Electric Smokers
Credit: Courtesy of Walmart, Target, Amazon

The Best Electric Smokers for Fast BBQ at Home

You don’t need to be a pro to smoke delicious foods.
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Mention smoked foods, and many people immediately think of American BBQ. Tough, often cast-off cuts of meat are magically transformed into tender jewels, unearthed by breaking down gristly connective tissues and rendering fat trapped in the muscles. In reality, it's one of the oldest means of cooking and food preservation known to humans and an extension of the slow roasting process that happens over grills or in ovens every day. 

Smokers run the gamut of sizes, shapes, and heat sources. Since they tend to be smaller than their charcoal or gas counterparts, electric smokers can be a good entry point for newcomers to the world of smoking or a good alternative for those with outdoor space limitations. They may also provide convenience to home users and professionals alike.

Tank Jackson, pitmaster of Holy City Hogs in Charleston and founder of the new Smoking University, and Rebecca King, pitmaster of The Bad Jew in LA, are both electric smoker adoptees. Jackson cites the possibility of spontaneity as one of the main reasons. "If I want ribs, I can turn on the smoker, and it's ready to go before I've even got the ribs out of their package and seasoned. I set the temperature and come back when they're done."

App connectivity is another must-have for both chefs, allowing them time away from the smoker, unlike wood-burning models. We considered these factors and more in our search for the top options on the market, ultimately dubbing the Char-Broil Deluxe our winner. Ahead are the best electric smokers.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker

View at Walmart ($234)

Pros: The digital controls and large chip box make this unit very easy to operate and maintain consistent temperatures.

Cons: The smoke is inconsistent at low temperatures, and the window can be difficult to clean.

In human form, the Char-Broil Digital Deluxe would be the unassuming person that delivers quiet joy to those around them. It would have many friends but never be the center of attention at gatherings, yet people would heed what they said. It would never dream of being an influencer or dabbling in crypto, instead acting as a stable provider, bringing home a decent, steady paycheck.

Weighing the variety of sizes, fuel types, and connectivity available today, the Charbroil Deluxe Digital found itself at the top of our list for delivering consistent results. Combining the ease of smoking with wood chips and the precision of digital controls, this smoker is versatile and easy to operate.

Its larger capacity allows for smoking four briskets, eight slabs of ribs, or six whole chickens, while its temperature range allows for both cold and hot smoking. The integrated temperature probe monitors the internal temperature of the items inside, and a larger chip box minimizes the need to open the smoker to add more fuel. The dual wall construction allows for heat retention even in cold weather while keeping the outside of the smoker relatively cool. The lighted window facilitates viewing the items inside without opening the door. Finally, it has a warming feature that makes reheating smoked foods after they've rested easy without drying the food out.

  • Dimensions: 16.54 x 32.52 x 18.11 inches
  • Capacity: 725 square inches 
  • Fuel Type: Wood chips
  • Temperature Range: 100 - 275°F  (38 - 135°C)
  • Temperature Probe Included? Yes

Best High-Tech: Traeger Pro 780

View at Home Depot ($999.99)

Pros: This smoker has both an ample food and fuel capacity that, when coupled with its multiple connectivity options, allows for a hands-free cooking experience.

Cons: It's heavy and expensive.

There are different schools of thought in all areas of cooking. Some tend toward the time-tested, traditional methods that call for an intuitive approach, and some lean toward the scientific, modernist techniques that eliminate room for error. A third group contains those who don't want to hover over their smoker, monitoring it for hours on end. None of these are right or wrong choices. For those wishing for precise control and connectivity or those who are gadget-oriented, the Traeger Pro 780 might be the choice. Offering Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth apps, and Alexa integration, the 780 keeps the user in constant contact with what's happening inside, monitoring the smoker temperature, the internal temperature of the food, and the time remaining on the cook.

That's not to say that tech is all it brings to the table. While primarily designed for smoking, it is also suitable for grilling or baking. The Traeger offers a large capacity, handling 34 burgers, or six whole chickens, or six slabs of ribs at once. (There's also a smaller model, the Traeger Pro 575; you'd save $100 but lose precious cooking space, as its cooking area is only 575 square inches.)

