Which one is the best for you, an Electric Smoker or a Charcoal one. Besides price, durability and food output its depends on your taste and generation you are born and bought up in. In this article I will be doing a general comparison “electric smoker vs charcoal smoker”, so that you may end up standing on a pious decision that which suits you the most.
- Electric Smoker vs Charcoal Smoker-The Comparison Chart
- Electric Smokers
- Charcoal Smokers
- Components of Charcoal Smoker
- Working Mechanics of Charcoal Smoker
- Top Charcoal Smoker Brands
- Price Range of Charcoal Smokers
- Average Temperature Range of Charcoal Smokers
- Foods you must try in Charcoal Smokers
- Applewood Smoked Chicken
- Competition Style BBQ Ribs
- BBQ Smoked Spiral Ham
- Brown Sugar Smoked Salmon
- Barbecue Applewood Chicken Breast
- Buttery Smoked Corn on the Cob
- Easy Double Smoked Turkey
- Smoked Baked Potatoes
- Smoked Burgers
- Smoked Hatch Chilies
- Smoked Lobster Tails
- Using a Charcoal Smoker
- Durability of Charcoal Smoker
- Quantity of Smoker
- Cooking Options in Charcoal Smokers
- Operating Life of a Charcoal Smoker
- Operating Cost of Charcoal Smoker
- Cleaning System of Charcoal Smoker
- Charcoal Smoker Food Expertise
- Can Charcoal Smoker work Overnight?
- Performance when it is Cold
Electric Smoker vs Charcoal Smoker-The Comparison Chart
|Section||Electric Smoker||Charcoal Smoker||Winner|
|Working Mechanism||Most Electric Smokers consist of vertical alignment of parts, cooking area is at the top and electric heating rods, wood chips tray and water pan are at the bottom. Let’s take a look at how these components of electric smoker help cooking food.||A Charcoal Smoker is a device that cooks food with the help of burning charcoal’s smoky hot air over a long period of time. Charcoal smoker is something different than charcoal grills, don’t be confused. Some grilling brands sell charcoal operating devices with both a traditional grill and a smoker chamber as well. Charcoals have a separate charcoal chamber which send hot air and smoke to a smoking chamber attached to it.||__|
|Top Brands||Masterbuilt, Charlbroil, Green Mountain, Royal Gourmet, Bradley, Z-Grills||Weber, Char-Broil, Realcook, Cuisinart, Masterbuilt, Charl-Griller||__|
|Price Range||$120-$500||200$-1000$||Electric Smokers|
|Avg Temperature Range||200F-300F||150F-600F||Charcoal Smokers|
|Best Foods||Bacon Explosion, Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork, Smoked Chicken||Applewood Smoked Chicken, Smoked Beef Brisket, Smoked Spiral Ham||___|
|Usability||Easier than Charcoal Smokers||More tricky than Electric Smokers||Electric Smokers|
5Y-10Y, if Heating Element Lasts
|Smoke Strength||Lesser in Comparison to Charcoal Smokers||Stronger than Electric Smokers||Charcoal Smokers|
|Smoking Options||Hot Smoking, Cold Smoking, Reverse Searing, Boiling||Cold Smoking, Searing, Hot Smoking, Liquid Smoking, Smoke Roasting||Charcoal Smokers|
|Operating Cost||192KWH if used 8 hours a day provided smoker works at 800watts per hour.|
Least Expensive than Charcoal Smoker
|8lbs of Charcoal Avg for 8hours of smoking. |
Expensive than Electric Smoker
|Cleaning System||Easier to clean in comparison to Electric Smoker||Complex in comparison to Electric Smoker||Electric Smokers|
|Power Source||Electric, Heating Element||Lump Charcoal+ Briquettes||___|
|Smoking Cycle||Can go overnight with some DIY alterations||Most Charcoal Smokers can go Overnight||Charcoal Smokers|
|Performance in Cold||Least Efficient as compared to Charcoal Smoker||Can do better as compared to the Electric Smokers||Charcoal Smokers|
Also Read: The Best Electric Smokers
A Charcoal Smoker is a device that cooks food with the help of burning charcoal’s smoky hot air over a long period of time. Charcoal smoker is something different than charcoal grills, don’t be confused.
