What is the impact of power input to the quality of food when it comes to grilling and smoking? Some says propane smokers are the best while other go for electric smokers. Electric Smokers uses a heating rod while a propane smoker uses a burner to cook the food. Here in this article I will make a comparison i.e “Electric Smoker vs Propane Smoker” for which one of them is best under certain conditions.
So, let’s directly move to the article.

Electric Smoker vs Propane Smoker-Comparison Chart

SectionElectric SmokerPropane SmokerWinner
Working MechanismMost 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.Just like electric smokers, propane smokers have vertically aligned parts, gas burner at the bottom, above it water pan and wood chip tray and above them is cooking area. Let’s take a look at how these components of electric smoker help cooking food.__
Top BrandsMasterbuilt, Charlbroil, Green Mountain, Royal Gourmet, Bradley, Z-GrillsMasterBuilt, Dyna Glo, Cuisinart, Smoke Hollow, Char Broil, Smoker Vault__
Price Range$120-$500100$-500$Propane Smokers
Avg Temp Range200F-300F150F-250FElectric Smokers
Best FoodsBacon Explosion, Sweet and Sticky Chinese BBQ Pork, Smoked ChickenSalmon, Smoked Rib Roast, Maple Smoked Duck Breast, Brisket__
UsabilityEasy to UseA little Tricky to useElectric Smokers
Durability5Y-10Y if Heating Element Lasts5Y-10YPropane Smokers
Smoker StrengthLesser in Comparison to Propane Better than ElectricPropane Smokers
Smoking OptionsHot Smoking, Cold Smoking, Reverse Searing, BoilingSmoking, Cold Smoking, Searing, Salt CuringPropane Smokers
Operating Cost192KWH if used 8hours a day provided smoker works at 800watts per hour.
Least Expensive than Pellet Smoker
3.2$ per 8 hours use, when propane is 1$ per lbs.Electric Smokers
Cleaning SystemEasy to CleanTakes more time as compared to Electric
Power SourceElectric, Heating ElementGas/Propane
Smoking CycleCan go overnight with some DIY alterationsCan go overnight with a larger Propane Tank
Performance in ColdPerforms better in Comparison to Propane SmokerRequired more modifications to make it functional in Cold

Check Out: Top Electric Smokers

Electric Smokers

Read all About Electric Smokers

Propane Smokers

A propane/gas smoker is an outdoor cooking device that uses heat generated by propane/gas burner and smoke generated by wood chips. Most propane smokers are vertical in shape. Propane smokers are made of cast iron or stainless steel and vary in size, shape, number of shelves, analogue or digital control options.

Read: The Best Propane Smokers for the Money

A few come with built in propane tank and most come with an option to connect an external propane tank. The heating capacity of a propane smoker is measured in BTUs (British thermal Units). So when you are purchasing a gas smoker, you will see that the greater the BTUs a gas smoker offers the greater will be its price.

Working Mechanism of Propane Smokers

Just like electric smokers, propane smokers have vertically aligned parts, gas burner at the bottom, above it water pan and wood chip tray and above them is cooking area. Let’s take a look at how these components of electric smoker help cooking food.

Read: How to Use a Propane Smoker

Gas Burner

In propane smokers, gas burner is placed at the bottom surface and controlled by knobs outside. Gas burner generate heat with live flame.

Wood Chips Tray

Most of the propane smokers come with a built-in wood chips tray that surrounds or sits above the gas burner. Flames from gas burner slowly burn these wood chips and produce smoke along with heat that cooks food. Oak, hickory, maple, Mesquite, pecan, apple, alder, cherry are the most popular woods chips that are used for smoking different types of food.

Water Pan

Above wood chips tray, there is usually a slot for water pan, in which a water pan is placed. Cold water is boiled by heat generated by gas burner flames and water vapors along with hot air and smoke provide the required moist to the food.

Grill Racks/Shelves

In the cooking area above, there are multiple stainless steel or iron racks are placed above each other. You can put the meat directly on these grill racks or you can place the meat on stainless steel trays and place those trays on top of these grills.

Air Vents/Dampers

There is one or multiple wide air vents or dampers at the bottom which provide intake of air/oxygen which help not only burning process but also create a hot air current to move above in the cooking area.

At the same time, there is one or multiple vents or dampers that allow the hot air and smoke to escape from the cooking area. Air flow is controlled from both bottom and top dampers at the same time.

