Serious Eats / Will Dickey

An electric smoker, no matter how well designed, won’t deliver the infused-from-the-inside-out smoke flavor of offset smokers, charcoal smokers, or even pellet smokers. That said, we still think electric smokers are a good option. They’re great for novice smokers, or anyone looking for a low barrier to entry to the world of smoked foods. We also recommend these smokers for cooks who want food that’s just kissed by smoke, rather than deeply infused with it. Finally, they’re excellent options for quicker smoke sessions, as for vegetables or fish. 

What sets electric smokers apart from other types of smokers—like charcoal or pellet—is that a heating rod is used to begin the initial burn. The target temperature is then maintained with wood chips, which also influence the overall flavor of the food cooked in the smoker. The big appeal of an electric smoker is that it’s quick and easy to start, and the heating rod does the work when it comes to temperature maintenance. 

However, as we learned during our recent test of electric smokers, the functionality and efficiency of these models varied greatly. Many missed the mark when it came to basic safety features—like an adequately long power cord—and others with low wattage struggled to perform. But after smoking dozens of pounds of spare ribs, chicken wings, and salmon, we found the six best electric smokers for cooks at every skill level and budget.

The Winners, at a Glance

This solidly built, moderately priced smoker has an incredibly generous amount of cooking surface area (970 square inches), which allows for adequate airflow in the cooking chamber. It was one of the top performers in maintaining a consistent temperature, and produced nicely smoked meat and fish, with easy cleanup.

We really appreciated the design of this analog smoker, which made adjusting or refilling the water tray easy and adding wood chips mid-smoke simple, too. It was a snap to clean and was one of the least expensive models we tested.

Thoughtfully designed (we loved the double-walled door as well as the curved grates, which aided in mid-smoke adjustments), this sturdy, well-made smoker produced some of the tastiest food we smoked during testing. And with 711 square inches of cooking space, it’s one of the roomier smokers we tried.

Assembly wasn’t required for this plug-and-go smoker, making it a great option for cooks who don’t want to deal with a lengthy setup process. The beveled racks earned big points during testing, and we liked the large temperature range, which offered cooking temps spanning 80° to 320°F.

A smaller, lower-wattage option than the other Bradley Smoker on our list, this plug-and-go option is priced fairly and would make a great option for quick smoke sessions, as with fish or vegetables. A holding cylinder automatically feeds the brand’s custom “bisquettes” into the cooking chamber every 20 minutes, so it’s truly a hands-off option.

Incredibly intuitive to use, this Bluetooth-capable smoker has all the techy bells and whistles. But it didn’t just wow us with smart features: It produced some of the tastiest chicken, ribs, and salmon of the entire test. Our quibbles with the smoker were in line with other models (tricky to add fuel mid-smoke, slightly too-small racks), but it performs so well and has such superior temperature control, that we feel confident recommending it for even folks who don’t plan on syncing it with the app. 

The Tests

Serious Eats / Will DickeyAssembly Test: We read the manufacturer’s instructions for assembly of each grill, and timed ourselves on how long it took to assemble each one without assistance from another person. We considered safety warnings, ease and clarity of instructions, and overall construction in this test.Chicken and Ribs Test: By smoking chicken wing drumettes and spare ribs, we were able to assess how each electric smoker handled short and long smokes. We first attached a probe thermometer to the center of the cooking chamber, so we could track the temperature in real time (we made note when the on-unit temperature display differed from our results). We followed manufacturer instructions for getting the smoker to 225°F, adding the seasoned/oiled proteins according to each smoker’s instructions. During the smoking sessions, we recorded how easy or difficult it was to add the meat and supplementary fuel as needed; we also, of course, noted how long each protein took to cook and evaluated each on flavor, texture, and appearance.Salmon Test: To evaluate how each smoker performed with a more delicate protein, at a lower temperature, we set and stabilized the smokers at 200°F. After oiling a piece of salmon, we set it, skin-side down, on the centermost grate with a wireless probe inserted into the thickest part. We tracked how long it took for the fish to reach 145°F internally, as well as how often and how much wood chips had to be added to maintain the ideal cooking chamber temperature. We judged the salmon on taste, texture, and appearance.Cleaning Test: Once the cooking tests were completed, we followed the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning each grill, making particular notes on the ease or difficulty of cleaning the grates, drip tray, and cooking chamber with a stainless steel scrubber.

