propane vs electric

Discussion in 'Propane Smokers' started by quiglag, Sep 24, 2007.

  1. quiglag

    quiglag Newbie

    I just started out smoking. I did my first brisket on a Weber grill, and it sure wasn't easy, but it was worth the hard work. I am looking to step up to a real smoker. I have been looking at a GOSM, but I also have seen an electric Masterbuilt at Sam's club. I was wondering which is cheaper to operate in the long run. I would have to buy propane tanks, but how much is a refill? It seems like electric would be cheaper to operate, or am I wrong?

  2. richoso1

    richoso1 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    A GOSM is not too bad on fuel, refills are near $20 depending on the area. I don't know if the electric element would keep a steady temp under a full load, if the power goes out what is your other source of AC besides a generator? It's all up to you, whatever makes you feel comfortable. Follow your gut feel. Good luck and good smokin'.
  3. mossymo

    mossymo Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    IMHO it is a toss up which is best to use, I have one of each. Personally the electric (Masterbuilt) is great to use for the set it and forget it type of set up. The propane I have I use for large loads in the winter after deer hunting season for sausage.

    Where I live a 20# propane tank will cost you around $22 and to refill it would be about $11, electric you probably would never notice much of a change in your electricity bill.
  4. ajthepoolman

    ajthepoolman Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    The Brinkmann's run pretty smooth under a "full" load. I can maintain 240 to 225 depending on the cross wind and temperature outside.

    A good point about the power going out. But the same argument could be made for not having to drive into town to refill a bottle if you run out.

    Hell, buy both. Try them, see what you like and sell the other.
  5. johnd49455

    johnd49455 Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Where I work Propane is $.70 per pound. It adds up to $14.00 + tax for a 20# cylinder. Prices vary widely even within the same area. Other than that I can't help you much with the differences as I use a CG w/SFB. No propane or electric here.
  6. deejaydebi

    deejaydebi Smoking Guru

    I looked at the MES at Sam's too I know a few here really love it. But I like the propane because it can really throw out the heat when you need it in the winter but that shouldn't be as big a problem in southern states as it is up north.

    I don't know what power is like down your way but here if I use the broiler in my oven I can see a difference in my electric bill!

    Considering the cost of propane bottles and the amount of time they last I don't see that as a problem - just keep two incase you get low. I get about 54 hours per tank on my CCSV and I always pack my smoker!
  7. illini

    illini Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    I have the older MES model....pre recall..has been modded up to the new standards....Have used it for about 2 years and it handles cold weather just fine....our power runs about 11.5 cents/KWH....have observed that the average on time for the heating element to keep a 225* temp inside the smoker is about 60% average

    750W heater = 3/4kwh/hr x 11.5cents = 8.625 x 10hour smoke comes to 86.25cents and that is at 100% on time![​IMG]

    So a 12-14 hour smoke is a dollar or less....The MES is very hard to beat on operating cost

    By the way the wood you need is almost negligible too.
    8 to 10 "chips" per hour is all you need[​IMG]

    The MES is VERY well insulated and has minimal venting and these estimates are true!
    The MES has a maximum temp setting of 275* so if you want crisp skin on chicken or turkey you will need to finish it off on your grill

    NOW THATS CHEAP TO OPERATE...Downside is capacity of the 4 shelves if that is important...can easily do 2 butts or 6 racks of baby back ribs (cut in 1/2)
  8. webfoot

    webfoot Smoke Blower

    Not at home right now so I'm pulling this out of the old gray matter so I could be off some. Propane has ~93k BTU's/gal and for electric, a typ heater of 1500W is ~3500BTU's.

    You can also use this site to compare fuel cost. For this app, use the same efficiency for all fuels. Electricity At .10/kwh and propane at $2.05/gal, propane is about 25% cheaper than electricity. You need to plug in the actual costs in your area to get a comparison.
  9. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Just out of curiousity, why no consideration of wood and/or charcoal?
  10. quiglag

    quiglag Newbie

    Well, my first smoke was done with charcoal, and it was kind of a pain, the meat was amazing, but it was almost impossible for me to keep the correct temp. That could partly be because I wasn't using a smoker, but a small grill to smoke. [​IMG] I want to try something easier for my first smoker.

    Propane seems like a good option, but it isn't as popular here in SoCal, and I think the price will be higher. I haven't used propane in a few years, but I will have to check on the price.

    Electric also sounds like a good option, and the power doesn't go off much around here. Maybe only a few days out of the year, and usually for less then an hour.

