Pellet Smoker Vs. Electric Smoker: A True Comparison

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Trying to figure out which is better, a pellet smoker vs. electric smoker? There are some big considerations, let’s talk about it.

Pellet smokers and electric smokers are two popular options for outdoor cooks.

You crank up smokers with the same goal in mind, whether you’re cooking for fun or are a professional: to make the tastiest meal possible.

A variety of smokers can be used to do the task, including pellet and electric smokers. However, which is best for your needs?

Pellet smokers and electric smokers both require a source of wood and electricity to operate effectively.

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The heat is generated by the combustion of pellets in a pellet smoker.

The source of heat in an electric smoker is an electric element. Pellet smokers smoke food better than electric smokers.

Most people simply enjoy experimenting, and most importantly, people enjoy receiving compliments when food is served.

You should have all the knowledge you can on pellet vs. electric smokers to make the correct decision for that to happen.

I get how the distinctions between them can be perplexing, so here’s all you need to know about these smokers.

Pellet Grills Vs. Vertical Pellet Smoker: What’s The Difference?

Grilling meats has continually been a popular pastime across the country, and with the smoking meat trend also growing, you might find yourself in the market for a BBQ wood pellet grill or smoker.

These tools are great to have in your arsenal for your summer meals. 

However, when you look through all the different pellet smokers and grills, it can get confusing and slightly overwhelming due to the number of available brands and designs.

You might come across two options: the pellet grill and the vertical pellet smoker. 

These two look quite similar, with the only difference seeming to be that one is vertical and the other is not.

However, there are many other distinctions between these two BBQ tools when you take a closer look at them. 

Let’s go through a bit more information about these two options before we get into the distinctions between the two, so you can better see how these options work and which one might suit you. 

How Do Pellet Grills Work?

Pellet grills also go by the name pellet smokers, and they are relatively new to the smoking and grilling category.

Pellet grills are horizontal grills that utilize hardwood pellets for cooking your chosen meat to perfection, whether that be low and slow, or fast and hot.

The wood pellets are placed in the auger thats driven by a electric motor, feeding pellets to the fire box at a rate dictated by your temperature selected.

Due to this operation, the hotter the temp you select, the more pellets used, and the lower the temp, the lower the number of pellets used.

Most pellet grills can reach a high of 650°F and as low as 150°F, which means you can use them for low and slow smoking or as a grill to get the perfect sear on your meat. 

The way you use your pellet grill will depend on what you want to cook and how you cook it.

Pellet grills combine the elements of charcoal grills, gas grills, smokers, and ovens together, offering a large range of cooking options. 

Pellet smokers come in varying sizes and colors, so you can easily find one in the style you like.

As you can see, the appeal of pellet grills over traditional smokers is the “set it and forget it” approach to great BBQ.

You simply select the running temp (for example: 225 for brisket) and then just ensure your pellet hopper is loaded up and you can literally only stop by to spritz or when its time to wrap your brisket when it stalls.

Vertical Pellet Smokers Explained

The vertical pellet smoker (not to be confused with a vertical smoker) works differently from the pellet grill and requires more work from you to maintain the pellets or charcoal in the smoker.

To operate the vertical pellet smoker, you will need to take the shelves out to give you space to work. 

At the bottom of the vertical pellet smoker, a heat plate or burner provides the heat needed to smoke the meat properly.

Above this heat source will generally be a water tray; this will help keep your meat moist while in the smoker. 

To operate the vertical pellet smoker, you will need to place your hardwood pellets, charcoal, or both onto the burner.

Then place the water tray in its designated location and use the temperature dial on the vertical smoker to heat it to your desired temperature. 

Once the vertical smoker has reached the temperature required for your chosen meat, you can place the meat on the shelves in the smoker and leave it to smoke for the time stated on the recipe. 

Depending on how extreme you set the heat, you will need to monitor the wood pellets, as the pellets might need to be replenished halfway through the smoking process. 

Heat Sources Compared

It is widely known that pellet and electric smokers use electricity to work. However, each has its own unique heat source.

A pellet smoker is an all-in-one outdoor cooker that combines characteristics of gas grills, charcoal smokers, and kitchen ovens.

