Propane vs. Electric Smoker: Know What’s Best for You!


If you are just stepping into the world of BBQ, it is natural to feel overwhelmed due to such a huge variety of the types of smokers available in the market. In case you are someone who cannot afford to change charcoal frequently, it is better to go for something that requires other forms of energy.

This leaves us with two popular choices, which are, propane and electric smokers. But, “electric or gas smoker, which is better?” is the real question here!

Confused about which one to pick? Let us dig deep and find out what are the determining factors that make these smokers a better choice over the other. Ready for an in-depth analysis? Then, keep on reading.

Electric Smoker vs Gas Smoker: the Real Battle

Electric Smokers: How Do They Work?

Electric smokers work upon plugging into the electrical supply for preparing or heating food inside the smoker. This is a modernized form of smoker, unlike the traditional ones that utilize charcoal, wood chips, etc.

This way, you save yourself from the tedious task of changing the coal every other hour or fueling up the tank for gas.

Whole Chicken in a Barrel Electric Smoker

Electric smokers are also popularly known as vertical smokers due to their vertical structure which makes them look somewhat like mini-fridge. Talking about the design inside, there are multiple racks inside which offers the user ample amounts of space to cook their favorite dishes.

An electric smoker is probably among the best types of smokers for beginners due to its easy functionality. The temperature control is done via rheostat or a thermostat that differs as per the model you choose. You can enjoy comfortable cooking and stay unbothered by making the best of the temperature monitoring option.

Pros of Electric Smokers

  • Comes with easy temperature regulation
  • Convenient and can be left unattended without any fear
  • Best and safest option for indoors
  • Easier to clean
  • Greater space for cooking larger amounts of food in one go

Cons of Electric Smokers

  • Limitation on the maximum temperature levels
  • Requires constant power supply
  • Doesn’t provide authentic smoky flavor
  • Cannot be used during a bad weather
  • Grease gets accumulated in the plates which may catch fire
  • Assembling requires a lot of efforts

Propane Smokers: A Working Guide

Ever spotted fancy-looking gas smokers that are used for the barbecue at restaurants? Those are propane smokers!

Cooked Fish in a Gas Smoker

Propane smokers use natural gas as heating fuel which enables the users to gain control over the temperature levels. Some people like to add wood chips to the cooking tray which is a fantastic way to introduce a nice, smoky flavor to your food. 

Since these are not dependent on electricity as their source of power, these make a better choice when we look for substantial differences between electrical v/s gas smoker.

Pros of Propane Smokers

  • Doesn’t require power supply
  • Repairs do not cost much
  • Provides the best authentic smoky flavors
  • Costs cheaper than electric smokers
  • Can be used regardless of a bad weather

Cons of Propane Smokers

  • Requires changing of gas tanks which could be a cumbersome task for many
  • Fuel can cost heavier on the pocket
  • Temperature controlling requires continuous supervision
  • Not a safe option for indoors

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What Are the Differences and Similarities between Electric and Propane Smokers?

If you are unable able to decide electric or gas smoker- which is better,  let us share some major deciding factors between the two.

