Propane vs electric dilemma

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by chris311, Apr 19, 2012.

  1. chris311

    chris311 Newbie

    I have been using a Brinkman charcoal smoker for the last year and I am looking to upgrade to a new smoker and I am stuck with a dilemma of propane or electric. I would like to get something that does not require so much attention during cooking.  I always had to refill the charcoal and I was having a lot of trouble getting the temp to be constant.  Even with the modifications I made to my ECB (vents, gaskets and raised charcoal above ashes) I was still having a hard time controlling the temp and keeping the charcoal lit.

    I have narrowed my choices between two smokers either the master forge propane or the masterbuilt 30 inch electric smoker.  I have done a lot of research in this forum and the internet and I am having trouble deciding which way to go.  It seems the that the propane smokers need to have there temps monitored since the weather conditions can make the temp fluctuate but they can reach higher temps then the electric modules.  The electric modules seem to have more parts that can malfunction (heating element) but coupled with AMNPS and when they work they are truly set it and forget it. 

    I am more interested in the quality of the food that they both produce.  Is there any different in food that is made on a propane smoker then with an electric smoker? I like the convenience of the electric smoker but I don’t want to diminish the quality of the food. 

    I am sure that I am not the first person to have this dilemma and hopefully you guys can help me decide between the two.   I have posted this in both the electric and propane forums since I would like to hear from people who are using both types of smokers.
  2. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Chris311, welcome to SMF, and this electric forum.  Obviously since I am replying from the electric forum my opinion is electric centric, specifically MES electric.  There are a number of reasons to choose electric over LPG, one is operating cost, it cost $22+ around hear to swap LPG bottles and about $19 to refill.  I don't know how many 10 hour smokes you would get out of a LPG bottle, but it only costs about 13 cents per hour to use an MES 40.  Another aspect is heat control, the MES provides a digital controller which provides fairly accurate control over heat.  Add in the AMNPS and you would have a set n forget smoker that delivers excellent tasting Q.  One last feature is the MES uses double wall construction with insulated sandwiched in between the walls, which provides a really good cooking chamber helping to keep cooking temps consistent.

    Chris I think your problem with charcoal is that you were using a charcoal smoker that isn't very well designed.  After 6 years of reading a variety of meat smoking posts, I am convinced that the two biggest bang for buck smokers money can buy is either a MES or a WSM (weber smoking mountain).  When I was searching 6 years ago for a smoker, I would have bought a WSM smoker, the problem was the size, to smoke ribs you had to either cut the rack or roll the rack, I wanted to cook a whole rack, and lay it flat on the grate, the make/models in the smokers I was considering only the MES 40 allowed me to do this, which alllowed 2 racks of ribs per shelf x 4 shelves or 8 racks of ribs.  I can do 16 racks of ribs using vertical rib racks in a MES.  However today the WSM comes in two sizes the 18" and the 22", which allows just what I wanted to do.  The WSM is considered one of the finest smoking meat cookers especially for the money you would pay.  Go to a BBQ smoking meat competition and look around a very high percentage of teams either have the WSM as their primary cooker or as a secondary/backup cooker.  The reason is it can maintain its low cooking heat & smoke consistently for hours.  In fact the 2009 KCBS BBQ Team of the year used only WSM cookers.

    So from me you get two recommendation either the MES or the WSM, neither are propane.
  3. schmitzmoke

    schmitzmoke Fire Starter

    You have a difficult decision to make, I personally just jumped off the Brinkman offset charcoal smoker for all the same reasons that you did. I performed all the same reviews that you are, and came to the conclusion that Propane was the fit for me. Its portable, it can be easily set for a specific temp and you can easily move that temp up or down quickly. The product that you produce will be as close to charcoal/wood heat as you can get. For me it was a no brain-er. Not that Elec's are bad,,, Propane was a perfect fit for me and the rest of my outdoor kitchen/grill.

    Pick the one that fits your needs, not what anyone else says you should get!

    BTW, I just got my Masterbuilt XL Propane a few weeks ago and I love it, Sams Club online has the Stainless Steel front for $199 ($230 w/ tax+shipping) This thing is bad-a$$ and big enough to smoke some serious MEAT!

    Good luck!!!!
  4. My previous smoker was propane bullet type smoker and I found I didn't use it much because I needed to be around for the whole smoke to make sure the temp did not get out of range. Wind, sun, and other changing factors required me to periodically tweak the analog gas controller to keep the temps right.  I didn't have that many days available where I was free to be home all day to watch the smoker. After I switched to the MES40/AMNPS setup, I found that I smoked much more often because I wasn't limited to smoking only when I know I had the whole day free to watch over it. I can't say if you will have similar experience with the   master forge propane smoker but I thought my story was worth telling. 

    Regarding operating costs, I also found that there was a really big saving using my electric MES vs my propane bullet smoker. Propane is expensive here in California.

