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Do you want to have smoked meat at home but find bbq smokers too high-maintenance? Then you may want to invest in an electric smoker.
Knowing how to use an electric smoker will involve you following a few simple steps to get the absolute best out of this machine. After all, you do want to get the best possible end result, don’t you?
So, let’s go through these different steps to assist you on the path to getting some incredible smoked meat at home.
Why Bother With an Electric Smoker?
But first, why even bother with electric smokers? Well, it’s because an electric smoker has some advantages, so we should begin by quickly checking those out.
The first is that using an electric smoker at home is a simple method to add that smokey flavour to food.
The other main reason is the setting up of the electric smoker. Less equipment is typically needed, and you don’t have to worry about gas fumes. That means most electric smokers are suitable for a wider range of locations than gas, where more space and better ventilation will be required.
Finally, an electric smoker doesn’t need to be monitored in the same way as other smokers. For example, a charcoal smoker needs someone to really be there most of the time to keep an eye on how the food is cooking. With an electric smoker, you don’t have the same problem.
An electric smoker does have advantages, but how do you use it? Well, these steps should make a difference.
Step-by-Step Guide on Using Your Electric Smoker
Step 1: Setting It Up
You need to set up your electric smoker if you want it to get to the desired temperature and have your smoker actually ready to work in the first place.
It involves different steps, and one of the most important is to season your smoker. This is going to involve running the smoker while it’s empty. The idea here is that it means your new electric smoker will be free from dust and different smells that may be left behind after it is manufactured.
Step 2: Preparing for Seasoning
You need to wipe all of the interior surfaces down with oil; any form of cooking oil is perfect.
After wiping each surface, including the grills, you then need to turn on your electric smoker and let it run for at least an hour.
Step 3: After Seasoning
After you have allowed absolutely nothing to cook for that time, you need to turn off your electric smoker and allow it to cool off completely. Do this before you go ahead and handle anything, as the inside will be pretty hot.
Some modern versions of electric smokers may not require any seasoning, so you should check the manual before going ahead and doing this.
Step 4: Turning It On
Once it is all seasoned and ready to start cooking, you need to then think about turning on your electric smoker and seeing what it’s capable of doing.
With most, your smoker will go into standby mode at first. It won’t start building up the heat until you have programmed it to do so. Also you will need to set your target temperature as well, but we will cover that shortly.
Step 5: Adding the Right Wood Chips
Next, you need to take out the wood chip box, which produces the smoke and gives all that flavour. Don’t add more wood chips than the manufacturer recommends. Also, make sure you use the correct wood chip to get the sort of results you were hoping for.
Using quality wood chips is one of the best electric smoker tips you can read. By all means, play around with different versions, as the wood chip does change the end result.
But when you want to use an electric smoker, you also need to think about the smoking process and how long you plan to smoke the food. In general, this will change the volume of wood chips that you need to add to the wood chip tray.
In short, 4 cups of wood chips will equate to anywhere from 3 to 5 hours of smoke time. If you plan on longer than this, you need to add more wood chips to the tray as you go along.
An Extra Tip
Here’s an extra tip when looking at the wood chip situation. Always use wood chips that come from hardwood sources. Wood chips made from softwood, which means the likes of pine or fir will still work, but you will need to keep on filling that chip tray as they burn quicker than hardwood. It then changes the flavour, and it won’t change in a positive way, either.
Step 6: Preheat Your Smoker
Before you start cooking with your electric smoker, you need to get the internal temperature just right. That will involve you preheating it, as this will then ensure that the correct cooking process is followed.
How this is done depends on the electric smoker itself. Some come with a digital display, while others have a manual operation. Change the setting until it lines up with the correct cooking temperature for whatever you plan on cooking. You should have references to the desired temperatures in the manual for your model.
Also, this process of getting things to the proper temperature will take around 35 minutes. Once again, the manual for your model will tell you more about this and follow those instructions, or your smoker will potentially fall short of your expectations.
Step 7: Adding the Water
Next, you need to deal with the water pan. Don’t use cold water; instead, add hot water to the water pan to get the best results. Also, be careful not to soak your wood chips as you add in water. That’s going to ruin the end result.
The reason why water pans are included is that they help to keep your meat nice and moist throughout the smoking process. The water receptacle may have its slot in the bottom of the electric smoker, while other electric smokers simply have you place it on the floor of the machine.
Step 8: Seasoning Your Food
Attention turns to your food since you cannot just throw some meat in there and hope for the best. With this, you are best to use a dry rub as that delivers the best results. Alternatively, you can use a marinade and play around with a few things to see which option delivers the best outcome.
