Propane vs Electric Smoker: 12 Factors to Consider

From food taste and heat distribution to safety and durability - we've picked the most important features to learn about propane vs electric smoker
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Last updatedLast updated: May 05, 2021
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You have been introduced to the world of smoking meat and there is nothing stopping you from making those scrumptious meals you always dreamt of. Now you know certain cooking tools and techniques but you’re looking for more. You want to expand your skills by venturing into something new.

What do you get next? For example, what’s the best in the debate between propane vs electric smoker? Which one is better and which one will give you the results you’re looking for? How different are they compared to a charcoal smoker?

This is a very good question to be asking because while either one of these options is an investment, your needs are unique. You need to make sure you’re going with the right tool. This decision is not just based on how these smokers work but also what you’re trying to achieve while smoking meat. Our end goal is a huge factor in choosing the right smoker and manufacturers try to cater for all requirements. A quick online search will show the many models available.

Luckily, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by your choices! Below we will go through the differences of these smokers by breaking down each smoker. Let’s find out how they work and how to choose the right one for your needs.

How propane smoker works

If you’re trying to choose which smoker is best for you, you’ll want to know the differences between a propane smoker and an electric smoker. However, before we do that it would be good to also know how each smoker works so you know what to expect depending on which one you choose.

Let’s go through how a propane smoker works first before moving onto an electric smoker.

As you’ve probably guessed already given the name of the smoker, a propane smoker requires gas to work. The gas sits at the bottom of the smoker and there’s a shelf for your wood chips, if you choose to use them. By simply twisting the knob, you can heat up the smoker almost instantly. Due to the smoker using gas, the heat can be extremely high and it’ll get you smoking in no time.

If you are looking into buying a propane smoker, it would be in your best interest to look at some reviews so you can narrow down your search. With the help of other people’s feedback and articles like these, you’ll be able to get a better idea of a smoker’s value. For example, our experts’ insight and other people’s experience will help you judge what smoker is the better option.

How electric smoker works

An electric smoker needs electricity to work, so you’d need an electrical source. This is a problem if you sometimes experience power outages or where you plan on smoking your meat doesn’t have a power outlet nearby. So, consider your outdoor setup and patio layout before you pick this one.

The electricity heats up the heating elements inside of the smoker, which will then smoke your meat. It will take time to heat up though so you may have to wait a while.

If you’re looking for a quick heating time then an electric smoker isn’t the one for you. When it comes to heat and timing, a gas smoker is the way to go. However, an electric smoker is just as good in terms of getting your meat ready, and you can find just the one you’re looking for when doing your research properly.

Propane vs Electric Smoker: 12 Factors to ConsiderDifference between electric and gas smoker

When you look at some features of smokers, there isn’t that much of a difference in a comparison of gas vs electric smoker. Yes, they work differently, but the smokers compare well in how they help you prepare dishes, which makes either one value for money. So, there’s no reason to take either one off your list of options for smokers.

For starters, they both require some sort of power source, one being electricity and the other being gas. But of course, there are minor differences. They can both heat up to similar temperatures although your propane smoker may reach an even higher temperature level.

In the end though, both give you the same effect and taste. You just won’t get the same taste as you would from a charcoal smoker, which is another popular type.

You can find a good gas or electric smoker within your budget while getting the desired smoke you’re hoping for. Make sure you look at everything carefully as the small differences between them will be the deal breaker. We’ll discuss a few features in more detail.

Price

When investing in a product, the item price is definitely a starting point because you should shop with your budget in mind. Remember, brands cater for different price ranges. But consider more than the price tag. However, it’s also important to remember the maintenance that will be done for the duration of use because this will also add to the overall cost. Which one wins? When it comes to choosing a propane vs electric smoker based on price an electric smoker is often the way to go.

Sure, it is more expensive right off the bat but when thinking of long-term costs, it works out cheaper. A propane smoker is cheaper but to run it, it will end up costing you more over time. One of the biggest expenses will be propane which it needs to work and this type of fuel can be pricey.

