Electric Smoker vs. Wood Smoker: My Personal Experience

Today, I’m excited to share some experiences and insights on two popular methods of smoking food: electric smokers and wood smokers.  I’ve always been passionate about grilling and BBQ, so it’s needless to say, I always look for perfection.

Of course, I’ve encountered my fair share of successes and learning moments with both types of smokers. Trial and error is often the way, but it doesn’t have to be (if you read my blog, that is), so pay attention cause I’m about to drop some wisdom regarding electric and wood smokers. Let’s begin.

Electric Smokers Are The Modern Convenience

electric smoker for people who doesn't love smoke flavor

What I found that stands out about these smokers is their digital control interface.

It lets you be precise about your temperature adjustments, so if you’re as thorough as me and demand consistency throughout the smoking process, this is a great feature to have.

Pros of Electric Smokers

  • Ease of Use: With digital settings, I find that maintaining the desired temperature is as simple as pressing a button. It’s an ideal solution for beginners or those who prefer a set-it-and-forget-it approach to cooking.
  • Capacity: Electric smokers often come with multiple cooking racks, which gives plenty of space to smoke a variety of foods at once. I love this particular feature when I have guests who are picky eaters. I can simply prepare multiple types of food at the same time.
  • Safety and Health: By not requiring wood for the smoking process, electric smokers minimize the risk of fatty acid drips on the heat source, potentially offering a healthier cooking method. I must say this is not something I care for a lot, but the people who are very careful about the food they eat will appreciate it.

The Flip Side

While the convenience and control of electric smokers are impressive, I find they fall short of delivering the rich, smoky flavor that I want from my BBQ. Also, depending on the model, these smokers might not support the use of wood chips for flavor enhancement, which can be a deal-breaker for some.

Price-wise, expect to invest $200 or more, which is a significant consideration for those on a budget.

Wood Smokers Are The Traditional Route

wood smoker - for smoked meat fans

My grandad always said, “If you’re gonna smoke the meats, do it with wood,” and as the experience taught me, he was absolutely on point with this one. Wood smokers cook food by burning wood and/or charcoal, a process that infuses food with classic smoky flavors, which is the reason why I do this in the first place.

The absence of digital controls means that temperature adjustments are manual, meaning that you will have to pay more attention and have extra expertise.

Pros of Wood Smokers

  • Flavor: The most compelling reason I choose a wood smoker over an electric one is the unparalleled flavor it delivers. The combustion of wood releases flavorful compounds that electric smokers simply can’t match.
  • Affordability: These are generally more affordable than their electric counterparts, with many models costing less than $100.
  • Portability: Wood smokers are great when I’m going out on weekend trips with my family, as they don’t require a power outlet. If you’re in your backyard or camping, you can use these units anywhere.

How I Use the Best From Both Worlds

smoke meat with wood smoker

Starting Out

There was a moment in past when I didn’t have so much time to mind the smoker and juggle paying attention to my kids and friends at my BBQ parties at the same time. The kids were young, and the guests were hungry, so I had to make it work somehow.

Enter the electric smoker, attracted by its promise of ease and precision. The first few attempts were revelations — perfectly cooked meats with minimal fuss. However, as I refined my skills over the years and the kids grew up, I started craving that authentic smoky flavor that only wood could provide, and my grandfather kept nagging me about.

Transitioning to Wood

Switching to a wood smoker felt like stepping into the big leagues. The learning curve was a bit steep, but each time I smoked the meat was a lesson in patience and technique. The flavors I achieved were worth every effort, and eventually, my smoking with wood brought a depth that the electric smoker simply couldn’t match.

Finding Balance

I’ve found value in both types of smokers, depending on the occasion and my mood. For large gatherings or when I’m multitasking, the electric smoker is my go-to for its convenience and capacity.

But when I crave that authentic BBQ taste and enjoy the process of tending to the fire, the wood smoker is my choice.

Tips for Aspiring Smokers

smoked beef with excellent texture

  • Start Simple: Regardless of your smoker choice, begin with straightforward recipes to build confidence.
  • Experiment: Try different woods in a wood smoker or wood chips in an electric smoker (if supported) to explore various flavor profiles. You will be amazed at what different types of wood can bring to the table, especially when you decide to mix things up a bit.
  • Patience is Key: Especially with wood smokers, learning to control the temperature takes time and practice. Don’t rush anything. Take your sweet time, and don’t step away from the smoker until you are certain you got the results you wanted.

Wrapping Up

After many seasons of smoking and countless racks of ribs, I’ve come to a simple conclusion: there’s just something about a wood smoker that an electric one can’t touch. Sure, electric smokers are convenient and precise, but they lack the soul of wood smokers.

The rich, complex flavors that infuse the meat from smoldering logs are unparalleled.  It’s an authentic experience—a dance with the elements that electric smokers just can’t replicate. So, for those who value that distinctive, smoky taste that only tradition can provide, wood smokers are the clear winner in my book.