Propane Vs Electric Smoker


Propane Vs Electric Smoker

When it comes to smoking meat, there are a few different ways to go about it. You can use a propane smoker, an electric smoker, or even just an oven. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks. In this post, we’ll compare Propane vs electric smoker to help you decide which is right for you.

In recent years, smokers have become a popular backyard cooking option for many homeowners. Smokers can be used to cook everything from ribs and brisket to chicken and sausage. There are two main types of smokers – propane and electric. Both have their pros and cons, so which one is right for you? Let’s take a closer look at Propane vs electric smoker.

What Is A Food Smoker?

Before comparing Propane vs electric smoker, it’s important to understand the basics of what a food smoker is and how it works. A food smoker is a machine in which you can cook food at low temperatures over long periods of time by smoking it with smoke from burning or smoldering wood. It’s like using an oven, but instead of cooking your food with hot air (like how your kitchen oven works), you’re cooking your food with smoke. People have been doing this for thousands of years. Native Americans used hollowed-out logs to make rudimentary food smokers they’d fill with embers, sand, and water. They’d place their fish or meat on top of the sand in the log, but the sand/log lid on top, seal it up with more sand and let it cook overnight (or longer).

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What Is A Propane Smoker?

A propane smoker works just like an oven in your kitchen, with one big exception: it has a separate firebox. The fire is lit in the box and once it gets good and hot, some of that heat moves to the cooking chamber. Some smokers have wheels so they can easily be moved around.

Most modern smokers are made out of metal. For the most part, the body of the smoker is pretty sturdy, but you might want to avoid storing anything heavy on top.

If you think about it, propane smokers are great because they act just like an oven in your kitchen. They get hot and cook food evenly. But what makes them different is that they also provide a smoky flavor that only smoke can create.

What Is An Electric Smoker?

An electric smoker works similarly to a grill or even an oven – heat is produced by electricity. Instead of flames, there is an electric coil inside an enclosed compartment below several racks which hold the food being cooked. Some models have wheels for easy relocation from one location to another. They’re also much easier to work with than propane smokers because no lighter fluid or propane is required.

Although they aren’t as popular as their gas and charcoal-powered counterparts, there are still plenty of people who swear by them. And for good reason: it’s easy to use and very convenient – what you see is what you get with an electric smoker. The only thing that requires any work from you is loading the food into the racks and pushing a few buttons.

Features Propane Vs Electric Smoker:

Now that you understand what a propane smoker is and what an electric smoker is, let’s compare the two most common types, propane vs electric smoker.

Versatility Of Propane vs Electric Smoker: 

– If you’re limited on space and may not always have the option of finding an electrical source, then an electric smoker is your best bet due to its convenience and low maintenance. 

– You only need enough power to fire the heating element; however, there are limitations as to where you can use your electric smoker. 

Quality And Consistency Of Propane vs Electric Smoker:

– With a propane gas model, you control all temperatures and airflow to create a consistent cook from start to finish. 

– Electric smokers have the most variability with what you’re smoking and how long it takes because of the limitations placed on them by an electric motor which requires a constant power supply.

Temperature Range — Low Heat And High Heat:

– With an electric smoker, your only choice is for low flames or no flames at all; however, you can manage the temperature by turning off the heating element when cooking with wood chips in your smoker. 

– A propane gas unit has a wide range of heat settings depending on your preferred taste and flavor for meats such as brisket, ribs, pork shoulder, turkey breast, or any other meat that you want to smoke grill. 

– With a propane gas smoker, you can turn the heat up for quick searing on steaks or fish. 

– You can also adjust or manage how much heat that’s coming out of your food.

Size Of Propane vs Electric Smoker:

– A propane gas model is smaller in size and lighter in weight due to the fact that it doesn’t have a heating element. 

– As for an electric smoker, you are limited on how much space it takes up based on your needs and cooking requirements. 

– There are some options that offer dual and even triple racks which will take up more room but give you more cooking capacity. 

– You can also find other models that are vertical or horizontal smokers, which will take up much less space compared to the larger options.

Footprint And Space Required Of Propane vs Electric Smoker:

– When it comes to an electric smoker, you must have a flat surface for it to sit on. 

