Electric Smokers vs Pellet Smokers: What's the Difference?

Electric Smokers vs Pellet Smokers: What's the Difference?

Smoking meats has become quite popular in recent years, thanks in part to the explosion of pellet smokers (aka pellet grills. You also can’t forget about the visual influence of people on social media sharing picture after picture of their favorite smoked creations. The two combined have gotten many people interested in purchasing their own smoker and getting in on the action. However, when starting out, it’s important to know the key differences between electric smokers vs pellet smokers. Without that knowledge, you might be disappointed when you purchase a smoker and expect it to do something it doesn’t.

What are Electric Smokers?

Image of electric smoker

Before we start outlining the differences between the two devices, let’s start by explaining exactly what they are and what they do. Electric smokers are usually vertical in design, looking similar to a mini refrigerator. The vertical design allows for multiple cooking racks to be stacked on top of one another, which allows for a significant amount of cooking space. As their name entails, electric smokers need electric power in order to work.

How do Electric Smokers Work?

While both electric smokers and pellet smokers need to be plugged into an electrical source for power, an electric smoker also uses that electricity to heat your food (whereas pellet, propane, charcoal and traditional wood smokers use combustion).

The electricity in these smokers is controlled by either a rheostat or a thermostat. The thermostat allows for better temperature control, and thus units with one are usually more expensive. Both controls are used to heat up a coil which then heats and smolders the wood (which is usually in the form of wood chips that are placed in a metal bowl). The smoldering wood then produces the smoke that flavors your food.

What are the Benefits of Using an Electric Smoker?

Much like pellet smokers, electric smokers are universally a set it and forget it cooking device. If the recipe calls for one temperature throughout the cook, you would simply set the temperature of the smoker and return once your meat is done.

In addition to their ease of use, electric smokers are also easy to clean. Since there is no residue from combustion, most of the cleaning will be to the grill grates where the food was resting. Every now and then you may need to wipe the sides and bottom for maintenance purposes.

What are Pellet Smokers?

Image of Ironside

Pellet smokers are outdoor cookers that combine elements of smokers, charcoal grills, gas grills and ovens, and they use 100% all-natural food grade hardwood pellets. Hardwood pellets are the fuel source that allows Country Smokers to provide indirect heat (meaning the food isn’t cooked directly over the flame, it is cooked by the radiant heat that circulates throughout the grill, like an oven).

How do Pellet Smokers Work?

Image of how pellet grills work

Wood pellets are poured into a storage container called a hopper. The pellets are then fed into a burn pot by an auger (a rotating device that looks like a drill bit) that is powered by electricity. The wood pellets then ignite and cause a flame which is maintained when more pellets are dropped into the burn pot. The timing of this feed is controlled by the temperature controller. The higher the setting, the shorter the time it takes for the pellets to get fed into the burn pot. Air is brought in by intake fans which blows heat and smoke throughout the smoker.

What are the Benefits of Using a Pellet Smoker?

One of the reasons pellet smokers are so popular is that they allow for multiple different cooking options in one unit. Baking, smoking, charring, grilling, roasting, and more can all be done on a pellet smoker.

Wood smoke flavor is another key reason why people use pellet smokers. Never has it been so simple to deliver delicious, smoky flavor. It used to be that if you wanted that level of flavor, you had to babysit your fire, so it didn’t go out or get out of hand. Pellet smokers provide the ease of using an electric smoker with the big flavors of using a charcoal or traditional barrel wood smoker.

What are the Differences Between an Electric Smoker vs a Pellet Smoker?

Here are three main differences between the two cooking devices:


While electric smoker owners may argue that they can cook delicious food in an electric smoker, the truth is that they are incapable of infusing the same level of smoke flavor that a combustion smoker (such as one that uses pellets) can. Combustion of wood into flame produces a gas with a unique flavor that is cooked into the food as it heats. Since electric smokers don’t use this process for heating, the flavor that is imparted, is different.

Pellet Smokers Provide More Cooking Options

As stated above, pellet smokers can do more than just smoke. Because of their design and the high temperatures they can reach, there are many different cooking options available to the user.

The Meat Renders Differently

Memphis BBQ Brisket

Combustion and non-combustion cooking renders meat differently as it is heated and cooked at similar temperatures. When cooking low and slow on a pellet smoker, you will see the classic visible signs of true barbecue, namely a nice pinkish-red smoke ring. Unfortunately, in most cases, this is not present when cooking in an electric smoker.

Country Smokers Pellet Smokers

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For an affordable pellet smoker that is well made and easy to use, you can’t do much better than a Country Smokers Frontier Series Pellet Smoker. Seamlessly add wood-fired flavor to your favorite foods. Grill, smoke and BBQ ‘til you can’t no more. Whether you want something compact and mighty like The Voyager, a large feast producing machine like The Journeyman, The Frontier Series by Country Smokers has the perfect smoker to get your started on your way.