooking barbecues, steaks and similar juicy items.
The two most popular types of smokers are charcoal and electric. Which one of these would best suit your cooking style and needs? Let’s find out!
What is a Charcoal Smoker?
Charcoal smokers have been around for a long time so they are the most common type of smoker you’ll find.
As the name implies, they utilize charcoal as fuel to keep the fire going. Lovers of charcoal smokers often argue that it is impossible to find its authentic smoke flavor from any other variation.
Advantages of Charcoal Smokers
You might be thinking that there are easier ways to cook now, so why would you use a charcoal smoker anymore? There are a number of reasons why these smokers are still just as popular today as ever. Here are a few:
Soft and Juicy Texture
Charcoal smokers guarantee a much better texture for the finished dish. The setup and cooking method allow the food to reach its best possible texture.
Since the meat is cooked slowly at a low temperature on charcoal smokers, its tenderness remains intact. The associated moisture also persists making the overall dish absolutely juicy and soft.
Free from Excess Fat
If you are on a low-fat diet, you can treat yourself with some healthy meat with charcoal smokers. These have the power to get rid of the excess fat by liquefying it inside the meat. A long and constant exposure to heat causes this situation.
So if you have been longing for some good old smoky brisket or steak, you can meet the cravings using a charcoal smoker. The resulting calories will be a lot less than usual.
Along with the lower fat content, charcoal smokers also play an important role in maintaining a healthy dose of nutrition.
They successfully retain other nutrients of the food. Macro nutrients like proteins and vitamins stay intact in abundance. The inherent minerals survive as well. So your body will be receiving the best combination of healthy nutrients with charcoal smokers.
Charcoal smokers can deliver slightly higher temperatures than other types of smokers. It is capable of reaching as much as 350 degrees Fahrenheit to cook you the best smoky dishes. As a result, the outer layer of your food will turn out to be much crispier with the soft content inside.
You can easily target certain spots of the dish to access more heat with charcoal smokers. That is because you can manipulate the position of charcoals underneath the cooking item. As a result, you can shift some of those coals to exert more heat on targeted spots. This will prevent any spot from staying under cooked.
Disadvantages of Charcoal Smokers
Although charcoal smokers have many positive features, they also have some not-so-flattering aspects.
Cooking on charcoal smokers properly requires a certain level of expertise. It is very easy to overcook the food on such smokers unless you know exactly what you are doing. You must have a good grasp of the vents, baffles, temperature control and other aspects of charcoal cooking.
While the smoker itself is not much of a problem for anyone on a tight budget, the constant demand for charcoal can become an issue. You would need to spend about a dollar per hour for cooking on a charcoal smoker. Having a fairly large storage of coals is necessary to complete one course of smoky meals.
Dependent on Weather
Unfortunately, you may have to postpone your gathering if the weather is too windy. A charcoal smoker cannot function properly in a windy environment. That will mess up the cooking temperature and the resulting texture of each smoky dish.
If you do decide to use a charcoal grill, check out this list of the best natural lump charcoal to choose the right charcoal for your needs.
What is an Electric Smoker?
An electric smoker is the result of our advancement in household technologies over the years. It relies on electricity to function instead of the natural resources like gas and charcoal.
While those old-fashioned smokers utilize combustion for generating heat, the electric smokers use a metal rod to do the same. A piece of wood is set over the glowing rod for smoldering. Its ease of use makes electric smokers a popular cooking device among beginners.
Advantages of Electric Smokers
Getting an electric smoker can make each cooking session much easier. Here are a few ways how it can help:
Digital Control Panel
Electric smokers usually come with a full-fledged digital control panel. All aspects you need to keep in control will be available here. These include temperature, time and other necessary parameters to cook the item appropriately.
Besides, these panels come with pre-set smoking programs embedded in them. They save detailed settings of the whole cooking process from beginning to end. You can also design your own programs to suit your unique recipes.
It will take you a lot less time to cook up a smoky dish with electric smokers. Firstly, the preset programs can save you a lot of time from manually specifying the details of your most popular dishes every time.
Besides, you don’t have to wait too long to get started on these smokers. Just turn it on and select a program or set the temperature. That is all you need to do before the cooking process begins.
The continuous flow of electricity will then help to reach the optimum smoking temperature within minutes. So there is no waiting time involved for electric smoker cooking.