Check out Our list of Top Charcoal Smokers
Some grilling brands sell charcoal operating devices with both a traditional grill and a smoker chamber as well. Today, I am going to tell you all about Charcoal Smokers. Charcoals have a separate charcoal chamber which send hot air and smoke to a smoking chamber attached to it.
Components of Charcoal Smoker
A standalone vertical charcoal smoker is an upright device that features four core sections:
The Firebox: This is where you generate heat. The firebox is filled with coal; a standard 15-pound bag of charcoal can burn for upwards of 15 hours—more than enough time to smoke brisket. You’ll add wood chips to the coal briquettes; these wood chunks provide a distinct flavor to each batch of meat.
The Water Pan: Positioned above the firebox, the water pan (or water chamber) is filled roughly three-quarters full with cool liquid. This functions as a temperature control (you never want your charcoal smoker to get too hot), and it produces steam, which augments the cooking process.
The Cooking Chamber: This is where your food sits, typically on cooking grates like you’d see in a standard-issue barbecue grill.
The Lid: At the top of the smoker is a lid to keep the smoke inside (and permeating the meat). The lid will have a vent to let smoke and steam escape as needed.
Working Mechanics of Charcoal Smoker
A charcoal smoker operates on simple principles, but it can take some practice to get the cooking process right. The first time you try will be an experiment, but with a little luck, you can produce delicious tasting meat. Here’s how to use a charcoal smoker:
Prepare your Fuel Ordinary charcoal briquettes should be used because they burn at the proper temperature for smoking. There’s no need to shell out for boutique lump charcoal; it typically burns too hot for smoking. The best charcoal is the standard-issue stuff. You’ll also want to add some wood chips for a distinctive smoke flavor. Hickory, mesquite, cherry, apple, and alder wood are all popular choices. Prepare the wood chips by soaking them in water for 30 minutes prior to use.
Fill your water pan with cold water Three-quarters full should do the trick. Starting with hot water partly defeats the purpose of the water pan, which functions as a temperature control.
Light the coal using a Charcoal Chimney If you don’t own a charcoal chimney starter, you can simulate its effect by stacking your coals in a pyramid inside the smoker. A little lighter fluid is fine as well. Let the coal burn until it’s coated in a thin layer of white ash. If you’re using a chimney, this is the point that you can add the lit coals to your smoker.
Add your meat to the cooking area You can place your meat directly onto the barbecue grill grates in your smoker. Some smokers only have a single grate, but others have an upper grate and a lower grate for cooking multiple meats at once. Many pit masters will prepare a special rub out of salt and spices and apply it to the meat beforehand. That’s entirely up to you.
Control the temperature The ideal cooking temperature for smoking meat is between 220-250degrees Fahrenheit. Two simple vents (or dampers) allow you to maintain this temperature. The lower vents allow air to rush into the smoker. This brings more oxygen into the mix, and it allows the coals to burn at a hotter temperature.
Conversely, the top vents let air escape the smoker. If the temperature is getting too hot, you can open the upper vent and close the bottom vent. If the temperature is too low, you can close the upper vent and open the lower one. Most smokers are equipped with a built-in thermometer, so it’s easy to keep track of things.
Add the Wood Chunks About a quarter of the way through your smoking process, you’ll want to add the chunks of wood you’ve selected. Place them in the firebox among the coals. If you’ve soaked them in water beforehand, they’ll burn slowly, which is what you want.
Let your food cook Long and Slow Charcoal smoking takes a long time. A rack of ribs might take six to seven hours while a whole large turkey could take upwards of 18 hours. Use a meat thermometer when you think your food might be done. After going through such a meticulous process, you want to make sure that your final product is worthy of your efforts.
Top Charcoal Smoker Brands
Price Range of Charcoal Smokers
- $100 – $200 USD Standard smokers
- $200 – $500 USD large smokers
- $500 – $1000 USD high-end smokers
- $1000+ USD ceramic smokers, large charcoal smokers
Average Temperature Range of Charcoal Smokers
Average operating temperature range of charcoal smokers in 150-600 Degrees Fahrenheit. Various types of food require different temperature and time duration to cook.
Foods you must try in Charcoal Smokers
Charcoal Smokers unleash your limits to try new recipes. From meat to vegetables you can make the best out of it. Here are some recipes and foods you must try in the charcoal smokers.
