Propane VS Electric Smokers – Which One Is Better?
If you are a beginner and are confused about what kind of smoker you should get for yourself, whether you should be leaning towards a propane smoker or an electric smoker, for that, we have made a few suggestions about the pros and cons of the two types of smokers.
We have also added some general features of each kind that sets one apart from the other. Having a good idea about these features can have a significant impact on the type of smoker that you end up buying.
The Differences Between Propane and Electric Smokers
An electric smoker has an insulated design that allows you to smoke food in any given outdoor temperature, and you needn't be worried about losing any heat off your meat. At the bottom, there is a stainless-steel water bowl that catches the dripping and also adds moisture to your recipe.
There is also a drip tray at the bottom with a hole that directs the excess drippings to the back. It has a meat probe that helps you in checking the internal temperature of your food. It has an adjustable door latch that seals the door completely.
On top of the smoker, there is an air damper that controls the amount of smoke and moisture in the chamber. Also, there is the digital control panel up top; you can set the temperature, the time, check on the meat probe, and the light.
The smoker has four to six shelves, depending on the model that you choose to buy, which have a layer of chrome coating on them. They have a bend at the back, which allows you to bring them back and forth with ease when you are loading the meat.
At the back of the smoker, there is a grease tray that collects the excess grease. For portability, it has a handle on the back, and at the bottom, there are caster wheels so that you can quickly move it from one place to another.
The propane smoker has an enormous holding capacity and comes with adjustable side racks. There are five trays, of which two are standard heavy-duty trays, two jerky trays, and one rib rack.
At the bottom, it has dual stainless-steel burners and two adjustable controls. To start the smoker, you need to press on the igniter button and then adjust the burner knobs.
It has a ceramic coated water tray that helps achieve the moist environment inside the smoker. The smoker usually has a two-door system to remove the wood trays, which can be taken in and out.
So, when you are running out of wood chips, you would have to take the tray out, refill it and then put it back into the smoker. When you are doing this, you would have to be careful as the tray, by then, is very hot, and you run the risk of burning your hands in the process.
There is a built-in temperature gauge; unlike the meat probe, it is not entirely accurate, but it gives an idea of what the temperature is inside. On top of the smoker, there is an adjustable vent so you can control the draft and get the desired temperature.
The construction of a propane smoker is fundamental. It provides you with the bare essentials that are required for you to get the right amount of flavor. This aspect makes it more affordable than an electric one.
However, unlike some of the latest models of the electric smoker, it will not have the features to connect via Bluetooth to your mobile devices.
Now that you know what both smokers are, it’s time to look at their differences and see which one is better.
• Fuel Source
When you are dealing with an electric smoker, you can put your mind at ease about frequently checking up on the meal that you are cooking up. Although you are not supposed to leave the smoker unattended, one of the perks of using an electric smoker is that you don't ever have to worry about running out of fuel.
While other types of smokers use wooden pellets, bisquettes, gas, or even charcoal as a source of heat, with these kinds of fuel sources, there is always a chance that your fuel may be over mid-grill. So, if you are smoking for 10-12 hours, you would have to regularly check-in to see if there is enough to last until the end of the grill.
So, if you are using propane smoker, to stay on the safer side, it would be better to keep an extra tank of propane around. Another advantage of using an electric smoker is that you are not working with a kind of flammable gases.
However, one of the downsides of using an electric smoker is its portability. Since the smoker needs electricity to operate, you would have to make sure that there is a power outlet available wherever you are taking the smoker to.
• Temperature Control
An electric smoker works best for cooking at low temperatures when you compare it with a propane smoker. With an electric smoker, you can easily change and control the temperature. As the smoker is wholly digitalized, you can set the temperature that you want, and it can maintain that temperature throughout the cooking process.
This feature works perfectly if you are cooking sausages or jerky at 160 degrees. Whereas in a propane tank, you would have to adjust the burner knobs to set the exact temperature.
The lowest temperature that most of them go down to is around 200 degrees, and even then, it would be tough to maintain that temperature at a steady rate. So, this removes the option of cold smoking your food.
Propane smokers are great when you are working with high temperatures; they can reach between the ranges of 350- 400 degrees. It is something that electric smokers are behind at; they generally run between the 225 to 275 degrees.
• Bad Weather Conditions
If you are living in a place where it tends to rain a lot of it is very humid, then this will have an adverse effect on your smoker, especially when it comes to maintaining it. So, if you want a smoker that is good for all seasons, then you would have to keep in mind how well the smoker is work in the worst of the weather.
