Propane Smoker vs Electric Smoker – Comparison

When it comes to certain smokers, the difference is like day and night, for example if we compare electric smoker vs charcoal smoker. If we look at an electric smoker and compare it with a gas smoker, on the other hand, it is actually difficult to find many significant differences.

Despite that, you can give consideration on who is the winner in the clash of gas smoker vs electric smoker. When it comes to majority of comparison of this kind, there is actually no clear winner. The answer to that question usually depends on your expectations and your cooking style.

In this kind of situations, I always encourage to learn the upsides and downsides of both types of smokers, it will allow you to know them better and make the final decision easier.

Gas Smoker vs Electric Smoker

Comparison Table

#Feature

Propane smoker

electric smoker

Easy of use

It works in a similar fashion to a gas stove, from the moment of starting the burner you need to control its power in order to maintain your preferred temperature. Seems like a convenient and fast solution, but it does require temperature control once in a while.

Incredibly convenient and easy to use, all it takes is to plug it in, select the temperature using a precise controller and about 20 minutes later you can start smoking already.

Flavor

Me as well as many other people believe that the flavor of meat from a propane smoker is slightly closer to that from a charcoal/wood smoker than with an electric smoker. I have to admit, though, that in both cases it all actually depends on the skills.

The food tastes very good as well, one could argue over the details but in the end I believe that it all depends on the method used.

Controller

The controller is an on/off switch and a burner knob that has to be adjusted adequately in order to achieve the right temperature.

Each model is equipped with a digital controller that, on top of the basic temperature selection feature, often also comes with several other useful features, like a timer or plugging in a meat probe.

Cold Smoking

Without modifications, it is either difficult or impossible to achieve a low enough temperature.

The temperature range and precise control make cold smoking possible. If you’re not satisfied with the results, though, it is possible to buy a dedicated cold smoking kit.

Features

In most cases it is a simple yet effective device that consists of basic elements ( on/off switch and burner knobs ).

The digital controller, on top of setting the temperature, makes it possible to turn on the light, set the alarm or plug in a meat probe.

Grilling Area

They are among the biggest smokers, of course there are slightly smaller models as well, but most offers on the market are medium or big sizes, with the main area of about 1200~ square inches.

Most of the available models come in different sizes, so everyone can find something for themselves, the leading manufacturers mostly offer models sized 30inch and 40inch ( up to 1000~ square inches of the main area ).

Temperature Range

It is difficult to maintain a low temperature, although it is possible to achieve one much higher than 300 degrees F ( most models offer 160 to about 350 degrees F ).

They offer a much more versatile temperature range, smoking is mostly associated with low temperatures. Most models offer a temperature range of 100 to nearly 300 degrees F, which makes perfect conditions for smoking meat or for cold smoking.

Warranty

Similarly, with most models you can expect a warranty of few months to 2-3 years.

Sadly, in most cases you can only expect few months to 2-3 years ( usually 1 year ).

Safety

The propane tank always means risk, provided that you don’t pay attention to safety procedures whatsoever. There’s a propane tank of some sort in nearly every house and as long as you follow the basic principles, you have nothing to worry about.

You have electric devices everywhere around you, do they pose any actual threat to you? The answer is definitely no, an electric smoker is safe throughout many hours of smoking unattended. 

Mobility

It gets thumbs up for the ability to use this type of smoker wherever you want as long as you have a full propane tank with you.

As long as you don’t mind the sight of an extension cord stretching all across your backyard, one could say that an electric smoker is mobile as well.

Weather

Overall there are no contraindications for using a propane smoker in the rain when it comes to the risk of malfunctions etc., but you have to take into account that if the smoker’s insulation is poor then you might have slight problems with maintaining a fixed temperature.

I strongly advise against this kind of activity, an electric smoker consists of many elements that rely on electricity. Everyone knows that water and electricity are mortal enemies, there’s a digital controller on top of the smoker that has to be protected from water. If the insulation turns out to be poor and water gets into the electronics, you might expect a costly repair.

About Propane Gas Smokers

Without a doubt, it is a very easy to use smoker that will not cause any trouble even to beginners. Compared to the charcoal smoker, you don’t need to worry about getting the charcoal burning, adjusting the air vents or controlling the fuel. Temperature control consists of turning a burner knob, which is sadly not a precise solution.

The source of heat is propane out of tank, which means that the fuel level has to be checked before each cooking, so that it doesn’t turn out halfway through the cooking that the tank is empty. The gas burns clean, without impacting the food’s flavor, which is why a tray full of wood chips is used to generate smoke that benefits the food.

A propane smoker, just like a propane grill, warms up fast and can achieve pretty high temperatures for a smoker. On one hand, higher temperature might be useful when you want to do something like grilling the skin towards the end of smoking.

On the other hand, a gas smoker causes some problems with maintaining a very low temperature, which might be problematic when it comes to slow smoking at a low temperature ( the lowest temperature in most models is 200 degrees F ).

On the other hand, if you’re thinking about cold smoking then sadly it is only possible after making complicated modifications.

Upsides

Higher temperature – It is something that on one hand is an upside but on the other it’s a downside. A high temperature, however, will definitely come in handy when you want to grill the meat’s surface towards the end of smoking.

Easy to use – All you have to do is plug in a gas tank, start the burner by adjusting it properly and you’re done. Once you reach the right temperature, all you have to do is refill the water bowl and the wood chips and you can start smoking.

Downsides

Problems with reaching low temperatures – Sadly, a gas smoker has problems reaching low temperatures. In most models, the lowest  temperature you can set is whole 200 degrees F. This definitely excludes your smoker from possibility of cold smoking where a much lower temperature is required.

