If you are a beginner and love smoking meats, you need to find a suitable smoker first that is convenient to use and provides extraordinary smoking results.
In this case, pellet and electric smokers are two of the best options available, with their own unique features and benefits.
But the question that arises here is, which one you should choose?
If the budget is not your concern and you want a traditional smoking food experience with versatile features, we recommend you go with a pellet smoker. In contrast, an electric smoker is a way to go if you want a budget-friendly smoker with oven-style cooking.
But there are several other important considerations before choosing a pellet grill or electric smoker, which we will cover in this article.
So, let’s dive deep into a detailed comparison of pellet smokers vs electric smokers to help you find a smoker that fulfills your smoking needs.
Main Differences Between Pellet Smokers And Electric Smokers
The strong points that set pellet smokers and electric smokers apart are the fuel source, smoke volume, cooking capacity, temperature range, cost, and convenience. But they have one similar feature as well. Both require electricity to operate.
Looking for a top-line difference? Let’s highlight.
Pellet smokers use electricity as the power source, while wood pellets as the fuel source. It’s the burning pellets that actually cook your food and impart a smoky flavor to it.
In contrast, an electric smoker requires electricity to operate completely, and its electric heating elements generate heat to smoke your food, while occasionally, you can use wood chips to add some smoke flavor to your food.
In terms of convenience, both of these appliances are easy to use and are beginner-friendly because they primarily work automatically.
Here, it is worth mentioning that most pellet grill manufacturers provide Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity features that allow you to monitor the cooking sessions through your smartphones and tablets.
This feature isn’t common in electric smokers, and brands like Masterbuilt usually provide app connectivity, which is also not as advanced as pellet smokers.
Regarding temperature range, pellet smokers are way better than electric ones, with a range of 150 °F to 500 °F. On the other hand, electric smokers have a range of 150 °F to 270 °F, which is suitable for smoking only.
Pellet grills are versatile and let you smoke, grill, bake, and roast thanks to their wide temperature ranges, whereas electric smokers are suitable for smoking only.
On a pellet grill, you can control the temperature through a digital control panel which also helps you set the cooking duration and smoke level. As for electric-powered smokers, they come with knobs to adjust the heat of the smoker.
Price is the primary concern when we are looking for a pellet or electric smoker. Here, pellet grills cost you more, especially than electric smokers.
Their prices start from $400 and go up to $3000. But there are many inexpensive pellet grill options available as well.
Electric ones are budget-friendly, and you will usually find them between $200 to around $700.
Pellet Smoker – A Working Overview
A pellet grill is one of the most popular cooking appliances among BBQ enthusiasts, mainly because of its versatility.
It may be named a smoker, but you can also consider it a grill and use it for grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, etc.
They require electricity to operate, just like an electric smoker, so you need to find a suitable place for them near an electric socket. The auger, fan system, igniter, and digital control panel inside a pellet grill work through electricity.
The fuel source of these smokers is wood pellets that produce natural wood fire and smoke to cook foods and impart unique smoky flavors into them.
The components and the operating mechanism of pellet smokers are different from electric smokers. A pellet grill usually has a hopper, auger, fire pot, hot rod, circulation fan, and a cooking chamber with multiple grates.
Here’s how a pellet grill works.
The wood pellets are placed in a box called a hopper, typically located on the side of the smoker. The hoppers come in different sizes, depending on the model of your grill.
When you plug a pellet grill into an electric outlet and press the turn-on button, the auger starts working and moves wood pellets from the hopper to the firepot.
Near the firepot is a hot rod that initiates the burning procedure of pellets, and they start smoldering and producing heat and smoke. Also, a 20lb bag of wood pellets typically lasts for 8 to 20 hours which is a fair trade.
The circulation fan then circulates the heat and smoke throughout the cooking area, where you place your food items.
As the heat produced by pellets enters the cooking area, it cooks your food to perfection, while the smoke adds delicious smoky flavors to the food.
Pellet smokers provide a digital control panel where you can adjust the cooking temperature, auger’s speed, cooking duration, and smoke level.
Moreover, you will see many models with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity features that allow you to monitor your cooking sessions through your smartphone or tablet.
Overall, they work automatically, making smoking and grilling sessions a breeze for both beginners and experienced chefs. To get the most out of pellet grills, you should learn the tips and tricks about them.
Pellet Smoker Pros
Pellet smokers have many noticeable advantages, making them unique among other grills and smokers. Let’s highlight the most prominent benefits of these smokers.
- Multifunctional: They have a wide temperature range of around 150 °F to 500 °F, which allows you to cook your foods with different methods, such as grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, etc.
- Convenience: A pellet smoker offers a set-and-forget cooking style because they work automatically and don’t require manual ignition. Also, temperature control is a breeze thanks to their advanced digital control panels.