What We Learned

Cord Length and Consistent Wattage Was Lacking in Most Electric Smokers

Serious Eats / Will Dickey

We were frustrated by the cord length of most of the smokers we tested; the majority topped out at five feet. This doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities for positioning the smoker away from high-traffic areas or living spaces. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but the location you want to use it should be taken into consideration when purchasing.

Wattage levels varied greatly in the models we tested. (Seriously: The lowest-watt smoker we tested was 125 watts, and the highest put out 1,650 watts). This actually resulted in a few blown fuses during our tests, so we implore cooks to ensure their electrical panel can handle the level of wattage produced by the electric smoker they choose.

Don’t Expect Pit Master-Worthy Results

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Overall, we think electric smokers are a great option for folks looking for lightly smoked food or who want to perform a short, quick smoking session without all the hassle of setup and breakdown. During testing, we noted that when we had to add lots of fuel during longer smoke sessions (as with the ribs), the payoff simply wasn’t there: Longer-smoked meats can develop a bitter or acrid taste with electric smokers. They’re fantastic, however, for quick smokes on things like vegetables or fish.

Electric Smokers That Needed Regular Fuel Additions Weren’t Worth It

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We get it: no smoker—even an electric one—can maintain a consistent, steady temperature the way an indoor oven can. However, we quickly grew frustrated with the models that required constant adjustments to maintain our set temperature. The way we see it, if constant fiddling is required, we’d rather work with a charcoal smoker, because the flavor payoff is bigger. The highest-performing smokers in our test were the ones that required little to no additional fuel replenishment, and that didn’t need regular damper adjustments. 

Analog Smokers Were Great for Beginners, but Harder to Master

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The value of a digital smoker is in how precise you can set your target cooking temperature: some even allow for two-degree increments. Analog smokers, on the other hand, can be very beginner-friendly, because of the less specific temperature dials (the ones we tested had values like, “low, medium, and high”). This can take some of the pressure off for novice cooks, but smoking aficionados will quickly realize that to maintain a precise ambient temperature in the chamber, some fiddling is required.

The Criteria: What to Look for in an Electric Smoker

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The best electric smokers maintain a consistent temperature without constant monitoring, damper adjustments, or additional wood chips. Look for electric smokers that have a separate door or chute for replenishment fuel, so the main cooking chamber does not have to be opened mid-smoke (in our tests, we noticed that drastically lowered the ambient cooking temperature, and affected the flavor and texture of food). Although electric smokers are often billed as being space-savers, you’ll want to invest in one with plenty of room. Having multiple, roomy racks is crucial for proper airflow, which results in juicy, smoky meat. 

The Best Electric Smokers

What we liked: Easy to assemble, and easy to move around (thanks to sturdy wheels with built-in stoppers), this smoker was praised in testing for its sturdy construction and latched door with “good heft.” This smoker was easy to start, even without reading the helpful instructions; it includes buttons to begin the session, as well as set target time and temperature. We also appreciated how spacious it was; the ribs had plenty of room, and we could fit 20 chicken wings on the rack with a generous half-inch of space between each one. Perhaps most importantly, we appreciated the wood cylinder chamber, which can be removed and filled with chips mid-smoke, without needing to open the main cooking chamber. It’s also easy to clean, with an extra-large drip tray that covers the entire bottom of the grill.

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What we didn’t like: The cord was just three feet long, which made it difficult to place the smoker without an extension cord. It’s perhaps not ideal for longer smoke sessions, as we had to add chips every 30 to 45 minutes to maintain the temperature. While the chicken wings and ribs were superior, the smoker struggled at lower temperatures: the salmon was dry. 

Price at time of publish: $320.

Key Specs

Weight: 58.32 poundsStyle: CabinetDigital/analog: DigitalTemperature settings: Programmable in 5-degree incrementsCooking surface area: 970 square inches
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What we liked: This cabinet-style smoker earned big points for the ease with which we were able to add fuel mid-smoke without destabilizing the temperature: the wood chips have their own box-shaped holder that sits above the heating element. Even better, we didn’t have to replenish the water once—although it would have been easy to do. Also pleasantly efficient: the cleaning process. The cooking grates, wood chip compartment, water tray, and drip tray are all simple to remove and scrub. Although the meat and fish we tested were more kissed by smoke than walloped by it, the results were acceptable and could be improved upon with more precise dialing in of the heat settings. At $220, this is an attractively priced smoker that does a solid job for very minimal effort.

