Over the years, electric smokers have become very popular amongst entry level bbq lovers as an alternative to traditional grilling or smoking with charcoal or natural wood burners.
The time savings and convenience that it provides is simply too hard to resist for even seasoned smoker purists. So how does electric meat smoker work and what makes it such a tempting option for slow smoke-cooking these days?
Most electric bbq smokers employ two digitally controlled heat generators; one is to regulate the temperature inside cooking area and another to burn wood chips for creating smokes and infusing flavors into the meat. Let's figure out what are the pros and cons of this meat smoking method.
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The first advantage of this technique is that instead of using hot fire to burn wood chips- which can easily cause flare-ups and over burn if not watched carefully, you can rely 100% on electrical power source to produce controlled, steady, even and slow smokes to circulate around the barbecue meat. This comes pretty handy especially when you want to make cold smoking fish, marinated beef, fresh veggies like asparagus, cucumber, capsicum or dishes that have cheese in them and can not be smoked on too hot temperatures, thus require long cooking sessions. The electricity makes the smoke cooking process almost instant, automatic and easy for even novice barbecue smokers.
If you have owned a gas smoker or charcoal smoker before, you know how frustrating it is to only go half way to finish your bbq meat and suddenly the fuel runs outs (propane gas or coal). In those situations there is no other way to fix it but finish the smoked meat by either frying it on kitchen pan with oil, heat in the oven with foil or simply put into microwave. What a disappointment and waste? …After all the smoke-cooking preparation work you've done and anticipation to enjoy richly flavored barbecue? …Well, with electric barbeque smokers, that won't be a concern, since electricity comes in plenty and almost in unlimited supply (at least that's how it is in America).
An electric meat smoker can also be converted into electric grill. This is simply done by removing the lid dome to allow airflow into the smoke house. Here is a good article about how you can use an electric smoker as a grill. Your prior investment now looks like 2 for 1 as far as the grilling possibility is concerned.
Cleaning with electric smokers or grills is simply a breeze. There is no coal, nor ashes or burned fat grease leaked over the gas burner to get rid off. Most smokers use proprietary wood discs to properly store and burn the flavored (or soaked into flavor liquid) wood chips - thus eliminating unnecessary mess from smoking process. Just a push of a button and the heating stops, and even if you decide to smoke again, just another flick of a switch and it sets itself onto cooking. With gas or charcoal smokers you have to plan everything ahead.
Barbeque electric smokers also save you a lot of space and can fit in to almost anywhere in your house, making them great candidates as indoor smoker cookers. Because you won't have to keep any bulky propane gas tanks or stain-breeding charcoal bags, some designs will even allow you to cook indoor without releasing toxic smokes. Most brands also make them safe around children - great for family cooks during cold winter days or wet weathers outside.
Another advantage, though probably more noticeable to purists, is that electric bbq smokers do not impart any "off flavors" to the food. This is because there is no fire, no burning of smoke pellets or sawdust involved, so there is no chance the charred side of food would pick up toxic gas or poisonous chemicals released from burning the fuel.
As mentioned above, electric grill and smokers are generally very good at slow smoking food, but if your cooking often involves rushing to get the plates ready on the table to feed an army of bbq gathering, your best bet would be gas bbq grills. While electric power give you all the ease of use, easy set up and almost no tending required, its weak at providing decent burning powers for big size barbecue parties. But then, smoking isn't supposed to be fast and quick anyway, it's all about getting that richly smoke-flavored meat.
Here is an average estimation of how long it takes to smoke meat with electric cookers: port ribs - around 4-8 hours; briskets and games - about half a day.
Cost is another factor to consider. While the smokers themselves are not very expensive- you can get one for around $200-$500, the electricity used in the long run might add up, especially for those living in areas where electric power is still reasonably expensive.
If you are new to smoke-cooking, electric smokers are perfect choices to get the first hand experience of how it is like to smoke meat. The simplicity and effortless cooking style that it provides will save you from lots of trouble normally associated with other types of outdoor barbeque smoking.
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