How to Use an Electric Smoker (Make You’re Using it Correctly!)

Have you just picked up a new electric smoker? Or managed to get a second-hand one from a friend?


Now you just need to know how to use it!

Some people avoid electric smokers because they might not get the authentic charcoal flavor (but I disagree). You can get an incredibly delicious smokey flavor out of them!

Not only that. Electric smoker trumps all other smokers in one category.

Much like a propane smoker, it can shave hours off of your cooking time. This is because both of these smokers don’t rely on charcoal or wood as their fuel source.

So you don’t have to spend your whole day getting that fire started (plus keeping it going!)

In this article, we’ll be teaching you exactly how to use and operate an electric smoker.

how to smoke meat in an electric smoker - ready to do my brisket in the yard for the cookout
My Smoke Hollow Electric Smoker! I love using it!

1. Pick an Electric Smoker That Fits Your Needs

The first step is to find one that suits your needs.

Here are some of the factors that you should consider may include:

  • The size of the cooking chamber. How much food do you intend to cook? Can you get away with a smoker that has a small cooking chamber? Do you need a relatively large one? If you plan on smoking a turkey in an electric smoker you might need to remove some of its racks to fit the whole bird in.
  • The overall size of the electric smoker. Do you have enough space for it in your backyard or balcony?
  • What kind of features are you looking for? Would you need to constantly move it? If so, you might need to get an electric smoker that has wheels; so that it’s easy for you to move it. Another feature you might want to consider is a glass window. A viewing window allows you to easily check in on the cooking or smoking progress.
  • Temperature control. Some electric smokers still have an old-school temperature gauge. If you value precise cooking temperatures, a built-in digital temperature display is highly recommended.

2. Before You Use Your Electric Smoker, Season It

Just like every other smoker or grill. You have to properly season your new smoker before you can begin cooking with it.

This is very important because it preps it properly and also increases the longevity of your electrical smoker.

Seasoning it would include;

  1. Cleaning it according to the process laid out in its instruction manual. Please avoid using any sort of abrasive cleaning tools during this process.
  2. After that, you’ll want to oil it with cooking oil. This will prevent it from rusting, as the oil acts as a protective layer.
  3. Then all you have to do next is heat it up to the max for one to two hours.
    The smoker should be empty during this step; except for the grill racks or smoker racks that came with it.

Note: Please do a read-through of your smoker’s manual for this process. Each manufacturer might have its own step-by-step guide that you’ll need to follow.

2. Learn to Use The Vents to Control Your The Temperature of Your Smoker

Usually, the air vents play a huge role in controlling the internal temperature of the cooking chamber.

But this is only true if you’re using charcoal grills or any other kind of traditional smoker.

For example, if you want to increase the temperature, you would open the vents more to allow more airflow.

The extra oxygen makes the charcoal or wood inside burn faster and hotter. And that creates an increase in temperature.

But with electrical smokers, you won’t have to worry about playing with any vents. It’s not necessary to control the temperature inside an electrical smoker.

Since an electric smoker comes with digital controls. So I just set the temperature on that

Then the smoker adjusts the temperature and airflow for me.

But you may be wondering why electrical smokers still have vents.

After all, they aren’t needed to control the smoker’s temperature. Well, they do still serve a purpose. It’s a good idea to leave them open during the cook to allow for some ventilation.

This is important because you want to reduce as much creosote build-up as possible. Creosote can quickly form during a cook, as all that smoke, grease, and fats get trapped in such a small cooking area.

You want to avoid that creosote build-up at all costs, as it can add a pretty bitter flavor to meats.

inside our smoke hollow 30 in electric smoker
The cooking chamber of my Smoke Hollow electric smoker! Heaps of room for ribs, wings and pork butt!

3. Pick The Right Wood Chips (Plus I’llShow You How to Use Them!)

Most electric smokers allow you to use wood chips in your unit.