The combination of electronics and water is that of a bad one if your smoker is an electrical one, then you might run the risk of short-circuiting the electrical components. However, the odds of circuit failures increase when your control panel is not entirely sealed and is exposed to moisture.
Aside from that, even if your smoker comes with good insulation, there is still a possibility of water ending up in places where you don't want them to be.
For a propane smoker, you don't have to be worried about any sort of electrical damage, nor would there be any kind of issue with its performance. But you would have to keep a watchful eye over it just in case the wind or the rain doesn't take the heat out.
• Ease of Use
The instructions for using an electric smoker are much simpler than that of propane smokers. Most of the electric smokers come with a push on/off switch.
So, all that is needed to do is plug in the smoker the power outlet, press on the start button, and then wait a few minutes before your machine gets heated up and becomes fully operational for you to use.
So, if you are a beginner and are confused about how to operate a smoker, then using an electrical smoker would be in your favor. A propane smoker is also easy to use; however, you need to replace the propane tank once it gets used up, and you need to adjust the burner settings properly.
However, a gas smoker does not need a power outlet for its use, so if you are planning to go to a lake, you don't have to be concerned about looking for a source of power supply for your smoker. All that you would need for your day out would be the smoker and an extra set of gas tanks.
• Taste of Food
This particular aspect would differ from person to person. Many would choose the flavor profile of an electric smoker while others would prefer using the propane smoker.
If you are looking for the traditional style of Barbecue flavor on your meat, then the propane smoker comes closest to that of a charcoal smoker. Also, some smoking enthusiasts love to watch the smoking process, especially when they are smoking meat; in such cases, you wouldn't want to get the electric smoker.
However, propane doesn't add any particular flavors to the meat; it is the wood chips or wood chunks that are added to the smoker that flavors your food. The wood chips and pieces are put in the flame bowl on to the part pan that is right above where the flame is.
Here is where the drawback lies. It is possible that your wood chips or chunks could catch fire and burn rather than just smoke. And adding water or apple juice to them before putting them to the grill so that they wouldn't catch fire simply brings in harmful smoke to the BBQ session.
So, if your wood does catch fire, then you would have to replace them and then continue with the grill. Also, if you are smoking vegetables, fishes, and cheeses, then the electric smoker has better results. It all comes down to you, whether you are more interested in smoking meat or cheese and veggies.
Both the smokers are easy to clean as the sources of fuel are either gas or electricity, which unlike charcoal, it doesn't leave behind any mess such as ashes. All that you are left with at the end of a smoking session are the drippings and the grease that cling on the shelves and the sides of the smoker.
The drippings, however, are collected at the bottom of the smoker in a special tray or a drawer. So, to reduce the workload of cleaning, you can empty the plate a few times when you are smoking.
With gas tanks, regular inspection of the installation is necessary, or else it could be a threat while using it. Since the tank contains flammable gas, you should be careful where you are keeping the tank if the smoker doesn't have a separate holder for attaching it.
A propane smoker should be used outside the house, most likely at your backyard, and the tank should be kept away from flames. An electrical smoker is adequately insulated and doesn't pose any safety concerns as a propane tank does.
In the case of internal malfunctions, it has sufficient backup features that allow the smoker to run smoothly unless there are significant damages.
Electric smokers are more reliable than propane smokers, as everything is automated, it is easier to control. If the gas smoker that you are purchasing is of inferior quality, then it will be less reliable and can raise some serious concerns.
• Grilling Area
Most of the propane smokers in the stores are generally bigger and more spacious in terms of grilling area. Though there are smaller models available, the majority of them offer a massive space of about 1200 square inches.
Electric smokers come in a large variety of sizes. The comprehensive range that most people go for is the ones that are 30 inches and 40 inches. These smokers have about 1000 square inches of working area.
Conclusion – Which One to Get?
Both the electric and gas smokers are great for getting a fabulous smoke on your meal. Though each of them has its pros and cons, it all comes down to what you think works best for you. If you prefer working on low heat more than on high flames, then the electric smoker is the one for you.
Also, the electric smoker does need any additional fuel; all you have to do is plug it into a power source and get started on your smoking journey.
On the other hand, the propane smoker does not need to be connected to any outlets, so you can use it whenever and wherever you like. We hope the list of comparisons that we have made above has helped you.