I know, I know, I know. An electric smoker? Why not just haul the oven out on the porch and spark that up? I realize the charcoal snobs are going to be scoffing at this and have probably already hit the back button to go look for more proof that only good Q comes from charcoal. I know because I used to be one of those guys. Gas or electric smokers were just outdoor ovens. But honestly, smoke is smoke. If you think the charcoal vastly improves the flavor, I’d argue that no matter what the fuel source you use, the whole goal is to have the flavor come from the wood and not the fuel. So if the charcoal is imparting any flavor, it’s probably bad flavor. I use the purest lump charcoal I can find because most briquettes are full of petroleum products. It’s not a charcoal smoker, but I can put smoke wood in and that’s the most important aspect of any smoker, right? The fact that fuel source will not impart any flavor means that the only thing that will is whatever smoke wood I choose. And think of it this way, most of the top BBQ joints in the country are running propane smokers.
So what are the advantages of using an electric smoker? What’s the benefit of going electric over charcoal? They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, so I’ll show the picture and then go ahead and explain with some words:
That interface above allows me to set the temperature of the smoker and the time and it will stay at that temp until the timer runs out. No adjusting vents. No adding more coals. No worrying about a temperature spike or drop. It literally is set it and forget it.
Inside there is plenty of room for succulent smoked eats. There are four shelves that were pretty tight for a full slab of ribs (I cut off three bones of that slab in the top pic) but the shelves can handle plenty of half racks of ribs:
There’s a glass door that allows you to see what’s happening inside without cracking the smoker:
I have no idea how easy or hard it is to clean the glass. After one use I could still see through the door, but it was pretty dirty. After I use it a few more times, I’ll check back here and let you know how hard it is to clean the glass.
But how is the smoke? It’s an electric smoker, does it put out a good deal of smoke? Well, catching the smoke rolling out of the sides on a windy day was tough, but I got this shot:
I also took a little video of smoke coming up through the smoker itself, which is another advantage of the glass front door:
I checked the ribs at about the 90 minute mark and decided to check on my smoke wood. All the chips in the box were black. It was still producing great smelling smoke but I decided to give the box a little shake to settle the blackened chips down and make more room for the new chips. I got more than 4 hours of smoke out of a box and a half of chips.
Before we go any farther, how much does this rig cost? This programmable electric smoker with a remote so you can monitor the progress of the cook from inside if necessary, runs about $300.
Back to the review…
One concern I have with the smoker is that it is so low to the ground. For a food blogger, that makes taking pictures a little difficult. It also brings it closer to the delicate fingers of my children. I was worried about them touching it as I always am when a grill is lit or on and they’re milling around. Then I tested how hot it was by rubbing my hand all over the outside of the box and while it was warm it wasn’t at all uncomfortable and that’s with it set at the max internal temperature of 275. Just to show you how safe it is, here are my 7 year old sons hands on a grill that shows 275 on the thermostat:
Well, the thermostat doesn’t quite show 275. For some reason this pic only grabbed the 27 and the next one got the 5F:
There was nothing wrong with the readout. The camera caught a couple of the numbers mid flicker that we can’t see with our eyes. Back to the point at hand (see what I did there?) A 7 year old boy can put his hands on top of this electric smoker and leave them there for his dad to snap a bunch of pics.
One other feature it has is wheels and a handle on the back to make it easy to wheel in and out of the garage as this grill is electric. Leaving it outside in the elements is not a good idea.
I found two other problems with the unit. While the temperature gauge on the device read 275, the oven thermometer I put inside only showed 250. I’m good with 250. I’m glad I validated the temp gauge though. Having the temperature gauge be off and not know it is bad. Having the thermostat be off by 25 degrees and knowing it is no big deal.
Also, I smoked these ribs for about three hours and no smoke ring:
They had plenty of smoke flavor but no smoke ring. In fact, these Double Apple Ribs were absolutely delicious, but I was disappointed in the lack of a smoke ring. It doesn’t really change the flavor, it’s just visually appealing. I will play with this and see what I need to do to make that smoke ring a reality.
Two other very minor concerns. It took quite a while for me to get smoke from the wood chip box. Just allow for that. I don’t have an exact number but it took close to 30 minutes or more.
Also, the unit has a remote and probe thermometer built in. Since I was doing ribs, I didn’t see the need to try the probe thermometer. But it has a remote that goes with it that I set on the instructions and planned on playing with a little later. I came back outside and the instructions were on the ground and so was the remote. The problem is my deck is four feet off the ground and the remote was resting on the hand railing another four feet up. After dropping 8 feet to concrete, it didn’t work. I blame myself for that one.
All in all, I’m quite pleased with the BBQ that came out of this smoker as well as how easy it was to operate this device. It’s going into the full time rotation of my grill regimen and will be used any time I want to smoke something without having to stand over the grill all day.
Full Disclosure according to FTC Guidelines I must tell you that I was given this grill by Char-Broil to do the review. I did not pay for it.