Pros and cons of charcoal smokers, (and charcoal vs electric discussion)

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by perthsmoker, Dec 25, 2014.

  1. perthsmoker

    perthsmoker Newbie

    Hi guys my names Royce I'm from Perth, Australia. I'm looking into getting my first smoker and im new to this style of cooking, but I want to know what's the difference between an electric and a charcoal smoker, and what's better, I feel that charcoal would have more flavour and better quality cooked meat (once I have gotten the hang of it) but I think that electric being easy to set up and basically automatic as I'm looking at a Bradley smoker that I may use it more as it's easy to use and clean and less time consuming in terms of starting the fire ect. Can people please share their knowledge and experiences and opinions. Thanks in advance kind strangers
  2. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Royce, I'm a charcoal guy, but the electric smoker is probably the most sold smoker in use.  Ease of use and cleanup is the main draw for electrics, plus it requires very few modifications and has plenty of accessories.  The electric guys will best answer your questions concerning the pros and cons of electrics.

    Now there are a variety of charcoal smokers from offsets to verticals.  I'm a vertical guy with the WSM.

    Pros: The reasons I'm a charcoal guy, specifically a WSM, are probably very similar to what an electric guy would say:

       1. Charcoal is a fuel I am very comfortable and experienced using.

       2. The fuel is available year round at a relatively low cost, as low as 15-25 cents a pound at different times of the year.  Wood chunks are also available year round if I'm not using chunks from the white oak trimmings in my yard. 

       3. I have set up my WSM so it is practically a set and forget smoker.  I have done 1 hour smokes and 23 hour smokes.  Both are easy. 

       4. I can get EXACTLY the flavor I am looking for in any smoked product, from light to heavy smoke flavor.     

       5. I can use it in the wind, rain, snow (if it snowed here) and sunshine.

       6. It is easy to use and I can set chamber temps that range from cold smoking to 350+F. I am just starting to explore cold smoking.  I started smoking about a year and a half ago and generally smoke on average 1-2 times a week.

       7. I can go from waking up to loading the smoker with meat, veggies, nuts, etc in about an hour. 


       1. Clean up is relatively easy but can be dangerous if hot ash is discarded/stored improperly. 

       2. I buy charcoal in large quantities (400-500 lbs) when it goes on sale and it takes up room in my garage.

       3. I can go from waking up to loading the smoker with meat, veggies, nuts, etc in about an hour. There is a process I follow that is more time consuming than an electric smoker.

       4. It generates more smoke than an electric smoker which could be an issue in some areas with strict rules like condos, retirement communities, apartments, etc.            

    Keep us posted on what you decide.    
  3. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Some good points made above. I would ask how big of a smoker do you think you need? Are you smoking for 1,2,or ten people. Are you smoking large or small cuts of meat. What about super hot smokes or cold no heat smokes? All of these questions need to be answered.

    For years I was a charcoal guy, then switched to propane. Then found the Mini-WSM and UDS charcoal smokers. The unique flavors you get from charcoal and wood smokers is in my opinion better than what is achieved with electric or propane. I also like the fact that with charcoal or wood you can get intense high heats for searing and for poultry smokes. On the flip side I can also set up any smoker for cold smoking with no heat using cold smoking accessories. I do feel that electric has it's place but I feel it is more appropriate where lower temps need to be maintained, such as in smoking fish, jerky, and sausages.

    As far as needing to by bulk charcoal, my Mini-WSM (home built WSM-14.5") sip fuel and I found there was no need to go buy mega amounts when it was on sale. I use my smokers 3-4 times a week.

    I use all my smokers for different things, but if I had to choose one go to smoker it'd be my Mini-WSM. It's fuel efficient. I can cook enough food in it to feed my family of four. I can do long smokes in it, or quick hit smokes. I can also use it as a grill for searing. When set up with a few mods I can cold smoke in it. It's portable. It goes camping and traveling with us. It's a great all around smoker. If you can't build one the WSM-14.5 would be a good option. If you need something larger then the larger WSM's or building an UDS would be good options.
  4. perthsmoker

    perthsmoker Newbie

    Thanks so much guys for the informative responses, I intend on smoking for at least 4 people per session but work towards family lunchs ect of about 10 or so. And I was hoping to smoke a variety or cut sizes from brisket to ribs to rib eye and anything in between really.

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