What comes to your mind when smoke cooking is mentioned? Well, the majority of people believe that smoking is a modern and complicated way of cooking meat.
But this is wrong!
Smoking is actually one of the most ancient cooking techniques. It can be traced back to the Old Stone Age era when human beings realized that meat dried under smoke tasted better and would go for days before going bad!
As a result, smoking became a common way of flavoring, browning, and preserving meat/other meals.
However, there have been tremendous improvements in the smoking techniques and the equipment applied in the process. One of the most remarkable improvements is the invention of electric smokers.
This article will offer insights on how to use an electric smoker to achieve the tastiest and healthiest meat! Read on to get the tips!
What is Smoking?
Smoking is an ancient technique that was used to dry and preserve food. In the process, the users discovered that smoked food tasted better and had a unique flavor.
Consequently, human beings adopted smoking as a cooking technique. It helps in browning, cooking, and preserving food.
Why is Smoking Food Necessary Today?
It is common knowledge that smoking as a method of preservation is outdated. In the modern world, there are a myriad of technological inventions, such as refrigerators and freezers, that are used in food preservation.
As such, the sole reason for smoking today is to achieve that phenomenal taste in your food (more particularly meat).
If you’re a meat lover, you’ll opine that smoked meat is exceptionally tasty and you can never have enough of it!
Types of Smoking Techniques
There are different smoking techniques applied when you want to achieve a smoky flavor in your meals. They include:
- Cold Smoking
This is a smoking method that helps you achieve the smokey flavor without necessarily cooking the meat.
To achieve this, you must set your electric smoker to 68 to 86 °F, thus ensuring that you have moist yet smoked meat.
This is particularly helpful if you wish to prepare your meat away from your electric smoker. You’ll enjoy the smoke flavor regardless of your location!
Additionally, this technique is used to enhance flavor in other food items including nuts, cheese, salmon, steak, chicken breasts, and scallops.
- Hot Smoking
This technique involves smoking the meat in controlled environments, such as using your best propane smokers or gas and charcoal grill combo.
If you do not have an electric smoker, you can always purchase a smoker box and incorporate it into your gas grills for a perfect smoking experience.
Read more on how to use a smoker box in your gas grills effectively
Hot smoking takes place under 126 to 176 °F for 1-24 hours depending on your needs. This temperature is ideal for cooking your meat. Consequently, you can choose to either it as it is or further saute/cook it.
Also, you should note that smoking your meals under extremely high temperatures (of 185 °F and above) is not recommended. If the temperature is too high, the meat will shrink and dry excessively.
- Smoke Roasting
This process is what is popularly known as barbecuing or pit-roasting. It involves roasting meat while smoking it simultaneously.
This can be achieved by using an electric smoker or any other gas grills that can achieve a temperature of more than 250 °F. Alternatively, you can choose to use a conventional oven with a smoker box placed underneath.
How to Use an Electric Smoker – Definition
Now that you’ve learned the basics of smoking, it’s only right that you understand how to use an electric smoker and everything that it entails. Read through for a comprehensive how-to guide.
What is an Electric Smoker?
Just like the name suggests, an electric smoker is a unique cooking appliance that relies on electrical energy for cooking and smoking your meals. It comes with electric rods that heat up to generate sufficient heat energy for your cooking escapades.
These smokers come in two different designs, which gives you the flexibility to choose your ideal one. They include:
- Outdoor Electric Smokers
These are designed especially for outdoor cooking. They are your best bet when you want to go for a camping activity or other adventurous journeys. Also, smokers are large enough to help you cook for lots of people without a hassle.
On the downside, outdoor electric smokers are relatively heavy, which offers significant portability challenges.
- Indoor Electric Smokers
These smokers are designed for use inside your house. They are usually small and thus require less storage space. However, their small size leads to a slower cooking pace! It may take you longer to smoke and cook your meals using this technique.
Additionally, this may offer safety challenges and require close monitoring, especially if you have children and pets in your house. As such, you should always consider the hazards associated with the indoor electric smoker before purchasing one.
How Does an Electric Smoker Work?
An electric smoker is ideally useful for meat smoking. It has a cooking chamber, where you should place your meat/meal to cook.
