Electric Smoker Tips And Tricks + Delicious Recipes!
Smoking meat -- there's truly nothing like it. The smell of your food slow-cooking to perfection, the science of creating the perfect environment to seal flavors, and the art of preparing your food come together to create a meal unlike any other that you could create in the kitchen.
Whether you're smoking a brisket overnight or simply putting some sausages and burgers in the smoke for a lunch with some extra bite, you can't go wrong with a good smoker.
There are several options that you can choose from when selecting a smoker. Charcoal smokers, gas smokers, and electric smokers each have their own characteristics and followings. While I feel differently about grills, preferring charcoal or woodburning models to gas or electric, I firmly believe that when choosing a smoker, electric is the way to go.
The main reason for this is that regardless of your heat source, your food is still being imbued with delicious smoky flavor during the cooking process and because electric smokers inherently do not add any additional flavors to the cooking process, you have total control over the final outcome of your meal's flavor profile.
Most importantly, you do not need to fear about running out of propane or constantly monitor the temperature of your smoker.
Five Tips and Tricks for mastering your electric smoker!
1. Low and Slow
I know this is cliché and that it is one of the most talked about aspects of Smoking 101, but I cannot stress the importance of maintaining a low, consistent temperature when smoking meats, especially for longer smoking sessions.
One of the reasons smoked meats are as tender and flavorful as they are is because they are cooked under low heat for extended periods of time. What you gain from an electric smoker is a consistent and controllable heat source, enabling you to keep a consistent temperature of 200 to 220 F.
This low-temperature cooking method helps to both tenderize large, tough cuts of meat while cooking to a safe internal temperature of 145 F for meat and 165 F for poultry, and also gives the smoke time to penetrate your meat and flavor it.
Electric smokers are ideal for this because they give you complete control over your temperature, some can even be controlled remotely using a smartphone to adjust your cooking temperature as needed.
On top of that, unless you experience a power outage, you don't run the risk of running out of fuel or leaving a fire unattended for extended periods of time when smoking with an electric smoker.
2. Bigger is Better
This is true for both your choice in meats and wood chips. Larger cuts of meat such as a pork butt, pork shoulder, or beef brisket are perfect for long-term cooking under low temperatures.
Likewise, freshly cut, large chunks of hardwood such as hickory, maple, or applewood will hold up for longer periods of time without having to be changed or refreshed versus smaller wood chips or pellets. Wood chips and pellets have their place though, they're convenient, easy to find, and are great for things such as sausages, hamburgers, and cold-smoking cheese.
For best results, soak your wood chunks or wood chips in water overnight so that they will stay hydrated during the smoking process and to prevent them from burning out or turning to ashes too quickly.
3. Leave it Alone
Unlike grilling, you don't want to interact with the meat or interior of your smoker too much during the cooking process. If you're looking for an excuse to open up a folding chair and pop open a beer, look no further. Not only will opening your smoker release all of that wonderful smoke, but the drop in temperature will impact your overall cooking time.
When selecting a smoker, look for models that let you add wood chips to the smoke chamber without opening the smoker itself, and for models with a window on the main body of the smoker that let you check on the meat without opening the smoker itself.
4. Brine On
If you've struggled to recreate the soft, tender cooking style of your favorite barbecue restaurants, there's a good chance you missed an important step in the preparation process. While slow cooking over a low temperature does wonders for tenderizing tough cuts of meat, brining your meat will take it to that next level, restaurant quality and is a step that should never be skipped.
The basic premise behind brining is simple -- by marinading your cuts of meat in a salt-heavy solution, you will both begin the process of chemically breaking down some of the internal ligaments and connective tissue of your meat, and can actually insert new flavors into your cuts of meat through the process of osmosis.
This is a great way to flavor the inside of your meat with seasonings from your rub or to add elements such as chopped onions, garlic, or bay leaves to the mix.
Plan to soak your meat in a brine mixture for at least one day prior to cooking.
