The majority of meat lovers prefer smokers. When your meat is overexposed to heat at a low temperature, you’re preparing for the juiciest bite imaginable. Once you start smoking meats, it’s likely that you’ll never go back to using your grill, oven, or pan. It’s just not possible to get the unique smoked flavor and meat texture any other way.
That being said, you’re not going to produce heavenly bites with the wrong gear. If you want your meat to be pro-level, you’ll need to spend a lot of time with the perfect smoker. The market is going to be confusing if you’re new to the game…so how do you know which smokers are the best? Not to make it more confusing but I suggest considering Propane vs Charcoal smokers as well.
Table of Contents (click to open)
- 1 Electric Smoker vs Pellet Smoker: What's the Difference?
- 2 Operating Cost
- 3 Electric Smoker vs Pellet Smoker: What's the Same?
- 4 Electric Smoker vs Pellet Smoker: Pros and Cons
- 5 So, Which Should You Buy?
Start by choosing the type of smoker that’s going to be best for your taste.
While there are several types of smokers, the two most popular are electric and pellet. Many even debate over which method is the better buy. Another popular debate is Propane vs Charcoal smokers.
If you’re new to the world of smoking meat, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about these two common types of smokers. We’ll share some pros and cons of each, and you’ll have a better idea of which smoker will produce the flavors you want.
Electric Smoker vs Pellet Smoker: What's the Difference?
Both smokers perform the same task: they contain your meat for long periods, charring the exterior while the inside stays juicy and tender. However, they operate differently and provide slightly different flavor profiles.
Let’s break down a few factors that differentiate these two types of smokers.
Electric smokers are plugged into a nearby outlet and powered by electricity. All you have to do is push a button and you can start smoking your meats. Place wood over the internal heating rod, and the smoker will slowly cook the meat until you reach your ideal temperature.
You’ll need to plug your pellet smokers into a nearby outlet to power it on, but these devices do not cook meat primarily through electricity. Instead, they function similarly to a traditional grill and operate via pellet fuel. A heating rod moves pellets from the hopper to the fire pot when it’s time to smoke. The convection heating system takes care of smoking the meat just the way you like it.
The device interface will most likely be digital, but this depends on the model that you choose. It’s also possible that your controls are analog. Either way, your display will be simple to learn and easy to use. You can quickly set your temperature, insert your meats, and wait until the timer is done. Electric is that simple.
However, electric can become more advanced to used if your model comes with a rheostat or thermostat. A rheostat controls how much electricity is being used to power the machine, like a hotplate, while a thermostat will allow you to adjust the temperature. With electric, you can set your device at a precise level of heat.
With pellet smokers, you have temperature control with a simple dial that you can adjust as your meats cook. However, you’re likely not to have a rheostat or thermostat for precise temperature control. A pellet smoker can be set at a temperature you’re comfortable with. However, there is no timer on these machines. You will need to stand by and closely monitor to make sure everything is cooked to perfection.
Electric smokers provide the flavor of an authentic charcoal-powered unit. Heated directly from the wood, you’ll taste a huge difference from your traditional grill at a faster rate. However, the flavor comes mostly from the heat, rather than completely from wood. An electric grill is not as rich as the taste offered by pellet smokers.
Pellet smokers are admired for their rich and smokey flavors. You’ll get the smokiness you long for with each session, all powered by wood pellets that are capable of completely altering the taste of the meat.
You also have the option of buying flavored pellets, which allows you to enrich your meat with a specific flavor. With wood pellets, you get to experiment with tastes and make each dinner surprising. Overall, pellet smokers produce way more smoke and flavor, due to close contact with the wood-burning pellets. You will be able to serve meats that you no other device can cook.
One of the biggest factors that makes these two devices different is cost. Both the initial cost of your purchase, as well as the cost to operate your machine, will be different depending on whether you go with pellet or electric.
To run an electric smoker, all you need to do is plug your unit into an outlet and prepare about 6-8 ounces of wood. This will add a little bit to your electricity bill, not any more than any other appliance. Because you won’t need that much wood to operate, it’s easy to buy in bulk and store it next to your unit. You won’t feel as if you’re constantly running to the store to pick up some more wood to burn.
Electric smokers are also more affordable to buy from a retailer. You can take home an entry-level model for just under $100. The interior design of these machines is much less complicated than pellet-powered models, so the price is much lower.
Pellet is still going to use electricity, but a lot more wood than electric. If you’re not willing to stock up on pellets, then you’re not going to be able to cook in high quantities.
To smoke, you’ll need about 1-2 lbs per hour. Because this type of cooking is dependent on slow and low cooks, you’re going to end up burning through more pellets than you might expect at first. If you’re grilling meat for 8 hours, expect to add on a total of $8 to your budget. This adds up if you’re planning on frequent use.
Pellet is also much more expensive to purchase. Expect to pay at least $500 for an entry-level model. Some are even sold at over a grand.