What we didn’t like: Because this model doesn’t have wheels, it’s a little trickier to move with one person (that said, we did appreciate the presence of handles on both sides). While responsive, the analog dial doesn’t allow for precise temperature control, as it has options for heating levels one to five, but no exact temperature values; users will have to do some trial and error before finding their own “sweet spot.”

Price at time of publish: $220.

Key Specs

Weight: 49.5 poundsStyle: CabinetDigital/analog: AnalogTemperature settings: Analog dial offers 5 heat settingsCooking surface area: 544 square inchesSerious Eats / Will Dickey

What we liked: This smoker is very well-made and thoughtfully designed. We appreciated its sturdy metal sides and securely latching double-walled door. The seal is impressively tight, with no notable escaped smoke noticed during any of our test sessions. Even the back wall is angled, to catch any drippings the pan may miss. The cord measured about five feet; while a bit too short for our liking, it was much better than some of the 3-foot corded models we tested. We loved the design of the grates, which are slightly curved to keep food from sliding off if adjusted during the smoke session. The ribs were especially tasty, with an attractive caramelized exterior and impressively smoky flavor. 

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What we didn’t like: Moving this extra-tall smoker around was cumbersome and awkward, even with two people. The wood chip pan was smaller than ideal, so it will need to be refilled often in longer smoking sessions (we had to add chips three times during our chicken and ribs tests).

Price at time of publish: $344.

Key Specs:

Weight: 50.3 poundsStyle: CabinetDigital/analog: DigitalTemperature settings: Programmable up to 275˚FCooking surface area: 711 square inchesSerious Eats / Will Dickey

What we liked: Brilliantly easy to assemble (all we had to do was slide the racks into place), this gleaming stainless steel smoker would be right at home in a commercial, professional kitchen. It’s designed with the entire smoking process in mind, as evidenced by small details, like beveled racks that won’t fall out when adjusted, even with large amounts of food on them. This model offered precise temperature controls, with two-degree increments. It was also a breeze to clean, thanks to an overly large drip pan that spanned both the heating element and the water tray.

Serious Eats / Will Dickey

What we didn’t like: Although the control panel is simple and intuitive, there is a mildly annoying child lock that activates after five minutes of non-use. The smoker was also really heavy, so you’d probably need a team of people or a cart to move it. It’s also expensive. The “bisquettes” used weren’t our favorite flavor enhancers; testers noted a slightly bitter or acrid taste, as compared to wood chips or chunks.

Price at time of publish: $799.

Key Specs:

Weight: 31.73 poundsStyle: CabinetDigital/analog: DigitalTemperature settings: Heats up to 360˚F in 2-degree incrementsCooking surface area: 806.4 square inchesSerious Eats / Will Dickey

What we liked: No tools, no hardware, and no support team were required to assemble this smoker. There was a clever design for adding the brand’s custom bisquettes: a holding cylinder automatically feeds one into the chamber every 20 minutes. The water tray also doubles as a receptacle for spent bisquettes, which stops them from becoming messy ash. With just “low, medium, and high” heat settings, we found this model to be accessible to smoking novices. Although we have some concerns about the overall construction, we felt the easy-to-assemble, easy-to-use nature would be perfect for a camp or cabin—especially in shorter, lower-temperature smokes, like fish.

What we didn’t like: The door has no locking mechanism, and we wonder if the magnetic seal may lose strength over time. As with the Bradley Professional, we were a little disappointed with the mildly chemical aftertaste of the chicken and ribs. For the overall performance and construction, we felt the price was a little high. It’s also worth noting you must use the brand’s proprietary bisquettes for fuel, which could be frustrating if you run out: they’re not a ubiquitous hardware store find.

Price at time of publish: $429.

Key Specs:

Weight: 55.12 poundsStyle: CabinetDigital/analog: AnalogTemperature settings: 6 temperature settings, ranging from low to highCooking surface area: 572 square inchesSerious Eats / Will Dickey

What we liked: Setup and getting started with this smoker was easy, even for beginners. The control panel was very intuitive, and we were able to navigate our way through the programming with a minimal learning curve. It’s a solidly built smoker, with sturdy racks that fit securely into the wall grooves. Both the chicken wings and the ribs fared beautifully, with a subtle smoky flavor, even doneness, and moist interior. The fish looked beautiful and had a perfectly flaky texture. Monitoring and adjusting temperature is easy to do with the app. We think the low price of this smoker makes it a steal.

