Trying to compare Pellet Smoker vs Electric Smoker? Not sure what is best for you or what type of smoker to buy? Read on and we’ll go through the checklist of the pros and cons of each to help you decide which is the best electric or pellet smoker for you.
When buying a smoker, there are 5 things to consider, regardless of the heat source:
- Flavor By Heat Source & Smoke
- Amiability and Ease of Use
- Operating Cost
- Affordable Acquisition Cost
- Functional Versatility
Pellet Smoker & Electric Smoker Comparison
I have used charcoal, pellets, firewood, and electric smokers. To be fair, electric smokers make delicious, juicy, and fantastic food. But pellet smokers definitely produce flavors that electricity can’t determine how they work.
Both types of smokers do an outstanding job of slow and slow cooking, which is one of the reasons to have a smoker. If you can’t cook slow and sluggish, like brisket and pork, you won’t break down enough muscle tissue to have the tender, juicy barbecue you’re waiting for.
1) Flavor By Heat Sources and Smoke
It is mainly a matter of taste when comparing the Pellet Smoker vs Electric Smoker. They both use electricity to heat an element. But heat sources are different and heat sources make a difference in the world in terms of taste. The difference is that in the electric smoker the element is the only real source of heat, whereas pellet smoker wood is burned to produce heat (Up to 2 pounds per hour).
All electric smokers consist of a box, some insulated, some not, a heat source and a kind of wood chip or shell. The electrical element heats the tube and burns the wood to produce smoke. There is (should not be) incineration as part of the process.
The heat source is just the element, and all that is created is just hot air and water vapor. It is an oven with a bit of smoke and steam. Electric smokers make delicious food, but let’s see what we get out of the pellets before deciding which one is the best for us.
In a pellet smoker, the electrical element is used to ignite the wood pellets, which produce heat and smoke. Combustion takes place. The heat source is wood, not the electrical component. We get all kinds of gas and also some solids.
This is where the main difference (besides price) between the two lies. An electric smoker generates heat, steam (over a pot of water), and smoke, all of which add flavor to the meat.
However, a pellet smoker generates heat and lots of smoke, gas, and solids by combustion. These other gases and solids are the source of this excellent taste. Mainly nitrogen oxide (NO) and carbon monoxide (CO).
The difference in taste is a big difference between the two types. No matter how much money you spend on an electric smoker, it still doesn’t produce the gas combination that gives you the smoky flavor, smoke ring, and crust we’ve all come to expect from a high-quality bake.
If an electric smoker is the correct choice for you, then Masterbuilt models are top-rated and affordable on the low end. It is a great way to find out if it’s right for you without breaking the bank. Here are the best electric smokers for under $300 to buy.
If you want to upgrade to a better-looking electric smoker, there are many other available choices. I use and am a massive fan of the Smokin- It Model 3. They represent a huge step forward in terms of build quality and taste.
2) Amiability and Ease of Use
Pellet smokers and electric smokers are very easy to use and require minimal maintenance. You are quite prepared for it and forget about it. The term Lazy-Q generally refers to electric smokers. Some people call them lazy smokers. No hassle, no need. Set your temperature, load the meat, and wait for the weather to rise. It couldn’t be easier.
The pellet smoker requires you to remove the ashes after each use, while the electric smoke has to remove the charred wood chips and aluminum foil that you use to line the floor before each cook. Probably the same time and effort for everyone.
Both are very easy to use and require little maintenance time. With the electrical appliance, the aluminum foil can be replaced while with the pellet smoker the ashtray is emptied and the hopper is filled with new pellets. The difference between the two depends on the results and the price.
The electric smoker and all electric smokers provide a great deal of good food, but without a lot of smoky flavors. So very tender rib bones, nicely pulled pork, and excellent tri-tip fall off. But when it comes to smoke rings and barking, not so much. Electricity can be easily obtained for less than $300.
3) Operating Cost
While comparing the Pellet Smoker vs Electric Smoke, There is quite a significant difference between the two. An electric smoker uses electricity and perhaps 3-6 ounces of wood to produce the smoke. Electricity is very cheap and this small amount of firewood costs you very little per cook.
For many electric smokers, wood can be purchased from many sources across the country. And depending on the make and model of the electric smoker, it is not necessarily tied to a particular brand or format.