Models

Propane vs Electric Smoker: 12 Factors to ConsiderAs with everything in life, the price you pay is based on what you get. It’s the same when it comes to a smoker because the cheaper it is the more problems or inconveniences you can face. For example, if you choose a cheap propane smoker, you might end up having to constantly watch the temperature. This is because it can run extremely high in an instant without the proper control. So, with lower budget smokers you’ll have to be on your guard continuously.

It is also different from an electric smoker because it’s usually low tech which means you may not get any of the added benefits of Bluetooth connectivity. However, if you’re solely looking for a smoker that does the job of cooking—with no extras like remote control via Bluetooth—then it doesn’t really matter what extras come with it. In that case, you may love your propane smoker.

When it comes to an electric smoker, a basic model will often only allow you to choose one of two or a few temperature settings. This may not be what you want when trying to achieve something specific with a unique type of dish. Once again, for the ultimate in cooking experiences, it’s better to opt for high-end machines.

If you’re looking for an electric smoker with all the bells and whistles then the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker could be what you’re looking for. It comes highly recommended by experts and home cooks alike.

Heat distribution

You’ll be happy to know that the heat distribution is pretty similar in both smokers. This means it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker and you can focus on the other important factors when comparing smokers.

An electric smoker may take longer to get to the temperature you’re looking for but it will get there nevertheless. Although a propane smoker can reach a higher temperature, both smokers can provide out an even flow of heat throughout the smoker during its cooking time.

Heat distribution is extremely important due to the intricate process of smoking. If the temperature goes down in one section of your smoker, it could ruin the dish you’re trying to smoke. If you’ve invested in a quality smoker—propane or electric—you usually wouldn’t need to worry about a thing.

Temperature range

Propane vs Electric Smoker: 12 Factors to ConsiderDepending on what you’re trying to achieve, there are different things to consider when it comes to an electric smoker vs propane smoker. There’s smoking and cold smoking, and both need different temperature settings.

Of course, they can both reach the desired temperature of 300°F but a propane smoker can often go even higher than that. Here you can even have a smoker reaching up to 500°F. This enables you to have better results when it comes to searing and grilling.

Due to the propane smoker being able to reach such high heat, you will struggle when it comes to cold smoking. In contrast, an electric smoker is just perfect for that; just know it won’t perform as well with searing.

So, what you want to use your smoker for will therefore determine which one is right for you.

Safety

Gas is known to be a very dangerous component as it can be extremely combustible. This means that unlike an electric smoker, you may not be able to just walk away from it and leave it alone for a while. You would need to continuously keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t overheat and cause any problems, such as a gas fire or explosion.

Out of the two options, an electric smoker is the safest as long as you know you have a safe power outlet. Also, the heating components only heat up to the level it has been designed to reach based on the temperature setting you choose. You can have more peace of mind leaving it alone for a few minutes.

In practice, if you are hosting a party and need to entertain, an electric smoker will be easier for you to use. No need to stand next to the smoker all night.

Ease of use

Propane vs Electric Smoker: 12 Factors to ConsiderBoth of these smokers are easy to use. When it comes to the electric smoker, you’d need to plug it in and choose the right heat setting, wait for it to heat up and then get smoking. With a propane smoker, you would need to hook it up to a gas tank, open the valve and then also choose the heat setting.

Of course, you would need to make sure you don’t get burned by the heat with both smokers which is why an adult should be the only one operating the smoker.

When looking for a propane smoker, the Pit Boss could be the one for you. It’s easy to use, easy to assemble and has amazing temperature control, so even newbies can find this one is good value for money.

Running costs

You’re putting your money into something that may not come cheap, so it’s important to consider long term impact. You wouldn’t want to buy something cheap in the heat of the moment only to realize you’ll face excessive expenses over time.

