Grilling is a sumptuous way to cook food, but smoking gives it a burst of flavors. Using indirect heat, BBQ grill smokers cook the food slowly. It also gives additional essence through the use of flavored wood chips. However, an outdoor smoker isn’t ideal at all times. With this, electric smokers like Masterbuilt become a better option.
But do you know how to use a smoker? How do smokers work? If you’re new to this equipment, read our guide that we prepared here:
Types of smokers
There are many types of food smokers that you can avail nowadays. If you’re scouting for a piece of equipment to add to your BBQ area, you can choose on these popular types:
*Water or bullet smokers
For beginners, the water smoker (also called a ‘bullet smoker’) is the ideal choice. It’s affordable, compact, and easy to maintain. This works with three compartments.
The bottom compartment is the firebox where the charcoal and wood chips are placed. Meanwhile, the second compartment is the water pan, thus the reason why it’s called a ‘water smoker’. This helps disperse the heat while keeping the food moist. Lastly, the third compartment is the smoker. This top part is where the food will be placed. It also comes with a dome-shaped lid.
*Ceramic Kamado smokers
This Japanese outdoor smoker and grill is well-insulated and sports a solid ceramic or clay dome and body. Kamado grill is excellent in keeping temperatures steady, especially for hours of cooking.
This grill comes with a temp gauge on the lid as well as an adjustable vent. This part will help regulate the internal temperature easily.
Offset smokers are dubbed as the “smokers of the masters”. This is the largest of the types and sports a lift door and a massive cooking chamber. It’s often used by professional smokers.
Beside the cooking chamber is the firebox. This is where the charcoal and wood chips are placed and lit. The connection between the firebox and the cooking chamber transfers the smoke into the food.
Pellet smokers have a big similarity to the appearance of the offset smoker. However, this smoker has a built-in hopper that regulates the number of pellets dropped into the firebox. With this, pellet smokers are typically electrically powered. Only wood pellets can fit in the hopper.
Also, this has a digital monitor so you can easily tweak the temperature of the cooking chamber. It also comes with meat probes.
How do meat smokers work in this case? For people who don’t have space and time to operate a large smoker, a stove-type is a convenient choice. This is a dish with a grilling rack inside.
The chips are added below the rack and heated on top of a kitchen stove. There’s also a lid to trap the smoke. However, stove-top smokers are best for kitchens with vents since the smoke will soon come out of the lid.
Electric smokers are known for their set-it-then-forget-it technology. It’s also very easy to operate since you no longer have to light up the charcoal or monitor the temperature. Everything is monitored by a digital system connected to the temp gauge.
You just have to put the charcoal and wood chips in the firebox, add the food item, close it, and set your cooking temp. Some fancy electric smokers come with a remote control or device connectivity.
For those who don’t know how BBQ smokers work, electric types are the best choice.
Pros and cons of electric smokers
Electric smokers aren’t complicated to use. Also, it’s safer to use since there are no flare-ups, sparks, and risk of explosion due to propane gas.
Moreover, electric smokers are well-insulated which prevents heat loss. It’s also energy efficient and affordable. You can purchase some units under $500 like Char Broil smokers and Masterbuilt electric grill and smokers.
Lastly, electric smokers can accommodate pounds of food at a time. This is a big bonus, not to mention the reduced need for supervision.
Still, electric smokers aren’t one with some downsides. Some electric smokers don’t achieve the “smoke ring” on the meat. The flavor is also different than the classic yet messy manual smoking.
A brief look at Masterbuilt digital electric smoker
Masterbuilt is popular for their 30” and 40” smoker models. They also have analog and digital smokers, not to mention the Bluetooth-equipped units. This makes smoking and grilling more appealing to the younger generation.
Masterbuilt electric smoker parts are easy to find if repairs are needed. Also, the cost of their units is available in various budget ranges.
Some of their best-selling units include MES 130B Digital Electric Smoker and MES20B Patio-2-Portable Electric Smoker. But how does a food smoker work? Below is a step-by-step guide.
How to use a Masterbuilt electric smoker
Although cooking in an electric smoker takes out much of the guesswork, you still need to know the right way of using it. If you just got your best home smoker from Masterbuilt, you have to ‘season’ it or break it in for first use.
So how does a meat smoker work? Here are the complete steps of using a barbecue smoker from Masterbuilt:
Step 1 Break it in
This part is necessary to burn away the machine oil and dust inside the smoker. Place the EMPTY water pan and chip box inside the smoker then plug in the equipment. Press the button once to turn it on.
Next, set the temperature to 275F for 3 hours. On the last 45 minutes, open the smoker and add half a cup of wood chips to the smoker box. Finish the last minutes and let the smoker cool down before starting to cook. Your smoker is now ready for use.