For example, Bradley Smokers require (Recommendation) that you use their proprietary bisquettes. They are basically small hockey pucks made of compressed wood particles. They come in a variety of flavors, but do you really want to be locked in steaming Bradley floppy disks?
Masterbuilt, a very popular brand, uses wood chips. Again, the problem with wood chips is that you don’t know exactly what to buy and buy bags of wood chips at Home Depot or Walmart. It is not precisely the freedom to choose.
A pellet smoker will use electricity to ignite the pellets, but also much more wood than an electrical appliance. Without pellets and with a fairly plentiful supply, you have no way to cook anything. So while everyone needs to make sure they have enough firewood before they start cooking, all it takes is a piece or two for the electricity to work better.
A pellet smoker will cost you 1 to 2 pounds of pellets per hour, while an electric one only uses 6 to 8 ounces per cook. Pellets cost around $1 a pound, so a 10- hour cook costs $10. As I mentioned earlier, electricity could cost you a dollar. Is it worth the difference in taste? Yes, it is for most people, but there are other things to consider before pulling the trigger.
4) Affordable Acquisition Cost
The big difference here. Electric smokers can be very cheap, and pellet smokers are usually expensive; they usually cost more than a really good gas grill. This is something to reflect and one of the most difficult aspects to choose.
If you don’t have a grill, a pellet smoker alone won’t eliminate the need. You don’t want to turn on the pellet smoker for grill burgers. This means that you will not use the electric option for this purpose either.
Your choice here is whether you want to dip your toes in the water and start smoking meat without a huge financial outlay, or spend around a thousand dollars on the entry-level pellet smokers available.
The granules smoking decent cost $700 and more. Make it full size in high quality with a headbox and it can easily top $1000. Entry level pellet smokers do their job very well. The only limitation that I have with entry-level models is the lack of an input box. A drinking box allows you to get good arctic trout on burgers, and steaks. Tri-tips, etc.
Without an intake box, you’ll have to fire up your grill (assuming you have one) or make other arrangements to get the job done. So if you already have a grill that can sear a steak, an entry-level pellet grill, without a grip box, this is a viable option for you. Otherwise, count on $1,000 or more.
Electric smokers start at under $100. They can cost up to $500, but spending that much won’t change the heat source or the outcome. At the higher price ranges, you pay for higher capacity, a much better fit and finish, and quality that should last for years. It is still an electric smoker and has the inherent limitations of the heat source.
5) Functional Versatility
Electricity has many advantages here while comparing the Electric Smoker vs Pellet Smoker. Let’s not say you only want to smoke meat. Many people like to smoke cheese, fish, nuts, and all kinds of things. An electric smoker gives you the aptitude to set and uphold very few temperatures.
If you need to smoke nuts at 110 degrees, no problem. This type of cooking is not really possible with a pellet smoker because they are too hot. Both types require electricity to function, so there is no real difference in versatility. But an electric smoker is generally smaller and lighter than a pellet smoker.
The idea of loading a pellet smoker in the van and taking it somewhere is not very attractive. But your typical electric smoker is quite compact and lightweight. Basically the size of a bedroom refrigerator and much lighter. So if mobility (with available electricity) is an issue, electricity has the upper hand.
Another element of versatility is where you live and what is allowed. If you live in a flat or condo and have a balcony or other limited space, an electric smoker is generally allowed. Using a pellet grill or smoker is generally not theft in these situations.
Summaries Last Words
In the end, the decision is yours. Between these two types of smokers, there is a serious choice between taste (for a price) and maximum convenience and lowest cost. If you live in a residence where open flames are impossible, you have already made the decision to be trapped with an electrical device.
However, if you can do what you want and have the money, a pellet smoker is a great stove. If you already have an upright gas grill, you can even skip the input box. For my money, the Camp Chef with an input box is the best deal for the pellet grill level of input.
Because these are brands that smoke, Traeger is another very popular (and aggressively marketed) brand. I don’t know if they have an advantage over Camp Chef.
If you can’t spend $899 or more and still want good taste, check out charcoal smokers, they may be the answer you’ve been looking for. You can get a really good pit stove and gas grill for about the same price.
So decide what type of smoker you need, want, and can afford, and now take the next step. Your first cook may be less than 48 hours away or may hesitate another week. The time has come to do it.