The Traeger Pro 780 is one of the heaviest smokers reviewed here (the construction and tech add up to 155 pounds), but two-terrain wheels and a set of casters offer more effortless movement. The auger-driven pellet hopper ensures long smoking times without the need to monitor and add fuel. The hopper also eliminates the need to open the smoker to add more, releasing heat that could result in uneven cooking. 

  • Dimensions: 27 x 55 x 49 inches 
  • Cooking Area: 780 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Pellet
  • Temperature Range: 120 - 550°F (49 - 288°C)
  • Temperature Probe Included? Yes

Best for Beginners: Royal Gourmet 28-inch Electric Smoker

View at Target ($190)

Pros: The ease of use and low price make this a great starter smoker for those who want to try smoking food but don't want to commit to larger, more complex models.

Cons: Both the small chip box and water pan need to be refilled more frequently than other models reviewed here.

Not everyone wants to dive headfirst into a new project. For those curious about getting started in the world of smoking but hesitant to make a deep commitment to equipment, the Royal Gourmet provides the best balance of quality and cost for entry-level grillers. 

It has a powerful 1500-watt heating element and insulated construction to help maintain consistent temperatures. Three stainless steel smoking shelves provide room for ribs, brisket, or pork butts. For cold smoking, you could set a pan of ice between the heating element and the food. The analog controller and the built-in thermometer in the door allow for ease of temperature control. This no-frills smoker will provide consistent results for both beginners and experienced smokers.

  • Dimensions: 21.3 x 19.1 x 37 inches 
  • Cooking Area: 457 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Wood chips
  • Temperature Range: Up to 275°F (135°C)
  • Temperature Probe Included? No
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Analog: Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker

View at Amazon (169.99)

Pros: This is an easy-to-use smoker with more precise heat control than other analog brands, and its powerful heating element helps maintain consistent temperatures.

Cons: The built-in thermometer can become uncalibrated, and some claim that the heating element has a short lifespan.

This no-frills smoker rates highly across the board with users. Its insulated steel construction and 1200-watt heating element enable it to maintain steady heat in various temperatures. It has a large chip box that can accommodate several hours' worth of wood chips, minimizing the opening and closing of the door.

Relying on a rheostat versus digital controls, the temperature regulation takes some getting used to, but the in-door thermometer is easy to read when making these adjustments. It's a medium-capacity smoker, maybe not large enough for a giant turkey, but you'll be able to handle ribs, briskets, and pork butts without space limitations.

  • Dimensions: 14.96 x 33.46 x 20.71 inches
  • Cooking Area: 544 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Wood chips
  • Temperature Range: Up to 240°F (116°C)
  • Temperature Probe Included? No
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Non-Conventional: Smokin-It Smoker Model #1

View at Amazon ($450)

Pros: The ability to burn hardwood frees the owner to experiment with a wider variety of woods without the restrictions of commercially available chips or pellets. The heavy-duty casters allow for easy moving for space or cleaning.

Cons: No access to the wood box from the outside of the smoker means opening the unit to reload the wood and losing temperature. The wood box is located directly below the cooking racks, allowing grease and meat drippings to fall on it, which may prove challenging to clean.

People seek different things from their cars. Some prefer the flash and horsepower of a sports car, while others prefer the low-maintenance reliability of a mid-range sedan. Again, neither of these viewpoints is wrong. The Smokin-It Model #1 values function over form. Its practical design is NSF-rated for restaurant use, and it looks every inch a commercial appliance. This model is not the smoker for someone looking for a statement piece, but read on if you're looking for a utilitarian smoker with precise heat control and medium capacity.

The double-walled, insulated construction provides even temperature and heat retention while keeping the outside relatively cool. The three racks allow space for up to 22 pounds of food inside. The capacity decreases with the height of the food prepared due to the distance between the racks. With a temperature range from 100 to 250°F, it's well-suited for hot or cold smoking. The large wood box accommodates enough wood to burn for several hours without opening the smoker to reload.