It uses compressed wood pellets as a heat source rather than gas or charcoal.

Ground wood or shavings, such as sawdust, are compressed into little standard-sized pellets.

There are various advantages to smoking pellets. It aids in the recycling of wood that would otherwise be discarded by sawmills.

The pellets are simple to handle and package, making them convenient to buy and sell.

One of the great advantages is that it enables the use of automated smokers, in which pellets are placed in a bin.

An electric auger or similar device draws pellets to keep your smoker hot and produce smoke to cook your food.

Electric smokers are a fantastic way to achieve properly smoked meat. Electric smokers use the same wood bits and chips as gas smokers.

Because there are no flames because there is no fire, you can smoke meat without fear of it being burned.

Rather than using an open fire, electric smokers rely on a warming component near the base to get wood chips hot enough they produce smoke.

The combination of warmth and smoke created cooks and flavors whatever you put on the racks.

Is The Pellet Or Electric Smoker Easier To Use?

Both the pellet and electric smokers are easy to operate. It’s as simple as setting the smoker and forgetting about it.

However, when it comes to ease of use, beginners can use electric smokers with ease, especially when practicing smoking food.

Electric smokers are the most superb smokers on the market, providing a convenient smoking experience.

The electric smoker has many features that make cooking a lot easier. Many have a temperature gauze and smoke zone and no-frills analog smoke.

There are often chrome-plated cooking grates that can be adjusted and a wood chip loader on the side to reduce smoke while reloading.

Another feature that makes electric smokers easier to use is a digital control panel to keep track of cooking temperature and make adjustments as needed.

Furthermore, electric smokers, these days have glass doors that let you see how the smoke inside is operating while keeping the heat and smoke from escaping.

Electric smokers are the best way to go if you like to set it and forget it.

You can start cooking your food early in the day, season it with various wood tastes and combinations, and then check on it every now and then until it’s cooked.

Furthermore, meat probes come in handy as they send an alert to your phone, tablet, etc., when the meat hits the appropriate temperature.

This takes the guesswork out of cooking meat, as you will know exactly when the meat is ready to come out.

Electric smokers are, without a doubt, the simplest method of smoking meat.

Simply put, electric smokers are more user-friendly and straightforward to operate than other sorts of smokers.

They can accomplish practically any task that other forms of smokers can.

Modern wood pellet smokers work similarly to ovens in that the desired temperature can be set on the controller.

The pellet smoker does the rest, supplying wood pellets to the fire pot to sustain the heat output.

Pellet smokers often include a hopper on the side or back, depending on the model.

They can contain roughly 7 to 10kg of wood pellets, which is adequate for more or less 25 hours of cooking.

This is where the wood is lit by an electric ignition rod, also known as a hot rod. An auger-like metal rod feeds wood pellets into a fire pot.

The temperature of the grill cooking area is monitored by an electronic controller.

This switches on and off the auger to inject as many pellets as necessary to maintain the predetermined temperature.

Most current pellet smoker controllers use PID logic.

This works similar to a feedback loop to progressively learn how many wood pellets to provide to keep the temperature at the desired level.

Convenience is the most significant advantage I can think of for pellets.

Electronic controls on newer models keep the temperature similar to what you set.

Simply fill the hopper, set the knobs, and let the smoker do its thing.

It doesn’t get any easier than that. You never have to labor and worry about just how many pellets to put in as amazing technology takes care of it.

Furthermore, you don’t have to continuously refill pellets once you’ve put in the exact amount needed for the duration of your cook.

Are Pellet Or Electric Smokers Easy To Clean?

It is no surprise that most of us love cooking but hate cleaning. The same can be said when cleaning pellet and electric smokers.

Cleaning and maintaining most electric smokers is simple and a breeze.

Generally, using an electric smoker eliminates the need to deal with charcoal and wood. Simply put, it removes any mess.

You only need to clean the wood chip tray when using an electric smoker. After cooking, remove the wood chip tray and throw the mess in the trash.

Apart from that, the electric smoker’s interior comprises of stainless steel, making it simple to clean with a wipe or wet cloth.

