Electric vs Charcoal Smoker

Whenever it comes to smoking meat, there’s a question that strikes every mind. And that is which smoker should you use-Electric or Charcoal. Although both the smokers get the job done, which one is better and how. Well, if you want to find that out, read along.

Below, you’ll find detailed information on what electric and charcoal smokers are and what makes them different. So, let’s roll in.

Electric Smoker

Electric Smoker

Electric smokers, unlike gas stoves, do not use a flame. Instead, electric smokers have a heating element located at the bottom where you can place wood chips or pellets. It helps in generating heat, which further generates the smoke and eventually cooks the food. The heat and smoke add flavor to the food, which you place on the rack if you have a vertical-style smoker.

  • Ease of Use

The electric smoker is simple to use. If you can use a cooking plate or an electric oven, you can certainly use an electric smoker. There’s a variety known as plug-n-play smokers. Such smokers are good for beginners. The hardest part is controlling the temperature. But if you have a digital smoker, handling temperature will be easy for you. It’s because when you set a temperature and the smoker hits that range, it remains there. This way, you won’t have to run into the hassle of managing or holding the temperature.

Charcoal Smoker

Charcol Smoker

Charcoal smokers were introduced way before electric smokers came into existence. It’s the most basic form of smokers. In such smokers, the Charcoal burns on the side or at the bottom of the smoker, generating heat. The heat generated reaches the wood chips placed on top, which add flavor to the cooking food. It’s a slow process where the food sits and gradually absorbs the heat and smoke.

  • Ease of Use

Using a charcoal smoker may sound easy, but it’s not. You need to pay more attention when it comes to Charcoal as compared to other types. It’s because, during the process, you need to constantly check the temperature, adjust the dampers and replenish wood chips or Charcoal from time to time.

Electric vs Charcoal Smoker

Category Electric Smoker Charcoal Smoker
Quality of food Flavors are mildly smoky Great. The flavors are deeply smoky
Ease of Use Very Easy to use Hard to use. You need to monitor a lot of things
Versatility Can be used only for smoking You can use it for grilling, smoking, and roasting.
Temperature Range 100F-275F 125F-350F
Space Required 2 feet x 2 feet 2 feet x 2 feet for verticals to 6 feet x 4 feet for offsets
Cooking Capacity Large options are limited More large options are available
Reliability Electronic components wear out after use Reliable as there’s no electric components
Weather Considerations You cannot use them in wet weather Can be used in most weather conditions except cold
Maintenance Needs Easy to maintain More cleaning is required due to more smoke
Relative Cost to Buy Comparatively more expensive Affordable and numerous options available
Relative Running Costs Affordable averaging around $0.06-0.08/hr. Expensive averaging around $0.40/hr.- $1.00+/hr.
Popularity Limited users Highly popular

Quality of Foods

If you think of consistency, the electric smokers help in delivering constant temperature and thus constant heat. And this is quite important while smoking the food. However, the charcoal smoker can offer inconsistencies, especially if you’re new to using it.

But if you consider the quality or nature of smokiness, electric smokers cannot beat the charcoal ones. You cannot create a bark or add crispness to the food’s skin. It’s because of the moisture retention. But with the charcoal smokers, it is amazing. It is all because of the ventilation it offers.

Charcoal smokers are capable of generating more smoke and complex compounds that stick to food. It means you can get the experience of deep smoke using this type of smoker.

Ease of Use and Convenience

The electric smokers take a dig at the charcoal smokers in this case. There’s nothing as simple as a plug-and-play option, which is available in electric smokers. Once you set the temperature, you don’t have to monitor or change it from time to time.

But in the case of the charcoal smoker, it is quite hard. You need to manually check and alter the temperature from time to time. You also need to adjust the dampers and replenish the charcoal cordwood chips consistently.


An electric smoker is meant only for smoking; you cannot roast or grill using it. So, an electric smoker doesn’t offer versatility. However, some charcoal smokers allow you to easily grill and roast making it the more versatile option.

Temperature Range 

As electric smokers are meant only for smoking, the temperature range it offers is limited. The ideal temperature range is between 100-275F or 38-135C. However, the charcoal smokers being more versatile, offer a better temperature of 125F-350F.

Size and Space 

The electric smokers are usually 2 feet wide and 2 feet long. So, you won’t need much space to fit them in. Now, there’s an option of an offset smoker with a charcoal smoker. And if you choose that, the size could go up to 6 feet in width and 3-4 feet in depth. So, you would need a big space to accommodate them.

Cooking Capacity

It’s quite obvious that charcoal smokers are larger than electric smokers and thus offer a larger cooking capacity. However, you can achieve a similar capacity in an electric smoker too.


An electric smoker has complex circuits that manage the temperature. But sometimes, the outdoor elements wear out the electronic parts and reduce the life of the device.

On the other hand, there’s nothing that would fry in a charcoal smoker. However, the main problem that disturbs the reliability of a charcoal smoker is rusting. But if you store and maintain it well, you won’t face the rusting problem.

Maintenance Required 

An electric smoker requires low maintenance as there’s little smoke generated. However, you always have to clean the racks after every use.

In the case of a charcoal smoker, the maintenance required is more. It’s because there’s more smoke generated while cooking.

Initial Cost to Buy

Both options are available in cheap and costly options. Usually, the top electric smoker models are costlier than the charcoal ones. But in the end, it all depends on how much money you’re planning to spend.

Ongoing Cost to Run

Electricity being cheaper in most regions makes electric smokers a better and more affordable option. A charcoal bag, even the cheapest ones, will cost you more than running the electrical smoker. So, if you consider the running cost, electric smokers are better.

Popularity and Community

The clear winner here is the charcoal smoker. Charcoal smokers are a classic option, and you’ll find millions of users across the globe along with YouTube channels to help you out.

Which one for you, Electric or Charcoal Smoker?

Well, selecting either of them won’t be a mistake. However, you can list down your requirements and make the best choice. Let’s say you’re a beginner and know nothing about smoking and need a smoker to just smoke the food, you should go for an electric smoker.

On the other hand, if you’re an expert or are willing to learn and want extreme smokey flavor, you can buy a charcoal smoker. The charcoal smoker may be hard to use but offers a great flavor to food.


Both charcoal and electric smokers are effective for some users and ineffective for others. Both of them get the job done too. But when it comes to making a decision, you can choose one that suits your requirements. And it’s not that tough. You just need to think about what you need it for. And once you do that, making a decision will be easier.


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