Top Propane Smoker Brands

  • MasterBuilt
  • Dyna Glo
  • Cuisinart
  • Smoke Hollow
  • Char Broil
  • Smoker Vault

Price Range of Propane Smokers

There are two factors that affect the price of a propane smoker.

  1. BTUs
  2. Cooking Area measurement

Normal propane smokers can be bought anywhere from $100 to $500 depending upon your requirements like digital controls, capacity, portability etc. However Commercial propane Smokers start usually above $2000 mark.

Temperature Range of Propane Smokers

Propane smokers can easily provide 150-250 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. However, you can easily maintain a specific temperature range depending on what food you are cooking. Maintaining temperature in propane smokers is very easy as compared to charcoal smokers as the heat source is constantly attached to the smoker and all you have to do is, to set required temperatures from controls.

Best Food to cook in Propane Smokers

Let start talking about my favorite topic which the tasty and delicious dishes we can prepare using a propane smoker.

Smoked Steelhead Trout (Salmon)

Imagine a Freshwater salmon smoked marinated with olive oil, sugar based curing mixture, garlic and rosemary! It will take 12-14hrs roughly from start to finish. But the taste will leave your mouth watered even after finishing this delicious food.

Smoked Standing Rib Roast

Marinated in steak style this piece of tender and juicy meat will be beyond your imagination.

Electric Smoker vs Propane Smoker

Maple Smoked Duck Breasts

You cannot resist a nicely smoked maple flavored ducks’ breast, right?

Chicken Wings

Chicken wings are not something people like to cook on a smoker, but hey! Why should we not try it? Smoked with Pecan or hickory wood chips makes the chicken wings so delicious and tasty; it will look even more flavorful.

Brisket

A smoked brisket when cooked with beer in an oven sound delicious to me, just do an experiment and see it yourself!

Applewood Smoked Turkey

Applewood smoked whole turkey with a gravy of cider bourbon will be the best treat on thanksgiving or Christmas.

Smoked Pork Butt

Let’s be honest, one thing is for sure that we all love pork’s shoulder and the butt. Brining it for a while, seasoning with Lowery rub and then smoking for a little while will make it as delicious as it could be.

Smoked whole Chicken

The full chicken is where I got his start in smoking. Smoked whole chicken is something I cannot resist no matter what.

Smoked Vegetables

Yeah, you heard me, Smoked vegetables are one of those side dishes while having a barbecue party.

Smoked Sausages

Sausages are always found in plenty around every household. Because we all love to eat sausages at any time. So why don’t we try smoked sausages.

How to use a Propane Smoker

Propane smokers are some of the easiest smokers to deal with because you can easily control temperature as compared to the other types of smokers. Propane smokers produce heat with gas burner flames which produce heat.

You get smoky flavor by placing wood chips directly above or around the gas burner. There is only one problem that is changing propane tanks. Overall propane smokers are much easier and hassle free way of smoking.

How durable Propane Smokers are?

If you have bought a new propane meat smoker, then it is probably going to last for 5-10 years easily. You never have to worry about electricity power lose and spoiling your food. And propane smokers are also very portable.

Propane smokers also provide you better smoky flavor than the electric smoker. Most of the propane smokers have push button ignition, knob controllers and built in temperature gauges. Propane smokers reach high temperature really fast as compared to electric smokers.

Quantity of Smoke

Quantity of smoke produced in propane meat smokers is more than the quantity as in electric smokers. Quality of smoke produced in propane smokers is the more beneficial for smoking. The more wood chips you add the more smoke you will get. But it is advised to add wood chips in a reasonable amount only to provide your food a smoky flavor.

Available Cooking Options

  • You can theoretically do cold smoking in propane smokers, but it is not an actual cold smoking. As cold smoking required temperatures below 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Searing can be done easily in propane smokers, as it requires you to cook food’s outer parts on high temperature, while on inside it should be cooked on low temperatures for long time.
  • Smoking after Salt curing can be done easily in propane smokers.

Propane Smoker Operating Life on Average

If you have purchased a new propane smoker, its life span can be anywhere from 5-10 years depending on your use/cleaning/placing it in a place away from water. However, most of the propane smokers come with a 1-3 years warranty (Some even more) from their manufacturer.

Operating Cost of Propane Smoker

Operating cost of propane smokers is always bit more than that of electric smokers as propane is expensive than electricity. A gallon of propane weighs about 4.2 pounds and one gallon of propane has 91333 BTUs.