Furthermore, all smoking racks are simply removable, allowing for thorough cleaning. They are dishwasher safe, so you can even throw them in there.

On the other hand, Pellet smokers require more cleanup than electric smokers. After each use, the ashes in the pellet smoker are pretty full.

The grate must be cleaned regularly to avoid a big build-up and mess. This means that they need more upkeep than electric smokers.

Furthermore, the pellets will start burning if you don’t clean the grill and drip pan regularly.

How Versatile Are Pellet And Electric Smokers?

Versatility is key with a wood pellet smoker since you can cook just about everything. You want a smoker that allows you to do more than just one thing.

That way, you can save money instead of getting other appliances.

A pellet smoker can be used to cook Barbeque favorites like steaks and low-and-slow favorites like briskets and ribs that would usually require a smoker.

Pellet smokers that are horizontal can also be used as grills. The same cannot be said for electric smokers.

Electric smokers are solely meant to be used to smoke food.

Electric smokers are a great alternative if you stay in an apartment and can’t use a real-fire grill.

However, they aren’t ideal for grilling because most of them have a design that prevents the temperature from reaching a high enough level.

Food cooked in ovens or on a stove can almost always be cooked on a pellet smoker grill.

A pellet grill will not only successfully replace your stove or oven, but it will also maintain and regain temperatures faster and more accurately.

Pellet smokers use convection cooking, which cooks food thoroughly and uniformly while keeping it moist by surrounding it with heated smoke and air.

If you get a pellet smoker with cold smoking capability, you’ll have a whole new set of options.

If you’re looking for a versatile barbeque device, a pellet smoker is great. Pellet chips come in various tastes, including hickory, apple, mesquite, cherry, etc.

There are essentially no limits to the variety of flavors available.

You can operate your smoker at considerably cooler temperatures with an electric smoker since you technically have better temperature control.

This means you can smoke delicacies like almonds, cheese, salmon, pork belly, and other items that would be impossible to smoke at high temperatures.

Is The Pellet Grill Or Electric Smoker Better At Smoking Food?

To what extent a smoker smokes food is crucial. Smoke can elevate food and make it taste almost restaurant quality-like.

The least authentic smoked foods are produced by electric smokers.

They’re simple to use because they have flawless temperature control, yet they don’t produce smoke to a satisfactory extent.

The most extraordinary flavor comes from blue smoke, which can only be made by wood combustion.

Electric smokers tend to just smolder the wood, resulting in a thicker and, by most accounts, inferior-tasting smoke.

Electric smokers don’t really form a smoke ring, which some consider the single most crucial feature of authentic low and slow cooking.

The created smoke isn’t as strong as what you’d get from a pellet smoker because the source of heat isn’t an actual fire.

Nevertheless, when compared to, for example, roasting in the household oven, it’s still much better.

On the other hand, Pellet smokers are undoubtedly the best when infusing as much smoke into food as possible (between these two, a true offset smoker with chunks of wood will create better smoke flavor than either of these).

Pellet smoking produces the greatest smoked meat outcomes. This is because they are designed to impart maximum smoke flavor using indirect heat.

The results are significantly superior to smoking on an electric smoker.

Pellets of compressed hardwood are burned in a pellet smoker. It emits smoke as it burns, which is directed into the cooking chamber.

The smoke gets absorbed by the meat, leaving a visible trace in the form of a smoke ring behind.

You can also set the grill to smoke on most models with pellet smokers. This will allow you to include extra smokiness in your meals.

In this mode, the auger will only deliver enough pellets to produce smoke while keeping the grill temperature below 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Furthermore, cold smoking is possible with pellet smokers. Many people, in fact, use pellet smokers just for cold smoking.

The trick is to use a pellet smoker with a low enough temperature setting. The pellets burn slowly and produce very little heat.

This will enable the smoke to flow around the food while preventing it from cooking.

Another distinction between pellet and electric smokers is that electric smokers emit extremely dry heat.

Because pellets include a small amount of moisture, approximately 5 to 10%, they do not pose the same concern of letting your food dry out.

This means that maximum smoke infuses into the meat.