  • Dimensions: 15 x 19 x 20 3/8 inches 
  • Cooking Area: 324 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Split Hardwood
  • Temperature Range: 100 - 250°F (38 - 121°C)
  • Temperature Probe Included? No
Credit: Courtesy of Meat Processing Products

Best Alternative Fuel: Bradley Smoker Digital 4-Rack Electric Smoker

View at Meat Processing Products ($480)

Pros: The unit provides up to 9 hours of smoking without refilling the fuel feeder, and the digital controls and smoke generator are removable for outdoor storage.

Cons: The proprietary fuel does mean that you may need advanced planning for smoking. The height of the smoking chamber is 19 inches above the drip pan, which may provide size limitations, and its 500-watt heating element may not provide adequate heat when the outside temperature is low.

Combining the convenience of a pellet smoker with a unique fuel delivery system, the Bradley offers digital temperature, cook-time, and smoke-time controls. One stacks the proprietary Bisquettes in the fuel hopper, which are then conveyor-fed to the heat source, ensuring even burning and cooking.

The digital display is easy to read, and the controls are pretty intuitive. The separate controls for smoke and cooking temperatures allow cold smoking meats, fish, seafood, fruits, vegetables, or dairy products at ambient temperatures. This flexibility means you can also slow roast foods at precise temperatures with no smoke.

The detachable smoke generator is handy for sheltering the electronics from the elements. In addition to the Bradley's flat stainless steel racks, the unit also accommodates meat hooks for hanging bacon, sausages, jerky, or cheeses. It does not have app connectivity, but many find that it is still a "set it and forget it" smoking experience due to the precision and versatility of the controls and fuel delivery system. 

  • Dimensions: 19 × 22 × 34 inches
  • Cooking Area: 520 square inches
  • Fuel Type: Bradley Flavor Bisquettes 
  • Temperature Range: Ambient - 320°F (160°C)
  • Temperature Probe Included? No
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Value: Pit Boss 3-Series Analog Electric Vertical Smoker

View At Amazon ($349)

Pros: The porcelain-coated racks and pans make cleaning easy and help stave off corrosion. External access to the chip box allows for refilling the chips without losing temperature in the smoker.

Cons: Some users have reported issues with the heating element and the element control board, and the in-door thermometer requires regular calibration.

The Pit Boss 3 Series won in our Best Value category when weighing costs versus features. While sporting analog controls and not offering the bells and whistles of more expensive brands, the Pit Boss features porcelain-coated racks that resist corrosion, a mid-size capacity, and a 1650-watt heating element. 

The chip box and water pan are also porcelain-coated, and the model features front-access external access to the chip box to minimize opening the unit. You can use the adjustable air damper with the analog temperature control to fine-tune the temperature. Again avoiding opening the smoker and letting the heat escape, it has a glass window in the door for easy viewing and a door-mounted thermometer. The smoker also ships with an analog temperature probe to monitor the internal temperature of the items inside.

Weighing these features against the average retail price gives the Pit Boss high ratings in delivering bang for the buck.

  • Dimensions: 22 x 21 x 46 inches
  • Cooking Area: 3.2 cubic feet
  • Fuel Type: Wood chips
  • Temperature Range: 100 - 325°F (38 - 163°C)
  • Temperature Probe Included? Yes

Conclusion

Electric smokers have come a long way over the last 25 years, from single temperature "plug it in and watch" units to app-compatible digital controls. The choices depend on what level of complexity you want in maintaining the process or the mechanics of the smoker. The Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker provides a balance between the two schools, while the Traeger Pro 780's connectivity and fuel management take much of the intuition and guesswork out of the equation. 

Factors to Consider

Fuel Type

This will primarily be a weighing of pellets vs. wood chips. Many pellet smoker manufacturers recommend only using their brand of pellets, which puts limitations on their accessibility due to limited numbers of retail outlets. Chips are available in most grocery, home improvement, and outdoor stores. The tradeoff is that chips are allotted less space in the smoker and tend to burn quicker even after soaking. In contrast, pellets typically have a higher-capacity delivery mechanism that allows for a more hands-off approach to smoking.

Size

Smoking must be done outdoors for safety reasons. If your outdoor space is limited to a small patio or balcony, the physical dimensions of the smoker should be a strong consideration when deciding what to purchase. Smaller electric smoker models have a heating element in the bottom of which chips or pellets burn. Larger models can have an offset smoke delivery system independent of the smoking chamber that increases their footprint.

