What electric smokers bring to the table is quite different from what you may be used to. Compared to traditional smokers and grills, the electric smoker is very convenient to use and easy to maintain. While you’ll learn from using a smoker over time, there are quite a few things you should know before your first BBQ session.
In this article, we’ll discuss some exciting tips that can enhance your cooking experience and help you master your electric smoker.
What Is an Electric Smoker?
An electric smoker is an electric-powered cooking appliance used for smoking food. Electric smokers, unlike the traditional charcoal and wood smokers, are powered by electricity, and they feature heating rods that are typically located at the bottom of the smoker. The heat from the heating rods circulates in the cooking chamber to cook through convection.
Electric smokers come in a variety of styles and designs, but a typical smoker features a cooking compartment, electric heating element, racks, water pan, and wood chip tray. Wood chips are burnt slowly with heat that radiates from the cooking element to produce the smoky flavor that’s infused into the food.
How Does It Work?
The principle behind the operation of an electric smoker is much like that of a traditional smoker. It stands vertically, with the cooking compartment at the top and the heat source at the bottom. Let’s take a look at some of the key components and how they work.
The cooking compartment typically features stainless steel racks on which food can be directly placed. You can also put a cast iron skillet on the racks to roast food with.
The primary source of heat in an electric smoker is heating rods. They are usually located at the bottom of the smoker.
Wood chip tray
Electric smokers also feature a wood chip tray around the heating rods to hold wood chips. Heat radiates from the heating rods to smoke the wood chips that infuse a smoky flavor into your food.
A water pan usually sits above the wood chip tray. The pan is filled with water as you start smoking to control how fast the smoker’s internal temperature rises. As the water heats up, it produces steam further helps with the convection cooking.
Tips for Smoking with an Electric Smoker
1. Season your smoker
Electric smokers are so convenient to use, but you still need to put some effort into seasoning your electric smoker before you start smoking with it if it’s a new one. Certain chemical residue may persist from the manufacturing process, and seasoning is a great way to get rid of those chemical residues and make your smoker safe to cook with. Seasoning your smoker before the first use eliminates the chemical residue and the industry odor that comes with the smoker. Furthermore, seasoning your smoker will leave a protective coating of smoke on the smoker’s interior.
2. Control temperature swings
Temperature swings happen in almost all smokers, especially at the start of the smoking process, and this can make temperature control quite dicey when you’re new to electric smokers. For example, if you set a temperature of 200 degrees on your smoker, the inbuilt thermostat turns off when the internal temperature rises to 200 degrees. However, the residual heat will cause the real internal temperature to rise above the desired level. The user has limited control over this, but what you can do is always set the temperature about 10 degrees below your target temperature. This way, you can better manage temperature swings.
3. Soaking your wood chips
There seems to be this widespread practice of people soaking their wood chips before smoking. We don’t recommend you soak your chips before smoking your food as it does not guarantee you better smoke quality. Contrary to popular belief, the high volume of white “smoke” produced by soaked wood chips is steam. In addition, the flavor soaked chips give off is slightly different from the regular smoky flavor that BBQ enthusiasts highly covet.
4. Don’t oversmoke
When it comes to smoking, less can be more. You don’t necessarily need a lot of smoke to get the level of flavor you’re looking for. How smoky you want your food is a matter of personal preference. However, oversmoked food doesn’t really taste good. When using an electric smoker for the first few times, you can start out with a period of experimentation when you get the hang of socking with your smoker and how many chips you need to use to get a decent flavor.
5. Use a temperature probe
Most electric smokers will come with inbuilt thermometers, but they are not always a true reflection of the internal temperature of your food. If you plan to use the smoker regularly, investing in a temperature probe may be a good idea. A long-probe design is preferable so that you can check the internal temperature and the perfect meat texture.
6. Keep the vent open
One of the advantages of electric smokers over traditional smokers is that it’s easier to find the right vent position. On traditional smokers, vents are used to adjust airflow as part of the temperature control. However, electric smokers only have vents to let out the smoke. As a general principle, leave your electric smoker vent fully open when smoking to prevent the smoke inside from getting stale and prevent a build of creosote that could affect the taste and quality of your food.
7. Wrap foil around your racks
While cooking and eating tend to be the memorable aspect of barbecuing, cleaning up afterward can be quite stressful. If you’ve had considerable BBQ experience, you know that cleaning up the racks is not easy. How about taking measures that make them easy to clean?
Heavy-duty aluminum foil can prevent food from getting stuck to your racks, making them very easy to clean afterward or even eliminating the need to wash them. So, when next you’re about to use your electric smoker, coat your racks with some foil. It may be a bit inconvenient, but so is scouring.
8. Clean your smoker
Quite surprisingly, many BBQ enthusiasts believe and propose that the residue that builds up in the BBQ smoker interior improves the taste of food. This doesn’t seem right. The black residue is nothing but old food bits and smoke that’s not healthy and, in no way, tastes good. If you’ve ever mistakenly tasted it, you can tell this is true.
In addition to being unhealthy, it can ruin the overall appeal of your food by leaving awful black imprints on your food. Thankfully, cleaning electric smokers is not as complicated as cleaning traditional smokers. Follow the cleaning instructions in the smoker manual for the best cleaning practices. Clean lightly after each session thoroughly, at least after every four smoking sessions, to keep your electric smoker in optimal cooking conditions.
For many, an electric smoker presents a more convenient BBQ experience. While quite a few people prefer the traditional smoking methods, there’s no denying that electric smokers are just easier to use and maintain.
So, whether you’re new to the BBQ world and you’re quite familiar with the smoking process, but using an electric smoker for the first time, we’ve touched on some really cool tips that will enhance your cooking experience when next you use your electric smoker. Remember to bookmark Hempen Hill BBQ to stay up to date with the latest articles.