As a result, you almost always need to utilize a water pan at the bottom of the smoker with an electric smoker.

Are Pellet Smokers More Expensive Than Electric Smokers?

Cost is essential as smokers can put a dent in your pocket.

Pellet smokers are just as simple to use as electric smokers, and they produce far better-tasting food, but they are more costly.

The electric smoker is a less expensive alternative to the pellet smoker. On average, an electric smoker costs less than half as much as a pellet smoker.

On the other hand, the pellet smoker creates higher-quality smoke and is more adaptable than the electric smoker.

Pellet smokers can achieve much greater temperatures, allowing them to be used for grilling and smoking.

The disadvantage is that you must purchase pellets, which will be more expensive in the long run.

Pellet smokers are roughly 2–3 times the price of a comparable-quality stick smoker.

Furthermore, most pellet smokers are fuel hogs in adverse weather, meaning you’ll spend more to get more pellets.

Also, if you are thinking of using cheaper pellets, think again, as I’ve heard of folks having issues with cheaper pellets.

You’re more likely to spend more money on pellets than on wood chips. Basically, pellet smokers are expensive to buy and fuel.

On the other hand, electric smokers do not require a lot of wood. Generally, they only take 2-8 ounces of wood for smoking, depending on the model.

Electric smokers do not use a lot of electricity, as they consume relatively little power.

They just need a little electrical energy to generate heat and smoke the food. Therefore the operating cost is ridiculously low.

So, even though you’ll pay a somewhat significant sum for it, it is much cheaper than a pellet smoker in the long run.

However, when looking at quality, the last thing to focus on should be the cost, as the smoker will pay for itself tenfold in the future.

In general, purchasing a pellet smoker will cost more than purchasing an electric smoker.

The basic explanation for this is that a pellet smoker has more components, making it more expensive to manufacture.

Is A Pellet/Electric Smoker Better At Temperature Control?

As most pellet smokers have modern designs featuring automatic timing and heat control, temperature control is straightforward.

The hopper keeps the smoke level steady throughout the cooking process. It takes ten to fifteen minutes for most models to reach smoking temperature.

Only gas grills reach those cooking temperatures easier and quicker.

Controlling the temperature on electric smokers is a breeze, especially on higher-end models.

Some of the less expensive smokers may just have basic settings like low, medium, and high. You can alter the temperature by just rotating the dial.

It’s a true convenience when you can set it and forget it. You can walk away after setting the temperature.

Many electric smokers come with wireless connectivity since they feature digital interfaces.

As a result, you may monitor your temperatures, time, and other information from the comfort of your smartphone.

However, temperature control on pellet smokers is more reliable. The designs are more durable, and the controls function correctly, regulating wood pellet input.

The disadvantage of electric smokers is that they do not function properly in cold weather.

Your smoker will most likely not reach the proper cooking temperature if the outside temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

This can be an issue if you wish to smoke meat throughout the winter.

Electric smokers do not provide enough heat to bring the smoker up to temperature.

On the other hand, Pellet smokers operate well in cold weather and are the greatest smoker.

Because the pellets do a slow burn and provide a lot of heat, you can smoke meat even in the dead of winter.

Take into account that a pellet smoker’s temperature will oscillate around the specified temperature.

When using one of these, it’s preferable to set your temperature controls roughly 4 to 5 percent higher than your true goal.

This way, even when temperatures fluctuate, you’ll know that the cook will be consistent throughout.

How Much Electricity Do Pellet And Electric Smokers Use?

Although electric smokers do not take up much electricity, it is still significant compared to the electricity used by pellet smokers.

An electric smoker relies on electricity to provide the majority of the heat.

Therefore, because an electric smoker uses that electrical power to generate heat, its electrical power requirements are much higher.

A pellet smoker, for example, will take a significant amount of electricity to get the pellet fire started due to the hot rod igniter.

Nevertheless, once the pellet fire gets going, the electrical power requirements for the auger, control panel, and fan are rather low.

The ignited wood chips essential at the bottom of an electric smoker to make smoke will generate a little heat, but it will be insignificant.

You may be wondering how much electricity is required by an electric smoker.