- Wi-Fi and bluetooth ability: Many pellet grills offer the feature of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity through which you can set the temperature, cooking duration, and smoke level from your phone using an app.
- Quick cleaning: They burn the pellets efficiently, which creates less ash and makes cleaning easier for you. Many of them have a removable drawer that catches all the ash of pellets, and you can empty the drawer easily.
- Tastier and flavorful foods: Pellet grills can add unique smoky flavors to your food, which you may not achieve through gas and electricity. Also, the food cooked through pellet grills is tastier, more delicious, and tender.
- Constant temperature: Many grillers face the issue of undercooked brisket or steaks. If you are also one of them, you will love using pellet grills that provide consistent heat for a long time or until your food is cooked correctly.
Pellet Smokers Cons
While pellet smokers have several advantages, you should consider their possible drawbacks before investing in one. Let’s take a closer look at the cons of pellet smokers.
- A bit expensive: They are comparatively expensive because of their technical and advanced features. But there are many high-quality pellet grills that cost you less than 500 and provide several great features.
- Dependent On Electricity: A pellet grill requires electricity to operate, which can be a disadvantage if you want to cook outside and there’s no electricity or electric outlet available.
- Pellets need to be stored dry: You always have to be careful about keeping those pellets dry that you want to use in your pellet grill because they absorb moisture quickly and may become unusable.
Electric Smoker – A Working Overview
Electric smokers are great findings that are beginner-friendly, simple to use, and cook your food much like an oven through an electric element.
From the beginning to the end of a smoking session, an electric smoker constantly requires electricity to operate and cook food items.
Interestingly, these smokers can also add smoky flavors to your food because they come with a wood chips tray in which you can add your favorite chips, such as hickory, apple, mesquite, etc.
No doubt, they can cook any kind of meat, but if you don’t use chips, you won’t get the smoke flavor.
Like pellet smokers, they also have an automatic ignition system that becomes handy if you don’t like igniting pellets and charcoal manually.
An electric smoker has several essential accessories, including an electric heating element, a tray for wood chips, a cooking chamber with racks, a water and drip pan, a heat deflector, etc.
Here’s how electric smokers work.
When you plug them into an electric outlet and turn them on, the heating element at the bottom raises the cooking area’s temperature.
You can then place your food inside the chamber, close the window tightly, and start cooking your food. For smooth smoking sessions, we recommend you season your electric smoker before placing food inside.
To get smoky flavors in your meal, you will need to fill the tray with your favorite wood chips.
They instantly create heat and smoke and enter the cooking area because the tray is above the heating rod and below the cooking area.
You can also use the water pan when your food is cooking to keep it moist, maintain a consistent temperature, and regulate the heat accordingly.
Electric Smoker Pros
There are several notable advantages you get from electric smokers. Let’s share some of the most popular ones.
- Easy to use: These smokers require fewer operating skills thanks to their auto and quick ignition and precise temperature control.
- Affordable: Electric smokers are relatively inexpensive than other types of smokers and a great smoking solution if you are on a budget.
- Easy cleaning: Whether you use wood chunks or not, the cleaning process of these smokers remains easy. Firstly, they create less ash. Secondly, many have detachable trays that catch all the ash, and you can empty them conveniently.
- Set-and-forget style cooking: The advanced features of electric smokers, like easy temperature control, suitable insulation, and auto ignition, allow you to cook your food in set-and-forget style.
- Cold smoking: You will find electric smokers a good option for cold smoking because you can keep a constant lower temperature on them.
Electric Smokers Cons
Let’s discuss some of the cons of electric smokers.
- Not portable: Electric smokers require a source of electricity to operate, so you cannot carry it along on family trips where there is no option for an electric supply.
- No smoke ring: The wood chunks don’t get hot enough to release the chemicals required for a smoke ring to form from a piece of meat.
- Not waterproof: We don’t recommend using an electric smoker when it rains because there is a risk of electric shock.
Pellet Smoker Vs Electric Smoker – Head to Head
Let’s dive deep into their head-to-head comparison for a better understanding.
This factor directly correlates to how much food they can cook at once.
Typically, most electric smokers have three or more shelf racks. They cook less meat than pellet smokers at once as they have less space because of their vertical design.
On the other hand, a pellet grill resembles a typical outdoor grill with a larger cooking space, approximately 500 to 700 sq inches.
Most pellet smokers have a hood design, while some have a vertical design that makes them resemble electric smokers.
So, pellet grills have a relatively larger cooking area than electric smokers.
Pellet smokers are a great option when it comes to injecting unique and rich smoky flavors into your meals. Electric smokers, on the other hand, can’t provide smoky flavors unless you use a wood chips tray with them.
Electric-powered smokers like Masterbuilt provide trays in which you can place your favorite wood chips and burn them for flavors.
Moreover, the wood chips you use inside an electric smoker comprise softer wood, which is why they produce less smoke during combustion.
