Fortunately, there are now electric smokers available on the market to make the smoking process easier. It eliminates the challenging method of controlling temperature as most of them have a “set and forget” feature.
The best part is, electric smokers also don’t get rid of the authentic smoky flavors as you can use wood chips to deliver that to your meat. In other words, it’s like cooking in a charcoal smoker but in an easier way.
If you haven’t used an electric smoker before or are planning to buy one, this article will explain everything you need to learn about operating an electric smoker. We’ll tackle:
- Temperature Control
- Using the right wood chips
- Temperature settings to use
And other tips that will help you cook the perfect smoked meat.
Preseason Your Electric Smoker
Just like with any grilling appliance you have, electric smokers need to be seasoned before use. This is almost like a method of cleaning. The purpose is to burn off any chemicals and residues left from the manufacturers.
Pre-seasoning your electric smoker also helps to ensure that your smoker stays of good quality for years. The smoke released during the pre-seasoning process will not only get rid of any chemicals but will also envelop your smoker, creating a protective layer.
Here’s a step-by-step process on seasoning your electric smoker:
- Make sure you’ve assembled your smoker correctly.
- Using a damp sponge and mild detergent, clean your electric smoker’s interior surfaces, trays, and rack. After that, make sure to let it dry.
- Once dry, coat the surfaces lightly with oil and place all racks and trays back inside the smoker. Note: You don’t need to coat the chip tray, heating element, grease tray, and water tray.
- Plug your smoker in to start the smoking process. Make sure that all vents are fully open.
- Set the smoker to 275 °F and time it for 3 hours. After 20 minutes, add 8-12 woodchips to the woodchip loader and do this three more times every 20 minutes.
And that’s it! Your smoker is now ready to use.
Learn To Control The Temperature
After seasoning your smoker, you must also learn how to control its temperature. This will help ensure that you get perfectly smoked meat.
Yes, controlling temperature on an electric smoker is easier than using charcoal, pellet, or wood smokers. However, these smokers are known for temperature swinging. This refers to how temperature goes up to 20° F above or below the temperature you’ve set.
This temperature swinging sometimes results in under-cooked meat. So, if you’re looking to get perfectly cooked meat, understanding how to control the swings is essential.
First of all, you need to make sure that you’ve got all the tools you need – temperature controllers, meat probes, and monitors. These will help you monitor the heat inside your smoker as accurately as possible.
You may want to buy your own meat probe and internal probe instead of relying on the built-in ones on your smoker. This will help you get a more accurate temperature.
Once you’ve set all your temperature monitors in place, it’s time to set your temperature. Again, take note of the temperature swings.
If your desired temperature is 220 °F, it’s recommended that you set the smoker temperature at 205-210 °F instead. Monitor the internal temperature using the probe you bought until it hits 220 °F. Once it does, change the temperature you’ve set in your controller to 220 °F.
Don’t make any more adjustments to the controller after this. Instead, make use of the vents to control the airflow. If the temperature drops, you can open the vents to increase the temperature, and if it rises, you can slightly close the vents, too.
Choosing The Right Wood Chips
Not all electric smokers will give you an option to burn wood chips. But in case you’ve bought one with such a feature, you should note that using the right wood chips is very important.
As you know, wood chips are used to increase the smoky flavor of your meat. However, depending on the type of wood chip you buy, you’ll be getting different flavors. That’s why you need to know what kind of wood chip would work best for certain meat. Get this wrong, and you’ll end up with inedible meat.
The general rule is that strong-flavored wood chips are best paired up with darker meats. On the other hand, lighter meats, cheese, and vegetables would be most suitable for fruitier and milder wood chips.
Here are some of the most popular wood chips and the type of meats that would match best to them:
- Applewood: The strongest flavor of all fruitwoods. It comes with a fruity and mild smoky flavor which is best paired with beef, pork, poultry, and seafood.
- Cherry: Cherry is another fruitwood that comes with a sweet, mild, and very fruity flavor. It pairs well with beef, pork, poultry, seafood, and lamb.
- Hickory: This wood comes with a strong and bacony flavor and is most suitable for pork and ribs. You can also use it for beef, poultry, lamb, and wild game.