Keep in mind that with a pellet smoker, you’re paying for a system that completely immerses your meats in smoke directly from the wood source. Your meats are going to be smokier, and that comes at a higher price tag.
Electric Smoker vs Pellet Smoker: What's the Same?
Based on these setup, controls, and flavor, it’s easy to see how your purchase of electric or pellet could completely change the way you grill your meats.
But, are there any similarities between the two?
Both smokers are designed to provide tasty meats due to low and slow cooking, which is the process of cooking meats at a low temperature for a long duration. You can guarantee that when you purchase a smoker, it’s manufactured to contain heat for as long as possible.
There isn’t going to be a difference in how long your electric or pellet model lasts. Both of these smokers are made to last, so don’t worry about that one or the other having a longer lifespan.
Because neither types of smokers use gas or charcoal, they are much healthier to cook with and enjoy using. The meat is cooked indirectly, which means your dinner will not absorb harmful chemicals. Electric vs pellet doesn’t matter when it comes to health: you’ll avoid long-term skin and lung issues by avoiding gas and charcoal cookers.
Electric Smoker vs Pellet Smoker: Pros and Cons
So now that you know what makes these two devices similar and different, let’s get into what we love and dislike about each choice. Each of these factors could make or break your decision, so you’re going to want to pay attention to the good and the bad when it comes to both electric and pellet smokers.
Electric: The Good
If you’re on a budget but still want an upgrade from your current grill, then electric should be your go-to. You can’t get this level of quality and convenience at a more affordable price. Both the costs to purchase and operating are ideal.
With digital interfaces and plenty of features like thermostat control, it’s never been easier to customize your heat settings. With electric, you can serve meat that’s precisely grilled to your standards. With timers built into these machines, you can walk away from your meat and return when it’s ready to plate. Enjoy quickly-cooked, easy-to-prepare meals as many times of the week as you like.
Range of Use
With an electric smoker, you can bring the BBQ on-the-go. These machines are compact, light, and durable. They’re made to travel and provide delicious meats to a large quantity. You can also smoke cheeses, nuts, and other items that are not ideal for pellet smoking. a pellet smoker would cook these items too quickly. The electric models also prevent heavy smoke. You’ll be able to use the machine in many locations without annoying nearby neighbors.
Electric: The Bad
The biggest drawback of going for electric is that you won’t enjoy the same smokey flavor that pellet smokers provide. Electric smokers are powered by water vapor and heat, which heats your meat beautifully in a confined space, but it’s not the same as meat that’s soaking in wood smoke.
Electric Smokers: The Verdict
Overall, an electric smoker is convenient and affordable. It can be used in many environments to cook a range of delicious foods. You will never be able to produce the highest level of smokiness possible, but it’s an upgrade from a charcoal grill.
Pellet: The Good
Nothing beats the tenderness of a pellet-fired filet. Through combustion, burning pellets infuse your meat with a deep flavor that will make your mouth water with every use. You’re ready to cook the most delicious steaks possible and this is the best option.
Pellet: The Bad
A pellet smoker can cost x4 the cost of an electric smoker, and for some, the additional fee for this type of unit is not worth it. Not every entry-level pellet comes with a sear box, which is an additional unit ideal for burgers, tri-tips, vegetables, etc. A pellet smoker will always be an investment, whereas an electric model has the potential to be a small purchase.
Lack of Features
Pellets will not offer you the complicated features that an electric smoker does. You might not be able to get specific about the temperature you want with a simple dial, but you can always check on your meat to make sure it’s to your liking.
Limited Range of Use
With a pellet, you’ll be pretty much confined to your backyard…assuming that you have one. If not, you won’t even be able to use it. Pellet smokers are not allowed in many apartment buildings or tight living quarters. You might desire the most flavor possible, but you need to be able to cook in a private and spacious environment. It would also be cumbersome to bring with you on the road.
Pellet Smokers: The Verdict
A pellet smoker is for those looking for that deep flavor they can’t get anywhere else. It is not quite as affordable or convenient as an electric option. However, the flavor is unbeatable and makes those factors matter less.
So, Which Should You Buy?
No matter where your friends, family, and other experts stand in the electric vs pellet debate, it’s clear that there are both advantages and disadvantages of using these smokers.
- If you’re looking for an affordable way to upgrade your grilling game without becoming an expert, then electric is better suited for you. If you’re past the beginner phase of grilling and you’re serious about producing the best flavor possible, you have to go with pellet.
- Those searching for the machine that will give them the best flavors choose pellet. Although it’s sold at a higher price tag with more maintenance involved, the flavors you create will be worth it. No better device is suited for impressing dinner guests.
With either of these smokers, you’re bound to increase the flavor you produce with your chicken, steaks, pork, fish, etc. Ultimately, your decision should come down to which smoker is best for your home, budget, and lifestyle preferences.