What we didn’t like: The small wheels made this smoker tricky to maneuver around. Our internal probe registered a slightly different cooking chamber temperature than what the display presented. It was a little tricky to add more wood chips during the smoking process. The racks are a little tight, and we weren’t able to fit all 20 chicken wings on one.

Price at time of publish: $299

Key Specs:

Weight: 60.5Style: CabinetDigital/analog: DigitalTemperature settings: Program desired temperature through onscreen display or through appCooking surface area: 732 square inchesSerious Eats / Will Dickey

The Competition

Pit Boss Grills 3-Series Digital Vertical Electric Smoker, Silver Hammertone: We appreciated the large wood chip tray on this smoker, which meant less frequent refueling. But the drip tray was small and made for a messy smoker. We also found that it produced unevenly cooked chicken wings—some with bitter, acrid smoke flavor, and some entirely unsmoked.Cuisinart Vertical Electric Smoker: In testing, this smoker barely produced any smoke. In fact, the wood chips looked unused even after all our tests.Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker, Deluxe: Although we liked how easy it was to clean this smoker, it struggled to maintain our set temperature of 225°F, at times struggling to top 208°F, and others shooting up to 250°F.Royal Gourmet SE Series 28-Inch Electric Smoker with 1500-Watt Heating Element: This was one of the least expensive options, but it barely imparted smoke flavor in our tests, and it’s currently unavailable. We also found it difficult to remove and replace the wood chip pan during smoke sessions.Dyna-Glo 30-Inch Analog Electric Smoker: This smoker was messy, and didn’t produce any smoke, even with the wood chip loader full. It produced some of the most lackluster meat during our tests.Smokehouse Big Chief Front Load Smoker: The instruction manual was woefully unhelpful with this bare-bones smoker, and it never reached a food-safe temperature to cook poultry or meat in our tests.Smokin Tex Pro Series Residential BBQ Electric Smoker: We felt outraged at the $874 price tag of this smoker, since it was unable to maintain a target temperature, produced inconsistent amounts of smoke flavor, and had massive smoke leaks coming from a vent at the top of the unit. It couldn’t cook the ribs to a food-safe temperature during our test.Smokin-It Model #2 Electric Smoker: This pricey smoker made a big mess during testing, couldn’t maintain a consistent temperature, and produced “ghastly gray” ribs and chicken wings with leathery skin and no smoke flavor.


Are electric smokers good? 

Electric smokers won’t make food taste as deeply smoky, or provide as tender results as traditional smokers. But they’re very convenient, and the learning curve is minimal. We think electric smokers are ideal for cooks who don’t want to invest a ton of time and effort into babying a smoker, or anyone who wants food that’s lightly smoked.

How do electric smokers work?

Electric smokers use a heating rod—powered by electricity—to cook the food. The addition of wood chips, or in some models, specialty briquettes, adds a smoky flavor. That’s it!

Are pellet smokers electric? 

Great question. Both electric smokers and pellet smokers use electricity. The difference is that in an electric smoker, the food is cooked through the heat that comes from the electric rod. In pellet smokers, wood pellets are ignited through the use of electricity. It’s actually the heat from the wood that cooks food (and flavors it) when using a pellet grill. Pellet grills make maintaining a set temperature really easy, and they can also get hotter than electric grills. The tradeoff: They’re more expensive.

Are all smokers electric? 

Nope: some smokers use charcoal, wood, or a combination of the two for fuel. Charcoal or offset smokers can be trickier to light and maintain the heat, but they’re more versatile, and really infuse food with smoke. They’re also favored for tender, fall-off-the-bone meat, and impart an attractive smoke ring. 

Are charcoal smokers better than electric ones? 

It depends on what you’re looking for. Charcoal smokers can be messier and can come with a learning curve if you’re new to smoking. On the other hand, electric smokers can be used anywhere you have access to an outdoor outlet, and they’re fantastic at short, quick smoke sessions. 

Why We’re the Experts

For this review, we tested over a dozen electric smokers, using them to cook chicken wings, salmon, and more. We also evaluated how easy the smokers were to set up, operate, and clean. Rochelle Bilow is a food writer, novelist, former professional cook, and Serious Eats contributor.Rochelle has written extensively about, tested, and reviewed smokers that use a variety of fuel sources.Rochelle worked in restaurants and attended the French Culinary Institute.

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