– Since there is an electric element, you will also need a safe and open space nearby for the cord to be able to reach that area.

– Try putting your smoker somewhere close enough to an electrical outlet that gives you plenty of room around the unit for heat and smoke circulation in any kind of weather. 

Flavor,Taste, And Smokiness Of Propane vs Electric Smoker:

– A propane gas model allows you to cook with charcoal or wood chips for that smoky flavor that you love so much in your smoked food because it allows air flow through the unit to run smoothly which creates a better taste and flavor for your meat. 

– With an electric smoking unit, you have no choice but for all heat and smoke to be controlled by the unit.

Cooking Capacity Of Propane vs Electric Smoker:

– A propane gas smoker is best for cooking for larger crowds of people because it can hold a large amount of food without running out quickly. 

– The cooking capacity on an electric smoker can also be very large, but keep in mind that you are limited to what you want to cook at one time due to space restrictions within the heating element and smoke chamber.

Reliability Of Propane vs Electric Smoker:

– A propane gas smoker being portable makes it more reliable than an electric smoker, which requires a constant power supply to run, especially during periods of bad weather or if there were any kind of power outage. 

– Again, you can take a propane gas smoker to any location and set it up there for cooking your food, which gives you much more freedom and versatility than the electric unit.

Maintenance Required Of Propane Vs Electric Smoker:

– Propane gas smokers don’t require much maintenance, except for maybe the grease pan and water bowl. 

– When it comes to an electric smoker, you must keep on top of all cleaning and make sure that you run it through a self clean cycle at least once every two or three smoking sessions. 

– If not, your unit can become clogged with grease and residue which will accumulate over time and cause your smoker to quit heating properly.

Ease Of Use And Convenience Of Propane Vs Electric Smoker:

– Since propane is such as simple fuel source compared to electricity which gives off heat, using a propane gas unit is just as easy as lighting the required burners needed to cook your meat. 

– With an electric smoker, you must wait for the unit to heat up and then adjust the temperature settings inside the cooking chamber. 

– You also have to keep an eye on how much wood chips or chunks that are added into your smokestack at all times in order to maintain a steady level of heat which will cook your food properly.

Weather Considerations Of Propane Vs Electric Smoker:

– If you’re planning on using your smoker in cooler or colder weather conditions, propane gas would be more suited for you because it’s not affected by the cold environment around it like an electric unit will be during bad storms or when there are power outages. 

– It’s very frustrating when you have to deal with a full smoking session being ruined because of the weather.

– Even if you did have your smoker covered by some sort of enclosure, the smoke chamber and heating element within will be prone to freezing up which can ruin everything inside it if it’s not taken care of all the time.

Initial Cost To Buy Of Propane Vs Electric Smoker:

– Right now in today’s market, electric smokers are much more expensive than propane gas units. 

– The initial cost for an electric smoker is higher than that of a propane gas unit because they both come with their own pros and cons when it comes to price, so one must weigh out what is best for them based on these factors. 

Ongoing Cost To Run Of Propane Vs Electric Smoker:

– Over the course of a few years, propane will definitely be more affordable than electricity and prove to be more cost effective. 

Cold Smoking Of Propane Vs Electric Smoker:

– Cold smoking is something that you can do on an electric smoker if you set it up properly, but it’s very difficult and not always reliable. 

– Because the heating element is built in for an electric unit ,you also have to make sure that there are no spaces between any of the pieces inside the cooking chamber where hot air can escape or cool smoke can leak out which might ruin your food if too much heat gets out.

Popularity And Community Of Propane Vs Electric Smoker:

– Propane units are more popular than electric units by far because of how easy they are to use and their reliability. 

Price Of Propane Vs Electric Smoker:

– The price for a propane gas smoker is around 300 dollars, which is much cheaper than any one model of an electric smoker. 

– Compared to the other types out there, you can get a propane unit with dual ovens and built in grills that will allow you to cook two turkeys at once or even a whole pig if that’s what you’re into. 

Warranty Of Propane Vs Electric Smoker:

– When it comes to warranties on smokers, propane gas smokers have a longer warranty because these products are made from very durable materials and come with a very small chance of breaking down or failing. 

