Best Electric Smoker for 2017

What Is Smoking?

Bacon wrapped onion rings, potatoes and chicken breasts!

I'm not talking about cigarettes!  If you have never smoked meat before, and consider anything you cook on your propane grill to be BBQ this article will be a wake up call for you.  Grilled food and real BBQ are two entirely different types of food, and once you have tried real homemade smoked ribs, brisket or turkey you will understand the difference.  Smoking meat is the practice of cooking at a low temperature for a long time.  It allows the meat to become tender and absorb flavors from slowly burning wood and any seasonings applied before cooking.

Why Use an Electric Smoker?

The main reason to choose an electric smoker over a charcoal or gas smoker is the ease of use. With an electric smoker you can turn it on, choose a temperature and sit back and wait for your meat to cook up perfectly, as they say, "low and slow". While some bbq purists will say that the only real way to make great quality smoked meats is with a charcoal smoker, electric smokers can still perform very well and turn out delicious high quality meals that your family will love. Nearly all electric smokers on the market today include a wood chip box or bin, which allows you to add the wood of your choice to achieve that authentic smoky flavor all bbq pit masters are after.

Electric smokers work by using an electric heating element the same way your kitchen toaster does.  In addition to heating the interior space of the smoker they also heat a small wood chip box and any type of wood chips inside begin to smoke and add flavor to whats cooking.  Most smokers also have a water pan, which keeps the inside moist and prevents the meats being cooked from drying out.  The water pan also helps to regulate temperature.

Temperature Control

Keeping your smokers internal temperature consistently within a target range is the name of the game when smoking meat.  With an electric smoker it is much easier to achieve this than it is with charcoal or gas, but it can still be a challenge depending on what type of electric smoker you have.  There are two main types of temperature controls on most electric smokers sold today; rheostats and thermostats/temperature probes.


A rheostat is basically like the controls on a hot plate or an electric blanket.  They usually have 3 settings, but some better ones operate on a dial with unlimited adjustment.  Rheostats are typically found on lower end electric smokers and make controlling the temperature a more manual process.  The good thing is because they are electric, once you do get the temperature correct and stable it will stay that way.


Electric smokers with thermostats or internal temperature probes are the higher end models.  They have an internal temperature reader that turns the heat on and off to maintain temperature within a desired range.  Some very high end models have a meat probe, which is inserted into whatever you are cooking, then you set the cook temperature, and the finished meat temperature and the smoker will run itself until your dinner is ready!

Things to Consider When Buying an Electric Smoker

Before you run out to the store and buy a new smoker you need to take some time to consider which will be the best fit for you.  I base my reviews on five basic criteria:

  • Size
  • Price
  • Easy to Use
  • Quality
  • Features


What you are going to use your smoker for will give you an idea of the size you need.  If you are only going to be using it for small family meals a smaller unit will fit your needs.  If you cook for a large group or commercially you will need a larger unit.  Also try to think about the amount of space you have to keep your smoker, if you have a tiny patio getting the largest unit out there won't be a great idea.

Below are the specs for three smokers I have reviewed, one small, one medium, and one large.

Char-Broil Deluxe

  • 725 sq inches of cooking space
  • 4 cooking racks
  • Weighs 50lbs

Smoke Hollow 30162

  • 504 sq inches of cooking space
  • 3 cooking racks
  • Weighs 45lbs

Southern Country 2 in 1

  • 351 sq inches of cooking space
  • 2 cooking racks
  • Weighs 23lbs


When it comes to choosing a smoker, price can be important, but it shouldn't be your primary focus.  If you really want to be able to set-it-and-forget-it a basic, low cost model might not be a fit for you.  If you are just starting out in the world of bbq cooking and are willing to take the time to learn and monitor your cook then you won't need all the options and features of a higher end model.

Char-Broil Deluxe

  • Check the current price online

Smoke Hollow 30162

  • Check the current price online

Southern Country 2 in 1

  • Check the current price online

Easy to Use

Having a smoker that is easy to use can mean different things to different people.  In general all electric smokers are easier to use than charcoal or wood fired rigs, but between different electric smokers there can still be big differences.  The level of ease you need depends on how hands on and active you want to be while cooking.  If you would like to do prep work, load in the meat and then come back when its finished cooking you want to go towards the higher end models.

Char-Broil Deluxe

  • Has two methods of cooking, by time and by internal temperature of the meat using a thermometer and  included meat probe
  • Easy to read digital controls
  • Remote control unit

Smoke Hollow 30162

  • Good quality rheostat temp control
  • double wall construction holds temperature well

Southern Country 2 in 1

  • Lower quality rheostat control
  • Use vents to manage temperature in addition to temp dial


Quality in electric smokers is often directly related to price.  A well built smoker can last for years, and often be much cheaper in the long run than a low quality unit that will wear out quickly.  A better constructed smoker will also save you on your energy bill since it won't need to use as much energy to hold its temperature.

Char-Broil Deluxe

  • Double wall construction
  • Top quality parts
  • Heavy duty metal door latch

Smoke Hollow 30162

  • Double walled construction
  • Sturdy metal build

Southern Country 2 in 1

  • Single walled barrel
  • Lower quality metal construction


Having all the bells and whistles out there aren't necessary to making great tasting smoked meats, but they don't hurt either!  Electric smokers today are available anywhere from extremely basic, to being basically computers that can cook you fall-off-the-bone delicious ribs.  The more features you get the higher the price, and the more hands-off your cooking can be.

Char-Broil Deluxe

  • Remote control
  • Internal meat temp probe
  • Glass viewing door
  • Machine washable parts
  • Large side-removable drip tray
  • Extra large wood chip box

Smoke Hollow 30162

  • Double walled construction
  • Built in heat gauge on door
  • Built in stand for easy access
  • Two removable racks (one fixed)

Southern Country 2 in 1

  • Can be used as an electric grill as well as a smoker

What Kind of Smoker are You?

Be honest and ask yourself which of the above criteria matter the most to you.  Are you price conscious and looking to really learn about smoking because it interests you?  If so the Southern Country model might be the best fit.

If you already have some experience smoking meats, possibly on a charcoal rig and want to make things a little easier then you might like the Smoke Hollow model.

When you have a budget to spend and want hands-off convenience that produces delicious meals for any sized group then the Char-Broil Deluxe might be the electric smoker for you.

There are many other smokers out there.  This guide is just a jumping off point to get you thinking about how to choose the best cooker for you and which features will match your lifestyle.  Happy smoking in 2017!

Here's a short video showing an electric smoker in action.

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