I have been a cooking enthusiast my entire life: managed/owned several restaurants, specializing in smoked foods and wild game preparation.
You Can Do It Just As Good As They Can
You love the taste of smoked meats, so you go to a restaurant that advertises that smokey rich flavor you crave and order ribs or pulled pork, and then realize something is missing.
Does the restaurant actually advertise that they put their meats on the smoker using wood smoke for hours on end, or do they simply call themselves a barbeque place, there is a difference.
Now for a little jesting, some cooks call their meat smoked if they just happen to have carried it past a smoker at some point in the process. Yes it happens, plus you pay a fortune on top of that for smoked meats. What some cooks do, (not many and by all means not all) is simply brush smoke flavoring hidden in their sauce over the meat and called it smoked meat, so can I do this at home you ask yourself, of course.
Anyone can smoke meat at home and an electric wood smoker makes it easy. You can smoke more than just meat by the way. You can cook and/or smoke virtually any food.
Convenience is One Benefit
Put chips in the chip tray and that’s it, no lighter fluid or waiting on the charcoal to get hot. No more soaking wood chips and storing chunks of wood for charcoal smokers. The electric smoker produces smoke by heating up the wood chips, which are placed close to the heating element.
Traditional smokers by many expert accounts are the best. It is hard to disagree with experts, but let us keep in mind that maybe some of you do not have the storage capacity for a smoker that can smoke a Hundred pounds of meat at one time.
An electric smoker has a place, and its place is not to replace the traditional smokers, it is merely an alternative. So let’s explore some techniques.
How Easy Is It To Add Wood Chips?
As with any smoker an electric wood smoker will require you to add wood chips from time to time. Electric smokers will have either, a four rack or three rack capacity. Some smokers have a chip loading port on the side, and you simply slip out the loader and fill with wood chips and insert back in.
The advantage to this type versus the ones where you have to open the door and pull out the chip tray is you do not cool down the smoker by opening the door.
You may pay a bit more but it is worth it to have the chip tray accessible from the outside. Most smokers will have a water pan. A water pan is used to help keep the meat moist. Simply fill with water and insert into the smoker. Steam will rise from the water to help prevent the meat from drying out. You can add apple juice or even cider to the water along with cut up lemon or apple to enhance the meat's flavor.
The traditional smoking temperature is 225 degrees Fahrenheit or 107 degrees Celsius . The temperature range for most electric smokers is between 225 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit or 107 to 135 degrees Celsius.
You, of course ,can smoke at any temperature, but low and slow is the key to good smoked meats. Up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit is the recommend high side while 200 degrees is the recommended low end of the heat range.
Smoking will take a cheaper cut of meat and make it taste like a gourmet cooked it. How long do I cook it? It varies of course if you set it at the lowest setting it will take longer. For example, you have a 7 pound pork butt roast set to cook at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, it will cook in about 7 hours.
According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to use a meat thermometer to check internal temperatures, you can remove it when it reaches 145 or cook longer, but it must be at a minimum 145 degrees. This guideline also applies to beef roasts and pork ribs.
Smoked chicken must reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit according to the USDA. You can keep adding chips depending on how much smoke flavor you want. Cooking guidelines recommend using chips for the first 3 or 4 hours of cooking. Experiment and see what works best for you. Electric smokers hold a small amount of chips so for the ones that really like a rich smoke flavor you might continue to add chips.
What Can I Cook in an Electric Wood Smoker?
Smokers are designed to put the meat right on the racks, many of you will have a tendency to wrap the meat in foil or use a baking dish. The reason for putting the meat on the racks is a full 360 degrees of smoke and heat getting to the meat with nothing blocking it.
Traditional wood chips are Oak, Hickory, Mesquite, Cherry, and Apple. Fruit tree chips will add a mild sweet flavor while others add stronger more pungent flavors. It is all about personal preference, again experiment to see what works best for you.
What else can I smoke? You can smoke corn on the cob, sausage links, baked beans, and vegetables to name a few. To smoke corn remove the silk but leave the husk on. Soak the corn in water for 20 minutes or so and place on the racks. Corn can cook a very long time without any problems. Obviously, beans will need to be in an oven proof container uncovered and placed on a rack and simply left to cook. A tip for beans is to use canned beans and spice to taste.
You would probably never get dried beans cooked in a smoker. You can of course cook them the traditional way, and then put in a baking dish to finish off in the smoker. Slice some summer squash, onions, and zucchini, add mushrooms, wrap in foil, and place in the smoker seasoned to taste. Experiment with different things. keeping in mind that an electric smoker is an oven that produces smoke.
Everyone needs to be reminded that wood chips produce Carbon Monoxide. Wood chips improperly disposed of can cause a fire. Make sure the chips are completely extinguished prior to disposing of. The smoker of course can only be used outdoors while smoking, but remember it is electric so it cannot be stored outdoors.
Electric smokers have constant heat, most have a timer that shuts the smoker off after a designated time has passed. On most smokers you can set the temperature taking the guesswork out of how hot the smoker is. Really the only time you need to check is for internal temperature of the meat and to see if you need to add chips. Put your favorite rub on your favorite meat, and preheat the smoker. You can’t miss with an electric smoker, so don’t miss out on all the wonderful meals that can be prepared with one.
Robert on June 11, 2014:
When using wood chips do u need a separate pan of water for moisture? Im not sure if i need both. Pan of water and pan of wood chips ?
rex michaels (author) on July 13, 2011:
Hi alocsin, thanks for the comment.
The USDA is where I had gathered some info. Cooking safe is important,I want to make sure everyone is aware that certain foods undercooked can cause sickness. Again thanks for the comment
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 12, 2011:
Prompts me to try one of these. Voting this Up and Useful. But what is the Department of Agriculture parenthetical at the end of the article?