– Electric smokers also have valid warranties, but it’s usually only one year long while propane gas units will give you two to three years depending on the brand name that you buy from. 

Propane Vs Electric Smoker: Which Product is Right for You?

– If you’re a beginner, propane gas should be your first choice because it’s the easiest to use and will help you master the art of smoking meats. 

– You will have to decide if an electric or propane smoker would be better for your lifestyle and how much money you want to spend on one. 

– If it’s your first time using a smoker, then I would recommend an electric unit because it will be easier to use and you won’t have to be paying attention to it all of the time. 

– If you’re experienced and want something that can handle bigger cooking sizes like whole turkeys or even pigs, propane gas would definitely be your best choice. 

– If you’re inexperienced and need something to do the job, but don’t want to worry about paying high electricity bills throughout the year, then an electric smoker is perfect for you. 

Benefits And Drawbacks Electric Food Smokers

Benefits of Electric Food Smokers:

– Safe: No need for hot charcoal or propane canisters.

– Convenient: Plug in, turn it on, and let it do its thing.

– Flavorful: Due to its design, separate heat/smoke element, and other factors.

– Easy to Use: Many electric food smokers come with their own recipe book (for best results) separate from the smoking process. They also have pre-set auto shut-off features that go into effect after a certain period of time.

– No Smell: Electric food smokers use a small fraction of the smoke that would normally come from wood or charcoal to cook, so you’re much less likely to smell up your house with a good electric smoker.

– Good for Large Groups: Since it uses much less wood/charcoal than a normal smoker, an electric smoker can accommodate larger groups of people smoking food at once.

Drawbacks of Electric Food Smokers:

– Low Heat Capacity: Electric smokers can only maintain low heat. Because they are run by electricity, it is impossible for them to get very hot, so you’re stuck with a maximum temperature of around 300 degrees Fahrenheit (~ 150 Celsius). Which is perfect for most kinds of smoking, but not ideal if you want to cook meat very quickly.

– Tendency to Cut Off: Many electric smokers will shut off automatically after a set period of time; this is designed to keep the smoker from getting too hot and overcooking your food. If this happens, all you need to do is simply turn it back on and wait for it to heat up again.

– Unreliable: Many people complain that their electric smoker has broken down after a few uses; this is usually due to low-quality manufacturing, or lack of proper maintenance (a common issue with the ‘plug and play mentality). Basic annual maintenance such as cleaning and minor repairs can help you avoid such problems.

Benefits And Drawbacks Propane Smokers:

Benefits of Propane Smokers:

Propane smokers have many benefits that are not available in charcoal or electric smokers. Most propane smokers are capable of reaching high temperatures, around 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit (232-260 Celsius), making it easy to cook lean meats like chicken and turkey quickly. Most models can be set up within 10-15 minutes without the need for messy charcoal or electricity.

Pellet smokers need to be plugged into an electrical outlet, but the propane models don’t. This makes it easy for backyard chefs to place them anywhere they want without having to worry about cables and cords.

Most models are also vertical which gives consumers more cooking space compared to traditional horizontal smokers. The best part is that propane smokers are very affordable and cost less than $500.

Drawbacks of Propane Smokers:

Since propane is a gas, it can easily escape from the smoker during cooking. This greatly reduces the level of smoke that gets into the meat, giving it a more mild taste compared to wood or charcoal smokers. The size of the cooking chamber is also minimal, making it difficult to fit larger cuts of meat on a single level.

Another drawback is that there are not as many propane smokers available compared to charcoal and electric models. Most of them use a digital controller for temperature control instead of wheels or vents for more precise smoking. This allows them to maintain high temperatures evenly and cook the meat faster.

To make up for some of these drawbacks, many models come with a built-in temperature gauge which helps users determine if their food is done cooking. A built-in thermometer can also be purchased separately to meet specific needs.

When it comes to durability, propane smokers are not as long-lasting compared to other types of smokers. The materials used are also not as high quality compared to the charcoal or electric models, making it necessary to be careful when handling them.

How Does A Propane Smoker Work?

