How To Use An Electric Smoker – Step By Step Guide WIth Pro Tips

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We all have been accustomed to ancient forms of smoking and grilling by either charcoal or wood grill, our forefathers taught us or we learned in some other ways. These all are good choices to go but their length of operational approach is undeniable.

That’s why electric smokers came into existence as the fastest smokers with amazing technology to simplify the grilling process.

In this article, we will mention some of the easiest and effective ways of using an electric smoker but before here are a few things better to know about electric smokers.

How Does An Electric Smoker Work?

An electric smoker is an outdoor cooking device to smoke food that uses hot electric rods as a heating source. It works by heating the cooking chamber where air circulates to heat food via convection. A whole unit consists of an electric heating element, grill racks, option for adding wood chips, water pan and all these things work together to smoke delicious food.

Components of An Electric Smoker

Electric smokers are vertically aligned with cooking space at the top while heating elements are at the bottom side. Here are a few of the most important components of an electric smoker.

Heating Element:

The heating element of an electric smoker is the heart of a smoker that helps to deliver juicy and smoky food by heating it. Along with this, the smoker’s body also plays an important role, so make sure that it is well-insulated to trap heat and smoke inside.

I’d suggest you double-check the label that guarantees a fully insulated unit.

Wood Chip Tray

The smoky flavor is the real thing that caught our attention to get one unit. A wood chip tray is present in the smoker where wood chunks from selected hardwood varieties burn slowly and produce flavorful smoke.

During the whole smoking process, a chef can add cups of wood chips or pellets to the heating area. A wide variety of woods can be used such as oak, mesquite, hickory, maple, alder, and cherry.

Water Pan & Dampers

There is a water pan present just right above the wood chip tray that is initially filled with cold water to prevent the internal temperature of the device to rise too quickly. When water starts heating up, it emits heat and steam that facilitate convection cooking.

As oxygen provides feed to flames, there is a need to control airflow. For this purpose heavy-duty dampers at the bottom of the smoker open up to allow more air to enter into it. So, flames are fed by oxygen, and temperature increases gradually.

Grill Racks

Most of the electric smokers have stainless steel grill racks to place the meat directly on those racks. You can also go for cast iron skillets to use for roasting your food.

Your smoker should also have drip trays to collect all juices that come from meat or spilled stuff to gather inside it.  

Digital Controls

Digital electric smokers have a control panel that allows setting the temperature to either increase or decrease as per need. Temperature controls, monitors, and probes aid in the whole process. Probes help to measure internal meat temperature to gauge doneness and avoid incidences of food poisoning.

While the monitors and controllers help to gauge temperature accuracy to its maximum. You can easily reset your desired temperature with just one click.

Check out our detailed comparison of gas and electric smokers.

How To Use An Electric Smoker- Step By Step Guide

To use an electric smoker properly, you should better know how to initiate the smoking process, preparation, and cleaning and aftercare to increase its life span.


Seasoning an electric smoker includes running it while it is empty to eliminate dust, odors, and solvent residue left over.

  • First, rub each of the smoker’s interior surfaces with cooking oil and then turn it on to let it run for almost 2-3 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Turn off your electric smoker after seasoning it, then allow it to cool off completely before using or handling any of its components.
  • Most smokers have different seasoning procedures. Few models don’t even need any kind of seasoning.
  • There is only a one-time need to do seasoning of an electric smoker and repeated usage will help to preserve the protective oil layer to remain on an interior surface.

Preparing Your Smoker:

Now turn on your smoker by hitting the power button on the front to activate it. It won’t start the heating process at once, rather it will be on standby mode. To start heating it, you’ll need to program it and set the desired temperature setting.

Make sure that your smoker is plugged in properly without any obstruction in the power cord. If it somehow unplugs during that operational process, your hours of struggle would be wasted.

Adding Wood Chips:

  • This is the right time to add wood chips to the built-in chip tray. Most models have a wood chip tray on the lower right side of the unit. To add chips, pull out the tray and pack it with chips of your choice.
  • Slide it back after filling and turn the handle to dump chips into the internal heating element.
  • I’d recommend a good rule of thumb to use 4 cups of 600g chips for every 3 to 5 hours of smoking. So you’ll have to replenish the chip tray after regular intervals.
  • If you want flavorful smoked food, then always use hardwood chips such as apple, birch, mesquite, or hickory.

Preheating Smoker For Cooking:

Now is the time to preheat your smoker to 210-250 degrees Fahrenheit. If there’s a digital control panel, press up and down arrows to increase or decrease temperature as needed. Smokers having manual temperature knobs use indicator points to set the preferred temperature. Allow up to at least 30-45 minutes for your smoker to complete the preheating process.