The cooking chamber has heating rods that are connected to your electricity source through a plug-in socket. Once you switch on the power, these rods are heated, thus providing the much-desired heat to the cooking chamber.
Since the rods are located on the surface, the heating process occurs through convection means. This is where the heated air becomes light and ascends to the top while the cold air descends. This way, the cooking chamber will be uniformly heated within a short time.
Additionally, you’ll have a water pan and smoker box. If you want smokey and flavorful meals, you should put the wood in the smoker box and let it smoke as the meat cooks.
What are the Components of an Electric Smoker?
Your electric smoker will have the cooking chambers at the top and the heat source at the bottom. Consequently, the cooking/heating process uses the convection technique.
Here are other components that will make using your electric smoker a breeze:
- Heating Rods. These are the primary source of heat in your electric smoker. They are located at the bottom of the electric smoker and they obtain energy from your electrical system.
- Smoker Box. This is a customized tray where you can place your wood chips to help you acquire smokey flavor on your meals. There are several types of woods that you can use to achieve the best smoke. They include alder, oak, hickory, cherry, mesquite, and maple.
- Grill Racks. These are stainless steel racks (some brands can offer cast iron or other materials racks) that offer space for you to place meat as it cooks.
- Water Pan. This is located above the smoker box. It is filled with cold water to regulate the temperature of the cooking chamber, thus ensuring a slow cooking approach. The water also helps achieve moisture which helps to marinate your meals.
- Dampers and Vents. These are avenues that allow air to enter or leave the smoker. This way, you’ll easily regulate the air to ensure there is enough oxygen for wood chips combustion while ensuring that you release unnecessary gas to the outside.
What are the Benefits of Owning an Electric Smoker?
Before you get to know how to use an electric smoker, you should decipher the benefits that come along with owning one! Here are some of its advantages:
- Cleaner to Operate. When you compare the electric smoker with the gas and charcoal grill combo, then you’ll realize that using the electric one leaves you super clean. You’ll not require to light charcoal and struggle with manual lighting of wood chips!
- Durable Construction. Most of the electric smokers are constructed using sturdy stainless steel or cast iron material. Consequently, you’re assured of durability without compromising on the quality.
- Easy to Operate. What offers more joy than having a cooking appliance with one-touch power buttons to control all operations? Well, I bet any chef will marvel at such a digitized appliance, right? This is exactly what you’ll get with the best electric smoker!
- Wide Range of Choices. What do you want to achieve with your best electric smoker? The appliance comes with a wide range of features that ensure that you get your ideal smoker. You will get one with different temperature control options, digital control panels, double doors, and various sizes of the cooking area.
How to Use an Electric Smoker – Step-by-Step Guide
- Read the User’s Manual on How to Use an Electric Smoker Best
Once you purchase your best electric smoker, you should ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to the letter.
The manual will offer unique tips on how to install the electric smoker, how to regulate temperature and other standard operating procedures for that specific appliance.
- Season Your Best Electric Smoker
If you’ve just acquired your electric smoker, your first assignment should be to season it. But what exactly is seasoning?
Well, this refers to the act of allowing your best electric smoker work when empty.
This will help you to get rid of dust and other undesirable smells before you start using it to smoke your meals. To season it properly, you should follow the following simple tips:
Open all the doors of your electric smoker.
Dip a cotton wool ball into a bowl of cooking oil.
Using the soaked cotton wool, wipe the interior of your smoker, including the racks.
Close the doors, turn on your electric smoker, and set the temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it run for 2 hours.
Switch off your source of power and open the doors and let it cool.
- Turn On Your Best Electric Smoker
After seasoning your smoker, it’s now time to cook! Connect the power source and press the power button (most smokers will show a red/green/blue light to indicate your smoker is on).
Set your ideal temperature and cooking time to start heating your smoker.
- Add Wood Chips
If you want to achieve that irresistible smokey flavor, you should pull out the smoker box and add your desired wood chips.
Close it and push it inside to get heated and produce the smoke.
- Preheat the Smoker
This is a crucial skill if you’re to learn how to use an electric smoker comprehensively. Once you have everything set, you should preheat your best electric smoker by setting the temperature and time (use a knob or buttons depending on which smoker you’re using).
