Smokers are amongst the most diverse products you can buy. Partly because of the number of fuels or energy sources they use and partly because smoking can mean anything from traditional barbecue cooked at around 225 degrees F, to cold smoking for things like fish, cheese or jerky that are cooked lower than 60 degrees F. Most electric smokers can do it all and while this might be their strength, it can also be their weakness. However, the strength of a good electric smoker is in its automation. A good, and generally more expensive, electric smoker allows you to select a temperature, and a time as you load it up and turn it on. The simplicity of this type of equipment is akin to using a microwave.
Cookshack has over 40 years experience making smokers for restaurants, barbecue competitions and backyard cooks, but they let their users design this unit. What you get is the ultimate in computer controlled backyard smoking. This unit will let you load up a brisket in the morning, set a desired temperature or time and head off to work for the day. When you get home, you'll be eating barbecue brisket. It really is that easy. With temperature probes, hold cycles and automatic smoke generation, this is the perfect smoker for the barbecue lover who doesn't have a lot of time, but has the money to pay for the best.
There are many who would like to smoke up their own barbecued meat, but may not want to deal with controlling fires, or regulating temperatures. The Smokin' Tex, like most electric smokers, takes the guess work out of the process and lets you focus on the food, or maybe, on work. This smoker is simple to use, thanks to its basic function. It does lose a little versatility thanks to the preprogrammed design, but it is a great smoker for those who don't want to light fires or adjust vents.
Of the "Lazy-Q" electric smoker appliances this is the best. This refrigerator style smoker is thermostatically controlled and can produce hot and cold smoke. You will truly get a wide range of smoking abilities out of this unit. Smoke is created by burning wood disks that are added to the unit by a controlled mechanism. You will get as much or as little smoke as you want and you don't have to tend to any fires. In fact, once set you can leave it until you are ready to eat.
The Old Smokey electric smoker is basically a tin can with a heat element, a drip pan, and a couple of racks for the food. The simplicity of the design is what makes this a great smoker. The heat element in this unit can generate enough heat for low temperature grilling or roasting, but it is designed to smoke at low and slow temperatures. You load wood chips on to the heated plate to create smoke and load food above the drip pan (not a water smoker) on the racks. The electric design makes barbecue easy in this unit.
For smoking large cuts of barbecued meat, buy a different smoker. For nearly 55 years the Big Chief, and its little brother, the Little Chief, have been designed for smoking all those things that don't traditionally fall into the strict category of barbecue. For smoking fish, jerky, sausage, cheese, this is the perfect smoker. The lower adjustable cooking temperatures and decent smoke production is great for preserving foods and adding smoke flavor to things you might not cook, or might finish off someplace else, like say, your oven.
Like the Cookshack or Smokin' Tex smokers, the Smokin-It smokers are stainless steel box electric smokers. With a dual layer box separated by fiberglass insulation, this is an efficient little smoker that is easy to use and reasonably priced. Of all the stainless steel box smokers this is the least expensive and a good value, but might not give you what the more expensive smokers will.
Masterbuilt has been producing some low priced smokers for many years, including electric refrigerator style smokers like this one. To put it simply, this is a heated box that produces smoke and effectively makes up to 30 pounds of smoked foods, whether it is jerky or barbecued brisket. The control panel lets you select the temperature, anywhere from 100 to 275 degrees F., and the time it will run at that temperature for up to 24 hours. Of course, if you are not around to add wood chips to the smoker box, it is basically just a small, low powered oven. So you shouldn't exactly set it and forget it.
Inexpensive box smokers have been around for years and they tend to suffer from the same problems such as, poor smoke production and an inability to hold heat or smoke. Char-Broil's version of this classic and simple design is better than most and at well under $200USD, it isn't a big investment. What is good about this unit is that the cast iron cooking racks are long enough to hold a full rack of ribs, which is a definite plus.
Meco is known for making electric grills and inexpensive smokers. This is the top of their line and it still comes in around $180USD. This electric smoker has a water pan, making it what Meco calls a combo smoker. The reality is that this is a simple, barrel shaped electric smoker that is competent but not fantastic. While it is easy to use, the design makes it hard for this unit to hold in heat or smoke. Consider this a good little smoker for those who don't expect a lot.
If you are new to barbecue and wondering what kind of smoker you should buy to see if you really want to take this art form seriously, typically the answer is to get a Brinkmann Gourmet Charcoal Smoker. The cost is low and the performance adequate. The electric version of this popular smoker is nearly twice as much money, though still under $200USD. However, with no temperature control and limited space, you might find this a little frustrating to use. This can be particularly true if the weather is uncooperative, and by this I mean a little rain or any kind of wind.