As stated in the price section of this article, a propane smoker works out more costly than an electric smoker. An electric smoker can cost you quite a bit in the beginning and with the maintenance of the electrical components it will add to the original price over time. However, it will still be cheaper than a propane smoker’s long-term costs.

Also remember that both these smokers will require you to purchase wood chips for the best results. All of this should make up part of your budget.

Food taste

Propane vs Electric Smoker: 12 Factors to ConsiderCompared to a charcoal smoker, propane and electric smokers do fall in a different category when it comes to the taste of meat and other dishes. This is especially true of electric smokers where you don’t necessarily need to use wood chips. If you’re looking for that true smokey flavor then a charcoal smoker is the best option to give that to you. A huge factor when it comes to taste is the spices you use.

Of course, most propane or electric smokers come with a wood chip tray that you can then use to give you the desired smokey taste you’re trying to achieve. But it won’t come nearly as close to the taste you’d get from a charcoal smoker. Without the wood chip tray which will change the taste depending on the type of wood you use, there isn’t that much of a taste difference between a propane vs electric smoker.

This is important to note because when choosing the right smoker you can prioritize other factors that play a different role than the taste side of things.

Durability

All electric smokers are well made due to the components that go into making it work. They can be more reliable and more durable compared to a gas smoker which can be made out of low quality materials due to its basic setup.

Of course, there is no guarantee that one will last longer than the other because it also depends on how well you look after the smoker. It is said that if anything were to go wrong with your gas smoker, it can be fixed easily.

Weather reactions

Propane vs Electric Smoker: 12 Factors to ConsiderBoth of these smokers have restrictions due to the weather and neither of them can truly function in wet or windy conditions. While a propane smoker can be easier to use under these bad weather conditions, it won’t be able to hold a fixed temperature for the smoking duration. Sure, there are no wires that you may fear will get wet and cause safety issues, but if the weather causes temperatures to drop, it could mess with the meat’s outcome overall.

However, if you have a patio that has a cover that can protect your smoker from the rain then a propane smoker can be used as safely and dynamically as an electric smoker. It is important to keep in mind though that if your electric smoker gets wet it can cost you a lot to get it fixed.

Maintenance

After smoking your meat, you may start to think about the cleanup process, possibly dreading it because you have no desire for effort after your tasty meal. Luckily, with these smokers you often have nothing to worry about! Cleaning up has never been so easy.

Remember, you’re not forced to use wood chips in all these smokers. So, maintenance of both smokers can be extremely easy. Unlike a charcoal smoker that will always need the ashes to be cleaned out, you would only really need to clean out the oils and meat juices.

If you do end up using the wood chip tray that may come with your smoker, you would of course need to clean that out regularly. Overall, there is hardly any clean up required and the cleaning process is similar, so doesn’t become a deciding factor when comparing your smoker options.

Portability

Propane vs Electric Smoker: 12 Factors to ConsiderBecause a gas smoker can run off of gas, it makes it easier to transport and set up almost anywhere. In contrast, an electric smoker will need a power source at the venue you want to use it. Also if you don’t have a reliable source of electricity in various places outside your home, a gas smoker is the better option for you. Wherever you decide to gather your friends and family—on the patio, close to the pool or down in the garden—you can position your smoker where you need it.

This means if you’re planning on going away camping for the weekend and want to smoke some meat while you’re there, a gas smoker would be the right one to take with. You can’t always guarantee a safe electric source on a camping site. Of course, you would need to be careful transporting it with the propane tank.

Final thoughts

When you are entering a new world of cooking, sometimes it can be a little overwhelming. There are so many choices of meat to choose from, so many recipes and not to mention the different ways to cook the dishes you end up making. How do you know what’s best?

Assuming you’re into smoking meat, use these detailed differences between the propane vs electric smoker categories to simplify your shopping process. You don’t have to feel stressed out when heading to the store to make your purchase after reading this article. You can shop like a pro!

All there is left to do is for you to go out there and become the talk of your neighborhood due to the delicious smells that waft from your house!

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