Applewood Smoked Chicken
This recipe takes the earthy flavors of chili powder and smoked paprika and mixes them with onion, oregano, and garlic powder. The addition of dark brown sugar and salt makes for a wonderful rub. Wood chips and liquid smoke add to its rustic sweet and spicy, “slow-and-low” smoked chicken flavor.
Competition Style BBQ Ribs
If you like your ribs to stay on the bone, you’ll love this guide on how to smoke ribs on an electric smoker. The dry rub for these ribs includes brown sugar, cumin, pepper, and salt.
Add this to an apple wood-filled smoker for six hours, and you have a deliciously complex set of competition-style barbecue ribs.
BBQ Smoked Spiral Ham
The incredible ingredients of this double smoked spiral ham recipe are second only to its exotic flavors. Here, mustard, barbecue rub, ham, and pineapple rings all combine in a smoker lined with apple wood smoke. Two to six hours later, and you have a presentation-style dish that emphasizes its naturally sweet and tangy flavors.
Brown Sugar Smoked Salmon
This dish has all the moisture of well-cooked fresh salmon sealed in an impeccable brown sugar and dill weed crust. Using cherry, pecan, or oak wood, the salmon is smoked for about an hour at temperatures under 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Salt and black pepper round out this dish’s subtle sweetness.
Barbecue Applewood Chicken Breast
Skinless and boneless breasts are one of the best barbecue chicken cuts. They’re easy to buy, need minimal meat preparation, and only need an hour in the electric smoker. This barbecue chicken breast recipe is juicy and smoky and an instant crowd-pleaser. The all-purpose BBQ chicken rub includes a mixture of paprika, thyme, and chili powder to infuse the chicken with flavor. They are cooked over applewood and served whole or in slices.
Buttery Smoked Corn on the Cob
Using a combination of butter and green onions, this smoked corn on the cob recipe makes for a wonderful side dish. By pulling the husk and soaking the corn, you get the kernels plump and ready to smoke. Hickory, maple, mesquite, or fruit wood give this corn a unique flavor.
Easy Double Smoked Turkey
Turkey breast is no longer bland or boring in this spicy, sweet, and savory dish. A BBQ rub and some vegetable oil give this turkey breast a flavorful start. Basted with butter, hot sauce, BBQ rub, and honey mixture, this three-hour smoked turkey breast comes out a tasty delight.
Smoked Baked Potatoes
Smoking adds an incredible new dimension to potatoes in this simple, yet tasty dish. A potato is covered in olive oil and rolled in a bowl of salt. Smoked for two hours in apple wood, and these potatoes are ready for loads of bacon bits, chives, butter, or sour cream.
These burgers are unique because they benefit from slow wood-pellet smoking for about an hour. They are first rubbed with a flavorful garlic, onion, salt, and pepper mixture. When done, these burgers are sauce-free but are still very tasty. Best of all, they stay moist throughout the smoking process.
Smoked Hatch Chilies
The smoking process is not only good for meats, but for fruits and vegetables too. A clear example is this recipe for smoked hatch chilies. Smoked on low heat for about an hour, the chilies dry and faintly caramelize. They are great for sandwiches, salads, and different types of sauces.
Smoked Lobster Tails
A smoker is not just for land-based meats and vegetables. It can also make a classy seafood dish. Garlic and butter are added to these delicious smoked lobster tails, which are smoked for about 45 minutes. When done, the lobster is nicely tender, ready to serve and flavored with a delicious garlic-butter dressing.
Using a Charcoal Smoker
Charcoal Smoker is an easy-to-use cooking device once you get used to its working mechanism. But there are few factors that make charcoal smokers better or worse than any other kind of smokers. While cooking in a charcoal smoker following factors make all the difference in the taste of food:
- Maintaining required temperature
- Maintaining hot air current with less of black and more of blue smoke
- Calculating time durations of burning of wood chunks and coal so that you may know after how much time you will have to add more
- Making sure that you are not putting more and more meat in a limited smoke grill spot
Most importantly, while choosing charcoal smoker, look for a smoker that has easy access to the food smoking chamber, and easy access to the coals, so you can add more if needed. There are lots of charcoal smokers for sale so take your time making the decision.