It is best to check your particular smoker instructions. While it is rare, some smokers advise against using wood chips. But I have two electric smokers. A Smoke Hollow and Masterbuilt Electric Smoker and you can put wood chips in those.

Most electric smokers have a smoking box. You just fill the smoking box with the wood chips of your choice. (I have put some of my favorite flavor combinations below).

See some of my favorite flavor combinations below;

  • Maple wood provides chicken and pork with a light smokey flavor
  • Hickory wood works great for all kinds of meat
  • Apple wood provides a sweet flavor that best compliments pork and chicken
  • Mesquite wood is strong enough to work well with all kinds of red meat
  • Cherry wood is rather mild, so it works best with chicken, turkey, and ham
  • Alder wood is light enough to give seafood like scallops and shrimp a gentle smokey flavor

No smoker box in your unit?
So if your electric smoker doesn’t have a wood chip box you can try the following. This also works with a gas grill.

If you don’t have a woodchip tray or box, try the pouch method. Below are my steps to making a smoking pouch

  1. Tear off an a4 sized piece of foil
  2. Place a cup of woodchips in the middle.
  3. Fold each side of the foil and ensure nothing can fall out.
  4. Using something sharp make 8-10 small holes in the pouch.
  5. When your ready to cook, and your electric smoker is fulled heated, place the foil pouches close to the heat source
  6. Once the pouch stops producing smoke just throw another one of your pouches close to the heat source.

    Note: Try to make 10-12 of these, that way you can quickly throw in another during your cook.

4. Figure Out The Correct Temperature Setting for Each Cut of Meat

The optimal smoking temperature is around 220-225 degrees for most meat.

It’s best to look up what the optimal temperatures are for the type of meat you’re smoking.

Many cuts of meat should be smoked low and slow. This means long hours of smoking at low temperatures.

This type of smoking tenderizes the meat by slowly breaking down the connective tissues in the meat.. Most meats that need this ‘low and slow’ type of smoking include beef brisket and tough cuts like pork shoulder.

We have a guide for figuring out the correct temperature and cook time for any meat here;

Wondering what the correct temperature and times for each cut of meat are? I have an informative guide here for you.

ribs in the cooking chamber of my electric smoker
My ribs smoking low and slow in my electric smoker

5. Brine, Season, or Rub Your Meat Before Smoking

You must season or marinate your meat before smoking it. This not only ensures that they pack a punch of flavors, but can also tenderize tough cuts of meat.

A lot of common BBQ marinades or rubs include salt, pepper, apple juice, paprika, garlic powder, and parsley.

If you’re worried about your meats drying out too much during the smoking process, then leave the cuts of meat to soak in some sort of brine. The brining process will keep the meat moist while they’re cooking in the smoking chamber.

Grease and oils get rancid, especially warm weather.

That rancid grease on the grates will make your food taste bad.

Meathead Goldwyn

meat goldwyn

6. Always Cover Cooking Racks with Aluminum Foil for an Easy Clean Up

Our final tip is sure to make your life easier during the cleaning process; post smoke.

If you want to protect your smoking racks from fat and grease, then wrap them with aluminum foil.

This will save you from scrubbing those racks for hours in a sink.

Many people often neglect cleaning up the racks after each cook. While it is an annoying and tiresome process, you must strive to smoke all your meats on clean racks each time. Dirt, residual grease, and built-up creosote can ruin the taste of your current cook.

So avoid all the hassle and just cover your racks.

Of course, simply wrapping aluminum foil around the racks won’t protect the rest of the smoking chamber. We’d just like to remind you that scratching the interior chamber with abrasive cleaning tools is never good for your smoker.

Keep in mind that apple cider vinegar, bi-carb soda powder, and a damp cloth are the best way to go.

Here is my full guide to cleaning an electric smoker (I go really in depth with it here)

Just remember all smokers and grills are different. When in doubt always just have a read of your owners manal

Have fun mastering your electrical smoker (I love my Smoke Hollow)

Happy Smoking

Charlie 🙂

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking and getting out in nature with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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