5. This is the Probe You're Looking For
Probe thermometer that is. As I mentioned in my first tip, consistent temperatures are the single most important element to consider when smoking any cut of meat. You should implement no less than two thermometers when smoking a cut of meat, one in the smoker itself, and one inserted directly into the meat.
Choose a probe thermometer that either has a metal wire that can be extended outside of the smoker, to avoid having to open the door to check the temperature or spring for one that can connect wirelessly to your smartphone for an accurate and up to the minute temperature reading at your fingertips.
With these tips and tricks in your toolbelt, you'll be on the way to becoming a pitmaster in no time.
Brines, Rub, and Recipes
What You'll Need For This Brine:
Bring your water to a boil and stir in all of your ingredients.
Stir until dissolved.
Allow mixture to cool completely.
Place meat in the plastic container.
Pour brine mixture into the container until it completely covers the meat.
Place the lid on the container and allow the meat to marinade between 6 - 24 hours prior to smoking.
This basic brine is a perfect balance of salty and sweet, a perfect base for your barbecue feast. You can modify this base with spices of your choice. For a kick of heat, add some cayenne pepper. For a smoky blast of flavor, you can't go wrong with smoked paprika.
What You'll Need For This Rub:
Thoroughly mix all ingredients together and liberally cover and rub into your meat prior to smoking.
Savory Cajun Rub
What You'll Need For This Rub:
Kickin' Cajun Smoked Turkey
Cook Time: 8 - 12 Hours
What You'll Need For This Recipe:
Soak your turkey in the prepared brine mixture overnight.
Soak wood chunks in water overnight.
Preheat your smoker to 225 F in the morning.
Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel.
Lift the skin of the turkey up gently and rub the meat liberally with olive oil.
Apply generous amount of Savory Cajun Rub to meat and skin of turkey.
Insert thermometer probe into turkey breast, being careful to avoid the bone.
Place wood chunks into the smoker basket.
Place beast-side up in the smoker.
Monitor temperature every 30-minutes to an hour and replenish wood as necessary.
Remove after turkey has reached an internal temperature of 180 F.
Wrap in foil and allow turkey to rest for one hour prior to carving.
Welcome to the world of smoking meat to perfection. With these tips and recipes at hand you're well on the way to becoming a world-class pit master. Don’t forget to get yourself a copy of a Cave Tools’ Log Journal to write down all your cooking endeavors!
These tips and recipes are easy to use, adaptable to your specific needs, and are great for use in electric smokers. Make sure to leave comments below and let us know if this content has been helpful to you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Electric Smokers Any Good?
Some people say that the best smokers are wood-fired, charcoal, or propane, but we love electric smokers. They’re relatively inexpensive, they’re super easy to use, and they make food that tastes just as good and smoky as much more expensive smokers.
Do You Have To Use Wood Chips in an Electric Smoker?
Unlike charcoal or gas smokers, most electric smokers don’t use wood chips. They are fueled with pellets, which produce smoke and heat at the same time. You can use wood chips in your electric smoker, depending on the model, by creating a foil packet. But, you don’t have to use wood chips if you don’t want to.
How Do You Use an Electric Smoker?
Electric smokers are some of the easiest smokers to use. You simply plug the smoker in, load it up with your fuel source (usually pellets), and turn it on. Many of them have an ignite setting that you run before setting a specific temperature. Then, you choose your temperature and let the smoker do all the work for you!
What Temperature Can You Smoke Meat On an Electric Smoker?
Each electric smoker model is slightly different, but almost every electric smoker has smoke settings for low, medium, and high settings. You can smoke at a low setting like 200 degrees for pork shoulder or brisket, or you can smoke at a higher setting like 500 degrees for crispy chicken wings.
Can You Cold Smoke Fish In an Electric Smoker?
Most electric smokers don’t have a cold smoke setting. In order to cold smoke, you would need to buy a cold smoking attachment. You can create a cold smoker yourself using a dryer duct to move the smoke to a grill, or you can place your fish above a sheet tray of ice water if you want to attempt to cold smoke without an additional purchase.