How to Use an Electric Smoker with Wood Chips

If you want a way to infuse your meat with flavor and cook it in a healthy manner, then learning how to use an electric smoker is a great place to start. When you smoke meat, you can turn tough cuts of meat tender by cooking for a longer duration, at a lower temperature. This will not only improve the flavor of the meat by adding a smokey flavor, but it will also change the texture of the meat. Using an electric smoker is fairly simple for any first time cooker, so we’ll cover everything you need to know so you can get start cooking today.

Smoked Meat Flavor

If you love that smoky flavor but not the mess that comes with grilling or using a gas or charcoal smoker, the electric smoker is a much better option. Not only is it cleaner, it’s also safer. Essentially, an electric smoker allows you to set it and forget it. You won’t have to stick around the house and monitor your food as it slow-cooks to perfection like you would with a traditional smoker. There are no burning embers to worry about.

Finding the Right Electric Smoker

Before you learn more about slow cooking with an electric smoker, your first step is choosing the right model. Vertical smokers are affordable and work perfectly in warm weather conditions. However, these smokers do not maintain their temperature as well in cold weather, so they should only be used during the warmer months of the year.

A cabinet smoker looks just like a fridge. These models come with a temperature gauge that makes it very easy to keep track of the core temperature. The ability to control the temperature is important since meat can easily spoil or dry out.

Click here to learn more about electric smokers and the top models available.

Curing and Seasoning a New Smoker

Curing and seasoning your electric smoker is important because doing so removes odors, dust, solvents and prepares the smoker to cook food. Before you season a smoker, the interior surfaces and the racks should be coated with cooking oil. Next, turn it on and allow it to run for three to four hours. After its done preheating for the desired hours then switch it off, crack the door and allow it to cool down.

Meat Preparation

Meat Preparation

How to prepare meat can depend on the type of meat you’ll be smoking. Some cooks prefer to marinate the meat overnight before smoking it or soaking the meat in an acidic marinade. Others will season the meat using a dry rub. This can consist of using salt, herbs, or sugar. If you’ve decided to go with a dry rub, then allow the meat to remain safely covered in the fridge overnight. This will help the meat to absorb the flavors.

Smoking Time

If the smoker you use has a water receptacle, such as the Masterbuilt electric smoker, then you’ll need to fill up the water tray before you start smoking. You’ll also need to check the water tray every two to three hours as it may need refilling during the smoking process.

Wood Chips

You can purchase wood chips online, at your local grocery store, or even a hardware shop. Some smokers can only work with certain types of chips, so make sure you read the included user’s manual before use.

These wood chips are available in a wide variety of flavors including:

  • Cedar
  • Plum
  • Hickory
  • mesquite
  • apple wood
  • Alder

Typically, it will take four or five cups of wood chips into your chip tray for every two to four hours of smoking when using a standard electric smoker.


Until you become more familiar with your new smoker we recommend keeping track of the temperature for the first few uses. With most models, the temperature will remain stable the entire time.

Temperature control is key, once you’ve set the smoker to the desired temperature, wait before it reaches that temperature before you begin any meat smoking.

When the ideal cooking temperature has been reached, place the meat on each rack. The meat should be smoked until it’s tender. Depending on how much and what type of meat you’re smoking, the process can take anywhere from two to eight hours. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the meat every two hours to check internal temperature to determine when it’s done cooking. Cooking times may vary depending on the meat size and quantity.

Clean Up

After you’ve finished smoking, we recommend keeping the smoker on until you are ready to clean it. It’s easier to scrub off any oil and juices while the smoker is hot.  Take a scrub brush and remove any remaining food particles, juices, and oil. Wipe the interior out with a damp cloth and leave the door open to air dry. That’s it.

Using Wood Chips with Your Electric Smoker

As you can see, using an electric smoker is pretty straightforward.

Using wood chips can be a great way to further enhance the flavor of meat, cheese, or veggies. It can also give you more control over the flavor of your food, so you can get a little creative and experiment with different types of wood chips.

To use wood chips in a smoker, use a long pair of tongs and set a can of wood chips between the coils or lava rock, if the model you own doesn’t have a dedicated wood box.

The can doesn’t have to make contact with the coils since the can will heat up enough to cause the wood to begin smoldering. As the can starts heating up you’ll notice the chips beginning to smoke, which is what will flavor your meat. Keep in mind that once the wood chips begin to smoke they can go very quickly. So, if you’re using wood chips you’ll need to check on their status frequently. If you don’t keep an eye on the can you’ll miss seeing the chips smoking and may think the process isn’t working.

You can refill the can as many times as you like, just keep in mind that the smoke is what adds flavor to the meat. If you want a subtle smoky bbq flavor, you’ll only want to refill the can once or twice. Obviously, if you continue to add more wood chips throughout the duration of the smoking process, then you’ll end up with a bolder, smokier flavor. Now that you know how to use an electric smoker, you can get creative and try out a wide variety of electric smoker recipes for smoking meat, such as: venison, pork butt, pork shoulder, beef brisket, turkey, and much more.