Safety – If the installation is regularly checked then you have nothing to worry about. But if you completely neglect the issues of safety then the propane tank poses a genuine threat to you. Accidents happen so try to keep the precautions and never use a gas smoker at home or around flames.

Avoid rain/snow – This type of smokers was not designed with a rainy weather in mind. A gas smoker has to be used in places sheltered from any weather conditions. It is mostly about poor insulation and electronics, which hate humidity.

About Electric Smokers

It is a much more reliable and more precise smoker that its competitor ( gas ). It requires plugging it to a socket, which might seem like something bad to some people. However, imagine smoking for many hours and knowing that you won’t run out of fuel ( of course excluding blackouts and things like that ).

Other types of smokers use charcoal, pellets or gas as the source of heat. One shared characteristic of those fuels is that they run out. Before a long smoking, you have to make sure if the amount of fuel is actually enough to finish smoking. When it comes to an electric smoker, all you have to do is plug the smoker in and you’re done, you can conveniently smoke like that even all night.

Another advantage of electric smokers is easy availability of different types of cold smoking kits. You don’t have to perform any complicated modifications, all the accessories required for that can be easily bought from the most popular manufacturers.

Another advantage is also the precise temperature controller that works almost like a stove. All you have to do is pick the temperature range of your choice and if the weather conditions around the smoker are good, you don’t have to worry about stable temperature.

What about the food’s flavor? Inside the smoker, you will find a wood chips and water bowl. Such combination creates perfect conditions for smoking meat, which as a result will have a distinctive, smoky flavor.

Upsides

Better at low temperatures – An electric smoker makes it possible to choose a lower temperature that is perfect for cold smoking. On top of that, plenty of manufacturers include a cold smoking kit in their offer, sold separately.

Area – Most models offer a very large smoking area. Around 1000 square inches is something normal, which makes it good news for those who smoke a lot of meat.

Ease of use – All you have to do is plug the smoker in, start it and use the controller to set your preferred temperature. A perfect thing for beginners or those who hate traditional smoking, which requires a lot of skills.

Safety – Electric devices don’t pose the kind of threat a propane tank does. An electric smoker is a good choice if you want to smoke without worries over many hours or even all night.

Price – Good quality models from renowned manufacturers in this category are available at affordable prices. The starting price is not something shocking, as is the case with certain types of smokers.

Downsides

Depends on electricity – It’s an obstacle to mobility, in order to use it you need to be around a source of electricity. That’s why whenever you change your smoker’s location, you have to make sure it will have access to electricity.

Avoid rain/snow – Electrics plus humidity is the worst thing that can happen to you. Humidity might lead to short circuit and malfunction of electric components, resulting in the smoker no longer working. You need to avoid exposing it to water, despite the smoker having a good insulation there is still the risk of water getting in wrong places.

Electric Smoker vs Propane Smoker – Direct Comparison

Ease of use – Both those types of smokers are actually very easy to use and perfect for beginners or those who cannot handle the classic BBQ at all. A gas smoker requires regular tank replacement once it gets empty, whereas an electric smoker just needs to be plugged into a socket.

Safety – The electric smoker definitely wins, as its mechanisms are hidden inside the structure and don’t pose any threat. In the event of any malfunction, the adequate systems ensure proper functioning of all mechanisms.

When it comes to the gas smoker, the safety depends on whether you properly use this type of smoker. The fuel is propane out of a tank that causes legitimate threat if the installation isn’t regularly checked and if the tank is stored in improper conditions.

Food flavor – In both cases, gas and electricity have no impact on the flavor of food, which is why manufacturers have introduced bowls/containers with wood chips, which are there to produce smoke. As a result, it passes the test and the smoked meat has the characteristic flavor depending on the type of wood chips, condiments etc.

Initial price – It mostly depends on the size of the smoker but by taking a brief look at the offer one can conclude that gas smokers have a much lower initial price than electric smokers.

Warranty – Sadly, when it comes to both types we can only expect a warranty of few to about dozen months. It is sad news considering that both types come with plenty of elements in their structures that are prone to malfunctions and that they can’t function without.

Temperature range – A much better temperature range ( low, even 160 degrees F ) is available in electric smokers, which I recommend if you plan cold smoking.

A gas smoker has a higher minimum temperature compared to the electric version ( usually 200 degrees F ) which makes cold smoking impossible without complicated modifications. On the other hand, it offers a much higher maximum temperature which is mostly useful when for example you want to grill the surface of meat towards the end of smoking.

Temperature control – In this regard, the winner is an electric smoker with a digital controller that allows to precisely set the temperature. When it comes to gas smokers, you need to properly adjust the burner knob, which isn’t as reliable as a digital controller.

Cleaning – Neither gas nor electricity leave behind any traces, like ash for example. It means that all that is left to clean is grease and meat juices, which are drained to a special tray/drawer. Which means that all you have to do is empty the container once in a while or after each cooking and you’re done.

Cold Smoking – I have already mentioned it several times that a gas smoker doesn’t make it possible to set a low temperature. Usually the lowest is about 200 degrees F which is too much when it comes to cold smoking. You can change that, but it requires complicated modifications which doesn’t make much sense.

When it comes to the electric smoker, on the other hand, it is possible to set as low as 160 degrees F, ( a perfect temperature for bacon jerky ). At such low temperature it is hard to generate the right amount of smoke, which is why the leading manufacturers have thought about a cold smoking kit that takes care of the right conditions for smoking.

Features – Both types offer a lot of interesting additions and gadgets that are worth noting. The most popular one is the cold smoking kit that I mention a lot, it is made available for sale by the leading​​​​ manufacturer of electric smokers.

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