    With the MES you also avoid the bother of getting propane tank refills or worrying about the tank running out in the middle of a smoke.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2012
  5. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Once you purchase your new smoker start saving for a good reverse flow wood smoker.   IMHO BBQ requires wood.  You can do real good BBQ and you can do easy BBQ with electric and gas but great BBQ requires lots and lots of dry, flavorful wood.  If you can't tell I am a dedicated wood burner.
  6. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Breaks down to skill set and what you like to eat. As a pro Chef, with a few of my tricks, I can make Fake Pulled Pork in a Dutch Oven set on a Hot Plate. It could fool the majority of people, at least north of the Mason Dixon Line! So I and most of the guys here can make Killer Q with any unit and any fuel out there. My MES only goes to 275*F so if I am doing Chicken I need you plan on pulling the bird 10* under my goal IT and pop it in a 450*F oven to finish. If I had Propane I could set for 300-325*F and not worry about moving the bird. Flip side is the MES is well insulated and I can Smoke some Kielbasa at 130*F on a Freezing day or in direct sunlight in Aug and that machine will stay at 130*F with no intervention for the entire smoke. Bottom line is if you will do a lot of higher temp Smoking and have a fairly controlled environment to do it, Propane is a good choice. If you don't mind an extra step when making Poultry and think cool Smoked Sausage is in the future or have a changing evironment to deal with, Electric serves many of us well. Whatever decision you make, we will be here to help you optimize the unit and make better tasting Q than most people have ever had...JJ
  7. kryinggame

    kryinggame Smoking Fanatic

    few years ago, I bought a propane Great Outdoors Smokey Mountain smoker (GOSM). Man, that thing is a hunk of junk. It was nearly impossible controlling the temperature. I was never able to get a decent rack of ribs out of it. Who wants to spend all day going in and out the house monitoring the temperature.  Not to mention, I have 3 tanks of gas sitting in my yard. If you're gonna do a long smoke, you better have a full tank sitting around. The next problem is, you'll always have 1/4 tanks sitting around. And, sometimes, I want to smoke on the whim. What if I don't have enough gas or not sure how much gas I have in those tanks.

    a few weeks ago, I did a yard bird on my gas grill, using indirect heat. I got a pretty bird but it took 5 hours and I had to change the tank mid-way though.  In my opinion, propane is to much of a headache. I just want good food that's not goinog to piss me off in preparing it.  Last December I bought a Masterbuilt Electric 30 inch smoker. I'll admit, I did have a problem with it but the customer service folks at Masterbuilt quickly sent me a replacement part. Since then, it's been easy as cake. A few weeks ago, my lady and I were sitting in the yard and the whim it us, we wanted some smoked shrimp. It was around 11:30 p.m., I heated up my MES and shortly afterwards, we were sucking down some sweet shrimp. For me, it's reliable. It truly is set it and forget it.

    Most weekends I like smoking ribs. I know all I gotta do is put my rack in, set it for 235 degrees and in 6 hours, I'm going to have mouth watering ribs. Last Saturday, I was doing a repair project at church. Started at 8 AM. Around 11, I ran home and got the smoker ready. At noon, my rack was in the smoker. I then went back to the church. By 6, I had some great tasting ribs.

    My point is, unless you don't mind the expense and inconvience, go with propane. If you want reliablity, go with electric. I'll gladly give the GOSM to anyone who wants it, for free.
  8. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    I have a GOSM and the bottle hooked to it right now has 29 hours of smoking on it and is still about half full. I have my bottles refilled so I don't ever lose any. Though I get minor fluctuations in temp I can pretty much hold it steady between 210 and 230 with no problems. I think part of the fun of smoking is tending to the smoker, just my .02.
  9. kryinggame

    kryinggame Smoking Fanatic

    You're from Georgia, what do you guys know about smoking. lol [​IMG]
  10. It's all personal preference.. I have both. I have a MES40 & a Masterbuilt Propane XL..

    I have not used the MES40 since I purchased the Propane smoker. My wife & I prefer how the meat comes out on the propane versus the electric.

    I have always used wood in the past, so we are used to the smoke ring & on how the meat looks when using wood. The propane smoker comes about as close as you can get to the wood smoker.. Here is a pic from the propane smoker..


    Our electric smoker does not leave a smoke ring & the color of the meat is off. It is more of a bronze color. This does not affect the taste of the meat one bit. It is just for looks.

    I'm sorry but I do not have any pictures of anything that I smoked in the electric.

  11. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    There are multiple people who have owned both in this electric forum and state very clearly that the MES smoked Q eats, tastes and with the exception of the smoke ring looks the same.  I have NEVER had any Q come out looking bronze, if you want bark then pull the water pan during the last hour or two of the smoke or don't use the water pan at all.  I have cooked for hundreds of people with my MES 40, and I have had lots of people tell me its the best Q they ever had, and none have ever said the Q looks off in color.  (Some have asked about the smoke ring, I simply ask them how does it taste?  They always say Great!)  When I cook ribs for a large crowd I do both BB and spare ribs, I serve both wet & dry, many prefer the dry because they can taste the smoke a rub more than the wet.  I do not endorse the MES for chicken, the skin comes out rubbery, I use a weber kettle for that, or directly grill it.  I am not trying to toot my own horn, I am trying to say that there has been enough propane users who have bought MES units and in this electric forum they have expressed how very very happy are with their MES and they tell others the same.
  12. I'll apologize to anyone that I might have offended about the color being off. I was just talking about my experience.. I have several posts in this forum asking why the color was different..