It means that a 20 gallon propane tank will have 434919 BTUs. Suppose If you have a propane smoker that is rated at 8250 BTUs per hour. It means you will empty your propane tank in about 26 hours if burners are at full blast and as a standard if we are using burners at half capacity then it means one propane tank will last for 52 hours. Cost of running a propane smoker is about $0.40 per hour.

If a 20 pounds propane tank helps you 5 cooks of 10hrs each and propane costs you $20 for 20 pounds propane tank filled then it means for every 10 hours cooking on a propane tank will cost you $4.

Cost of propane smoker per hour= cost of propane/ hours of consumption

                                                           = $4/10hrs

                                                           = $0.40 per Hour

How to Clean a Propane Smoker

Full Guide to Clean a Propane Smoker

Cleaning of an propane smoker is very easy, just follow these steps:

Cover your Work Area

Cover your work area with tarpaulin, plastic sheet or even newspapers where you want to clean your electric smoker.

Remove Propane Tank

Before doing anything, the first and the most important step is to remove the propane tank from your gas smoker, it will prevent any disaster.

Remove the Ash

Remove the ash from your wood chips tray and clean it.

Remove grates or grills/shelves, water pan

Remove grills/shelves and water pan from the inside and rinse them with hot water, do not forget to oil them afterwards.

Clean the sides, top and bottom of the Inside

Clean all the sides, top and bottom surface of smoker by rubbing scotch bright or soap filled piece of cloth.

Clean the Glass door

Clean the glass door from inside with piece of cloth soaked in soapy water.

Cleaning any Mold

Fill your water pan with water, place it in the electric smoker and turn on your smoker on its highest temperature. Leaving it for a while like that burn all the mold away. Wipe that area afterwards.

Clean the outside

Clean the outside the of smoker.

Reassemble

The parts after the cleaning process.

Cleaning

Cleaning a propane smoker is much easier than charcoal or offset smokers.

Propane Smokers Power Source

In propane smoker as the name says, propane/gas burners are the source of producing heat. Which gives propane smokers advantage on any other type of smokers even electric smokers because you can run out of charcoal, but you cannot run out of propane.

Moreover, as compared to electric smoker, it is much easier to raise propane smoker’s temperature very fast, as heat source is propane burner flame.

Can Propane Smoker work Overnight?

Propane smokers work overnight more easily than any other charcoal smoker. The reason is, most of the food types absorb most of their smoke in earlier hours of smoking, during those first few hours you need to change wood chips.

After that you can leave the smoker do its job of cooking food for long time. There are some smokers with bigger wood chips trays, even DIY wood chips trays can be used to burn wood chips for longer period of time, so technically you can start cooking process and leave them for the whole time.

The only limitation is the size of propane tank. If you have a small propane tank then you will have to change it after it runs out of gas.

How good Propane Smokers in Cold?

Reaching and maintaining a desired temperature during winter is the most challenging part. However, those challenges can be controlled or even bypassed in some conditions. Some might think that propane will not work in cold weather which is not true unless you live in Siberia, as propane’s boiling point is -44 degrees Fahrenheit and propane tank contains liquid propane.

Full Guide to Use Propane Smokers in Winters/Cold

Main problem in cold weather is, the outside of the smoker gets cold and stops the inside of the smoker from reaching or maintaining higher temperatures. If we take care of the outside of the smoker, we can avoid this hassle and frustration. Here are a few tips that will help you in smoking your meat in cold weather:

  • Keep the smoker closed
  • Try some shelter over your smoker
  • Use welding blanket to cover the outside
  • Use insulation jackets to cover the outside
  • Keep it simple (avoid difficult recipes in cold weather)

Get Max Flavor out of a Propane Smoker

If you are new to propane smokers, you might think that meat smoked in gas smoker will probably taste much different than traditional charcoal smokers, which is true to some extent but not completely true. If you apply some tricks you can get the flavor you want. Here are some tips for you:

  • Preseason your Propane smoker’s interior surfaces and racks with cooking oil or any other non-sticky spray, run it above 250 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours.
  • Use only hard woodchips mostly fruit trees wood, not water-soaked wood chips, there is a variety of manufactured bagged wood chips available in the market, us use them only for perfect smoking
  • Master the right temperature settings
  • Brining pork or poultry before smoking

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