New Smoker. Charcoal vs. Electric?

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Original poster
Aug 2, 2007
Hi my name is Zack and i am a smoke.
Anyway i was trying to find some opinions from some real smokers on the charcoal vs. electric issue before i go out and buy, since nobody at the store can tell me the difference. I'm looking at the Brinkman's and i would be great if anybody can point out witch has the advantage over the other. I dont really mind tending to the charcoal, unless i am doing it all the time. Does the charcoal have a considerably better taste to outweigh the ease of the electric? And so on. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks alot, Zack.
you can add a charcoal brick or wood chips/chunks to an electric in the pan. there are plenty of preferences & opinions here. you just have to find out whats best for you. try the smoking meat store to your left & sign up for the free 5 day ecourse on smoking basics to help you decide.
Thanks for the help, i don't know if i can give up that charcoal taste
Zack -
WWHere you from? That can make a difference IMHO. If your from the cold North I wouldn't go electric, I'd go charcoal or propane - easier to keep the heat up in the winter.

I like the taste of charcoal. I even add a few coals to my propane smoker sometimes just because I like it! It's more work but if those are your two choices I'd go charcoal!
I live in Oklahoma. How much to you really have to tend to a charcoal smoker? Once an hour, twice an hour? Is it really hard to keep the temperature steady? Thanks.
Once you get the feel for it once an hour is more than enough (but you'll want to peek in anyways - hehehe). I started on a charcoal water smoker and lovedit but it was to small for my addiction! I upgraded to a propane vertical by Camp Chef and Love it!
I would venture to say that the order of authenticity (SP) goes like this

Wood burners

Make your own or store bought lump charcoal

Charcoal briquettes of a high quality (some may say that there is no high quality)

LP and or NG


I am an electric man all the way!
Set It and Forget It!
No fuel to worry about, logs to split, charcoal to contend with, LP tanks to swap and so on. Maintaining the temp is automatic. And for about $70 bucks the Lowes down the road has the Brinkman electric bullet (Some assembly required) After the charcoal unit, I think that this is the cheapest store bought unit that there is and a great way to at least get a taste for smoking.

If money were no object and I was buying just for home use I would go with one of the semi commercial to commercial electric smokers out there. I figure that cooking at home for the family is a domestic task and I have a thousand other things to be doing. Thus, the smoker is just like an oven, Stick the food in and with minimal fuss it does its thing.

Now if you ar gonna make a party of it, then wood is where it is at. Playing with fire is a past time of its own.

What you choose (and most choose more than one it seems) depends on your comfort level, pocket book and personal taste. I wont knock any method that creates great food! Well, if I do knock it, keep in mind that it is all in good fun!
I'm in Kansas and have a hard time in the summer maintaing a low temperature. Oklahoma is no less forgiving regarding weather, so I would lean toward a propane, or an electric with a temperature knob.
ks & okla bth sweat to death & freeze... question is ... do ya want something a tornado can't carry away?? lol. it's all about budget,time, & do ya got wood... right? personally for me i'm sipping w/ 1 hand & tending sticks w/ the other...get an extension cord for the tv & cable box & tend yer pit on nice day. just my .18senseless worth.
You say you have a hard time keeping the temp down on your charcoal? I haven't heard many people tell me that around here.
Go with the charcoal! Half the fun of smoking is tending to the fire and keeping the temps stable.

I am not a set n' ferget kinda guy... if I were, I'd just use the oven.
First of all , I am new to smokin, verrrrrrrry neew. But! I have jumped in with both feet,made 5 new BBQ sauces in the last 2 days just 2 try. We borrowed a charcoal ECO Brinkman from a friend a few weeks ago and was hooked. I however, have a "Tim Taylor" husband that kept "CHECKING" the meat. Well that makes for a very long smoke in charcoal. So I bought a $300 Masterbuilt electric and frankly I love it. Controled , constant temp is a must for me and mine. He can still fiddle w/the wood without opening the door and I can feed my clan on time. Everyone's happy. We're in Colorado, so we have about the same climate and we're having a really hot summer. In fact I have house guests this weekend from Oklahoma :)
So, I have learned there are many ins and outs based on your lifestyle. Also, I have LOTS of wood here, big deck and shake roof and wasn't comfortable with charcoal. I can say that I can't tell the difference in taste between charcoal and electric. But if I did I could put charcoal in my electric smoker, no problem mon.
Hope that helps, and Welcome!
I agree w/Trece, I have an electric and gas, both have temp control knob, both have wood thrown in there...I think what you'll be looking for is more of a smoked wood taste than a charcoal, but as Debi stated, if you want some charcoal taste, you can throw some in the wood box in either electric or gas.
First of all it is something that you need to decide for your own personal oppinion.

For me I enjoy the messing around with the fire to get just the right temperature.

It is tough to get a nice smoke ring with an electric smoker.

I also think (may be in my head) that the charcoal smoked meat tastes better.

That being said I will still use my electric smoker when I do salami for the easiness of it
Newbie Chiming in here, I just got a charcoal smoker (bge) that prides itself on being able to sort of "set it and forget it"
but i have found that I really still need to babysit it once every half hour...just to make sure the temp's do not vary too much. Never used an electric.
Charcoal can be a PITA at first until you learn your smoker.

My ECB doesn't like more than 10 or 12 coals at a time all lit or 20 on the bottom with 8 to 10 lit or it gets to hot (unless it's 20° or less outside and windy), but it lasts about 2.5 hours using the minion method.

For cold smoking I only use one chunk of wood and one coal unless it really cold then 3 coals and one chunk of wood. Just add a few coals at a time and you don't get much of a change.

I do like charcoal in my smoke I can taste it, but I throw a few coals in with my wood and I'm happy!
my opinion is if you go electric get a decent insulated one such as the bradley or the masterbuilt. I use a masterbuilt and love it, very versital and pain free. The other nice thing is that the masterbuilt (or cookshack or bradley etc....) can also double as a slow cooker for doing fantastic roast beef......I do that myself, granted I still use apple wood for the initial portion of the cook......
Alright guys, I went with the Brinkmann Gourmet Charcoal, just as a starter. Have yet to use it. The one thing that worries me, that i didn't relize when i bought it, there is know vents to alter. My question is for anyone who has experience with this smoker. How are you supposed to alter the temperature? Thanks alot for your help guys and gals.
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