    Again sorry if I offended anyone.. It wasn't my intention..

  13. danelmore

    danelmore Fire Starter

    Last edited: Jun 9, 2012
  14. kryinggame

    kryinggame Smoking Fanatic

    After re-reading everything here, I agree with what was stated, it's a matter of personal preference. At the end of the day, both methods, if done right will produce good food. The dilemma is finding the method that's right for you. I guess, if you have the means, purchase both and decide for yourself. If you're gonna choose electric, I would push you towards the MES. There are tons of propane smokers on Craigslist that you can get cheap. Heck, I just posted my GOSM on craigslist. Ain't nothing wrong with it that I know. I'm selling it for $30 just to get rid of it.
  15. chris311

    chris311 Newbie

    Thanks for all the responses from both forums.  I think I have made my decision and I am going to get a propane smoker.  It seems to be a better option for me.  Now I have to decide which one to get.  Originally I was thinking of going with the master forge double door but now I am considering the masterbuilt XL and the walmart GOSM (3405BGW).  I thinking the masterbuilt and GOSM may be an over kill for me since I will only be smoking for the family and possibly 10 people max.

    Is there any added benefit going with the masterbuilt or GOSM besides the extra space?  I also noticed that the master forge has 2 vents at the bottom of the smoker and the masterbuilt and GOSM does not.  Is there any advantage to having the vents on the master forge?

    Thanks again for the responses.  It looks like I may need to make a decision by this weekend since it looks like Sam’s Club is having a non members weekend and I could get the stainless steel masterbuilt at this time since I do not have a membership.
  16. schmitzmoke

    schmitzmoke Fire Starter

    So,,,, lets see what you got?
  17. nozzleman

    nozzleman Smoking Fanatic

    Another last minute vote on electric, I love my masterbuilt.
  18. chris311

    chris311 Newbie

    I ended up getting the masterbuilt extra wide from bass pro shop and I could not be happier. I did a couple of mods on it before I fired it up. I put a gasket on the door and I built a cart with wheels on it for the smoker to sit on. When I get some time I'll take some pictures and post them. I only used it once but I did notice that I had a little trouble with getting good smoke. I was using the wood tray that came with it and I notice there are a lot of complaints about it so my next mod will be to get a cast iron pan to us to put the wood in.. Thanks again for everyone's input and advice.
  19. smuking

    smuking Newbie

    I am thinking of getting a new smoker and just looking at all my options, but deltadude was stating he didn't know how many smokes you could get out of a LPG smoker. Here's my answer.. if you want to save on your bottle which I do this all the time, smoke your meat for about 3 hours at desired temp (usually around 225*F for me). Next pull your butt/meat out of the smoker and bring into the house and throw it in your oven where you can finish at the same desired temp. Reason for this is and I've done my research, after about 2 1/2 - 3 hours the meat STOPS EXCEPTING smoke! After that your only cooking your meat at low temps.. So what I do I set my oven timer for about 2 hours 45 mins, once the alarm goes off I turn my oven on to the desired temp and give it about 15 mins to warm up. Once it hits the desired temp, I put the meat out of my smoker and finish it in my oven. It gets the same amount of cook time. I buy those cheap aluminium throw away pans from the store and when I pull it out of the smoker I place them in it with a cookie sheet below that to make it more sturdy. I've never had any problem doing it this method and I smoke probably every 2 weeks or so during the summer. I can usually make 1 bottle last me, sometimes I might have to swap in a particial from my grill if I do run low. One of the things I bet a lot of people not familar with LPG do is turn their gas bottle ALL the way on. There is no need in this, most of the time (dealing with both the smoker and a LPG forklift which I've driven for years..) I find it uses more gas than is needed! Once you hear the gas fill the line, give it a quarter turn. Thats all that's needed and you can adjust the temp with the knob on your smoker, not your bottle! Hopefully this has been helpful to others.

    P.S. The smoker I've been looking at is the Yoder electric pellet smoker, a bit expensive but I thought I might splurge a bit, lol [​IMG]
  20. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    SmuKing, one of the biggest smoking controversies is whether or not the food stops accepting smoke once the pellicle ( a thin skin which acts as a protective barrier and also enhances the smoking process) is formed. I had a BBQ instructor tell the class that after this forms and the IT is 160° (after approx 3 hours of smoking) that via chemical reactions and structural changes the food will accept no more smoke. A number of members here--including the more experienced and knowledgeable--disagreed with him, as I do as well. If meat could only accept up to a certain amount of smoke it would therefore be impossible to oversmoke it, right? Oversmoking remains the most common error of newbies.

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