How Does an Electric Smoker Work?

What is an Electric Smoker?

how does an electric smoker work

An electric smoker is a cooking device most commonly used in outdoor settings. It uses electric power to heat rods, and the heating source is then used to create smoke.

The smoke generated circulates in the oven and can cook various foods like meat, vegetables, fish etc.

The electric smoker is quite similar to an oven and comes in multiple designs with distinct in-built features like temperature controlling options, various sizes of cooking, smoking and grilling racks, digital control panels and touch buttons.

How Does an Electric Smoker Work?

The electric smoker is like a cooking chamber with distinct units that assists in cooking food. It consists of a heating unit like rods, grills, a water pan, and a bowl for burning wood chips.

The cooking device is connected to an electric source that generates heat using iron or stainless steel rods. The hot air is gradually circulated in the chamber, creating smoke by burning the wood chips.

The superheated steam and smoke raise the internal temperature of food and give a deliciously smoky flavor. The cooking pan is placed on the grill above the tray containing wood chips. The electric smoker cooks food on low heat and keeps it moist.

The exterior of the chamber is built of either cast iron or stainless steel. The insulated design doesn’t allow any smoke or heat to escape into the atmosphere.

Components of an Electric Smoker

An electric smoker consists of different components designed to perform the desired function. Here, we will discuss the main parts of an electric smoker:

Heating Rods

These are placed at the bottom of the cooking chamber. These are what heats up the electric smoker. When the electric smoker is turned on, the heating rods create heat surrounding the cooking space.

Wood Chip Tray

The wood chip tray is built near the heating rods so that hot air can quickly burn the chips to produce smoke. The wood-chip tray can be re-filled at any point of cooking as needed to achieve the desired smoky flavour.

Water Pans

These have their place above the wood chip tray and create steam. The steam helps keep the temperature even inside the electric smoker.

Using water is not really essential. Some decide not to and still get perfectly good results.

Venting section

The electric smoker contains dampers and vents on the upper and lower sides of the body. The lower vents allow oxygen to enter in and feed the flames. The above-placed vents or front doors are used to release the smoke.

Grill Racks

The stainless steel racks are commonly used for grilling the food directly or using pans/ skillets.

Ideally, in an electric smoker, it doesn’t matter on what rack you place the food. A good electric smoker should have an even temperature all over.


The thermostat measures the temperature inside the smoker. You can usually see the temperature on the digital panel or somewhere on your smoker.

An electric smoker will automatically hit the set temperature.

Advantages of Using An Electric Smoker

Cooking in an electric smoker allows greater control over temperature settings. It saves your food from burning or boiling by providing low and steady heat. That’s why electric smokers some prefer over conventional grilling.

  • Electric smokers are fast, easy to set up and use, and create less fuss post-cooking.
  • They are cost-effective and safe for use in small spaces.
  • The long vertical design allows to cook more food at a time and saves physical energy by not having to stand all the time.
  • Electric smokers are also great for cold smoking as they can maintain lower temperatures required for cooking delicate food like fish, vegetables, etc.

Using an Electric Smoker

Every model has slightly different steps, and it’s always best to read the instructions provided when buying. Here are, however, a few things to keep in mind which applies for all electric smokers.

Preheating the electric smoker

The first thing to do is preheating the smoker. This usually doesn’t take much more than 45 minutes, but it will depend from smoker to smoker.

Simply set the temperature you wish to smoke at via the digital control panel.

Seasoning the Smoker

It is highly recommended to season your new grill or smoker. A good seasoning routine sets the tone of the electric smoker for best results.

It is mainly done by placing the wood chips in an empty smoker and allowing them to heat for a few hours. This action eliminates any remains of chemicals or particulates from the manufacturing process.

Wood Chips and Water Pan

Fill up the water pan to the amount needed. Usually there’s an indicator but if not, just wing it.

Try to use good quality wood chips in enough amounts to create a constant flow of smoke during long hours of cooking. Also, it’s better to use un-soaked wood chips to get a rich smoky flavor. They also aid in creating an undisturbed flow of smoke. If you decide to soak them, it shouldn’t be for too long.

Place the wood in the wood tray. The amount will depend on how long you’re smoking for and at what temperature.

Usually, you do not need much more than a handful; you can always refill later, In fact, using too many wood chips will “over-smoke” the meat, and can also disturb the temperature.

If you’re using the water pan, also refill it throughout the process.

Tips and Things to Consider

Retaining the heat

Avoid unnecessarily opening of the front doors of the electric smoker. The smoke flows outwards quickly, which disturbs the internal temperature. Some smokers have a lower door that can be opened for refilling water or wood chips without letting out heat.

Using a Sperate Meat Thermometer

It can be helpful to use a separate meat thermometer. Many electric smoker has what is call a “meat probe” which can measures the internal temperature of the meat.

When cooking meat, the meat needs to reach a certain internal temperature before you can eat it.

Sometimes, the built in meat probes are a bit inaccurate. I recommend you use a separate one, either digital or not, as it tends to be more accurate.

Type and amount of Smoke

Out of all the options available, electric smokers produce the least smoke. The reason is the absence of any combustible gas or flame.

However, it has enough smoke that cooks food slowly but evenly. Also, essential to look at the kind of smoke released from the wood chips. If a slightly blue smoke is removed, the oven is working in good condition.

But, if there is thick white smoke, you might need to check the position of the tray, the quality and amount of wood chips, or the functioning of your smoker.

Correct use of wood chips

Wooden chips are an unavoidable for all smokers, as they are what adds the flavor.

Try to pre-heat the oven before placing the wooden chips. The temperature should usually be at least 225 degrees to achieve the desired level of heating.

Try to re-fill the wood chips before they are burnt out completely. It is preferred to add chips at the start, halfway through, and at the end of the cooking cycle. Use chunks of wood chips as excess amounts can over-dry your food.

The choice of wooden chips depends on the type of meat and your desired flavor. Hardwood chips are suitable for large pieces of meat, while fruity peach chips would give a delicate smoky flavor to light meat.

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