- Pecan: Almost similar to hickory but is a little sweeter and nutty. You can pair it with beef, pork, poultry, lamb, and wild game.
- Maple: Comes with a sweet and mild flavor that pairs well with vegetables, cheese, and pork.
If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can experiment with some wood chip combination. Again, when it comes to flavor, we each have our preferences, so feel free to play with different flavors. A mix of hardwood and fruitwood is highly recommended.
How Often To Add Wood Chips
When it comes to smoking meat, it’s always important to remember never to over smoke. If you do, the meat may end up with a really strong flavor that you can no longer eat.
So, when adding wood chips, add only around 4 cups every 5 hours of smoking. Don’t soak them in water, as this will only create steam, affecting the smoking process. Instead, just make sure that the water tray is filled so the meat won’t run dry.
Master The Different Temperature Settings for Different Types of Meat
The standard temperature when smoking meat is 200-225 °F. However, this can also vary depending on the type of meat you’re smoking.
For example, when you’re smoking chicken, it’s best to smoke it at a higher temperature of 275 °F for only two hours. Fish, on the other hand, needs to be smoked at low temperatures of 150 °F for two hours and then at 200 °F when it’s almost cooked.
Beef and pork are usually the ones cooked at standard temperatures of 225-250 °F. However, depending on the part you’re cooking, you can spend as little as 1.5 hours to 20 hours to finish.
For example, beef brisket will take 12-20 hours of your time to smoke, while back ribs will only take 3-4 hours. As for pork, you can smoke belly bacon for 6 hours, while pork sausage will only require 2-3 hours.
Aside from the smoker’s temperature, knowing the safe internal temperatures for each type of meat is essential. Poultry and fowl should be served at 165-175 °F, pork should be served at 145 °F, smoked lamb at 135-165 °F (depending on the cook you want), and beef at 145-170 °F (depending on the cook you want).
Line Cooking Racks
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the temperature control, right wood chips, and correct temperature settings, you can now start cooking. However, before you even start putting meat inside your smoker, it’s highly recommended to line your racks with aluminum foil beforehand.
Lining your cooking racks with foil is easier and less of a hassle than wrapping each of your meat.
This step will also help reduce the amount of cleaning you need to do after smoking meat. At the same time, it helps protect your smoker from any type of damage that dripping grease or oil would cause.
If you’re using a horizontal smoker, then you know that you’re stacking food on top of each other. Any grease that falls from the upper rack can go to the food below, which might change the flavor.
Clean After Each Use
Finally, after you’ve finished smoking the meat, don’t forget to clean your smoker. This is very important for maintenance, especially if you want the smoker to last for years.
Let your smoker cool down and start by removing your wood chip tray and dispose of the ashes in the bin. If the ashes are still warm, make sure to place them in a non-combustible container to prevent fire.
After this, start removing the shelves, water pan, and drip pan from your smoker and clean them. Check if their dishwasher safe so you don’t have to hassle yourself cleaning. If they’re not dishwasher safe, you can scrape out any grease with a scraper and then wash with a bowl of soapy water.
Once you’ve cleaned out the parts of your smoker, it’s time to wipe your smoker’s interior. Use soap and water to watch the surfaces and scrape off any grease. Don’t forget to clean the glass door, too.
Reassemble your smoker and fire it up at the maximum temperature for 30 minutes. This will help dry up your smoker fast. But if you don’t want to, you can instead pat it dry with wet towels or let it air dry with the door open.
Finally, once you’re sure that the smoker is dry, oil the grates again to prevent rusting, and you’re done!
Electric smokers are indeed easier to use, but without the right knowledge, something can still go wrong with your cooking process. So, again, always remember these things:
- Pre-season your smoker to ensure that it’s clean and that it lasts longer
- Learn how to control the temperature by understanding temperature swings and adjusting the air vents
- Know what wood chips to use for a specific type of meat
- Know the right temperature settings for each type of meat
- Line the cooking racks for easy cleaning
- Always clean the smoker after use
By always remembering these things, you’ll be sure to produce some best-tasting smoked meats. On top of that, you’re also ensuring that your smoker will last for years.