Smokehouse Products’ exclusive heat-sensing controller automatically senses the heat inside the smoking cabinet. When it gets too hot, it turns off lights inside the cabinet to reduce heat and smoke production.

Heat sensing control: If you let your smoker run without food in it, over time, the temperature will rise and will keep rising until you open up the door to check on or remove your food-wasting propane and lower your smoking temperature. Our controller monitors the temperature inside the cooking chamber (where your food goes) of your electric smoker constantly. It’s like having a ‘mini me’ monitor things for you! When it reaches a certain temperature (adjustable), our heater shuts off lights within itself to decrease internal heating – helping to keep the temperature down so you can smoke longer.

Another way to waste money is by not preheating. During its first few minutes of use, invest in your smoker by giving it 10 to 15 minutes to warm up before adding food. If you are cooking large meat cuts like briskets or pork shoulders, plan for even more time – 30 minutes or more depending on the weight of your cut and the size/shape of your smoking cabinet. You’ll be glad you invested that time when your smoked meats turn out perfect!

When you open the door to check on the food, propane consumption increases dramatically as heat escapes from inside the smoker which makes temperatures rise quickly – wasting propane and lowering the smoking temperature. Our controller prevents this problem by automatically turning lights on inside the cabinet to raise the internal temperature before you open the door. Lights turn off when the door is opened and then back on when it’s closed, maintaining your programmed cooking temperature.

Types Of Food To Cook In Propane Smoker

So for all of you who are interested in what can be cooked in a propane smoker, the following is an overview of all the different types of food that can be cooked in one. You will find out which foods taste great when they are done on a propane smoker and also get some inspiration regarding the type of meat that you might want to cook next time you fire up your propane grill. There’s nothing more rewarding than cooking your own BBQ (Brisket specifically) especially if it tastes like this:

Sausages – The process of cooking sausages in a propane smoker normally takes around 8 hours at 225 degrees F or so. Sausages taste great when they are smoked and during this time the casing will become crispy which enhances the taste even more.

Pork Ribs – Pork ribs usually take between 6 and 8 hours to be cooked in a propane smoker (again at 225 degrees F). These ribs come out nice and tender when you cook them in a propane smoker and your friends will simply love them when you serve them up for dinner or lunch!

Boneless Chicken Thighs – Boneless chicken thighs need about 4 hours of cooking time in a propane smoker. These pieces of meat have a lot of flavors so you don’t have to worry too much about adding spices, although some salt and pepper never hurt anyone. Just put it on the rack within your propane smoker and let it sit there.

Chicken Breasts – Chicken breasts are one of the favorite meats for many people simply because they can be used in so many different types of dishes. The good thing about cooking them in a propane smoker is that you will get really moist pieces of chicken breast which taste amazing when they are served up with some bread, fried potatoes, or rice.

Fish – If you want to cook some delicious fish while using your propane smoker, then you should check out our article on how to smoke salmon. We provide all the information that you need to know on smoking this type of food in a propane grill. There are tons of recipes out there for smoked salmon but always make sure that you use fresh salmon and never one that has been previously frozen.

Pizza – Pizza is a favorite for many and you can actually cook them in your propane smoker if you set it up properly. The cooking time varies but normally they will take between 30 and 60 minutes to be cooked properly so keep an eye on them after 30 minutes just to make sure that they don’t overcook.

Steaks – There are two different ways of cooking steaks in a propane smoker: either you marinate it beforehand or not. If you want to marinate the steak then the following is true: place the steak on the grill, close the lid and wait until it’s done (which roughly takes about 15 minutes). Now if you want to forego this step, then you can simply place the steak on the racks of your propane smoker and let it cook all by itself. This will take about 15 minutes or so as well.

Smoked Buffalo Wings – Smoking buffalo wings in a propane gas grill is probably one of the easiest things that you can do if you own one. There are many different recipes out there for smoked buffalo wings, but we recommend that you marinate them before putting them in the smoker to give them more flavor. Usually, they only need around 20 minutes at 225 degrees F before they’re ready to be served up with some blue cheese dressing or ranch sauce!