Pellet grills cook meat with hardwood pellets that are capable of emitting more smoke than chips. Also, some people use smoke tubes on a pellet grill to enhance the taste and quality of BBQ.
Temperature Range And Versatility
The pellet grill has the advantage over the electric smoker in terms of the temperature range, making them a versatile cooking appliance.
For example, pellet smokers are capable of cooking meat at temperatures between 150 °F and 500 °F, and some can also reach 600 °F.
So, they are capable of different cooking methods such as low and slow cooking, baking, roasting, and grilling.
On the other hand, the temperature range for electric smokers is between 100 °F and 275 °F, which is generally suitable for smoking and not for other cooking methods that require higher temperatures.
It is one of the reasons to buy an electric smoker. They are more suited for cold smoking since they can cook food at very low temperatures.
The minimum operating temperature for an electric smoker is approximately 100 °F, which is considered suitable for cold smoking sessions.
Moreover, an electric smoker may be a better option if you smoke cheese because it melts at relatively lower temperatures, such as between 80 °F and 90 °F. You may need to use a smoke tube as well for this purpose.
Comparing wood pellet vs electric smokers reveals a crucial difference in the flavor of the meat they produce.
Even buying a high-end electric smoker may not produce the right combination of gases to give your food the distinctive lighter flavor and bark characteristics of an excellent barbecue.
On the other hand, pellet smokers are famous for their perfectly tender-flavored grilled and smoked meat, thanks to their consistent temperature and smoke level features.
We all look for smoke rings inside our smoked meats because it tastes delicious and promises unique flavors on each bite.
Electric smokers rarely generate enough gasses and smoke to make the smoke ring because wood pellets are responsible for heat and flavor, while in an electric one, we use wood chips.
So a pellet grill is a winner here.
Ease of Use
Both pellet and electric smokers offer set-and-forget smoking styles because they are straightforward and beginner-friendly cooking appliances.
The temperature management of electric smokers is much more simple. You can just place your meal inside like an oven, select the desired temperature range, and let your food cook.
On the other hand, many pellet grills feature digital control panels and Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity with apps. As a result, you can conveniently set the temperature, cooking duration, smoke levels, etc.
Electric smokers will cost you less money than pellet smokers. You can purchase a typical one for under $500.
High-end vertical electric smokers are also available but are still less expensive than high-end pellet grills.
Pellet smokers typically cost for the convenience and advanced features, but they are worth enough to spend your money on. You will generally find one within the price range of $500 to $800.
How Much Electricity Do Pellet Grills And Electric Smokers Use?
You may be thinking, are electric smokers energy-intensive?
According to our observation, many electric smokers on the market typically require 800 to 1200 watts of energy per hour, depending on the model’s size.
Modern electric smokers distribute even heat around your food and thus can reduce the amount of time required for cooking.
On the other hand, when you wish to preheat your pellet grill, it can take between 300 and 500 watts for five to ten minutes to light the pellets.
However, after preheating or igniting the pellets, the average pellet grill operates at a maximum power draw of 30 to 50 watts to power the fans, auger motor, and digital display for a smooth cooking process.
Who Is The Winner? Head-to-head Summary
Let’s share a short quick summary of the relative winners in a head-to-head comparison.
|Features||Pellet Smoker||Electric smoker|
|Cooking chamber||Provides more room||Less cooking space|
|Smoke volume||More smoky flavors||Less smoky flavors|
|Temperature range||150 °F to 500 °F||150 °F to 270 °F|
|Temperature control||Through digital control panel||Through control knobs|
|Smoke ring||Better results||Not good enough|
|Cold smoking||Not suitable||Best-suited|
Both pellet and electric smokers are popular smoking solutions with their own advantages and disadvantages. But the final decision depends on personal preferences, budget, and cooking expertise.
We have provided all the key information from their working features to significant distinctions between pellet and electric smokers.
With the help of this article, you can choose the most suitable smoker per your cooking requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do pellet smokers taste different?
Pellet smokers cook your food with authentic and delicious taste with unique smoky flavors. It is because they burn the pellets efficiently and slowly, making your food tastier and imparting flavors to it.
Do you soak wood chips for an electric smoker?
It’s not essential to soak wood chips before using electric or any other smoker because wood chips are there for a particular smoky flavor, and you can get that flavor without soaking them.
Can you use wood chips or chunks in a pellet smoker?
The auger motor and hopper are built explicitly for wood pellets, and putting wood chips or chunks can create technical problems. Therefore, we recommend using pellets every time you cook on a pellet smoker.
Robert Gill, a BBQ enthusiast, and Senior Author at FaveGrills.com bring his extensive knowledge of BBQ equipment and exciting recipes to the team. With his outgoing personality and love for BBQ, Robert plays an essential role in the FaveGrills community, sharing his passion and expertise through informative articles and gear reviews.