Durability of Charcoal Smoker
If like barbecues or cooking a lot of meat, chicken, pork or fish, a good quality smoker is a necessity. Charcoal Smokers are actually very convenient and durable way of cooking your own meat at home or for an outdoor experience on your Patio, deck, backyard or lawn. If you are able to pay a decent price, you can get your hands on a charcoal smoker which will cook your delicious meat for years if you take good care of it. Most of Charcoal smokers are reliable in the way that you can easily move them around your yard.
Moreover, portable options can easily be installed in back of your truck or RV to bring your charcoal smokers for road trips.
Quantity of Smoker
Charcoal smokers obviously generate more smoke than electric or gas smokers, because they operate solely on charcoal and wood chunks. However, you need to control black smoke and use only light blue smoke with heat to cook your meat. You can easily control smoke quantity required in charcoal smokers.
Cooking Options in Charcoal Smokers
You will unleash a wide range of smoking with a charcoal smoker.
Cold smoking is usually done at about 100 degrees. you can use a tiny heat/smoke source close to the target food for this purpose in Charcoal Smokers.
Often, with fish and poultry, a sear may not be necessary, but for meat and pork dishes, searing is a necessity, as it adds a crispy outer crunch to your meat. High end Charcoal Smokers can do searing very well, but if you plan to do searing on a low end charcoal smoker, you will not succeed and there are frequent chances that you will burn your meat or harm the body of your charcoal smoker. As standard charcoal smokers operate under 300 degrees and Searing usually require more temperature than that.
Charcoal Smokers can easily do hot smoking, as it requires a source of heat and smoke for hot smoking in a controlled environment.
Liquid smoking can easily be done in charcoal smokers as well. As it requires, liquid smoke for flavoring rather than wood smoke.
Smoke roasting can be done in Charcoal smokers as well. As it requires 250 Degrees Fahrenheit temperature for roasting.
Operating Life of a Charcoal Smoker
Most brands offer 3-5 years of warranty on their charcoal smokers. But a charcoal smoker can easily last longer than that, if you use it in a professional way and clean it properly after barbecues. Plus clearing rust or maintaining paint on smokers can prolong their lifespan as well from 7Y-20Y.
Operating Cost of Charcoal Smoker
Operating cost of charcoal smoker is less as compared to the propane or gas smokers, Suppose, if your charcoal smoker is consuming 1lb charcoal per hour and charcoal is costing you $.25perlb-$30perlb, you are spending $2.5-$3.0 for a 10-hour cooking session in terms of charcoal cost. As for the wood smoke, you can get hard wood for cheap price and use it for more than one cooking session.
Cleaning System of Charcoal Smoker
To make things easy on yourself for next cooking session, do all of this stuff at the end of the barbecue season:
- Remove the ashes from charcoal chamber
- Wash out the bowl and lid
- Clean the cooking chamber and the charcoal chamber
- Clear the oily grease from cooking chamber
- Oil the cooking grate
- And then cover the grill with a weatherproof cover.
When you pull the cover off on next session, you’ll definitely be glad what you did.
Charcoal Smoker Food Expertise
Charcoal smokers are expert in cooking foods made out of following:
Can Charcoal Smoker work Overnight?
The key to making make Charcoal smoker work overnight and longer periods of time is to:
- Provide sufficient air flow so that air can get into the firebox
- Provide a sufficient opening at the stack end the exhaust side of the offset smoker so you can create that draft
- Use really dry clean burning hardwood fuel in the firebox and maintain that fire throughout the whole process
If you use charcoal by itself, you’re not going to get to the temperatures you need, to cook low and slow barbecue and it’s always going to be below 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Unless you add a ton of charcoal and you keep on loading that firebox with charcoal like you’re a train conductor or something.
Performance when it is Cold
Cold weather as rain, cold, snow and wind may not delay anything else but it can surely delay the meal. If you are using charcoal smoker outdoor without a canopy or tent, more fuel will definitely be required to maintain desired temperatures.
As outside cold can cool the body of the smoker. To avoid it, you should use a canopy or tent to cover the sides and top of the smoker, if it is not enough you can use silicon insulation jacket, welding blanket or double foil insulation or foil insulation mat.