Are you new to electric smokers and want to get the most out of your electric smoker? After you understand how to use a smoker basics, it is a good idea to have smoker-specific tips to get the most for your model.
Today’s article will share our top tips for electric smokers, specifically Masterbuilt electric smokers. So, without delay, let’s dig right into it.
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1. Season Your Smoker
Seasoning your smoker is the most important thing that you do. Always season a brand new or new-to-you smoker before your first use. Running the smoker above 250° for 2 hours will burn off all the low-level contaminants. When your smoker is cool, add a light coat of canola or vegetable spray oil. Then burn a whole pan of wood chips to season the smoker thoroughly.
After this step is complete, lightly respray the inside roof of the smoker. Next, spray the inside of any glass doors. In the future, the only parts of your smoker that will require regular cleaning during light use are the roof and the glass door, making that process much more manageable.
2. Marinate, Season, or Brine Your Food in Advance
Always plan and season your food ahead of time. If you’re going to do a brine, you will need to plan at least a day ahead of time. A brine is a liquid solution with one cup of salt to 1 gallon of water. Adding flavoring to this liquid will flavor your meat during the process. Brining most meats can take around 8 hours.
However, larger pieces like a ham will require 24 or more hours. A marinade is more of a surface flavoring that you try to absorb slightly into the meat by soaking your meat in a thick liquid. Usually, this liquid will be of two types: a sugar base or an oil base. Then seasonings will be added to the marinade to make your meat tasty.
Finally, the most popular treatment is seasoning, referred to as dry rub. Dry rub is a blend of seasonings applied to the outside of the meat a few minutes before placing it in the smoker. Most popular dry rubs contain simple ingredients like pepper, garlic, salt, and paprika. We refer to our all-purpose blend as 3211.
Another popular base for dry rub in barbecue or smoked meat is brown sugar, and using dark brown sugar will enhance your meat with a slight molasses flavor. If your dry rub has salt, you do not want to apply it until right before adding it to the smoker because it will dry out your meat.
3. Run a Pre-smoke Before Each Cook
Always burn one tray of wood chips in your smoker before use. This will eliminate any foul odors and completely dry your smoker. Consider it a mini re-seasoning and a little insurance policy to get the best-tasting food. Another thing that this will do is allow you to test your wood chips and make sure that they are burning correctly.
4. Preheat Your Smoker
Always bring your smoker up to temperature before adding your meat. This step goes along with pre-smoking, but it also serves another purpose. You want to know for sure that your smoker is operating well. Also, you want your meat to move quickly through the temperature danger zone. Of course, the smoking process is a long one, and it will take quite some time for your meat to rise in temperature entirely through.
5. Use a Stand-Alone Thermometer
Always use a stand-alone thermometer that you can transfer from one device to another. This will get you more accurate temperatures and result in more consistently cooked foods no matter which cooking method you use.
Of course, we love our cheap instant-read thermometers, but a wired or wireless probe thermometer that you can leave in the meat is also a great option, so you don’t have to open the smoker. Using a thermometer connected to your device is also a great option.
However, as you move from one device to another, the temperatures could be as much as 20 or even 30° different, so using a wired thermometer that is stand-alone from your smoker is our favorite option. Additionally, one of these thermometers works great in your kitchen oven and will result in excellent oven roast beef.
6. Match Your Food to Your Smokers Abilities
Make sure that you use the right smoker for the proper process. If you want poultry, you will need a smoker with a high-temperature range. If you want jerky, you will want a smoker with a low-temperature range. Most smokers do not have a wide range of temperatures.
For example, the Masterbuilt 140b electric smoker operates well in a temperature range of 160° to 270°. The settings go lower, but the smoker does not produce good smoke at a lower temperature range. With accessories or an add-on device, the smoker works great for low-temperature smoking but not out of the box.
Suppose you are looking for something like poultry or a crispy crust. In that case, you will need to use a smoker with a higher temperature range, such as a Masterbuilt gravity feed series smoker or a high-quality pellet smoker like a Traeger 22. The temperature range of the Masterbuilt gravity series is effective at 225 up to 700°.
