Electric smokers are at the pinnacle of convenience and ease of use, but we wouldn’t be using them if they didn’t produce real barbecue flavor. I had been a few years deep in my barbecue journey before trying a classic vertical electric smoker. Although I was thoroughly impressed, it did take me numerous smoking sessions to learn how to get the most smoke flavor from electric smokers. I’m going to share with you the top 6 tips to get more smokey flavor from your electric smoker.
If you have any other tips you’ve found work for your electric smoker, would love for you to share them in the comments for everyone.
The Basics Of An Electric Smoker
What Is An Electric Smoker?
Unlike a traditional wood or charcoal smoker, an electric smoker relies on electric heat rods to control the temperature. The traditional electric smoker stands vertical, with various racks, digital temperature controls, and automated start-up and shutdown processes. The electric smoker is specifically designed for using wood chips, and you’ll want to get the most out of them as they are the sole source of smokey flavor.
How Does An Electric Smoker Work?
A standard electric smoker stands vertically, and consists of a few critical parts that makes it work so well. Heat is solely provided by the heating rods at the bottom of the smoker. Usually the wood chip tray would sit around here too, so that the heat that radiates from rods is able to smoke the wood chips.
The water pan sits above the tray, and as the water heats during the process, steam is produced which helps the cooking process. Various grill racks can be adjustable to fit most sized meats, and the unit comes with dampers and vents for controlling temperature.
As the rods heat up they begin combusting the wood chips within the wood tray, letting off the smoke that circulates and penetrates the meat. The end result: a much easier, more convenient way to barbecue.
Top 6 Tips To Get More Smoke Flavor From Electric Smoker
1. Season Your Electric Smoker
Just like with any new grill or smoker, taking the time to season it correctly just makes sure you get rid of any residue or build-up on the steel or cast iron surfaces within the smoker. Seasoning your electric smoker also sets the steel, which helps prevent food residue or juices from staining it on its first uses.
To season your grill simply get it started according to the model instructions. Turn it to high heat and let it run for between 45 to an hour depending on the model and instructions – all smokers are made differently!
If you forgot to do this step before using your smoker, it may explain why you didn’t get the best smokey results for the first few times.
2. Don’t Soak Your Wood Chips
As tempting as the supposed “benefits” to soaking your wood chips sound, soaking your wood chips to produce more/better smoke is simply a myth. The mirage of white smoke that is produced when you smoke soaked wood chips is actually steam, and before the wood combusts it needs to dry back out, essentially only delaying the process with no added benefits.
If you are looking to get more smoke flavor from your electric smoker, always use unsoaked hardwood wood chips.
3. Make Sure You Use Enough Wood Chips
It’s not likely one tray of wood chips will last the whole smoking session if you are going 4+ hours. When it’s required, make sure you are topping up the tray to keep a constant smoke source going.
Remember, most of the smoke flavor actually comes from the start and middle of the cook, so it’s important you have smoke flowing well during this time.
4. Use A Stronger Smoking Wood
If you think you are doing everything right and you just can’t get the smokiness to the level you want in your electric smoker, try using a stronger smoking wood, such as mesquite or hickory.
Mesquite is also one of the best woods for smoking brisket, but can be used as a great wood for smoking lamb, or beef ribs too.
Check out this smoking woods guide for a full breakdown.
5. Add A Smoking Tube
If you think your electric smoker isn’t pumping out enough smoke and smokey flavor to satisfy your deepest barbecue desires then you can always try using a high-quality pellet smoking tube. These stainless steel tubes hold wood pellets that stack evenly around the edges of the tube to create a consistently burning chain reaction releasing additional smoke for your cook.
These smoking tubes can also be used to cold smoke indirectly as they don’t produce as much heat, which is always good to keep in your mind if you ever feel like smoking cheese!
6. Don’t Open The Door Unless Necessary
It seems simple, but make sure you are only opening the door if you have a real need to, such as if you are spritzing your ribs for example or if you are removing or adding the meat. Every second the door is open you are letting out more heat & smoke.
Do Electric Smokers Produce A Lot Of Smoke?
Out of all smoker fuel types, electric smokers do tend to produce the least amount of smoke. This is because it’s the only heating source that works without a flame or combustion present, unlike gas, charcoal, or pellet smokers. However, it does produce enough to make real results, and enough to create a solid highly desirable smoke ring.
You can also do several things to encourage more smokiness on the meat. For example, you can use stronger smoking wood, or use a water pan in your electric smoker if it’s a particularly long cook, increasing the humidity and helping more smokiness adhere to the meat.
How Much Smoke Should An Electric Smoker Make?
It’s important to take extra care with electric smokers to make sure the meat really is getting good smoking. If you can see clear milky “blue smoke” coming from the wood chips this is a good sign it’s working well, it shouldn’t be thick and bellowing.
However, if you can hardly see any smoke and the wood chips aren’t burning up fully when you check the tray then you may need to investigate why they aren’t combusting properly or use the steps above to help you get more smoke flavor from your electric smoker.
How Often Should You Add Wood Chips To An Electric Smoker?
The short answer to how often should you add wood chips to an electric smoker is: as often as they burn out, so long as it’s within the first half of the cook. This is because most of the flavor the smoke will add to the meat is actually produced at the start of the cook, and any time after the middle of the smoking session there will be a clear drop-off.
This is also another reason why wrapping your meat at the halfway point is so popular, as it helps keep it from drying out, and you’ve already added the desired smoke to it.
Other Tips & Final Thoughts
Of course, there are so many other little things you can adjust on electric smokers such as temperature, vents, placement of the meat etc. These are the 6 most common and effective things you can actionably do to improve the smoke flavor from your electric smoker.
If you have a killer tip that changed your barbecue game for electric smokers, drop it below we would love to hear it!