Charcoal In Electric Smoker: A Comprehensive Guide

An electric smoker, no matter how well it is designed or built, cannot provide the same infused smoky flavor that other types of smokers (like charcoal smokers, offset smokers, or pellet smokers) are capable of delivering. Now, if the desire for smoky flavor has tempted you, and you want to try the taste of charcoal grilling, but you only have an electric smoker.

Generally, using charcoal in electric smokers is not recommended due to safety concerns. Electric smokers are designed specifically for electric heating elements and wood chips, and they may not have the necessary ventilation or space to safely burn charcoal. This can create significant hazards, including fire risks. However, it is technically possible to use charcoal in some electric smokers.

Charcoal in an Electric Smoker?

Yes, you can use charcoal in an electric smoker, and most electric smokers come with a tray built into the smoker designed to hold wood. However, you can also use charcoal on that tray.

If your smoker is suitable for charcoal use by checking the manual but most of the classic smoker does not accommodate the safe use of charcoal. Light the charcoal outside of the smoker using a chimney starter or an electric charcoal starter. Once the charcoal is heated and has developed an ashy surface, add it to the designated compartment. Continuously monitor the internal temperature of the smoker and adjust the vents as necessary to maintain proper cooking conditions.

However, using charcoal in an electric smoker may not provide as smooth heating as an electric element that is specially designed to maintain controlled temperatures. This inconsistency in heat can lead to unevenly cooked food, potentially resulting in a less smoky flavor experience. To counter this, you may need to modify your electric smoker for charcoal use.

Modified Electric Smoker To Charcoal

Essentially, this option to convert an electric smoker to a charcoal smoker could be utilized if your smoker is getting old. Electric smoker into a charcoal smoker is a special DIY project that attracts barbecue lovers who enjoy being actively involved and personalizing their equipment. This change requires a major modification of the smoker’s main heating system, involving the removal of the electric heating components and replacing them with a new arrangement that is suitable for burning charcoal.


  • You can convert almost every electric smoker to charcoal. Here, we are going to convert a Masterbuilt smoker.
  • Firstly, remove all internal components, including the element, heat deflector, racks, and wood chip dispenser.
  • Then, cut a piece of tin, which you can use for a vent. This will make it easier for you to control the heat. Use magnets to hold the body tightly in place.
  • Now, the charcoal will take the place of the water pan. This method works perfectly; it may not even require more charcoal to bring up the temperature and can easily achieve a heat of 250°.
  • When smoking and the temperature exceeds 275°, simply open the door a half-inch. This stabilizes the heat without losing smoke. Additionally, add 3-6 red-hot charcoal to prevent overheating.

By implementing these modifications, you can effectively use charcoal (briquettes or lump charcoal ) in your Masterbuilt electric smoker, combining the ease of an electric smoker with the traditional flavor that charcoal provides. However, it’s important to remember that such modifications may void any warranty on your smoker and should be undertaken with caution, with a full awareness of the potential risks, especially if you are modifying a working electric smoker or grill.

Risks of Using Charcoal in Electric Smokers

Using charcoal in electric smokers can be effective, but it may come with various types of risks. So, here are the following issues you may face:

Voiding the Warranty

If your smoker seems to function well with charcoal and does not show any signs of misuse, like ash residue or heat damage, be aware that these issues can be easily detected by service technicians when you attempt to claim the warranty. Such evidence of misuse might lead to complications with your warranty claim.

Additionally, using charcoal in your electric smoker often requires modifications to the smoker’s body. It can be quite difficult to return it to its original state, and such physical alterations may void the product’s warranty.

use of electric smoker

To safeguard your warranty, try to avoid any physical alterations. If it’s necessary, consider buying a used smoker from second-hand stores, where you can find them at a low price. This allows you to experiment with using charcoal in an electric smoker without risking damage to your fully functioning electric smoker. Additionally, if you use charcoal in your electric smoker, avoid directly igniting the charcoal inside the smoker. Instead, use a small amount of pre-lit coal and keep the grill clean. This not only protects your smoker but also helps to maintain its warranty validity.


Using any type of charcoal in your electric smoker could lead to maintenance issues. This is mainly because charcoal produces a significant amount of ash and residue, which can be challenging to clean from an electric smoker. Such residue can lead to clogging or mold, and if not cleaned properly, might cause rust on the grill. This necessitates more frequent and intensive maintenance, regardless of whether you use butcher or freezer paper.

To minimize maintenance risks, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the grill. For convenience, you can either make detailed notes or simply observe how easy or difficult it is to clean specific parts of the device or appliance, such as the grates, drip tray, and cooking chamber, using a stainless steel scrubber.

Temperature Control

Electric smokers are designed to maintain a consistent temperature. Companies model them according to temperatures suitable for electric heating. On the other hand, charcoal naturally burns at varying temperatures, making it difficult to achieve and maintain a consistent heat level. As a result, this might not provide the desired smoking temperature.

To address this issue, further modifications to your smoker may be necessary to minimize temperature control risks. First, you should use high-quality charcoal that burns consistently. Lump charcoal, often preferred over briquettes, provides better heat. Additionally, maintaining steady airflow is crucial for consistent temperatures, which might require modifications to your grill.

Alternative To Using Charcoal In A Electric Smoker

You’ve decided not to use wood coal directly in your smoker but still want that smoky flavor in your food. Here, we have an effective alternative that can help you achieve the coal flavor in your cooking.

use of smoker box

Smoker Boxes

Smoker boxes are specially designed to add a smoky flavor to your favorite foods and can be used on both gas grills and electric smokers. They come in various materials, but stainless steel is popular due to its heat resistance and durability. To introduce smoky aromas into your dishes, whether you have a gas grill or charcoal grill, a smoker box can greatly enhance your grilling experience.

This allows you to transform a charcoal smoker into a fully functional barbecue smoker and also helps you achieve the same smokiness that a traditional charcoal smoker provides.

Wood Chips or Pellets

Using wood chips or pellets is an effective and popular method to impart smoky flavor to your food when using an electric smoker.

wood chips and wood pellet

Wood Chips

The type of wood chip you use will surely affect the flavor of your smoked food. For instance, hickory imparts a strong, traditional BBQ flavor, while cherry wood offers a milder taste. So, choose the one you consider best for your food. In electric smokers, wood chips are placed in a a tray or container. When the smoker is turned on, the heating element heats the tray, causing the wood chips to smolder and produce smoke.

Wood Pellets

Primarily, wood pellets are used in pellet smokers, but they can also be used in electric smokers. In this case, you need to place them in a smoker box, which is specially designed as a pellet tray. As they heat up, they produce smoke. Like wood chips, pellets also come in various wood flavors, such as walnut and peach, offering a range of flavors from strong and intense to mild and sweet.