Depending on the model and size of the electric smoker, the power required differs.

Generally, electric smokers often require 500 to 1,500 watts, which is substantially more than a pellet smoker.

Both Pellet And Electric Smokers Have Health Benefits

In this day and age, everyone is looking for ways to look after their health. There’s a lot of debate around whether or not cooking with wood or charcoal is healthy for you.

Many people believe that certain types of cooking release carcinogens, which raise the risk of developing cancer.

Therefore, it is no wonder smokers have become so popular.

You don’t have to worry about cancer concerns with pellet and electric smokers.

However, pellet smokers prevent the risk of cancer differently.

Extra animal fat drippings aren’t burnt up and turned carcinogenic by open fire because you’re cooking indirectly.

Instead, they strike a grease pan, where they are converted to gases that help flavor your dish.

Some pellets have a burn efficiency of above 98 percent.

This decreases your and the environment’s contact with carcinogenic chemicals, including HCAs.

Furthermore, because smoking does not involve any butter or oil, eating smoked meat rather than frying or sautéing it is healthier.

But it is important to choose the right kind of smoker for you and your needs.

Pellet Smoker vs. Electric Smoker Size Comparison

When we look at the size of a pellet smoker and an electric smoker, the electric smoker is more compact and easily fits in smaller gardens.

This also means that the electric smoker is easier to store for the winter if you don’t want to use it. 

Electric smokers usually have a cabinet design, with three of four shelves inside to place your meat on.

Pellet smokers have a similar design to regular hooded outdoor grills.

The pellet smokers can be as big as 26.7″ W x 54.9″ H, with a weight of 97 lbs.

Electric smokers are generally a lot smaller, usually measuring about 20.4″ W x 33.3″ H x 19.8; D, with a weight of 45.9 lbs.

This is a significant size difference between the two smokers.

Pros And Cons Of Both Smokers

These two smokers have a fair number of similarities and many differences that make these two smokers stand out from each other. 

On the surface, the only difference these two smokers seem to have is their style and heating method.

But when you dig deeper, you realize that there is far more going on than these two differences. 

Let’s glance through the advantages and disadvantages of each smoker.

This would help you decide which smoker is best for you and to further help you understand the differences between the two. 

Pros And Cons Of Pellet Smokers

We will first cover the pros and cons of a pellet smoker, and then we will see how the electric smoker compares.

Here are the pros of a pellet smoker:

  • Pellet smokers are easy to use.
  • Pellet smokers offer the real wood-fired flavor that many people want with their smoker meats.
  • These smokers are set and forget smokers, so they don’t need constant monitoring. 
  • Most pellet smokers can also be used as grills. 
  • Pellet smokers are more fuel-efficient than other grills/smokers. 


Here are a few of the cons of having a pellet smoker:

  • Pellet smokers require electricity to operate.
  • These smokers are expensive. 
  • Pellet smokers are usually large. 

Pros And Cons Of Electric Smokers

Now you are informed of the pros and cons of the pellet smoker; we will go through the pros and cons of the electric smoker and see how they differ.

Here are the pros of an electric smoker:

  • Electric smokers are easy to use.
  • These smokers can be used in the winter and cooler climates when well insulated. 
  • Electric smokers are fairly inexpensive.
  • These smokers are set and forget smokers, not requiring close monitoring when in use. 
  • Electric smokers are small and don’t take up much room.

Here are a few of the cons of having an electric smoker:

  • Electric smokers need electricity to operate. 
  • Electric smokers are not multifunctional, meaning you cannot use them for grilling.
  • The meat will lack a strong smoky flavor.
  • The meat won’t have the smoke ring.
  • It can take practice to get the right woodchip levels and stop the meat from drying out.

Conclusion

Pellet smokers and electric smokers are both excellent smokers that will give you delicious, tender, and juicy meat that everyone will enjoy.

These two smokers have some noticeable differences that make you favor one over the other, even though they are both great smokers. 

Both smokers have some pros and cons that need to be considered before you purchase one or the other for yourself.

Hopefully, this article has assisted you with making your decision. Good luck smoking your meat!