Top Differences Between a Pellet Smoker vs. Electric Food Smoker: Most Important Things To Consider Before Buying Yours

Posted on: January 17, 2023

As one of the earliest cooking methods, food smoking has stood the test of time. Even though we have redefined how we preserve our foods, we still use smoke to help our briskets and other meats stay fresh for a longer period. Thanks to the advancements in technology and amazing recipes, food smoking is also being used to add flavor instead of just preserving it.

There are different types of food smokers. In this article, we discuss the differences between a Pellet Smoker and Vertical Electric Food Smoker, pointing out some of the important things to consider before buying your food smoker.

Pellet Smokers

Are also known as Pellet grills, as they are basically a grill that is fed by pellets instead of propane or charcoal, and because of that will produce smoke from the burnt wood in the process.

How a Pellet Smoker Works?

The Pellets are sawdust that is compressed into tiny pieces of wood, created originally for furnaces and heating systems. These pellets are placed in a hopper that feeds it into a firebox by an auger drill as it rotates towards the burn pot. Here the pellets combust, creating heat and smoke to cook your meat.

Electric Vertical Food Smokers

Electric smokers have the main source of heat for cooking coming from electricity. And the vertical part of things is related to the position of racks that are stacked on top of each other making the oven vertical.

But there are two main types of vertical electric smokers, the ones that use the wood as source for both heat for cooking and to generate smoke, as well as the ones where the heat comes from electricity and the wood only generates the smoke. Here is one article to learn more about Food Smoking Versus Cooking Food with Wood and how it impacts you choosing a smoker.

How an electric smoker works

Electric Smokers are not only easy to use, but they are much faster and convenient. First, plug your electric food smoker into a socket and turn it on. The bottom of the smoker will start to heat up, at the same time the wood starts smoldering, releasing smoke to impair flavor as the food cooks.

Temperature Control & Range

The first items to compare are temperature control and range. With both options the temperature is easily set on the device panel that can be digital or analog, the main difference will be the impact on cost as for pellet grills more wood will go through the system to raise temperature while the electric smoker will heat up its heating element.

Temperature range are considerably different, but each smoker gives you the opportunity to explore new cooking methods. For Electric smokers the range goes from as low as 30℃/86°F, that is ideal for cold smoking or low and slow cooking; And going to a maximum of 160℃/320°F for recipes that need more heat.

Pellet Grills in the other hand already start hot at 93℃/200°F degrees to as high as 260℃/500°F, not allowing you to cold smoke (technique for cheese and sausages), but ideal for searing or fast cooking.

Wood Management

For pellet grills, as most of the models work automatically the management is done while storing your wood, or removing it from the smoker. You need to keep your pellets in a dry and isolated place, as if moisture is absorbed, the performance will be impacted.

Vertical electric smokers have a variety of wood feeding systems, our recommendation is to purchase one that feeds wood automatically to avoid babysitting it. But you can also find ones that will need to be opened to empty a wood tray and fill it again from time to time (it can be a tedious task while cooking a brisket for 8-12 hours)


Electric food smokers are available in different sizes and most models allow you to smoke between 30 to 100 pounds of meat at once depending on their exact capacity. It is already a small crowd capacity, only needing a bit of planning if you want to cook smaller items to hundreds of people (as it takes rack space. Or when you want huge items as a full hog to be smoked).

Pellet smokers would have similar capacity or a lot larger as there are models prepared with extra space to accommodate much more meat. They typically have a capacity of between 250 pounds and 500 pounds of meat. This is ideal for those who want to smoke large quantities of meat at one time.


Here is where the flavor of your preparation will be most impacted. Any pellet grill has the same issue of producing smoke on lower temperature ranges, but having considerably lower levels when temperature goes up. This happens naturally as the pellets (or any wood) smokes at low temperatures and while it catches fire the smoke goes away and you have the heat until pellets are burnt down to ash.

Considering the way wood is managed in electric smokers will also make a big difference, cheaper and not automatic smokers use the same heat element for the oven and burn wood, so you’d have the same problem as pellet grills. That is why from a smoke generation point of view having a system that separated heat management and burning wood is way more effective. This way you can have lots of pure smoke being generated all the time regardless of the temperature you want for the oven.

Similarities and differences between the Pellet Smoker and the Electric Food Smoker

In conclusion, it can be challenging to find the right food smoker, especially with so many options. The above is meant to help you as you make your final choice.

Want to learn more about food smoking?

Check out our free e-book to learn all you need about the types of wood to smoke, how to pair every type with your recipes and more!

>> Download Free E-book >>

Whichever smoker you decide to buy, make sure to do your research first so that you know exactly what to expect from it. For more great ideas check out our articles on our Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.