In this article we will show you several differences between a propane and an electric smoker
Are you considering a propane or an electric smoker? In this article we are going to present to you several key differences that will allow you to understand both types of smokers and match one of them to your situation.
Sadly, in such cases there are no clear answers, it all depends on your needs.
Everyone has different preferences and tastes, which makes it so important to simply learn about the upsides and downsides of both smokers. Only after that you will be able to choose which of them will be the best for you, an electric or a propane smoker.
Electric Smoker Overview
A smoker that utilizes electricity and a heater to generate heat that cooks the food.
The operating principle is very similar to an electric oven where you just have to pick your desired temperature and start the device.
It has air vents that help adjust the temperature, although they aren’t really that much needed. The temperature inside the smoker is pretty stable thanks to the heating elements.
Electricity itself won’t generate an additional flavor for the food, which is why a wood chips container is used that generates smoke, giving food a smoky flavor.
A huge advantage of this type of smoker is the ability to achieve very low temperatures. If you’re planning cold smoking, it will be necessary to buy a “cold smoking kit”, why? If the temperature is too low, it is nearly impossible to achieve smoke, which is why effective smoking requires using an additional accessory that solves this problem.
Not all electric smokers offer such solution, so you should check this out before the purchase, in such situation we recommend all models from Masterbuilt.
A major downside is relying on electricity, in case of problems with your power provider you won’t be able to use the smoker.
Propane Smoker Overview
The source of power in a propane smoker is the burner and the burning propane from a tank, identically to a standard gas grill.
The upside is the ability to achieve high temperatures in a short time by adjusting the burner power. Sadly, smokers of this type have a serious problem with achieving low temperatures, which makes cold smoking nearly impossible or very difficult in this case.
Gas, just like electricity, doesn’t add any flavor to food, which is why you will find a wood chips and a water container here as well, in order to stabilize the conditions inside the smoker.
The upside is the fact that if there’s no electricity, you can still use your smoker (you can always start the burner the emergency way, using matches).
Another downside is poorer insulation due to burning gas, which means the temperature fluctuations might be significant when cooking in poor weather conditions.
Key differences between propane and electric smoker:
Before we move on to detailed comparisons, we would like to make a brief summary. Below you will find a list of the key differences between an electric and a propane smoker.
- A propane smoker does not rely on electricity
- Electric smokers have better insulation and more stable temperature (a typical set & forget style smoker)
- A smoker that runs on electricity is much safer than gas (for example when you’re planning to leave it overnight or for a few hours unattended)
- Temperature control in an electric smoker is much easier
- Less electronics when it comes to propane smokers means less problems (malfunctions and repairs)
- An electric smoker combined with the right accessories can be great for cold smoking
Propane vs Electric Smoker - Face to Face Comparisons
Despite them being smokers intended for smoking, there are several things that make a propane and an electric smoker different.
Both smokers make delicious food, but according to many people’s opinions, it is propane smokers that are characterized by a better taste. On the other hand, there are plenty of electric smoker fanatics that will claim that it’s not true.
There’s one thing for sure, if you want your food to be close in flavor and appearance to that from a charcoal smoker, you should definitely look into propane smokers.
If, on the other hand, you want slow, cold smoking, there is no better choice than an electric smoker.
Ease of use
In both cases the operation is much easier than with charcoal smokers. You don’t have to worry about getting the charcoal burning or precise temperature control using air vents.
Operation of propane smokers boils down to controlling the burner power, after some time you will perfectly know how much power to use in order to achieve the target temperature.
When it comes to electric smokers, the situation is even better, you just pick your desired temperature and start the heating element, which will take care of everything.
Overall both smokers aren’t that much expensive although a lot depends on the size, features and obviously the quality of workmanship.
For example, propane smokers can be purchased at a low price, but it comes with poorer insulation or less durable elements. As a result, the smoker might only be good for some time or it may cause problems in poorer weather conditions.
Electric smokers are much more popular and aren’t expensive either if they don’t have additional features. There are plenty of models equipped with WiFi, Bluetooth etc. that cost much more.
Temperature range and control
Propane smokers are much hotter and faster, they can reach high temperatures. They aren’t good for cold smoking so if you’re thinking about smoked cheese etc. then go for an electric smoker.
The heating element is safer when it comes to unattended operation for many hours. You can easily leave such smoker for half a day or even for a night without worrying about stable temperature.
Another advantage is the ability to achieve low temperatures that are perfect for cold smoking. Of course you will need adequate accessories sold separately that will solve the problem of small amounts of smoke at low temperatures.
Electronics will always lose when it comes to durability and malfunction risk.
Both types of smokers usually have similar warranties but in practice it is propane smokers that are characterized by better durability. Digital controllers, heating element and different electronic gadgets simply break down more often and are more expensive to repair.
In case of propane smokers all you have to do is replace the burner, which is the only important element.
Propane smokers are great for quick smoking, giving results that are the closest to charcoal smokers. Despite the easy temperature control, you will still have to check once in a while and adjust the burner power in order to maintain a stable temperature.
If that is not a problem to you then go ahead.
If, however, you’d rather forget about smoking for a few hours without worrying, choose an electric smoker. The heating element ensures stable temperature throughout the entire time from the moment of starting.
Electric smokers can have better insulation which makes them work all the better in poorer weather conditions. On top of that, the heating element makes it possible to achieve much lower temperatures that are perfect for cold smoking.