We recommend that you set the temperature to 200 Degrees Fahrenheit for up to 45 minutes.
- Add Your Water Pan
After preheating your smoker, you should add your water pan at the bottom of your cooking chamber.
If you want to be more adventurous, you can use beer or apple juice instead of water. This offers your meals a unique aroma from that specific liquid.
Prepare Your Meat
This involves marinating your meat using various spices depending on your taste and preference. Feel free to experiment using different seasonings!
Once you’re through with the meal prep, you should place it on the smoker’s rack using a spatula/pair of tongs.
We recommend that you use heat-resistant gloves. Read here to learn more about them
Also, you should consider placing the big chunks of meat at the bottom racks and the smaller ones on top. This way, you’ll cook evenly while utilizing your space optimally.
- Start the Cooking Process
Close your smoker and let the meat cook for 2-8 hours. The duration depends on specific types of meat and the temperature. The slower it cooks, the more delicious it becomes!
However, you should keep checking the status of the water level and wood chips quantity.
Interestingly, there is a myriad of digital electric smokers that will send an alert directly to your smartphone! This way, you’ll have the freedom to undertake other activities without the worry of a messed up meal!
How to Know Whether Smoked Meat is Ready?
The best way to know whether your smoked meat is ready is by using a digital meat thermometer. If you do not have the digital one, then you’ll have to regularly insert your thermometer into the deepest part of your meat to assess the temperature status.
Different types of meat must get to varying temperatures before you can conclude that they are fully cooked.
- Brisket. When the deepest part of your meat gets to 185°F, it will be ready
- Beef Ribs. Ensure it get to 175°F before stopping the cooking process
- Pork Butt. It should get to 180°F
Fortunately, you can set all the temperature settings if you have a digital electric smoker and a digital meat thermometer. In such cases, you’ll get all temperature notifications through your smartphone device.
How to Choose the Best Wood Chips for an Electric Smoker
The one answer that should guide you on this is: stick to your personal preference! Yes, many resources will advise you on the best wood chips for specific recipes, but you should stick to that which interests you the most.
However, we do not recommend the use of scrap or treated wood. It can produce some harmful gases that may not be healthy for your family. Instead, you should try to use well-packaged wood chips specially made for electric smokers.
How to Use an Electric Smoker – Take Away Tips
If you want to achieve the best when using an electric smoker, you should follow these proven tips to the letter:
- Take Your Time! Out of experience, slow-cooked meat will always have a tender and fine texture. It has an unmatched taste and flavor. As such, you should never rush smoking your meat. The slower the process, the tastier your meal becomes.
- Never Over-Smoke. Ensure that you follow the smoking guidelines. Every type of meal has different smoking requirements. If you over smoke, you’ll mess with the texture and taste of your meat.
- Use a Foil to Cover Your Rack. If you want peace after eating your best meals, then you should cover your rack with a foil when smoking. This way, you’ll save yourself the hassle of cleaning greasy and oily racks after you’re through with cooking. All you’ll be required to do is to remove the foil and casually wipe the racks.
- Always Use a Clean Smoker. You should always clean your racks immediately after use. It doesn’t matter when you use foil or not! Always ensure that you wipe the racks with warm and soapy water.
How to Use an Electric Smoker – The Bottom Line
Buying your best electric smoker is an electrifying moment. The thought of crispy and smokey meals will easily make you long for the moment you become a smoking pro!
If you’ve already bought your best electric smoker but you are not sure how to use it, then this guide is for you. You can be sure that it will turn you into an overnight grilling and smoking guru!
This article offers a comprehensive guide on how to use an electric smoker. It offers a step-by-step guide on what you should do to achieve the best results.
You no longer have to struggle when smoking your meat! Just read through this guide and apply every tip to revolutionize your cooking experience.
Chef Boniface is a graduate in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education, New York. He has worked in several restaurants and is currently the Head Chef at Cavali Restaurant.
He has excelled in developing unique recipes and influencing the menu at the restaurant. He prides himself in sharing his knowledge at thekitchenpot.com where he writes about the best cookware for various recipes.