Chocolate Cake – Did somebody say chocolate cake? Yup, you heard us right. You can actually cook this delicious dessert in your propane smoker. All you have to do is follow a simple recipe for chocolate cake and bake it within the confines of your propane grill. We had to tell you this one because it sounds too crazy not to share!

How Does An Electric Food Smoker Work?

An electric food smoker produces smoke by electronically heating wood chips. The heat source is activated when the amount of power reaching a component called a thermocouple exceeds a set threshold, making it one of the few electrical devices where less electricity makes more heat.

A thermocouple is made up of two different types of metal alloy wires that produce an electrical potential difference between them when joined together at both ends. These metals are typically nickel and copper, but other combinations can be used. Because these alloys have different expansion rates as they’re heated, their junction becomes increasingly unstable with temperature until it’s destroyed completely at some critical value. If this instability isn’t detected quickly enough by the smoker’s controller, there will be no smoking done that day!

The thermocouple is attached to a battery that provides voltage across the two metal ends. As the temperature increases along with the power supplied to the chip, the potential difference across it increases as well. When this differential becomes high enough, a transistor inside the controller turns on and a fan blows air through an auger tube in the smoking chamber. This airflow drags hot smoke from near where wood was last added out of the smoker and into the cooking chamber. Once there, smoke mixes with hot air around food items like bacon or salmon fillets before exiting the chamber through vents surrounding its base.

At least, that’s what happens when things are working correctly! More often than not, either one end of the thermocouple breaks, the controller fails to turn on the fan or a connection melts from too much heat. A new thermocouple costs a little over $5 and takes about 30 minutes to install. They’re pretty easy to find at hardware stores but you have to ask for them explicitly because they’re not listed under “cooking stuff.” It’s not always necessary to replace them when failures occur either. In fact, I’ve had my food smoker with attached oven running for more than six years without ever changing them!

Types Of Food To Cook In Electric Food Smoker

Cooking food in a smoker is a way to add flavor and taste that can’t be accomplished with regular grilling or oven cooking.

Electric smokers eliminate the need for you to stand over a hardwood fire, building one more small fire after another while your food cooks on a grate you’ve suspended over the smoldering logs. Electric smokers are easy to use, economical to operate, and produce great-tasting food.

Most foods can be cooked by an electric smoker, but some fare better than others. Below are the meats, vegetables, and other foods usually associated with smoking that you will want to know how to cook before using your electric food smoker for the first time.

Meat that can be cooked in an electric smoker: Barbecue Beef Brisket, Barbecued Ribs, Smoked Roasts & Steak are all popular beef cuts you’ll want to cook with your electric food smoker.

Lamb cuts that can be cooked in an electric smoker: Leg of Lamb, Shoulder or Rack Of Lamb, and Ground lamb. Lamb is usually barbecued, but it also tastes great when smoked too. 

Pork cuts that can be cooked in an electric smoker: Boston Butt, Ribs, Roasts, Pork Chops, and Fish. Pork can be barbecued or smoked, but try doing both with your electric food smoker.

Poultry that can be cooked in an electric smoker: Whole Chicken, Chicken Breast, Duck Breast & Turkey Breast.

Vegetables that can be cooked in an electric smoker: Potatoes Cook best in the electric food smoker when they are cut into wedges or cubes with skins on. Vegetables that are best when smoked include Onions, Carrots, Cauliflower, Mushrooms, and even Eggplant.

Cheese that can be cooked in an electric smoker: Smoked cheese is easy to make with your electric food smoker. Just place the cheese on a perforated pan inside your electric food smoker. Turn on the electric food smoker and the cheese will be smoked in about an hour.

Fruit that can be cooked in an electric smoker: Any fruit you like to grill or smoke will taste great if you cook it in your electric food smoker. Apples, Pears, pineapples, and Bananas are four of the most popular fruits for smoking.

5 Components of a Propane Smoker

Propane smokers are similar in design to electric or pellet smokers, but the type of fuel used makes them unique. The 5 components listed below will help you better understand propane smokers.

