Electric smokers have become quite popular in recent years, thanks to the growing interest of people wanting to travel and try the outdoor lifestyle. Learning how to use an electric smoker is the best way you can maximize its features and come up with the best tasting smoked meat that you have ever tried.
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If you’re used to the conventional type of smoking and haven’t used an electric smoker before for your meat. Let us guide you through how to use an electric smoker the right way.
What Is An Electric Smoker?
An electric smoker is a device usually used for outdoor cooking. It has a wide variety of designs and is made typically by cast iron or stainless steel. Unlike other smoking devices, electric smokers have hot electric rods that serve as their heating source.
They are very simple to use with either an analog or digital control. They are commonly built as vertical upward smokers with a series of racks that you can put your meat on.
What Are The Parts Of An Electric Smoker?
To be able to use an electric smoker properly you should know its parts and their functions as well.
Here are the parts of the standard electric smoker:
- Smoking Chambers- Made of stainless steel or good quality metal. This is where smoking occurs making it the most important smoking element of the device.
- Electric smoker heating element- This is the power source and heat source of the device. Usually located at the bottom of the can vary depending upon the brand. It can also be found around the walls of the chamber.
- Wood chip tray- This is the smoking tray that is used to hold wood chips that produce the smoke which in turn gives your food its smoky flavor.
- Smoker drip pan- This pan collects the grease that falls during the smoking process.
- Smoker water pan- This part is not always necessary, but it acts to enhance the flavor of the meat that you’re smoking.
- Smoker Racks- This is where you place your meat and the number of racks depends on the size of the electric smoker that you have.
- Smoker Temperature Control System- This enables you to control the thermostat while you smoke your meat. It is not always present in all-electric smokers but can be purchased in case you want one.
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What Should You Consider Before Buying An Electric Smoker?
There are some things you need to consider before you purchase that electric smoker you’ve been eyeing for a while now.
- Check the openings: The presence of these openings allows excess heat and smoke to be released, preventing your food from getting burned.
- Temperature Control: Keeping the time and temperature in control is the key to making perfectly cooked meat. This job is done by the rheostat/thermostat of your electric smoker.
- Heat flow: A downward to upward heat flow allows your meat to be cooked slowly and keeping all the flavors intact.
- Price: Choose an electric smoker that is fit for your budget. Decide on the features you want in your smoker. Here’s our guide to the best electric smokers on the market in 2021.
Why Should You Buy An Electric Smoker?
There is a lot of debate over which type of smoker is the best. Understanding the pros and cons of an electric smoker as well as the other types of smokers on the market will help you make your decision.
The benefits of an electric smoker include:
- Set it and forget it! Many folks buy electric smokers for this reason. Compared to a charcoal smoker you can put your meat and leave it unattended for some time and let the smoker do its thing.
- They can be portable making them great for RV campers.
- Electric smokers are easy to clean and maintain.
- You can adjust its temperature, so if you’re craving a slow-cooked meal, you can easily lower the temperature and smoke your meat at a slower pace.
- More cost-effective
- The cooking surface makes the heat distribute evenly.
- Simple heat and smoke management
- Functional in wind and cold weather.
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How to use an electric smoker?
Now that you know what an electric smoker is as well as its parts. It’s now time for you to know the proper steps on how to use an electric smoker.
- Season your smoker. This is especially important if you’re using your smoker for the first time. “Seasoning” means running your smoker while it’s empty to burn off or eliminate dust, odor, or solvent residue leftover from the manufacturing process. To do this, apply cooking oil (any variety will do) to the smoker’s interior surfaces, turn it on for 2-3 hrs. at 275°F(135°C). *You should only “season” your electric smoker once when it’s brand new.
- Turn on the smoker. Plugin and press the power button to activate the smoker, this will put the smoker in standby mode. It will only begin pre-heating once you set your desired time and temperature.
- Put the recommended amount of woodchip on the wood chip tray. It’s up to you what kind of wood chip you would put in the tray.
- One tip is to use about 4 cups of chips every 3-5 hrs of smoking.
- Hardwood chips like apple, mesquite, pecan, or hickory are suggested because they burn slower and produce more appetizing flavors compared to softwood.
- Preheat your electric smoker. Generally, for smoking meat, preheat it at about 220-225°F for 30-45 minutes. You can check your smoker’s manual for specific instructions regarding preheating and smoking procedures.
- Fill the water container. After preheating, fill up the water pan with hot water, this will keep your meat moist as the water evaporates.
- Aside from water, you can add other liquids like apple juice, wine, or beer for added flavor.
- Using hot or room temp. water will help your smoker maintain its optimal temperature.
- Prepare your meat for smoking. This is totally up to you on how you prepare your meat. Try coating heavier cuts of meat (ribs, briskets, etc.) with an even layer of dry rub spices. For meats like chicken and fish, you can marinate them overnight.
- Place your meat on the racks inside the smoker. Put bigger items on the lower racks and smaller ones on the upper racks.
- Close and make sure to lock the door of the smoker. Only use the built-in handle when closing or opening the smoker because the surrounding parts of the door might be extremely hot.
- Smoke your items accordingly. The length of time you will be smoking your meat varies, it depends on the meat you are using or what the recipe of your dish requires.
- Add more wood chips or water as needed. When the smoke inside disappears that is a sign that you should refill your wood chip or water trays.
- Once done, allow the meat to rest for about 15-20 minutes before eating. When the meat is fully cooked, turn off the smoker, unlock the door and open it, and carefully get your meat out of the racks.
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Do you need to soak wood chips for an electric smoker?
Although it’s not necessary since wood chips alone have a smoky flavor, it’s a matter of choice whether to soak it or not.
Some people believe soaking wood chips in water helps maximize the amount of smoke that it can provide while smoking.
It is recommended that you soak them for at least 30 min, and if you choose to, or you can soak them overnight if you so desire.
Can You Use Aluminum Foil in an Electric Smoker?
Yes, with a little thought and preparation, you can put aluminum foil inside an electric smoker. Smoking meats inside an aluminum foil allows for faster tenderization, especially if you’re dealing with large and tougher cuts of meat like ribs, brisket, and pork shoulders.
But make sure that you remember these things when using aluminum foil inside your smoker:
- Make sure that heat and smoke are not blocked by the aluminum foil. There should be enough room for the heat and smoke to circulate
- Grease and meat juice should be able to drop to the tray below. The foil should not be touching the sides of the smoker because there is a tendency for the meat drippings to move side to side instead of dripping vertically to the bottom.
How To Clean Your Electric Smoker?
To maintain its quality and cleanliness, knowing how to clean your electric smoker properly is essential.
- After use, unplug the smoker and allow it to cool completely. Before you proceed in cleaning your smoker, make sure that it is safe for you to touch the interiors of the device.
- Take all removable parts/accessories out of the smoker like your racks and trays. Set them aside and clean them thoroughly.
- Clean the smoker using a damp paper towel and brush up any debris that is inside.
- Using a sponge with soapy water to scrub remaining and stubborn debris inside the smoker.
- Wipe the smoker with a clean wet cloth.
- Dry it using a paper towel or clean rag and keep the door open to release remaining moisture inside the smoker.