electric vs charcoal smoker

Selecting between an Electric vs Charcoal Smoker

Smokers come in various shapes and sizes and they can even be powered by different types of fuel. Which is why we will take a look at deciding between an electric vs charcoal smoker.

It is therefore vital to identify the right unit for your needs as this will make a difference in the taste and flavor of your meals.

Both electric and charcoal units are great smokers for outdoor cooking. The debate as to which grill is better between electric vs charcoal smoker has been a long one. 

However, there are some key factors that are likely to influence your decision and help you choose one that fits your personal taste.

Below are some considerations to guide you in finding the perfect match for your requirements.

Also make sure you take a look at our charcoal guide for more interesting products.


Size is an important consideration when choosing between electric vs charcoal smoker.

You should therefore determine the unit’s capacity depending on your needs and requirements.

If you like to throw parties for your family and friends regularly, you should opt for a unit with a higher capacity.

Charcoal smokers are usually larger because they require adequate room for the coal or wood that will provide heat for the entire cooking process.

On the other hand, the electric smoker does not require room for storing coals since the heat can easily be monitored and produced by technology.

Hence, it is smaller in size compared to the one that uses coals.


If you are looking for authentic flavor for your food, then you should consider the charcoal unit.

Unlike the electric smokers, this unit will infuse a natural smoky flavor to the food when the right wood chips are added.

Purists attest to the fact that you cannot get the same flavor on an electric unit as you would with charcoal grills.

Although it takes time to prepare, heating coal and wood will release natural oils that will lock flavor into the meat and give it great traditional taste.

The purists also believe that the taste is more authentic when charcoal is mixed with flavored wood chunks like apple, hickory, and mesquite.

Experimenting with various types of woods will definitely change the flavor of the meat.

Space Requirement

Some units are large when it comes to overall size. It is thus important to check the availability of space in your home before making a purchase.

If you don’t have much space, look for smaller models. A charcoal unit is great if you prefer outdoor cooking since it can easily be stored outside.

Electric units can also be used outdoors but you need to ensure that the model comes with proper precautionary measures.

There are also some electric models that do not take much space since they can be placed on a table top counter.

Ease of use

Some grills are easy to use compared to others and this can save you both time and money.

If you are a novice, it is a great idea to choose a smoker that you can master easily so you can have an exceptional cooking experience.

If you are someone who doesn’t plan on cooking frequently and for long periods of time, you should go for an electric grill.

Here, you will just set the desired temperature and forget about the cooking for some hours.

It comes in two types, the digital and analog grill.

The digital version comes with a screen where you can adjust the temperature while the analog has an adjustable thermostat.

However, if you enjoy having full control over the fire and prefer to manage the temperature manually, a charcoal smoker is a great option.

It lets you start a fire but you will constantly be checking it to ensure that your food cooks well. It can also be challenging to light especially if you don’t have a chimney starter.

Fuel type

Another key factor that will help you arrive at a decision between electric vs charcoal smoker is the fuel source.

The type of fuel will also have an impact on the temperature. Thus, it is vital for you to identify your temperature goals beforehand.

Charcoal grills have variant temperature levels.

With this type of grill, you can start cooking your meat at low temperatures and finish off at high temperatures to obtain a crispy crust.

Electric smokers are electronic and computer-controlled, but they do not attain very high temperatures.

Some high-end grills will only go up to 350 degrees while low-end grills can achieve up to 200 degrees.

Due to their cooler nature, they do not give an authentic flavor and cooking experience.

On the other hand, they are perfect if you are interested in smoking cheese or bacon.


Are you planning to use the smoker for other purposes besides smoke? If so, you should look for units that are multipurpose.

There are various brands of charcoal units that are designed for smoking as well as grilling.

Due to its variant temperatures, it can be great for cooking chicken, steaks, pizza and even bread.

You should therefore know what type of cooking you expect from your smoker so you can make an informed choice.

Besides, buying a unit that doubles as a grill will save you space. Alternatively, if you already have a grill, then you might opt for a standalone smoker.


Whether you want your unit to be portable or not could also influence your decision when choosing electric vs charcoal smoker.

Electric units have limited portability since they require a power outlet in order to work.

Therefore, if you are looking to have a good day at the beach or the woods with your friends, this will not be an option.

The charcoal grill can easily be transported in the trunk of your car. And, this makes it an excellent option for vacations.


Maintenance of the unit is very important in order to get rid of seasonings, smoke, and fats.

It will also ensure that it is in the right working condition and lasts longer.

When it comes to maintenance, charcoal grills are definitely a better choice.

This is because they lack small parts like its counterpart which can take some time to clean up.

It is not easy to maintain an electrical unit. Since parts are likely to break and it can be expensive to replace or repair them.

Also, many smoker manufacturers do not sell these replacement parts.

Final verdict

With different types of smokers available in the market, it can be daunting to pick the right one for you. 

If you love smoked food, you know  it can be difficult to pick between an electric vs charcoal smoker.

Therefore, need to keep your needs and expectations in mind. So you can make an informed decision when making your purchase.

When you understand the features of both units and take the above factors into consideration.

You will surely be able to buy the perfect food smoker for your needs.