How do electric smokers work

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Last Updated on: 19th October 2022, 11:35 pm

Electric Smokers have taken the smoking industry by storm.

They are designed in a way to smoke the meat with minimal effort.

But for traditional pitmasters, it might be complex to understand how an electric smoker works.

To help them, we have put together this guide.

Let’s get started without any delay.

What is an electric smoker?

An electric smoker is a piece of electrical equipment that uses electricity to smoke food like cheese or meat for extended periods of time.

Unlike other types of smokers, it doesn’t need charcoal or propane for smoking meat, but rather it depends upon electricity for heating up.

These are popular nowadays due to the ease of use they provide.

The most complex task in smoking is the temperature control of the smoker, while electric smokers minimize the effort required for temperature control by providing a temperature control panel.

You just have to set your desired temperature on this control panel and the smoker will adjust itself to reach the required temperature.

While in propane or offset smokers, you have to manually adjust various factors like airflow, fuel, etc. to reach the desired temperature.

Although electric smokers are easy to use, it should be kept in mind that they are only preferred for low and slow cooking.

These can’t heat up to higher temperatures for grilling and searing .

Thus, it can’t compete with traditional smokers in terms of temperature range.

In addition to the ease of use , it also comes with a compact design, which requires less space for storage.

Furthermore, it has a vertical design instead of the traditional horizontal design, which gives us more capacity to cook meat by placing several racks over each other.

How do electric smokers work?

Now that we have discussed what an electric smoker is , it’s time to explain how it works.

The working process of an electric smoker is similar to that of an oven or a toaster.

It utilizes an electrical rod for heat up, but the flames don’t touch the meat.

When electricity passes through these rods, the rod gets heated.

There can be several rods that might be placed at the bottom of the smoker or all around the smoker built to provide heat.

The smoke is provided by burning wood in a wood pan.

The heat produced by the rod is used for the cooking of meat, while the smoke produced by the burning of wood is responsible for the taste of food.

The taste of food can vary depending on the type of wood used for generating smoke.

An electric smoker works when all of these factors work in unison.

The heat and smoke generated at the bottom of the smoker rise above the meat by the convection method of heat transfer.

The meat is cooked by this heat and then the smoke is expelled out through vents.

It is an easy-to-use smoker and doesn’t require much effort.

The temperature control is automated and you just have to set it and forget it.

The working mechanism of an electric smoker is explained in detail below.

Temperature control

Temperature control is the foundation of the smoking process.

All of the different meat types can’t be smoked at the same temperature and require a specific temperature range.

If the desired temperature is not attained, then it can result in unevenly cooked meat.

Temperature control in an electric smoker is user-friendly and doesn’t involve much complexity.

You just have to set the desired temperature on the control panel and give the smoker some time to heat up.

The smoker will adjust to reach the desired temperature by itself.

In addition , electric smokers are also equipped with a thermostat which keeps the smoker temperature in a set range.

When the temperature is increased or decreased past the desired temperature, the smoker will shut off or it will notify you with an alarm.

The temperature in an electric smoker is measured by a built-in thermometer that gives you the temperature reading without opening the smoker.

But most of the budget electric smokers come with faulty thermometers,so you may need to modify them.

production of heat

The heat in an electric smoker is produced by a rod that is connected to a rheostat, which controls the electricity provided to the rod.

The rod is made of stainless steel or cast iron, which heats up when electric current is passed through it.

The rod is usually located at the bottom of the smoker, below the wood pan.

Sometimes, electric rods can also be placed in the upper portion of the electric smoker for better heat distribution.

An electric smoker can consist of several rods, which can contribute to a higher temperature range.

The heat up of an electric smoker doesn’t take much time and is usually heated up in 20-30 minutes.

Although the burning of wood to produce smoke may take some time because wood chips are placed once the smoker has reached the desired temperature.

There is also a preheat option available which heats up your smoker to the desired temperature while you prepare your food to be placed in the smoker.

Although electric smokers take a longer time to smoke the meat ,they don’t use much electricity.

The smoke is produced by the wood chips placed inside the smoker.

Although electric smokers use electricity as their main fuel source, wood is used to produce smoke to impart specific flavors onto the meat being smoked.

The wood pan is placed just above the electric rod so that wood is burned while the rod heats up.

You can use any type of wood depending on the type of meat, but you should make sure to use wood chips instead of wood chunks.

you have to soak your wood chips to avoid flare ups.

Each meat type requires a specific type of wood smoke to be smoked to its best.

Hickory and oak are the most commonly used woods for smoking, but you should use them in combination with fruit woods to get a sweet flavor.

You should try different blends to select one that suits you.

Less wood is required because it is not used as the primary heat source; rather, it is burned to produce smoke.

The heat and smoke work together to cook the meat in a better way.

The heat can cook food alone, but the flavor comes from the smoke.

transfer of heat by convection

Heat and smoke are produced at the bottom of the smoker, and food is placed at the top of the smoker.

Now any conscious person might wonder why the food is being placed away from the heat while it needs to be cooked.

The reason is that we don’t want the food to come into direct contact with fire. The food is cooked low and slow by smoke and indirect heat.

The heat produced at the bottom rises up by convection and cooks food placed on the grilling racks.

The air enters through the bottom vent and exits through the top vent, which gives a medium to transfer heat.

In addition to the wood pan, an electric smoker also uses a water pan that is placed above the wood pan.

It is filled with cold water, which avoids the overshooting of temperature.

When the temperature increases suddenly, the water evaporates and controls the temperature.

The evaporation of water also provides a medium for the transfer of heat.

In addition to temperature control, the water pan also helps in maintaining the humidity inside the smoker.

Because smoking inside an electric smoker can take several hours and food may dry out without humidity.

The water pan is helpful for smoking in different ways .You can also fill your water pan with fruit juices to give your food a sweet flavor.

The only drawback to using a water pan is that evaporation of water prevents the smoker from reaching a higher temperature for grilling.

Cooking of meat

The heat and smoke rise up by convection and come into contact with the meat.

The indirect heat helps in the cooking of meat without burning, and smoke helps impart different flavors to enhance the quality of meat.

Smoke is a combination of various gases trapped inside the wood.

The flammable gases get burnt and nonflammable gases leave the wood in the form of smoke. The flavor of meat comes from the gases present in the smoke.

The cooking of meat also needs a specific temperature.

The tougher meat is smoked at a low temperature because a high temperature may burn the outer surface while the inner side may remain uncooked.

while delicate foods can be cooked at a high temperature.

Adjustments of air vents

The electric smoker also comes with two air vents, which are crucial for the efficiency of the electric smoker.

One of these vents is known as the intake vent that is present at the bottom, and the other one is known as the exhaust vent, present at the top of the smoker.

In traditional smokers, air vents are used to control temperature, while in electric smokers,air vents are used to control smoke because heat is being produced by the rod.

It prevents smoke buildup, which might result in affecting the food taste.

In addition to preventing smoke buildup, air vents are also helpful in decreasing the humidity inside the smoker.

The humidity inside the smoker prevents the smoker from reaching higher temperatures ,so it needs to be removed to increase the temperature.


An electric smoker is an automated device that doesn’t require much input.

You just have to set your temperature and place your food for smoking.

We hope that this guide will help in understanding the workflow of an electric smoker.

If you have enjoyed this article ,then make sure to check our article on How to clean electric smoker

Jakob miller
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