Capacity

Then there is the capacity and shelf arrangement. You need to consider what you want to smoke. Briskets, ribs, pork loins, and vegetables don't consume a lot of vertical space, while pork butts or poultry do. Some of the models reviewed here have large weight capacities that can decrease by the shape of the food that goes in them.

Connectivity 

This is an entirely personal matter. Jackson prefers the hands-off approach to digital controls and connectivity after many years of tending smoker fires overnight. You might enjoy the interactiveness of tending to the smoker. Neither is the wrong choice.

The Research

We thoroughly researched this topic, consulting two experts to get their thoughts on what makes a great electric smoker, and then scouring the market for the best options. After combing the market for volumes of online reviews for these products, we weighed them against several criteria, including the factors listed above, how long the smoker had been on the market, and whether problems had been resolved.

Pro Panel Q+A

Q: How do smokers work? 

A: To the curious, smoking may seem a highly technical process that borders alchemy. In truth, it's simple: Hardwood smoke infuses the ingredient with smoky flavors and terpenes from the specific type of wood used, while the low heat and slow cooking bring about physical changes in meats, poultry, and fish. Connective tissue breaks down, luxuriously tenderizing tough, often fatty cuts.

The process is relatively simple: Place seasoned food onto racks that allow the smoke to flow freely around them, put the racks over or next to a heat source, and allow hardwood to smolder on that heat source.  

Q: What's the difference between a pellet smoker and an electric smoker? 

A: Rather than wood pellets, propane, or charcoal, electric smokers rely on electricity to heat and cook meat. These smokers typically use a thermostat to control the temperature, heating up a coil inside the chamber to smolder a bowl of wood chips typically placed at the bottom. The wood chips in turn create the smoke that's infused into the meat.  

Pellet smokers, meanwhile, use hardwood pellets as their main fuel source. To operate these smokers, a pitmaster will pour the pellets into a burn pot and light a fire over them, which is sustained over time as more pellets are constantly added. This provides the indirect heat that's circulated throughout the smoking chamber.

Q: What can you cook in an electric smoker?

A: Many cultures smoked fish, poultry, and meats not just to prepare dinner but store away food in times of plenty to ensure sustenance for leaner times. Ham, pork ribs, smoked salmon, and brisket are all born of the same basic techniques; it merely depends on when they are for dinner. Being the curious sort, contemporary chefs have extended the method to apply to fruits, vegetables, butter, cheese, yogurt, and much more. 

King utilizes her electric smoker for smaller caterings and dinner parties, explaining that it makes more sense from the labor involved in smoking a few pork chops or pieces of fish versus firing up their charcoal-burning counterpart. 

Q: Can you use wood pellets in an electric smoker?

A: Both Jackson and King point out that pellet-burning models cannot use wood chips. However, the inverse is not true. Many people use pellets in their chip-burning smokers to increase the burn time between refills with great success.  

Q: Can you cold smoke in an electric smoker?

A: Cold smoking is done at low temperatures (120°F or less) and is a means of imparting food with smoke flavor rather than a cooking method. Many of the models reviewed here have the built-in ability to cold smoke. In others, it may be possible to lower the temperature by adding a pan of ice between the fuel and the food to lower the ambient temperature inside the smoker. In all cases, follow recipes exactly to reduce the chances of foodborne illnesses.

Q: How do you clean an electric smoker?

A: Cleaning any smoker is a must; creosote and grease buildup creates a fire hazard, while accumulated grease and drippings present food safety issues. Removal of burnt ash and drippings is a must for both the safety and longevity of the unit. Jackson then scrubs his smoker with a garden hose and balled-up aluminum foil to keep the racks and interior of the unit clean. King prefers to address the walls of her smoker with a bench scraper to remove any buildup. 

Our Expertise

Greg Baker is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and food writer with decades of experience in the food industry. For this piece, he interviewed pitmasters Tank Jackson and Rebecca King to find out what the pros look for in a smoker. He then used their insights and his own expertise and market research to curate this list.