Step 2 Pre-heat the smoker
Once you have the meat you want to smoke, add wood chips and water inside the smoker. Pre-heat the cold smoker for 45 minutes at the maximum temperature.
Add only half a cup of water at a time. Just add more when it’s no longer producing smoke and steam. Remember, the water is necessary to keep the food moist and to distribute the smoke and heat.
Also, soak your wood chips to water first for more smoke.
Step 3 Add more chips and water
After 45 minutes of pre-heating, add more water and chips to the smoker. From the maximum temperature, turn the smoker temperature down to 200F.
Once the temp is already set, it’s time to add the meat cuts inside. If you want to reduce the mess, you can place a foil on top of the grates.
Step 4 Close the smoker and let it cook
The amount of time you need to smoke largely depends on the type of meat. For chicken, you will need to cook it for three hours and baste it on the 2nd hour.
When it comes to pork, the rule of thumb is to smoke it for 60 minutes per pound or longer depending on the doneness you prefer.
Step 5 Add more chips
You would need to add more chips as you smoke your food. You can check the remaining wood or see if the smoke is already declining inside the smoker. Usually, electric smokers have glass doors which make it easy to see if there’s still enough steam or smoke.
It’s normal for the temperature to rise when adding more wood. Still, you don’t need to adjust the temp as this will settle back to the normal level in a few minutes.
You should also check if the water pan has enough water. Add another half a cup if the steam is already gone.
Be careful in opening the smoker every time. Watch out for the billow of smoke and steam.
Step 6 Baste the last sauce
About 30 minutes before your food is cooked fully, baste your finishing sauce. This is an optional step but it will surely add more flavor to the meat. Again, don’t get your face too close to the door of the smoker when opening it.
Step 7 Let the meat rest
Once the meat is cooked, remove it from the smoker. Be careful since the smoker can get really hot, including the door surface.
Let the meat rest for 30 minutes, be it salmon, pork, or chicken. Enjoy your freshly smoked meal!
Step 8 Cleaning
Before you clean your Masterbuilt smoker, let it cool down first. Once it’s cold, you can now start washing the parts. The grilling grates can be put in the dishwasher. Make sure that you remove the ash, clean the drip tray, and dry everything after washing.
Be careful when disposing of the ash and leftover wood chip. Make sure that there are no embers left. Use a paintbrush to get rid of the remaining ashes. If you’re using meat probes, wipe it with a damp cloth.
Wipe the internal walls of the smoker and the door seal. Make sure that nothing gets stuck on the seal or the door will not close properly the next time you use it.
Type of wood chip to use
Aside from ‘how do smokers work’, another question we get frequently is what type of wood chip to use. Wood chips come in different flavors that are ideal for specific meat types. Here’s a short list you can refer to:
- Apple. The mild sweetness of this wood is best for pork, ham, beef, lamb, and game birds.
- Alder. This has a delicate flavor perfect for salmon, fish, and poultry.
- Cherry. Like apple, cherry has a mild fruity flavor good for almost all meats.
- Hickory. This wood has a strong flavor similar to bacon. It’s best for pork and ribs.
- Mesquite. The earthy flavor is great for dark and red meats.
- Oak. The medium flavor is great for any meat. It’s also a great pair for mild flavored wood chips.
- Mulberry. This is good for pork, fish, and poultry.
- Pecan. This has a stronger fruity flavor but not as strong as mesquite or hickory. It gives poultry a burst of flavor.
Tips to get the most out of your smoker grill
*Don’t re-use charcoal/wood. Previously used charcoal won’t make too much heat and will burn fast than new ones.
*Leave some fatty parts on the meat. When the fat sears, it will melt and drip into the pan. This will make good smoke which will add flavor to your food.
*Avoid rust. You can prevent the corrosion of the grates by wiping it with some vegetable oil before smoking.
*Remove too much debris and grease. If you’re cooking large amounts of meat, remove excess grease from time to time. This will reduce the mess without affecting the flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A: It’s possible that you overloaded the wood chip container or that you soaked the chips too much. Still, the common culprit is too many wood chips.
A: A handful is a good start. You can add in increments depending on the amount of smoke that’s emitting inside the smoker.
A: Electric smokers need a power source to heat up. So if there’s an outage, you just have to wait. Anyway, you can use a generator just in case.
A: Definitely! Some smokers can function as a grill if loaded with charcoal.
A: Unless you’re willing to eat meat with fumes of burned machine oil, you’d probably have to throw the food away. It’s best than getting poisoned.
BBQ grills smokers will level up the taste of your usual grilled meals. Masterbuilt smokers are great choices for convenient smoking of meat. But as much as you should prepare your grill, don’t skimp on prepping the meat with the best marinade and rub.