  1. Temperature Control – Because propane smokers use an open flame for heat, these units must have a way to regulate that fire inside the cooking chamber. Most units use a PID controller, which is an electronic control that regulates the flame inside the cooking chamber. The PID controller contains sensors that tell it what the temperature inside the cooking chamber is and how to regulate that flame. Some units can run off batteries (such as in electric smokers), but most are hard-wired with power cords.
  2. Heat Source – Propane smokers use the heat of propane to cook food. The heat can be controlled by using a PID controller, but this is not always the case. Some units will have an on/off switch for power and no way to control the flame through electronic controls.
  3. Fuel Tank – Almost all propane smokers run off of liquid propane tanks, which are small tanks that screw onto the bottom or side of the smoker itself. These tanks contain both liquid propane and vaporized propane, so they do require special care when handling them to prevent injury. If you leave one of these tanks in your garage during warm weather or don’t shut them off properly after using them, you run the risk of having an exploding tank. If you want to learn more about propane tanks, take a look at the article below:
  4. Smoker Construction – Some propane smokers are made out of steel and others can be made out of other materials such as wood. Steel is the most common material used in these types of smokers and it’s also usually what holds the heat inside the cooking chamber. The exterior is usually covered with powder-coated steel that makes them very durable and easy to maintain, but less likely to burn after extended use.
  5. Additional Features – Depending on which type you buy, there may be additional features such as side racks or even drawers for storing your food (such as in electric smokers). You should always check the product information before you buy to ensure that the features meet your needs. The products listed below can be found on Amazon and will give you an idea of what other smokers have:


How Do You Control The Temperature On A Propane Smoker?

There are many different styles of propane smokers, but they all work the same. They have adjustable temperature control that is normally on the front or on top of the smoker. On most units, you will see a picture of a thermometer with a red line somewhere in the middle. That is usually your target temperature. This is where you want the heat to be for “normal” smoking conditions (when cooking, not cold smoking). You may find some units with just numbers and no pictures. If this is the case then start at about 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 C) and go up from there until you get where you want to be. 

How Do I Get More Smoke Out Of My Propane Smoker?

First, make sure you are using good quality wood. Second, make sure the wood is dry before adding it to your smoker. Then how much smoke you get out of your smoker depends on many factors – which we will go into below – but mainly the heat range that you choose and how often you open or shut the door. The more often that you open or close the door, the less time there is for smoke to stay in the chamber and transfer its flavor to what you are cooking so if possible try not to open or close your lit smoker’s door as this lets out precious heat and slows down the smoking process. As far as controlling the amount of smoke being put out by a unit, your main options are: Do firebox so that the juices do not open the door as much and keep it shut for longer periods of time, or crank up the heat to increase smoke production.

How Can I Manage The Moisture In My Propane Smoker?

This is usually a problem when you first buy a smoker, but after using it for a while you usually get an idea how moist your meats will come out once they are done cooking. We recommend putting meat in your smoker very wet so that it creates its own steam which helps to cook the meat evenly and faster. Another trick would be to purchase some kind of pan or container with holes in the bottom to place on top of the heated rails or elements in the bottom of your smoker. Fill this pan with a few cups of water and it will create steam as well which helps cook meat faster and more evenly. Do this for both gas and electric smokers.

Can You Cold Smoke With An Electric Smoker?

Yes, you can cold smoke with an electric smoker, but it will take a long time to build up the cold smoke because of how slowly they put out the smoke. However, if that is what you want then by all means go ahead and give it a try.


As it’s been said before many times in the Propane vs electric smoker article, both propane and electric smokers have their pros and cons, so it’s really up to the person to decide what they think would be best for them. 

– Propane gas is much more affordable in the long run regardless of any warranties that you get with your electric smoker. 

– An electric smoker is easier to use for beginners because there are fewer things that can go wrong. 

– Your choice should depend on a few factors, but the cost is definitely the most important one. This article was written based on facts from research performed by professionals, other articles, and my personal opinion after reading/learning about the information provided to me.

So, which smoker should you buy: Propane vs electric smoker? The answer to that question depends on your needs and preferences. Whichever type of smoker you choose, make sure to follow the safety instructions carefully to avoid any accidents. I hope this article has been helpful for any of you out there who are thinking about getting a smoker in the future!

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