Step 9: Loading the Smoker
You then need to load your electric smoker with the meat. You want the heat to get right to it, so the best approach is to put the meat straight onto the cooking racks. The grill racks are designed to allow the smoke and heat to pass up and around the meat to cook it right through without any difficulty.
Try to load it as quickly as possible. You don’t want to have the door open for too long as this changes the temperature inside, and you will also lose some of the smoke generated by the wood chips.
Step 10: Close the Door
Once loaded, close the door, and let the electric smoker work its magic. Some versions will have a lock on the door, so make sure that’s engaged to prevent things from springing open.
Step 11: Keeping an Eye
As the food cooks, you need to pay attention to those wood chips and the water bowl. They may need to be filled again, but it does depend on what you are cooking and the heat you want to generate in the smoker.
Also, if you have a drip tray, then make sure it’s not overflowing as well.
Once you have reached the time set out by the recipe, your smoker should have successfully smoked your meat, giving you something tasty to eat. However, even though you set it to the ideal temperature, do use a meat thermometer to make sure that everything is cooked to perfection.
The After Care
So, that’s how to use an electric smoker, and you can see that it’s pretty easy. However, you need also to be aware of how to care for your smoker to make sure it lasts for a long time.
Thankfully, looking after your smoker is also easy. This is something you should do every single time you use your smoker. It means it won’t negatively affect the flavour you get.
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Care For Your Smoker
Step 1: Make It Safe
So, the first thing is to make your smoker completely safe. That means letting it cool down completely and also unplugging it. Don’t simply go for the approach of switching it off by pressing the button, be extra careful here.
Only after making it safe can you then look at cleaning your smoker.
Step 2: Remove Everything You Can
The next step is to remove everything that can be removed from the smoker. You need to clean them individually, making it easier to clean the inside of your smoker once you get to that stage.
Step 3: Remove Debris
You then need to remove any debris that’s contained within the smoker. This can be achieved by using just a damp piece of kitchen towel. Simply wipe over the inside, and gather together all those crumbs and pieces of meat or seasoning that fell off.
Also, use this time to remove as much of the fat residue as possible to make life easier with the cleaning that will happen shortly.
Step 4: Washing the Inside
Using some soapy water, you need to give the inside of the smoker a good scrub. Use either a sponge or a stiff brush to help break up those fat particles hanging around and get everything spotless.
Clean everywhere. That means the door, the walls, the floor of the smoker, and also the ceiling. Marks will be everywhere as fat spits and also due to the smoke inside leaving a residue.
However, don’t use steel wool or anything too abrasive. You want to clean things rather than scratch off the residue, and steel wool will leave undesirable marks on the surface.
Step 5: Cleaning the Racks
Cleaning the racks will usually be the toughest job. This is where you will have meat residue and cooked pieces of the rub caked onto it.
The best approach is to soak them in soapy water for some time before you think about cleaning them. Scrub them, but don’t be too enthusiastic about it all.
Once you have got the majority of the different bits and pieces off the grills, you can sometimes throw them in the dishwasher along with the chip tray, water bowl, and drip tray.
Step 6: Wiping Out the Smoker
The final thing you need to do is to wipe out the smoker. This is achieved by spraying the inside with some clean water. After that, wipe it, and the inside should be sparkling and ready to go.
Once again, you can see how caring for your smoker after being used is nice and easy to do. The only tough part can sometimes be getting all of the residues off, but that’s why you need to clean up as soon as everything has cooled down enough for you to touch the items.
That will make removing the residue easier, as it has not had the time to effectively set and harden. Also, if you leave things too long, then mould can start to develop, along with you being required to put in more elbow grease to remove things and get it all clean once again.
Start Using Your Electric Smoker
And that’s it. That is how you successfully use an electric smoker to get some amazingly tasty meat in a matter of hours. You don’t need any specialist knowledge. You don’t need to worry about it taking up a lot of your time. All that’s required is the ability to throw in some wood chips, fire up your smoker, and then keep an eye on things from time to time.
If you have never thought about using this form of heat to cook your meat, then give it a shot. You will be surprised at how good it can be.
Paul is the type of person who never met a problem he couldn’t fix. He can always be found tinkering with something in his house, even if it isn’t broken! His tips and tricks are often shared on our site. He’s the one you call when something breaks because he has been known to improvise fixes for everything from leaky faucets to malfunctioning dryers.