    I will keep researching. I am not in a real hurry, because I am away from home for work, but I do want some good meat. [​IMG]

    Thanks for all the help.
  11. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Good luck with your search. Don't know what your budget is like, but if you want a good charcoal smoker for about $200 that is easy to use, etc. you might want to look into a WSM if you wanted to stick with the charcoal burning.
  12. quiglag

    quiglag Newbie

    OK here is what I came up with for prices. Propane cost 3.11 per gallon x 5 gallon tank = $15.55. What I remember a few years ago, I was paying around $17 for a tank refill, but this was in another area of California. From what I have been reading here, a GOSM can run between 20-30 hours on a 5 gallon tank. Now using a kWh calculator running a 1200 watt [font=Arial,Helvetica,Geneva,Swiss,SunSans-Regular]appliance for 24 hours, at [/font][font=Arial,Helvetica,Geneva,Swiss,SunSans-Regular]$0.1208 per KWH[/font][font=Arial,Helvetica,Geneva,Swiss,SunSans-Regular], I came to $3.48. I would save $12 per 24 hours if I used electric over propane.

    The reason I posted this in the propane section was because originally I was going to get a propane smoker. [/font][font=Arial,Helvetica,Geneva,Swiss,SunSans-Regular]I figure with all the money I save making my own smoked meats, and using electric, I could get myself a nice smoker. Heck maybe even a CookShack
  13. webfoot

    webfoot Smoke Blower

    Ya need to remember you don't fill a propane tank full, only 80%. Those small tanks only take 4 gal.

    Using the link I posted earlier and using your figures for energy cost, for an equal amount of energy, it's almost a dead heat with the propane being slightly lower in cost.
  14. johnd49455

    johnd49455 Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    The small tanks hold 20# of propane which is 80% full (4.24# per gallon). Where I work it is @ $.70 per pound or $3.00 per gallon.

    In most cases it is cheaper to produce heat with gas (propane) than electricity.
  15. webfoot

    webfoot Smoke Blower

    Yep on the 4.25 gals. Just rounding off and trying to point out something didn't appear right in Quiglay's post. Around here propane is selling in the $2-$2.25/gal range. Electric about $.07/kwh.
  16. illini

    illini Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    I know the MES is very well insulated and the GOSM is not insulated at all

    Also the MES is vented a lot less than the GOSM.

    If you consider the btu loss to the atmosphere between the two the Masterbuilt wins the fuel cost race[​IMG]

    There are pros and cons to all smokers but the question originally asked about operating cost goes the MES.

    Either one works well and the cost to operate should not be a consideration IMHO....If you like a certain smoker then that is the one a person should use[​IMG]
  17. johnd49455

    johnd49455 Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    BINGO you just hit that on the head.

    I work for a propane supplier & can get propane (in limited amounts) free & I use a CG w/SFB (stick burner) $$ cause I LIKE IT
  18. mossymo

    mossymo Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Illini said it VERY well, the Masterbuilt is insulated quite well. This is a huge difference. I have used mine at -20º and it is far from the element being on all the time.

    With that, coupled with the Masterbuilts user friendly set it and forget it (I know, Ron Popeil) technology it is a great choice and also as you get more smokers a good option to have.
  19. So a year later now, and higher utility & fuel costs, which is cheaper, propane or electric? I won't be smokin til this question's answered. Help!

    What are your current costs and how are they affecting if you use gas or electric, or aren't they? In the house, my stove is natural gas, it's always been said to be cheaper than electric, but I have nothing to compare the #s to, never had an electric stove. Have had propane stove at a different house and never got to compare costs to natural gas.

    But for this argument, still interested in the propane vs electric debate. I've just about narrowed my choices down to:
    3405 GOSM ($110-$120 delivered),
    600-601 Bayou Classic gas w/stainless door ($190 delivered),
    Masterbuilt 30" black ($205 delivered) or
    Masterbuilt 30" stainless ($260 delivered)

    I would have liked to start a separate thread but don't know if you need a certain # of posts, nor which subforum to use!

    Do you take into condsideration operating costs when making a purchase?
    Do you spend a little more on stainless for product life?
    Do you go with a more expensive electric knowing the electric may save costs in the long run? Does it?

    I was hoping to use the smoker on my front porch, next to my gas grill. Will that limit me to an insulated electric model? Is it an easier target to get stolen?
  20. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I am still with propane. $14.56 for a 20 lber. Most of the people that get electric, atleast with some models have problems getting too low or going real if you live in a hurricane prone area and might face a power out.........I'll still be smoking with propane [​IMG]

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