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Electric Smoker vs Pellet Smoker: Learn the Key Differences

WriterAubrey McShan
15 min read
Depiction of a Electric Smoker vs Pellet Grill

Pellet smokers offer that classic smoky flavor and can also be used for grilling (and so many other cooking methods). Electric smokers provide the convenience of maintaining an even temperature without much effort. So which one should you choose?

Our complete guide helps you decide without a doubt! Create tasty burgers, juicy pork chops, crispy wings, and much more in the smoker that fits your cooking preferences and lifestyle while delivering the flavor, convenience, and versatility you want!

Key Takeaways

Electric Smoker vs Pellet Smoker Breakdown

In general, electric smokers offer convenience and are more beginner-friendly while pellet smokers dominate in flavor profile opportunities as well as versatility. We break down everything you should consider about electric vs pellet smokers before committing to either:

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Overview of an Electric Smoker & a Pellet Smoker
Categories Electric Smokers Pellet Smokers
Cooking Capacity Low: Electric smokers tend to have less cooking capacity High: Pellet smokers have a high capacity so you can smoke burgers, ribs, and chicken thighs at the same time
Fuel Requires electricity & wood chips Requires electricity & wood pellets
Flavor Produces a light smoky flavor Produces great smoke flavors with pellets
Smoke Ring Electric smokers never produce smoke rings Creates beautiful pink smoke rings on your meats
Ease of Use
  • Electric smokers are more straightforward and easy to use
  • Great for beginners
  • Fairly easy to operate
  • You can ‘set it and forget it’
  • Great for experienced smokers who want to smoke for hours
Versatility Electric smokers are used for smoking only Some pellet smokers can bake and grill
Temperature Reaches 225-275°F Reaches up to 600°F
Price Electric smokers are more of a budget-friendly option Pellet smokers are more expensive than electric smokers

What Are the Differences Between an Electric vs Pellet Smoker?

Cooking Capacity

  • Electric Smokers: Electric smokers are typically designed to be vertical, and most models come with four racks, which means they have a smaller cooking capacity. If you have a smaller family or don't need to cook for a large group of people, an electric smoker can be a good fit.

  • Pellet Smokers: If you're planning on hosting larger gatherings or want to smoke a larger quantity of meat at once, a pellet smoker is an ideal choice. Pellet smokers range anywhere from 300-1,000 square inches.

Fuel Source

Electric and pellet smokers need electricity to function. They both contain different components to properly smoke food.

Electric Smokers

Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker

Electric smokers use convection to circulate the air and cook food. You can choose to add wood chips to add a smoky flavor. They also contain a water pan that helps keep your meats stay moist.

Pellet Smokers

Pit Boss 850 Competition Series Pellet Grill

Pellet smokers also use convection to circulate smoke and heat throughout. They have a hopper on the side of them that houses the pellets. From there, the wood pellets are fed into the firepot and ignited.

Flavor Profile Opportunities

There is a big distinction in flavor between pellet smokers and electric smokers. Depending on the type of food you like to smoke, this may be a major deciding factor for you.

Electric Smoker Flavor Profile

  • If you desire a smoky flavor, you can add wood chips to your electric smoker. Most electric smokers are sold with a wood chip tray for this reason.
  • Replenish your wood chips roughly every four hours.
  • Electric smokers can make delicious brisket, pulled pork, and smoked fish.

Pellet Smoker Flavor Profile

  • You can add flavored wood pellets to the hopper to produce a robust, smoky taste.
  • Pellet smokers require 1-3 lbs. of pellets per hour — depending on whether it’s set at low or high heat. This cost adds up over time.
  • You can achieve a good bark on brisket and intense smoky flavors for a variety of meats.

Smoke Ring Potential

While smoke rings don’t affect the taste of your meat, they are considered a sign of expertise among smoke masters and indicate that the meat has been perfectly smoked.

  • Electric Smokers: Electric smokers don’t create a smoke ring for your meats. However, one way around this is by soaking your meats in a brine, which will create a small smoke ring.

  • Pellet Smokers: Pellet smokers can produce excellent smoke rings for your brisket and other meats. Make sure to use wood that produces a high concentration of nitric oxide.

Expert Tip:

You can add lumps of wood and charcoal to your electric smoker to create pink smoke rings on your meat.

Ease of Use

  • Electric Smokers: Electric smokers are fairly easy to use. Simply preheat your electric smoker, fill the water tray, add wood chips, and place your meat on the racks.

  • Pellet Smokers: Since pellet smokers have more components than electric smokers, they do require more time to master. You can ‘set and forget’ your meat with a pellet smoker.

Cooking Versatility

  • Electric Smokers: Electric smokers are designed solely for smoking; however, some newer models also allow for grilling. You can make smoked cheeses and smoked desserts.

  • Pellet Smokers: Pellet smokers can be used to bake pizzas, grill chicken, and sear meats, making them the more versatile option. You can even do some baking with your pellet smoker too.

Temperature Capabilities

Electric Smoker Temperature

  • Electric smokers are unable to reach high temperatures — meaning you won’t be able to sear meat on them.
  • Most electric smokers can reach up to 275°F. Stick with a slow and low-temperature approach if you’re using one.

Pellet Smoker Temperature

  • Pellet smokers have a wide range of temperatures and most can reach between 400-600°F.
  • Some pellet smokers have Bluetooth capabilities, so you can control the temperature through your phone.

Price/Budget Ranges

  • Electric Smokers: Electric smokers are priced around $200 - $600.
  • Pellet Smokers: Pellet smokers can cost anywhere from $400 - $3,000.

Electric vs Pellet Smoker: Which Is Better?

Man in a black shirt and jeans uses a pellet grill in his backyard with trees in the background

Curious how electric and pellet smokers compete in a head-to-head competition? While we don’t want to sway you in any direction, we do have recommendations based on specific factors.

  • If You’re a Beginner: Choose an electric smoker, which is easier to use. The smoker takes care of temperature regulation itself (for the most part).

  • If You Prioritize Flavor: When it comes to the flavor category, pellet smokers take the win. They deliver juicy meats, robust smoky flavors, and smoke rings.

  • If You Want Versatility: If you’re buying your smoker to exclusively smoke, then opt for an electric smoker. However, if you want to grill and sear burgers, chicken, or meats at medium to high temperatures, then go for a pellet smoker.

  • If You Prefer Convenience: An electric smoker simply needs to be plugged in and turned on. Allow it time to preheat and then start smoking your ribs, brisket, and chicken. Electric smokers regulate temperature more precisely, and you don't need to purchase and store large bags of pellets.

Have Fun Out There!

Dreaming of smoked ribs and juicy briskets? Electric smokers and pellet smokers can produce flavorful, fall-off-the-bone meats that melt in your mouth. Now you can pop pork belly, sausage, or even a whole chicken into your smoker with ‘set it and forget’ technology and wake up to the delicious meat dreams are made of!