Electric vs Gas Smoker: Differences Explained

When considering the pros and cons of electric vs gas smokers, an electric smoker is the best choice when it comes to utility and convenience, especially for beginners. Electric smokers do not require the same monitoring and adjustments as gas smokers, though more experienced users may prefer gas for this reason.

One of the best ways to add flavor to your food is by smoking it. The smoker you use plays a huge role in the flavor of your meat and veggies, and many people struggle to choose between electric smokers and gas smokers.

Both types of smokers are simple to use, and you can buy a reliable model without breaking the bank. Learning how each smoker works will help you make an informed decision.

What is the Best Smoker – Electric or Gas?

When it comes to utility and convenience, a digital electric smoker is the best option. Electric model smokers are an excellent choice for anyone new to smoking meat or who wants to smoke meat without worrying about temperature fluctuations.

If you want to cook food quickly and still achieve the same results as you would while using a traditional charcoal smoker, a gas model is ideal. Just make sure you are okay with constantly monitoring the temperature.

Pros and Cons of Electric vs Gas Smokers

Pros of Electric Smokers

  • Precise temperature control: Temperature control is precise with electric smokers. Electric smokers are perfect for cold smoking because it operates within a low-temperature range. Electric smokers are more suitable for smoking cheese because of their cold-smoking capability.
  • Safe to use: Electric smokers are safer than gas smokers because there are no flammable gases or propane tanks. Electric models are perfect for beginners because they don’t pose much risk. They are also safe to use for indoor cooking because they have an enclosed cooking chamber.
  • Ease of use: You can find electric smokers with smart features like smartphone apps and Bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to monitor and regulate the food temperature without babysitting the smoker. Simply set your desired temperature and step aside.
  • Affordable: You can find reasonably priced electric smokers with high-quality features. The best electric smokers feature an advanced heating element that helps to ensure smoky flavor, which is missing even in the best propane smokers.

Cons of Electric Smokers

  • Challenging to achieve high heat settings: It is difficult to get high temperatures with an electric smoker.
  • Not portable: For regions that are prone to power blackouts, electric smokers are unreliable because they use electricity to operate.
  • No smoke rings: It’s difficult to achieve a smoke ring when using an electric smoker. Although you can use wood chips for a smoky flavor, they don’t reach the high temperatures needed to release the chemicals responsible for smoke rings.
  • Costly repairs: Due to the advanced nature of electric models, repairs can be a bit more expensive.
Masterbuilt electric smoker
Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

Pros of Gas Smokers

  • Versatile: Gas smokers are known for their versatility because they run within a higher temperature range.
  • Portable: Propane gas smokers have a propane tank and a portable design. This makes them suitable for camping and other outdoor cooking activities.
  • Inexpensive: Propane smokers are an affordable option if you’re operating on a tight budget.
  • More delicious food: Propane gas smokers can help you make tastier food with a rich flavor. For meats such as beef brisket, many pitmasters recommend using a gas smoker.
  • Long-lasting: When used continuously on your average propane smoker, a 20 lb gas tank can last up to 19 hours.
  • Ease of use: Gas smokers can be used even when there’s a power blackout. They have a control panel for adjusting the flame.

Cons of Gas Smokers

  • Poorly insulated: Gas smokers are challenging to use in bad weather conditions because of poor insulation.
  • Your meats may overcook: Some propane gas smokers are prone to overheating. Your food may overcook because this type of smoker does not have an automatic monitoring feature. This makes it necessary to babysit it.
  • Low-tech: Gas smokers lack advanced features such as smartphone apps and Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Costly to operate: Refilling the gas tank can put a significant dent in your wallet, especially if you smoke food on your device regularly.
Masterbuilt propane smoker
Masterbuilt Propane Smoker

How Does a Gas Smoker Work?

Propane smokers use a prone cylinder or natural gas as a fuel source. With no automated temperature control feature, they are prone to overheating. Therefore, using a gas model requires some experience.

Like an electric model, a propane gas smoker has a large cooking capacity. The smoker’s base has a gas burner that uses propane gas as the heat source.

You can put your favorite wood chips in the wood chips tray to cook food with a smoky flavor. Next to the wood chip tray is a water pan that helps to maintain the smoker’s temperature during the smoking process. As the cold water in the water pan warms up, it emits heat, which cooks food.

When you open the damper, air enters the smoking chamber. Oxygen is used as fuel to produce the flame and generate the heat needed for cooking. At the opposite end of the smoker are dampers or vents that open to lower the heat.

How Does an Electric Smoker Work?

Electric smokers are capable of cooking food with very few components. They work by heating a dedicated air-circulating cooking chamber, thereby heating food through convection.

This type of smoker has a cooking chamber, which has ample cooking space. Other features include a heating element, water pan, grill racks, and an optional feature for placing wood chips to infuse a smokey flavor into the food.

Electric smokers use electricity to run and work at lower temperatures. As with an electric oven, the heating element warms up slowly.

When it comes to the propane vs electric smoker debate, electric smokers take longer than propane smokers to reach the desired temperature.

Can You Use a Propane Smoker Indoors?

No. You should not use a propane smoker indoors. Remember propane has carbon monoxide, which can build up indoors due to poor ventilation.

A propane leak indoors could lead to serious health problems. It’s also a potential fire hazard because propane gas smokers are vulnerable to overheating. Propane smokers are meant to operate only where there’s proper ventilation.

Price Comparison Between Electric vs Gas Smokers

As always, price plays a significant role in your final decision. Generally, gas smokers are more affordable than electric smokers because electric smokers have more advanced features.

However, the running costs of a gas smoker may cost you much more in the long run.

It typically costs about $7.78 to $20 to refill a gas tank, which lasts 35 hours or so. If you intend to use your propane gas smoker to smoke food frequently, understanding that an electric smoker is more cost-effective to operate may influence your final decision.

Lifespan Comparison Between Electric and Gas Smokers

Electric smokers are reliable and easy to use. If you have electricity at home, you can cook food on your electric smoker regularly. You can expect a new electric smoker to last 5 to 10 years.

Gas models can be less reliable. However, since electric smokers are more sophisticated than gas smokers and have more high-tech features, they can be more challenging to repair. With proper care, a new proper gas smoker can last up to 10 years.

Can you Use Wood Chips in Electric or Gas Smokers?

Although electric smokers don’t require wood chips, some models are designed to use them. In addition to the heating element, you can use wood chips to improve the flavor of your food.

If your machine doesn’t have an opening for placing wood chips, you can place them in a metal can, and then put them near the bottom of the cooking chamber.

Most gas smokers have an in-built wood chips tray above the propane gas burner. Flames produced by the gas burner burn the wood chips, producing heat and smoke that help to cook the food. Some of the best wood chips for smoking various cuts of meat include alder, apple, cherry, hickory, maple, oak, mesquite, and pecan.


At heart, Patrick is a passionate cook, adventurous eater, recipe writer, and bargain hunter. He aims to provide creative ideas on how to how to cook amazing food with everyday ingredients in a hassle-free manner.When not writing or standing over a grill, Patrick enjoys traveling and exploring nature in all its beauty.

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