The Traeger pellet grills and other pellet grills operate well from 180° to 400 and are a little above with some models. If you’re looking for low-temperature ranges for jerky, sausage, and fish, something like the Big Chief smoker might be a better option. This model runs at 165° with average outdoor temperatures and smokes well.
7. Adjust Your Temperature to Match Your Food
Always set your smoker temperature to match the food you are cooking or your recipe. Some smokers run a little hotter, and others run a little cooler than the actual readout. A best practice is to start a little under and slowly increase.
With the Masterbuilt electric smoker, you will adjust up and down as needed. Smokers like the Masterbuilt charcoal vertical smoker can only increase the temperature during a smoke. As for cooking items like brisket, our recommendation calls for an increase of temperature during the stall, from 225° to 275°. It is a good idea to clip your stand-alone wired thermometer to the cooking rack to gauge the accuracy of the smoker temperature readout.
8. Keep Your Temperature Consistent
Set your smoker to the temperature you desire to cook your food and leave it at that setting. You can make minor adjustments to your temperature to get the best results. Usually, adding time is a better method than increasing temperature.
Adding temperature to your cook tends to dry out your meat. Of course, the one exception would be wrapping your brisket or pork butt for pulled pork. Once you wrap your meat, you will trap a lot of moisture. However, your bark tends to soften. In a pulled style meat, soft bark is not a problem.
9. Don’t Over Smoke Your Food
Try not to add too many wood chips to your Masterbuilt electric smoker during your cook. Typically a well-seasoned smoker will only need a few hours of smoke during an 8 hour cook. We recommend that you pre-smoke during your preheat.
As your cook progresses, two or three full pans of wood chips during the beginning of the process should be enough to flavor your meat completely. After the 3rd pan of wood chips is completely burned, you can take a small sample and see if your meat has the smoke flavor you desire. Then as the meat continues to cook, smokey goodness will spread throughout the meat.
If you want to add more smoke flavor, we recommend switching to a fruit variety wood like apple or cherry. However, pecan is also an excellent wood for longer smokes, especially beef chuck roast.
10. Keep Your Vents Open
Always leave your vents completely open unless you have an extreme circumstance. Good airflow will result in clean smoke, giving you the best flavor in your foods. The only time we recommend closing the vent is if you are using an offset smoker and your fire is burning a little too high.
In this case, we only close the intake vent and not the exit vent. When dealing with a Masterbuilt electric smoker, there is only one exit vent that we recommend leaving open all the time. It is not uncommon for us to leave out the feed tube and the drip tray located at the bottom on older model smokers to provide extra airflow.
Leaving the tube out will provide a direct source of airflow into the smoker. Another option can be to insert a short piece of metal pipe that fits well in the load tube hole. The pipe will allow clean, cool air to flow into the smoker and heat slightly before mixing with the smoke. Also, extra air is almost always required for the pellets to maintain a consistent burn using a pellet tray.
11. Use the Proper Wood Type to Produce the Best Smoke (Chips or Chunks)
Some smokers require a particular type of wood chip to smoke correctly. Masterbuilt electric smokers are pretty versatile and can use most sizes of processed wood. Something like a big chief smoker performs best with their brand of wood chips.
However, the Masterbuilt smoking performance depends on the temperature you plan to cook. For example, if you plan on using a very low temperature, you should use finer wood chips or hardwood sawdust. Conversely, if you plan on cooking at high temperatures like 250°, then a wood chunk might perform better because it will not burn up as fast and still provide good smoke.
12. Match Your Wood Chip Flavor to Your Food
Make sure to select the proper wood chip flavor to match your food. A good example is a robust beef, like brisket, that can stand up to mesquite or hickory. A fish like salmon is better suited to match up with Apple or even oak. If you are going to choose only one wood chip to have, we have a saying.
When in doubt, get the pecan out. Pecan is a versatile sweet wood and makes an excellent addition to charcoal grills or electric smokers. Not every manufacturer makes pecan chips, so you will have to find a brand that you’re happy with and that gives you the best results.
