Reviewing Char-broil’s Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker for Newbies
Everyone loves firing up a woodfired smoker, but sometimes you just can’t beat the sheer convenience and simplicity that an electric smoker offers. That’s especially the case when you’re new to smoking and just looking to get started and get grilling and get in the game.
In our search for the Best Smoker for Beginners, we gravitated towards electric smokers. The Charbroil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker Deluxe stood out to use.
Click to skip down to our video review.
The Digital Electric Smoker – the DES as we’ll call – it is a modern, high-tech digital smoker that packs ample cooking space, precise smoking control and awesome insulation into a well-sized, sturdy package.
It isn’t the most straightforward and easy-to-use smoker we’ve used. The controls can sometimes be a bit confusing. But t’s still as close to a Set-it-and-Forget Electric Smoker that you’re gonna find at this price point – and it makes an excellent smoker for beginner Meat Geeks who aren’t ready to make a huge investment.
Keep reading to see the smoking-hot stuff we love about the Digital Electric Smoker – and why it’s a top choice for a Beginner Smoker.
Charbroil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker: At A Glance
- 725 square inches of cooking space
- Double-steel wall insulation
- Weighs 50 pounds (relatively light)
- 800 watts/275– 285F max temp
- Internal Meat Thermometer Probe included
- Remote Control
- Wheels on bottom make it easy to move
At first glance, the Charbroil DES is a pretty fancy-looking electric smoker. Your basic electric smoker looks like a mini fridge, but this one looks modern, with a tempered glass front door that swings open so you can access 725 square inches of vertical cooking space.
For comparison, your typical backyard grill has somewhere between 350 and 500 square inches of cooking.
Design and Construction
Vertical smoker designs are beneficial for a few reasons. First, they bring the heat more evenly and consistently than an offset smoker or grill. Heat rises, but doesn’t naturally move side to side; with a vertical smoker, you can stack meat vertically inside the smoker and it will be cooked evenly as the heat rises.
The 725 square inches of cooking space are spread out over 4 chromed racks, each large enough for a full rack of ribs (you’ll have to cut the ribs in half and lay them side by side, but there’s plenty of room for them to fit).
At about 50 pounds, the DES is also relatively light for a smoker. It has some very nice wheels, which make moving it around your backyard and deck super easy. We’d like it if the wheels were a bit larger, but these get the job done.
Another thing that really sets the DES apart is that it also comes with a meat temperature probe and thermometer, for monitoring either the internal meat temperature or the smoker’s ambient cooking temperature. Few – if any – other smokers include these, and it can save you a few bucks if you’re just starting out on a budget.
We still highly recommend investing in a WIFI thermometer, as this included one just isn’t very accurate. You’ll see why when we test this thing out.
Icy Hot: Build Quality + Double-Walled Insulation
Charbroil used double steel-walled insulation on DES. This build and installation is so effective that it actually keeps the exterior of the smoker is cool to the touch – even when it’s a blazing 265 inside.
That’s hot – and not many other smokers that can claim that.
Charbroil says this extreme insulation makes the DES 10x more efficient at burning wood chips than a “regular” smoker, and that a single 4-cup fill of wood chips can smoke for a full 7 hours. (We found that they commonly ran about 5 or 6 hours).
And, with a tempered glass door, you can keep an eye on your meat without opening the door, which means that heat is trapped inside more effectively. The stainless-steel door latch is decent quality and reliable enough and does a good job of trapping heat it.
Overall, we don’t find build quality on the DES the best when compared to high-end smokers and grills. But for the price, it’s still more than serviceable.
Control Panel and Remote Control (For Set-It-and-Forget-It Lazy Cooking)
The Digital Electric Smoker by the small control panel above the door. Here, you can set:
- Cooking Temperature using the Temp Button
- Internal Meat Temperature using the Meat Probe button
- Cooking time, via the Time button.
You can easily adjust any of these settings with the Up and Down buttons on the control panel, and there is also a button for toggling the interior light on or off.
Once you start setting these modes up, however, is when things get a bit confusing.
How the Digital Electric Smoker’s time and temperature functions work
The key for all beginners, when it comes to the DES, is to spend the 10 minutes to read pages 5 – 7 of the manual. This is the issue we had with the DES: it doesn’t function the way you would expect it to. Most newbies expect an electric smoker to work similar to a traditional oven.
To use the smoker, you must set the Cooking Temperature + Cook Time, or a target Internal Meat Probe Temperature + Cooking Temperature. Only then will the electric heating element turn on.
Unfortunately, you cannot set both Cook Time and Meat Probe Temperature simultaneously. Choosing one automatically disables the other.
We find this a bit disappointing. Monitoring both would be ideal – and we don’t see any reason to monitor the cook time alone without monitoring the meat’s actual internal temperature. Internal temperature is a much more vital measurement of a good smoke, and really the only way to know how your barbecue is coming.