Adding More Wood Chips And Water To The Pan:

  • When your smoker has finished preheating, place a full water container at bottom of the chamber and fill the small metal cup with hot water and then slide it into its designated slots at bottom of the smoker.
  • If there’s no separate slot to place the water cup, simply adjust it on the chamber floor. Steam will create and rise to evaporate water for keeping your meat moist.
  • We prefer to use hot water instead of cold water to ensure the smoker will remain at optimal temperature.
  • Take proper care while adding a water cup inside the smoker as it will be very hot.
  • You can also add apple juice, wine, beer, cider, or liquids of other flavors inside the water cup to infuse in your meat to make it more delicious and aromatic.

Smoke Your Meat!:

  • Now as your smoker is ready to go, it’s time to season your meat with marinade or dry rub to add flavor. Coat heavier cuts like pork shoulder, brisket, or ribs with an even layer of dry spices, or soak more delicate meat like fish, chicken, or chops overnight in your favorite marinade.
  • Put your meat on racks inside the smoking chamber. It’s better to use long-handled tongs or spatula to place meat on smoking racks safely. Arrange the meat over them accordingly to the bigger piece on wider lower racks and smaller one on upper racks.
  • As you’ve placed meat inside it, now close and lock the door of the smoker by flipping the latch beside the handle to secure it.
  • Smoke meat for a proper length of time noticing by the recipe. This could be 2 to 8 hours, depending on the type of meat you’re smoking. Do not open the smoker during the process unless it’s to top off the water bowl.
  • Keep adding more wood chips and water to the pan whenever needed. By watching at smoke you’ll get the idea of adding more water or chips. When it stops, refill the water cup and load 1-4 cups more wood chips inside the chip tray and place it again then resume the smoking process.

Note: It’s not necessary to replenish the chip tray when you find it empty. Most of the barbecue aficionados suggest that most meats can be smoked using only a single tray.

  • Overheating your meat will also affect the taste and that would be burnt and unpleasant.
  • Wait for 15-30 minutes to rest your meat before eating. Turn off smoker, unlock the door and remove meat from racks carefully. Serve it up when your meat reaches a safe temperature. It’d be better to use a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature of the meat.

Clean Your Smoker After Using It:

  • Before starting the cleaning process, unplug the smoker and allow it to cool for a few minutes so you can handle its interior surfaces safely.
  • Take out all removable accessories from your smokers such as racks, water cups, and chip trays. Slide them out and place them nearby so you can easily put them back after cleaning.
  • To clean off debris, use a damp paper towel. To scrape large food particles and fat residues from the front of the smoker. Sweep us other remnants with the help of a broom & dustpan.
  • Use soapy water to scrub the smoking chamber thoroughly. Avoid using abrasive cleaning tools or steel wool because they’ll leave scratches on the interior surface.
  • Wife out the inside of smoker with a clean and wet towel or cloth. Use apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle to clean up other dirty stuff.

Note: In case of exposed heating element, avoid spraying directly over it.

  • Now dry it with a clean rug or paper towel. Once you’ve dried your smoker perfectly, you can make ready your smoker to smoke other foods.
  • The exterior of your smoker is also needed to clean and its cleaning isn’t complex. Just wipe the door seal with damp soft cloth.

Tips For Best Usage Of Electric Smoker

Electric smokers are comparably easy to use and are more convenient than charcoal smokers. As we’ve explained in detail how to use an electric smoker, here are some tips to make that whole process more effective.

Don’t strain yourself

There’s a possibility that your smoker will produce greasy materials during cooking that can even spread to other places if you’ll not take care of them. Wear gloves to avoid staining yourself and other items around you.

Don’t interrupt cooking temperature

Opening the smoker again and again during cooking can badly affect and interrupt internal temperature that will spoil your food. Each smoker has a gauge, so use it wisely to set the particular temperature and rely on it fully until your job is done.

Clean carefully

Use an aluminum foil to place beneath the grease trapping tray. After cooking, you’ll only have to remove that foil with a few wipes afterward and you won’t need to be involved in the painful cleaning process.

Avoid Indoor Usage

It is highly recommended not to use an electric smoker indoor. Though electric smoker does not produce a huge amount of obnoxious gases still there is a few amounts of carbon monoxide production that can cause poisoning.

So it’d be better to avoid indoor usage of any kind of smoker for your safety.

Use your temperature probes

Most electric smokers have a built-in thermostat, but that can be of low quality. Though top brands have high-quality probes or thermometers it’ll be good to invest in digital meat thermometers.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Is it okay to use an electric smoker in rain?

Yes, you can probably use an electric smoker in the rain if your smoker isn’t wet. It’s the control box that houses all of your cooking internal electronics, so most of the time you can use an electric smoker normally after being rained on.

How safe are electric smokers?

Not only safe, but electric smokers are also healthier to use as compared to other smokers. They reduce smoke and heat leakage and eliminate any possibility of unsafe flare-ups to cause any kind of damage.

Is there a need to soak wood chips for electric smokers?

It isn’t necessary to soak wood chips but to blend different flavors to accompany the natural flavor of food, you can either soak them or not. It won’t affect taste anymore or less.

Lightupbbq was started by Freddy Zeus, an environmental engineer and a professional chef who has been around the world learning the craft of cooking.

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