How To Get The Most Out Of Your Electric Smoker

If you’ve just purchased your new electric smoker, or are trying to decide if buying one is right for you. You’ve no doubt realized you can spend a whole weekend chasing one rabbit hole after another for advice. If you need some quick help, check out our guide to how to use an electric smoker.

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Tip #1 - Replace the Wood Chip Tray

Most wood chip trays that come in the box are frankly too small, this becomes super inconvenient when your constantly having to refill the small trays. Not only that but each time you fiddle with it, you let out some of the smoke which affects how much smoky flavour is imparted to your food – often making it bland.

If you’re serious about your smoke, you should consider grabbing the A-MAZE-N pellet tube which produces smoke for up to 4 hours. They also make a box called the A-MAZE-N AMNPS which gives off smoke for up to 11 hours!

For a small $30 or less investment, both of these products are super easy to use and will make your life and food so much better.

The box in particular is an amazing value, simply fill the tray with pellets and start them off with a quick burn for 45 seconds or so. Once they catch fire, blow on them to put the flames and put the tray back inside your smoker. Open your vent and you’re done!

A single tray full of pellets in your A-MAZE-N AMNPS should be more than enough to smoke any cut of meat. But feel free to experiment, sometimes when I need more smoke I repeat the burn process on both ends of the tray.

This usually means I only get around 5 hours of smoke (obviously, as we are burning twice as much) but this is only for rare situations where I need very dense smoke to get the desired flavour.

Tip #2 - Always Smoke Chicken At A Higher Temperature

I love smoking chicken, especially for large family gatherings where I need to feed a lot of people but don’t want to break the bank. But here’s the thing, it’s not really a meat you can cook “slow and low”.

I always get nervous when I go to someone’s bbq and see them smoking chicken at a low temperature. It’s not really meat you can cook slow and low. Undercooked chicken can be very dangerous and the last thing you want is angry phone calls from your guests the next day.

When you smoke chicken you should always be aiming to be as close to 275°F (135°C) as possible for between 90 to 120 minutes. Use a good meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature has reached 165°F (73°C).

Simply judging the meat as safe to eat based on time in the smoker alone is not reliable.

Tip #3 - Beware Oversmoking Your Food

Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing and when it comes to smoke more does not always equal better flavour. Most beginners don’t realize how little smoke you actually need to make a delicious meal.

In fact, most poultry when over-smoked becomes inedible. So you will really want to experiment a bit until you get a feel for how many wood chips or pellets are needed to get a good flavour.

In most cases, though a single small tray is more than enough for cooking chicken.

Tip #4 - Clean Grill Racks Mean Better Food

My least favourite part of cooking is the cleanup, but here’s the thing, all that leftover oil and grease, if not cleaned off your grates, will go bad! This mess will stick to your food and even burn off producing bad smoke that will make your meat taste bad.

The solution? Cover your grill racks, heat deflector and drip pan with foil. This will always ensure clean up is a breeze and your food tastes the best it can.

Tip #5 - Master The Art of Controlling Temperature Swings

You may already know this but the temperature inside an electric smoker is prone to temperature swings of 20°F (6°C) above or below what you have set it at.

Why does this happen? Well, it all boils down to how an electric smoker works. Rather than using a fuel source to generate heat, it uses a heating element. So let’s say you’ve set the thermostat to 200°F.

The temperature rises unit it hits 200°F, and then the heating element shuts off but continues to give off heat causing the interior temperature to rise higher than the setting. The same works in reverse, when the temperature drops below 200°F the heating element turns back on, however it takes time to heat back up which usually allows the interior temperature to fall below the setting.

This creates the “swinging” temperature that electric smokers are renowned for. The amount of swing depends on a number of factors like wind and how hot or cold it is outside.

Managing these swings isn’t difficult, because they generally happen early in your smoke. The solution is to set the temperature 10-15°F below the temperature you want to actually achieve.

So let’s say you want your temperature to be 220°F, start off by adjusting the temperature setting to say 205°F or 210°F and watch as the interior temperature rises, then once it hits your set temperature adjust the controller to 220°F (or whatever your actual desired temperature is). What this does is reduce the temperature swing, the heating element is already hot when you do this so the smoker doesn’t have to compensate for the difference between the setting and the actual temperature.

You may need to do some experimentation to figure out what the sweet spot is for your smoker and the climate you live in, but once you have that dialled in you should be able to start every smoke at the right temperature from the get-go.

Provided you bought a well-insulated smoker, this should solve the problem entirely.

Tip #6 - When Cold Smoking, Use an Attachment

Odds are your smoker has an available cold smoker attachment. If it doesn’t or you need to make do without one in a pinch the A-Maze-N pellet trays I recommended in tip #1 can achieve a similar effect.

Both models will generate smoke at low temperatures (100°F to 120°F), which is perfect for most cold smoking projects, especially cheese.

If you do buy one of these products, you generally can get away with using them without seasoning them first. But be sure to read the manufacturers recommendations before use.

Just follow these easy tips:

  • Do not soak the wood chips you plan on using.
  • Don’t add food to your smoker until you see thin blue smoke.

Tip #7 - Keep your vent positioned fully open

If you’ve experienced the frustration of managing the vent on a charcoal smoker then I have good news, electric smokers are super easy in comparison.

Except in special circumstances I generally just adjust my vent so it is fully open.

What gives your food that smokey flavour is something called Creosote, a compound found in smoke, at very low levels it makes your food taste delicious. However, if there is to much smoke this can lead to creosote building up and eventually making the food almost inedible.

Really, the only time you will need to close the vent is after you are finished smoking and want to increase the internal temperature. The rest of the time keep the vent fully open.

Tip #8 - Season your smoker before your first use

I wrote an excellent guide on how to season your electric smoker last week.

Essentially, when your electric smoker is fresh out of the box the interior of the unit is covered in oils, dust and other residues from the manufacturer.

Seasoning involves wiping down the inside and then allowing a thin black residue to develop on the interior surfaces before cooking any food.

The residue helps cure and seal the interior ensuring your first smoke doesn’t have any funky tastes.

Tip #9 - You don’t need to soak the wood chips

There are lots of amateur smokers out there who think you need to soak your wood chips because they create what appears to be white “smoke”.

But in reality, when the wet wood chips are heated up, the water in them boils, eventually releasing as steam. That’s right, the white smoke isn’t actually smoke at all.

This white “smoke” actually makes it challenging to manage the temperature and I’ve had friends who have literally caused the insides of their smokers to rust from all this extra moisture.

Instead what we are striving for is a thin blue smoke. This smoke gives our food the smokey flavour.

Tip #10 - If you want crispy chicken or turkey skin, finish in the oven

Most electric smokers have a maximum temperature in the 250°F to 275°F range, this is great for smoking chicken, but not nearly high enough to give you a delicious crispy skin.

So at the very end, take the turkey or chicken out of your smoker and let it finish in the oven for about 10 minutes. This should be plenty to give you leave you with a delicious crispy skin everyone will enjoy.