electric or charcoal????

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by rich1de2, Feb 27, 2012.

  1. We have a Brinkmann Gourmet smoker... charcoal... i saw on the brinkmann site that i could buy the electric heating element to put in it... what are the pro and cons... charcoal vs. electric... we wanted to try our luck @ smoking before we put out good money on a better smoker....

  2. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I have the electric MES smoker.  I maintain that it is the pit-master not bbq equip that makes the difference in producing great Q.  Having said that, there is no doubt that having better equipment can make your Q taste wonderful more consistently.  Sort of like a carpenter or a golfer the right tool for the job, makes the job easier and a lot of times produces the best results.

    Both charcoal and Electric work wonderfully for the home BBQ / smoker, its debatable if the Q will taste the same but using the right equipment correctly you most likely can't tell the difference.

    Major benefits for electric are cost, and convenience, the MES is almost a set it and forget it smoker, using digital controls like a modern oven.  However wood chips need to be added every 30 min or so to keep the smoke rolling.  The addition of a AMNPS will turn a MES into a true set-it-n-forget-it smoker.

    Other advantages of the MES electric, it is insulated so it holds cooking temp better than the Brinkman, which means you can use it in cold weather, use it when it's windy.  Also if you are a busy person, you there is less work involved when using the MES, you don't have to tend it.

    The results with the MES are excellent.  There are MES owners on this forum who have used everything out there or switched from either charcoal, gas, or even all wood, who have said the Q produced by the MES is as good or better than what they produced from the other style of smoker.

    Charcoal, is an excellent fuel and really is the preference of many BBQers.  While there are many different types of charcoal smokers, in my opinion for the backyard BBQer, the best and the only one I would own is the Weber Smoky Mountain (WSM).  I would have bought one 5 years ago when I bought my MES, however I wanted to smoke a whole rack of ribs.  The 18" WSM size forces you to either roll a rack or cut it.  I can smoke 16 whole racks in my 40" MES.  A couple of years ago Weber came out with the 22" WSM, I would buy this one today.  There are a number of reasons to own a WSM smoker. 1st, the WSM is the most common piece of smoking equipment used in BBQ smoking competitions, there is a reason for this.  QUALITY of the product produced.  The WSM will produce consistent excellent results, that makes even a novice look good. 

    The WSM does require a little tending but not that much, there are a variety of accessories that can make it almost set n forget.  One disadvantage of charcoal compared to electric is cost.  Electric operates at about 11-15cents an hour, so if you do a 9lb pork butt which takes about 90 minutes a pound or about $1.30.   Using Kingsford will cost you about .30 cents a pound, and should cost you 2 to 3 times the cost of electric depending on the pounds and smoke time.  Plus you have to drive to get the bags of briquettes, if you are driving more than 5 miles that adds to the cost.  So convenience/cost is electric.  Charcoal will give you more control over texture, the meat can get crispy on the outside, which is desirable for chicken and ribs, this is difficult with the MES.  In addition for charcoal wind can be a factor, and it is harder to maintain temp at lower outdoor ambient temps. 

    One major benefit, if you want to compete at a BBQ smoker competition your all set with a WSM, you can not use electric smokers at a bbq competition.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
    jimf likes this.
  3. Ditto on what Deltadude says about what is nice about a MES. I used propane and charcoal smokers in the past and they were a lot more trouble to use than an MES/AMNPS setup. I would never consider going back.

    In my opinion, the much lower cost to operate a MES is often under appreciated by users. I used a Kill-O-Watt meter once to compare the cost of electricity with the equivilent amount I would have spent on charcoal or propane and it was significant. Saving $5 or more per smoke.

  4. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    It will also boil down to your preferance in taste. Do you A) like that unique flavor you get with charcoal or B) don't really care?

    I have never used any of the electric smokers myself, but there are a lot of folks here that produce some outsanding Que on them.... especially the MES line. I grew up using charcoal and have always loved that flavor you get from it, so I went with the Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5" smoker. As far as charcoal smokers go the WSM's are as close to set-it-and-forget it as you can get, once I get it lit and up to temp I can generally leave it alone for up to 10+ hrs. with no additional input from me - then after 10-12 hrs. I just open another vent and give the charcoal a stir and let it go for another 5-10 hrs.

    Either way get the smoker that you think will work best for both your lifestyle and that you will enjoy using.
  5. I need to purchase a new smoker, have had many over the years.
    I live in a warm climate and need a small smoker say 30/40 lbs could be electric/gas, any suggestions?
  6. I got both MES and WSM. Why depriving your self?
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  9. Well done Delta.  Couldn't have said it better myself.  I actually was having this exact same dilemma but it included propane in the mix.  I ended up buying the 22.5 WSM because I think I might start competing.  Also, the reason I was originally put off by charcoal was because I had the Char-Griller Duo and it was a pain in the butt to really get the temps right.  I was changing the side damper about every 5 minutes.  REALLY annoying.  I really like the set it and forget it idea of electric, but the WSM is almost just that.  I actually had decided to go with the Masterbuilt Extra Wide Smoker and then talked myself out of it with the WSM.  Really glad I did.

    With that said, it seems like you have the choice between electric and charcoal in the same unit.  I say do both.  If you are going to be outside, drinking beer and telling lies, use charcoal.  If you need to leave for awhile or go to sleep... use the electric.  Best of both worlds I guess.

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