Propane vs Electric Smoker – [7 Major Differences] Which should you buy?

Smoking a piece of meat gives it an added delicious flavor that can be quite addictive. But smoking meats to perfection requires the right type of smoker, and what better smokers to use than propane or electric smoker? I've smoked a wide variety of meats using every kind of smoker, and my two favorites are always the electric smoker and propane smoker.

But now, a few questions arise:

Which is better between the propane vs electric smoker? How are they different from each other? Which smoker will suit you more? In this article, you will find out all there is to know about gas vs electric smokers.

Many people have a tough time choosing between propane smokers and electric smokers. The reason is that they have equal numbers of pros and cons, which are either very good or just deal-breakers. In any case, both options are excellent choices that can take the place of charcoal smoking and wood pellet smoking anytime.

You may be wondering...

Why not use traditional charcoal or wood pellets to smoke meat. Well, the thing with burning charcoal for smoking is that combusting them produces Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons or PAHs. High exposure to PAHs leads to an increased risk of getting several types of cancers. 

As such, we always recommend using more modern smokers for the apparent health benefits and an overall cleaner experience. We wrote an article dedicated to the impacts of eating smoked meats on your health, if you're interested in finding out more click here. So without any further ado, let's jump straight into the comparison:

Propane vs Electric Smoker Comparison

There are many differences between propane smokers and electric smokers. So while others will tell you to buy a specific smoker, they might not have the same needs and requirements as you. Our recommendation is to choose either smoker depending on your needs and not theirs. 

But before we get into the differences between electric vs propane smokers, let us get a clear idea about what they are:

Propane smoker 

Propane smokers, as the name mentions, use propane gas to make your smoking sessions much easier to control and handle. Most propane smokers have the same convenient design with a burner at the bottom connected to a propane tank. There are a few models that can run on natural gas too.

Like a traditional smoker, you still have a tray where you can place wood or sawdust, according to your preference. On top of this tray is a water pan that helps to keep your long smoking sessions moist. The smoking chamber is where you place your meat, and it has a vent or two to let the smoke out.

Electric smoker 

Electric smokers are another substitute for the traditional charcoal smoking method. This product takes convenience to another level with an automatic adjustable temperature feature. The design of electric smokers and propane smokers are very similar except their sources of power.

The electric smoker gets its power source from electricity instead of gas. It comes with a plug and has a water tray and drip tray. You have to add wood chips from time to time to keep the heat going. One distinctive feature of electric smokers is that you can adjust the temperature inside the smoking chamber by pressing a button or two. 

Now, on to the main topic: 

Differences and features of electric smoker vs gas smokers

Ease of use 

There is no doubt that both electric and propane smokers are much easier to use than old school charcoal smokers. But which one is easier to use? 

The short answer:  Electric smoker

The best part about owning an electric smoker is that you can plug the product in and set a temperature. It will be able to hold this temperature for the whole duration of smoking. On the other hand, propane smokers need frequent supervision to keep the temperature at a constant level. 

The downside of a propane smoker is that you cannot operate it and leave it. It works very much like a gas stove. If you want more heat, add more gas, and if you want less heat, turn down the gas. The electric smoker takes the win here because you only need to set the temperature once when you plug it in, and it will automatically adjust the heat for the whole smoking session.

Weather problems 

The weather plays a massive role in outdoor activities. Smoking is usually an outdoor activity that rain may cancel. In such cases, a propane smoker will save the day. It does not have any electrical wiring that needs to stay dry at all times.

With electric smokers, many parts of it need the power to work. We all know electricity and rain or water do not go well together. Using this product in wet conditions is hazardous and will destroy the unit. Or worse, result in someone's death!

Conversely, the design of a propane smoker is such that it can withstand the rain and give you beautifully smoked meat regardless of the weather outside. However, if the insulation is faulty, the entry of water or raindrops may affect the temperature inside the chamber.

Nonetheless, the propane smoker wins one point here.

Temperature control and range

Like the ease of use, the temperature control with electric smokers is much simpler than propane smokers. As mentioned earlier, you only need to press some buttons to set temperature with the electric variant but must adjust the temperature manually from time to time with propane smokers.

Electric smokers can keep the temperature steadily at a low setting quite effortlessly. On the other hand, propane smokers cannot reach and maintain low levels of heat unless you are an expert with many smoking sessions under your belt.

While propane smokers offer a heat of 160-degrees to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, electric smokers typically have a max range of 275 degrees. However, since it has better temperature control, it is ideal for cold smoking and smoking meat in general.

Mobility and portability

Both smokers can come in different sizes, and some models are very portable. However, when mobility is in question, we have to give the prize to propane smokers. Propane smokers have high moveability, and you can use them almost anywhere as long as you have space for it.

With electric smokers, you will need an electrical power source to power your unit. This fact means that you will not be able to keep it in the middle of the lawn, where there is no power plug point. The inability to use an electric smoker anywhere you want is a significant drawback of this type of product.

You will need an extension cord to power up your electric smoker if there is no other plug point. In the case of propane smokers, you will not need such pieces of additional equipment.

So the propane smoker wins in portability.

Safety and security 

Electric smokers are generally safer to use because everyone is aware of how we should use and handle electronic equipment. As long as you do not use it in the rain or let the cords get in contact with water, you will be fine.

Meanwhile, propane gas tanks always come with a risk. The problem with this is that many people are unaware of the dangers of mishandling propane tanks. But if you read the instructions correctly, you do not have to worry about any accidents. It is still safe to say that electric smokers have a higher score when it comes to safety.

Winner - Electric Smokers

Taste and flavor of the final product 

The closer you get to a charcoal smoked meat flavor, the better. Many people agree that the smoked food from a propane gas smoker is much nearer to the charcoal or wood-smoked flavor. While skills may play a significant role in nailing the process, it is best to choose propane smokers if you are a beginner who wants to get it right.

Even on an electrical smoker, the meat or food will taste terrific and healthier than charcoal smoking. But, when it comes to flavor, it really cannot beat the propane smoker results.

Pros and cons

Pros of propane smokers

Cons of propane smokers

  • You can place it anywhere in a yard and start smoking.
  • Repairing propane smokers is usually a simple task.
  • It does not need electricity to function. So blackout will not affect your smoked meat parties.
  • They are generally much more affordable than the electrical variants. 
  • The flavor from propane smoked meat is very close to charcoal smoked meat.
  • The flavor from propane smoked meat is very close to charcoal smoked meat.
  • Many propane smokers have weak insulation.
  • The need for a manual change of heat can be challenging.

Pros Of Electric Smokers

Cons Of Electric Smokers

  • Easy to control the temperature.
  • It can maintain a low heat for a long time
  • Electric smokers are safer to use in general. 
  • You do not have to check on the smoker frequently. Once you set the temperature, you will not need to check up on it.
  • You do not have to check on the smoker frequently. Once you set the temperature, you will not need to check up on it.
  • It is not very mobile because it needs a power source to work.
  • Complicated and costly repairs.
  • The highest temperature is not as high as the propane smoker.

What are the main differences between propane smokers vs electric smokers?

Propane smokers use gas to burn wood chips for the smoking process and can reach up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, electric smokers use electricity to heat the unit and have better temperature control but can't reach as high as propane smokers. Moreover. propane smokers give better-tasting smoked meat and are very mobile. On the other hand, electric smokers are much easier to control and use.

Verdict 

In the end, we cannot say that one smoker is better than the other. It depends on the potential buyer's preference. If you usually don't have a lot of free time to check up on the smoker, it will be better to go for an electric one. If there are frequent power outages in your locality and you give importance to mobility, a propane smoker is the only way to go.