Debating electric vs propane for first smoker, looking for feedback.

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by danielc, Jul 5, 2014.

  1. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Hi all, 

    I've started looking at different options for my first smoker, and and it seems everything I look at has pros and cons, so it's kind of confusing.

    I've been looking at the Masterbuilt Electric ones and the propane/dual ones.

    Here are some of my observations based or my reading of the various reviews....

    - The propane has the ability to reach higher temps if needed.  This could be useful in colder weather, and for example if you want to finish chicken hotter to try to crisp the skin.   However, some people seem to complain that it's difficult to maintain the lower temps.    Is 225 a problem generally?

    - A common complaint for the electric ones seems to be an underpowered heating element, so it's not possible to get the higher temps, like to crisp chicken skin.

    - I've read that Masterbuilt doesn't recommend using an extension cord with the smokers.  If this is correct, this would be a pain to keep it close to the outdoor plug.

    - Most of the elecric ones I'me seeing seem to be the 2nd generation ones.   I've read that there are quite a few complains with the controllers for these systems.   WIth these MES smokers being so expensive, and Masterbuilt only offering 90day warranty, this is a concern.   I'm thinking that the propane ones may be less likely to break down.

    - With the electric ones, you're expected to be able to basically set the temperature and not worry about it (even though there will be fluctuations as it cycles on and off).   How stable are the propane ones once you get them to the desired temp?    The box doesn't seem as well insulated.

    - With the electric ones, I'm kind of concerned about the extension cords if you were smoking in the snow or rain.....any comments on this?

    - How do they hold up to the winters if left outside?


    Last edited: Jul 6, 2014
  2. so ms smoker

    so ms smoker Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

      Ah, the pros and cons. That is the question.   Let's start at the end of your list. Neither electric or propane will hold up or work  well out in the elements. However they are generally not too large or heavy to store inside and move out for use.  As for extension cords, a short heavy gauge cord will work ok. I understand temps on a gasser must be watched closer than electric. ( but I have not used one). Give some thought to when, where and how you plan to use the smoker and then whittle down the pros and cons. If you still have questions, please ask. Someone will be glad to help.

  3. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm going to have to disagree with you to some extent.  I have 2 Smoke Hollow propane smokers that have sat out in the elements for 13+ years and they both still work fine.   I managed to spring the door latch on one of them, but that happened while transporting one of the smokers in the bed of a pickup truck.  I added a Smoke Hollow 44 to my arsenal last year and it hasn't had a cover on it either.  It's still in tip top shape.

    As for working in the elements, I've used all three of my smokers in the wind, rain and snow and they all did just fine.  When it's windy or cold, you just have to turn up the propane a bit to keep chamber temps.

    All that said, it's not a bad idea at all to move them and store inside or under cover, I'm just too lazy to mess with all that   [​IMG]

    Daniel, you are correct that most propane smokers aren't well insulated.  That said, they do maintain pretty consistent temps as long as the weather outside doesn't change much.   Obviously, if the ambient air temp drops by 40 degrees, your chamber temp will drop as well and you'll have to crank up the gas to raise the temp.    Also, if you load the cook chamber up, as the internal temp of the meats rise, so will the chamber temp.      Let's pretend that the gas dial is numbered 1 through 10.   Say that on a given day, you can set the dial to 5 and your chamber temp will settle in at 225 degrees.    If you throw 30 lbs of Boston butts in, and they are right out of the fridge, that will drop your chamber temp for quite some time as that's 30 lbs of thermal mass @ 40 degrees or so.    To compensate, you turn your dial to 7 to increase the heat.  This brings the chamber temp back up to 225.   Six hours later, the 30 lbs of Butts are now at 140 internal temp.   Your chamber temp will be somewhat higher than 225 now.  If you are overly picky, you can dial the knob back down to 5 or even 4 to maintain 225.

    Personally, I don't really worry about all that unless I load up 70+ lbs of meat in my smoker
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  4. so ms smoker

    so ms smoker Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I'm going to have to disagree with you to some extent.  I have 2 Smoke Hollow propane smokers that have sat out in the elements for 13+ years and they both still work fine.

      Glad to hear yours work well. As I said I have not used one. Just going by the gasser units I have seen at wally world! They did not look too impressive too me. But I would not leave an electric unit in the elements.

  5. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I can definitely understand.  Ironically, when I first got my Smoke Hollows, I didn't think they would last very long as the metal is pretty thin.   Not sure what they used to coat the smokers with, but it's effective.   Haven't looked at any of the units at Wally's so I can't really comment on them.   And yeah, I definitely wouldn't have an electric out in the elements.
  6. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

  7. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Thanks Sarge, appreciated!  That may be good for those in the US, but for us Canadians it's not really an option.   But thanks!
  8. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    You are welcome.  Was not aware you were in Canada. Gotta visit Canada one of these days.
  9. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Please Do Not post the same question in Multiple Forums...It is confusing and pushes other members posts off the main page. A post that fits in Multiple forums can be posted once in General Discussion and will get viewed by many more members...JJ
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
  10. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I chose the electric MES 30 (which happened to be Gen 1) because I wanted an electric smoker so I wouldn't have to fool around with propane and charcoal. I keep my MES covered and on a hand truck in my garage. When I want to use it, I wheel it into my backyard where I've got an outside power outlet, no extension cord needed. I never use it in the snow or rain and so, living in WA state, I'm limited to the few dry months we have to use it since it can be sunny and 85 degrees one day and raining the next. My setup works fine for me, especially since the power outlet is just outside our family room where I can keep tabs on the smoke while I watch TV AND smell that great smoky goodness wafting thru the windows and into the room.
  11. I say charcoal or wood but that's the only way  I smoke [​IMG]
  12. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Thanks!  I looked for a general "smokers" forum but only found the two different forums for electric and propane so after a day or so I decided to re-post to the other one since my topic really touched both and I was afraid I was limiting my audience to only half.    But pointed noted...thanks!
  13. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Sounds like a good setup...thanks for he feedback!
  14. bear55

    bear55 Master of the Pit

    I own an electric Rec Tec and I am 100% happy.  This machine is right on as to temp and living in south Mississippi I have no issues during the winter.  I have read northern Rec Tec owners say they have no problems during winter.  This machine will reach 500 degrees, enough for most any grilling need. 
  15. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Thanks for the update! Yeah I dont mind having to adjust the temp from time to time, I expect that as long as I dont need to be going outside every 10 mins because of wild swings. Thanks!
  16. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Get Both and a Short Heavy Gauge cord such as for an air conditioner....well that would be the easy way out.

    I'm going to try to offer some insight not advice, because to be quite honest it would not be fair for me to compare one against the other without experience. I have run a propane smoker for years and run a stickburner as well using, wood, lump, charcoal and propane.

    Don't base your purchase on  "Crispy Skin" on poultry if that's what you want, throw it in your oven or a rotisserie on the grill.

    Here are a few questions to get you started that you can ask yourself that may help you make a decision.
    • What else will you be smoking?
    • will they be long cooks?
    • do you like your sleep?
    • do you like hanging out by the "Q" 8, 10, 14, 18 hours?
    • Are you a busy person that can not commit to a day of cooking?
    • Do you want to commit to a day of cooking?
    • Do you have room for a smoker AND Propane tank, you will need two tanks?
    • Do you have little ones running about that may touch a hot smoker?
    Propane smokers are fine in the elements if covered.

    It's a shame you ruled out Charcoal smokers as many folks swear by them.
  17. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    That's makes sense and is common. General Discussion covers situations like this where the topic fits in more than one forum. Very few people look at just one forum and almost all check General Discussion on a regular basis...JJ

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