Major Differences between Electric and Propane Smokers

            Electric Smokers           Propane Smokers
      Convenience Of Usage    In an electric smoker, you have to wait for a while as the smoker gets heated up. Once it reaches the point, you are can enjoy the convenience of usage with its fast and precise temperature monitoring features.    On the other hand, using a propane smoker requires adjustment of the gas smoker for temperature control.  
Features    An electric smoker is a digital piece of equipment that is packed with some amazing, easy-to-use features. This makes your cooking experience smoother and lets you focus on multiple things at a time.    In the case of a propane smoker, you get a know to turn the gas supply on or off as per the requirement.  
Safety    Looking for a smoker for an indoor set-up? Then, an electric smoker is a perfect choice for you! It is packed with all the safety features that make it the best option for the insides.    Whereas, a propane smoker comes with gas tanks that are better if kept outdoors.  
Warranty  The most important part of our electric vs gas smoker comparison is the repair warranty of the cooking instrument. An electric heater usually comes with a 1 year warranty period.   However, the manufacturers offer a 2-3 years warranty for a propane smoker. This makes it a better option over the electric ones.  
Cooking Capacity    Talking about the cooking area, electric smokers come in different sizes. The most common size option is 30inches to 40 inches. This means you can cooks lots of dishes at a time.    Propane smokers are bigger on the size quotient and provide you with ample amounts of cooking space. These offer as much as 1200 square inches of cooking space. You can also opt for the smaller ones if you wish to.  
Taste & Smokiness    One of the major deciding aspects for the real question here, “ electric or gas smoker- which is better?” is the taste of the food prepared. The food prepared or smoked inside an electric smoker tastes real good. A lot also depends on your cooking method. However, the smoker does not impart any flavor of its own.    A propane smoker offers flavors somewhat similar to a charcoal smoker. The food you get tastes like traditional offset smoker style which offers you a chance to experience the authentic aroma and deep hint of condiments used. Propane smokers are highly recommended by the master chefs themselves! Need we say more?  
Weather    An electric smoker needs to be kept with utmost care and safety. You need to prevent it from the rain, or water in general as it may lead to severe damage to its machinery due to electricity supply.     It doesn’t matter if the weather goes a bit off, or even if it rains, a propane smoker can be used anywhere and at any time. All you have to take care of is the gas supply from the tank as the blowing wind may cause a shift in the temperature levels inside the smoker.
Heating Source      Needless to say, an eclectic smoker utilizes electricity for heating its insides. The temperature range can go as much as 300 Fahrenheit.    A propane smoker uses natural gas is used as the fuel source and the cooking temperature can reach up to 500 Fahrenheit. The maximum time a 2b propane tank can last in a smoker is up to 20 hours.   
Cost Of Running    The price of maintenance and fuel consumption does matter a lot while selecting between electric v/s gas smoker. The electric smoker usually costs higher in range, but the price that you have to pay afterward is generally cost-effective due to the electric unit rates that you have to pay.      Whereas a propane smoker may fit your budget but the gas tanks may leave you feeling worried due to hiked prices.  

Similarities: Electric and Gas Smokers

Let’s look at what make these smokers similar to each other.

Whether it is an electric smoker or a gas smoker, both require regular maintenance for a long life. The cost of repairing and maintenance depends on smoker to smoker. You get the most juiciest of outcomes, there’s no compromise on the dishes prepared.

Types of Food to Cook in Electric and Propane Smoker

Do you love the idea of barbecue nights with your loved ones? A smoker is the best way to make the times memorable with sumptuous food times that make for the best combination with drinks.

An electric smoker gives allows you to go experimental with the dishes. There are plenty of options for you to cook, including BBQ smoked ham, smoker Turkey, bacon, lobster tails, etc.

Smoked Turkey Legs

A propane smoker is best for cooking the juiciest dishes such as pork shoulder, smoked pepper brisket, pork spare ribs, and the list is endless. You get the most amazing smoky flavor in your food that is enhanced by adding some wood chips while your food is being smoked.

What about Pellet Smokers?

Pellet smokers are three-in-one smoking equipment, which means, you can use them as a smoker, a grill, and an oven. But, they struggle to reach a considerable level of temperature that is required for cooking some complex meat items. They utilize wood pellet for combustion and heat generation inside the cooking zone.

But, are pellet smokers better than propane smokers? Well, there are several factors involved.

Pellet smokers are more budget-friendly as compared to propane smokers. However, the taste offered by pellet smokers is much more intense. Taking about the fuel source, wood pellets are more environmentally friendly but are a bit pricey than natural gas.

Electric vs Propane Smoker: Our Advice

If you are looking for a sustainable smoker and don’t mind keeping track of the fuel source and paying extra for it, then a electric smoker is the right pick for you!

However, if you are running on a limited budget and want to go experimental with your cooking, preparing several dishes in one go at a high temperature then a propane smoker is highly recommended!

Final Thoughts

Curious about our verdict on “electric or gas smoker- which is better?”

Well, we’d recommend you first assess your needs and budget. The major differences between an electric and a propane smoker are with the cooking temperature monitoring, heating duration, location for placement, etc.

If you are looking for something that comes with easy portability, doesn’t require a lot of heating time, and offers you the most delicious, smoky flavor in your dishes then a propane smoker is definitely the right choice for you!

Although, beginners in the smoking world, looking for an easy-to-use smoker that gives them the power to control the temperatures within seconds, then an electric smoker is meant for you


Tyler Lachance is a cookout professional. His expertise on cooking grilled food, creating marinades, formulating sauces and matching his food with the perfect drink is unrivaled.

Born and raised in a family that has a long history of cookout, he has treated this activity as a part of his culture and who he is.