Easy to Learn
If you have never tried preparing a smoky dish before, an electric smoker would be a great starting point for you. That is because it makes the whole process much easier to get a hold of. You don’t need to keep an eye on it or be too sophisticated in your preparations for cooking with an electric smoker.
The structure of an electric smoker is very convenient. It comes with all the components necessary to conduct the entire cooking process seamlessly.
A standard electric smoker comes with a drip tray, water bowl, air vent, food racks, wood chips container and other compartments in an organized manner. As a result, it will be easier for you to manage and control these aspects easily.
Disadvantages of Electric Smokers
While it does seem to be a very viable option for beginner cooks, there are some drawbacks to electric smokers as well.
No Deep Flavor
Electric smokers are unable to bring out the deep smoky flavor of a dish. It fails to create the charred texture of steak, brisket and similar meaty items which is the trademark of other smoker variations.
You cannot use these smokers at all when there is no electricity in the house. They are just a purposeless piece of equipment sitting in the kitchen during a power cut. So if you want to brighten up a gloomy day suffering from the power outage, an electric smoker will not be much help.
To get continuous usage of your electric smoker, it's a wise choice to use solar power. And the Clean Energy Project is here to help you in every aspect of your solar needs.
Indoor Use Only
These smokers are not designed to be portable. Most models don’t even come with a handle or a similar bar to move the apparatus elsewhere.
Additionally, the tangling cables may also make it impossible to carry it outside. Since you cannot supply electricity outdoors, you will not be able to cook with the electric smokers there.
Comparing Charcoal Smokers and Electric Smokers
Now that you know the basic benefits and drawbacks of both the smokers, let’s see how they fare against each other!
In the case of providing higher temperatures, charcoal smokers win! Electric ones can usually generate up to 275 degrees in Fahrenheit. On the other hand, charcoal can provide heat of up to 350 degrees!
For lower temperatures, electric smokers produce 100 degrees and charcoal ones produce 125 degrees of Fahrenheit.
You have to put in more effort while cooking on a charcoal smoker. It requires constant supervision to control temperature, texture and other crucial aspects properly.
The learning curve for charcoal smoking is a lot steeper than the electric version. Even a complete amateur can make a decent dish with an electric smoker. It comes with a digital control panel where you can select the temperature, cooking time and other relevant parameters accurately.
So if you don’t have any prior experience of creating a smoky dish or using a smoker, electric variations will be a much better option than charcoal.
For the passionate cooks who love to create large batches of new mouth-watering items for others, electric smokers will be a great idea. Generally, the cooking area available on them is much larger than charcoal ones.
An electric smoker can have 700 to as much as 1000 square inches for cooking! The charcoal variations tend to have just half of that.
You would think electric smokers should be easier to move since they are more inclined to technological conveniences. However, charcoal smokers actually win the round of portability!
The design of electric smokers does not favor easy mobility. Often their exterior does not come with a handle to hold or lift. So if you really want to move it somewhere else, you must exert a lot of force.
Besides, you cannot take them in the yard for some outdoor cooking unless there is an arrangement for electricity, like a long extension cord - which can be a bit of a hassle.
Ease of Cleaning
If you don’t enjoy cleaning up like the rest of us, electric smokers will be the right option for you. They are much easier to clean than the charcoal ones which leave a lot of ash after each cooking session.
Besides, most of the electric smokers come with a drip tray that collects all the grease and other residues. This saves you a ton of time.
When it comes to affordability, charcoal wins the race. They are much cheaper than most electric smokers which are considered high-end regardless. However, the constant supply of charcoal can prove to be more costly than paying the usual electric bills.
Final Words- Which One To Choose?
Both charcoal and electric smokers have their own set of strong points. The charcoal can guarantee your guests a mouth-watering experience with deep flavors and rich texture. These smokers also come at a much more affordable price point.
On the other hand, electric smokers offer you more control and precision in a number of crucial aspects. You can set the exact temperature and total cooking time on these appliances. Besides, they also save a lot of preparation time and turn on faster than the alternatives.
Electric smokers are easier to clean up while you can take charcoal smokers for outdoor cooking more easily. So the decision is really up to you at the end of the day! Go through all your cooking priorities once and figure out which one suits them the best.
For a good charcoal smoker, this compact one from Weber is hard to beat.
But, if you think an electric smoker would suit your needs better, then you should check out the simplicity of the plug in and play that this Cuisinart smoker offers.
Let us know which is your favorite - the charcoal smoker or the electric smoker.
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