When you want a more convenient and easier way of smoking foods, gas and electric smokers are always the way to go. Both are also suitable for indoor and outdoor environments. However, while the two cook well enough, they are ideal for different situations and users.
The fuel source is the obvious difference between the two smokers, but they differ in much more. Here we provide a side-by-side comparison highlighting the key differences between the two smokers to help make your choice easier.
Electric vs. Gas Smoker
1. Food Taste: Gas Imparts A Little More Flavor
Food taste is always more subjective because what tastes fantastic for you might not be very pleasant for the next person. Therefore, food smoked by electric and gas smokers has its fair share of fanatics that always choose one over the other.
Although gas smokers will not give you that authentic smoky flavor you get from wood or charcoal smokers, it is slightly closer than what you get with an electric smoker. However, electric smokers make up for this by giving you more control over the process and are ideal when working with delicate foods like fish or cheese.
Another vital point to note is that most electric and gas smokers come with a wood chip tray. Hence, if you are skilled at smoking food and choose your wood chips wisely, you can still get some nice smoky flavors from either.
2. Temperature Range: Low Heat Smoking vs. High Heat Cooking
Both gas and electric smokers can easily attain the sweet spot temperature for smoking, which is predominantly 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. However, given the difference in the fuel source, they tend to operate at different temperature ranges.
Electric smokers are a more low heat smoker as their typical temperature range is between 100 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit. This means the temperature can go low enough to allow you to cook things like beef jerky that require low heat.
Gas smokers are more suitable for high heat cooking as most models can get up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they are not ideal for low heat cooking as only a few can cook at temperatures of as low as 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Versatility: Gas Smokers Can do Much More
When it comes to versatility, the gas smokers will do way much more for you than the electric ones. Given they can attain much higher temperatures, these smokers can also work well as grills, which is a bonus.
On the other hand, electric smokers can cook at much lower temperatures than the gas models. But, while the low temperatures come with many benefits, such as allowing you to make jerky and smoke more delicate foods, that is pretty much all they can do.
4. Ease to Use: Cooking with an Electric Smoker is always a Breeze.
Electric smokers will always give you a much easier time than the gas ones, whether you are using one for the first time or not. Most have a digital control panel. Therefore, once you plug them in and push the power button, smoking just requires you to dial in your preferred cooking temperature and time.
Some electric smokers will even have a remote control to ensure operating them is even easier without touching the unit. If what you buy also includes a digital thermostat and thermometer, smoking is an almost effortless task.
Gas smokers come with a steeper learning curve, and if you are not experienced at smoking foods, you can end up ruining the first few batches. With these smokers, you end up spending lots of time adjusting the dampers or vents and need to keep an almost constant eye on the temperature.
5. Weather Consideration: Both do Not Hold up Well in Wet Conditions
Both gas and electric smokers do not seem to hold up very well in wet conditions. Hence, it is vital to avoid them. Besides the obvious danger that comes with exposing the electric components to water, getting the digital control panel wet can ruin the smoker prematurely.
While using gas or propane smokers in wet conditions does not pose significant safety risks, it can reduce its performance considerably. Besides water, wind and cold weather can also affect a gas smoker’s performance and usability, but these are hardly a concern with the electric types.
6. Running and Operating Cost: Electric Smokers Are Cheaper to Run
If you go for an electric smoker, you can expect to spend anywhere from $200 to $4,000 or even more for the initial purchase, depending on the size, brand, and features the unit has to offer. However, when it comes to the operating cost, these smokers are relatively cheaper to use.
On average, running an electric smoker can cost as little as $0.06/hour. Still, the actual cost depends on the cost of electricity in your local area and the energy-efficiency of the model you choose. Regardless of where you live, running a propane or gas smoker will be more expensive as the average cost is around $0.4/hour.
However, the initial cost of buying a gas smoker is relatively lower than what you pay for the electric ones. You can get these smokers for as little as $80, and prices rarely go past the $150 mark.
While both electric and gas smokers can make some fantastic smoked foods, they differ in various aspects from the actual food taste to other things like their running temperature and costs.
Once you understand the differences, choosing between them should be easier for you. With that said, the electric smoker is perfect when you want something super easy to use and can smoke at low enough temperatures for making jerky or smoking more delicate foods.
However, if you want something that will give you a closer flavor to what you get with charcoal or wood smokers and has a relatively lower initial cost, go for gas smokers.