13. Don’t Use Wet Wood Chips in an Electric Smoker
Never use wet wood chips in your electric smoker because the electric smoker needs to burn the wood chips slowly to generate the smoke. If your wood chips are wet first, they will steam, releasing foul flavored steam into your food.
Then when they start to burn, the flavor will not match the original wood chip flavor. Most manufacturers recommend not using wet wood chips. We recommend not using wet wood chips for anything, including charcoal grills. If you would like to add wood chips to charcoal grills, sprinkle them in lightly over time and error on chunks up to the size of charcoal briquettes.
14. Allow Extra Time for Your Cook
Always allow 20% extra time for your cooks in case your meat does not progress as fast as you like. Rarely does meat cook more quickly than a standard time, but often it will take extra time. Keep a cooler handy, and you can wrap your meat in foil, and a towel, then rest it for 2 hours without issue.
In most cases, the meat will continue to rise slightly in temperature, and if wrapped tight, it will be in the same condition as when you removed it from the smoker. Finally, it can be disappointing if you’ve planned a 10 hour cook to be done in the middle of your party and the food is not ready for another 2 hours. People might get a little rowdy and tear the place up, LOL.
15. Do Not Over Fill (Overload) Your Smoker
Never overload your smoker. If your smoker is too full, you will not get good airflow. Bad air flow could result in poor heat distribution and bitter smoke flavor. Under loading your smoker will never give you bad airflow. Additionally, leaving an empty shelf at the bottom will leave room for a disposable foil tray to collect all the oils or grease for easy cleanup.
16. Keep Your Smoker Clean
Keeping your smoker clean can give you better tasting food. When we say “keeping your smoker clean,” we don’t mean to wash down your smoker. We mean is to make sure there’s no build-up on the roof of your smoker that could fall on your food.
Also, keep your smoker grates clean and free of debris, so your food does not stick. Most smoker grates are dishwasher safe. Wipe down the door seal and add a little vegetable oil from time to time to keep it from sticking.
Finally, a post smoke can keep your smoker dry and free of bacteria or mold, so it is ready to go for subsequent use. If you store your smoker with a wet interior, mold is sure to grow, and nobody likes that kind of a surprise on a cook day.
17. Your Smoker Can Work as an Oven
Using your smoker as an oven can be a great way to keep the heat out of the kitchen during the summer months. You can cook your food in an electric smoker completely without wood chips and get a light smoky flavor in a well-seasoned smoker.
Or you can cook as normal starting with a nice thick smoke, and complete the process of cooking at whatever temperature you set. Most electric smokers will only go up into the 270° range, so you have to consider that when cooking. My opinion is that apple pie is probably still better in your oven, LOL
18. Cold Smoking
Electric smokers are easy to use to produce cold-smoked food. You can use an attachment or other method of producing smoke without turning on the heating element. Masterbuilt makes an attachment that generates smoke outside the smoker and pipes it through the loading tube, keeping the temperature considerably lower than if the smoker was running.
We recommend turning your smoker on even though you’re not using the heating element so that way you can monitor the internal temperature with the built-in thermometer. Another option is a homemade side box and pipe.
We call this the birdhouse, and we will link to a rough draft of some plans for the one that we use on our YouTube channel. These work great for pellet trays, but you could custom design one to match whatever smoking device you choose to use, such as a hot plate or a pellet tube. These options are great ways to smoke items such as salt or my personal favorite cheese.
19. Videos Can Help
When trying something new, don’t be afraid to search YouTube for a recipe. I know you’re on a website right now, but the trust level is higher when you can physically see someone performing the smoking process you wish to accomplish. We have a lot of Masterbuilt smoker videos on our YouTube channel, so you can personally see that we know how to use the smoker.
Videos (Masterbuilt electric):
We hope these electric smoker tips help you produce better food with your Masterbuilt or other brands of an electric smokers. Our two top tips would undoubtedly be to make sure you season your smoker well and often for the best Smoky flavors.
Additionally, do not over-smoke your food. If you go one pan of wood chips short, your food will still have great taste and will be great to eat. If you go over on the smoke, you risk having bitter foods that are not good.