When monitoring cook time, the display will show a countdown of time remaining – and won’t let you to monitor the internal temperature of the smoker. For that, you’ll need a separate WiFi or Bluetooth thermometer.
When your cook time is up, the DES beeps loudly 3 times, and then beeps every 30 seconds until you take the meat out. It also defaults cooking temperature to 120F. Same when the Meat Probe Temp is reached; it will beep, revert temperature to 120F, and then alternate between displaying 120F and the live meat temperature.
Included with the DES is a remote, with all the same functions as the control panel. This remote has a range of about 100 feet, so you can monitor and control the smoker from your kitchen or your couch. But it’s otherwise very low quality.
We think this remote is the cheapest part of the DES package, but for the price, it’s still serviceable.
Putting This Bad Boy To Use: The DES in Smoking Action
To fire up the Digital Electric Smoker, press the ON button and choose either Cook Time + Cook Temperature, or Meat Probe + Cook Time. The DES will then start preheating, which generally takes about 40-45 minutes to reach 225°F.
Before firing it up, you need to take some time and learn how this thing works. It can be somewhat confusing at first. If you don’t do anything within 60 minutes of reaching target temperature, it will automatically turn off, for example. And it communicates solely by beeps, so you don’t always know when goes into auto shut-off or hold mode.
With that said, once you’ve got it figured out…the DES is about as much of a “set-it-and-forget-it-smoker” as you could find at this price.
Where There’s Smoke: Adding Wood Chips
Once you’ve got the DES ready to go, it’s time to add wood chips – and essential smoking ingredient.
The chipbox is located beneath the 4 cooking grates and right above the heating element. Load it up with about 4 cups of chips, and they’ll be smoking in about 45 minutes to start smoking.
We found that single full box will smoke reliably for about 5-6 hours – a bit less than the 8 hours Charbroil advertises. But it’s worth noting that moisture content and the exact wood used and even chip size can all affect how quickly wood burns, so you might be able to get 8 hours.
Maintaining Internal Temp + Testing Included Thermometer Probe
The real test of a smoker’s build quality and insulation is how steadily it can maintain its ambient cook temperature. And thanks to the double steel-wall insulation, the DES Deluxe fares well at this.
To test, we hooked up not just the included temperature probe, but also one our favorite WiFi Thermometers – the Fireboard. We’ve found the Fireboard to be one of the most accurate and reliable smart thermometers out there, and a solid device to test others against.
When we first fired up the smoker, the Fireboard and the DES’ probe were off by a few degrees. That gap had widened considerably by the time we came back, about 1.5 hours later: the DES was running at about 257°F according to the Fireboard, despite being set to 225°F.
The fact that it runs hot could easily be a testament to the excellent insulation; it seems to sit consistently about 20-30F hotter than targeted, staying that way throughout the cook.
Likewise, when we checked the internal temperature of our prime rib roast, we saw a bit of a discrepancy, with the Fireboard showing us about 74°F and the included Charbroil probe showing us 93°F.
That’s a big difference. The Fireboard is, in our experience, very accurate – so we’re inclined to believe this discrepancy is the fault of the DES’ thermometer.
Running a bit hot isn’t always a big deal. You can simply set the cooking temp lower than you’d like. Or, if you like to cook a little hotter and little faster (as we do). And it’s important to note that you can easily get different readings on a single piece of meat, just by putting the probe in a different spot. The Charbroil probe may not actually be off by 19°F or 20°F. but more like 10°F or 15°F.
To avoid any mishaps due to inaccurate temp readings, we highly recommend investing a high-quality WiFi or Bluetooth meat thermometer. That way you can smoke that brisket with some extra peace-of-mind.
Smoking Good Results: How Our Prime Rib Roast Came Out On the DES
The DES may run a bit hot but creating tender and juicy smoked meat with it is still more than possible. You may need to adjust the smoker temperature to run a bit lower than you’re aiming for and monitor it with a reliable WIFI or Bluetooth thermometer. Or you can just take advantage of the slightly hotter temperature and crank out your food a little faster.
In our experience, smoking between 250-275°F allows for faster smoke times with a shorter stall, and little noticeable difference final texture and flavor. This depends on the actual meat being used, of course. Brisket is more finicky than pork butt.
When the prime rib roast we tested the DES with reached its target internal temperature, we pulled it off – and were more than happy with the result. The texture was right up there with other smokers, with an excellent bark and solid smoke ring. And while the flavor wasn’t as “smoky” as it would have been on a real charcoal or hardwood smoker, it was just what we would expect from an electric smoker.
For a $300 (at Char-broil but usually cheaper at Amazon.com) smoker, it certainly held its own.
Final Thoughts On The Charbroil Digital Electric Smoker Deluxe
For a $300 buy, we’re big fans of the DES Deluxe. It’s not the most powerful electric smoker out there, but it more than gets the job done and creates a dang-good juicy piece of smoked meat – with crispy bark and smoke ring to boot.
User experience and setup could be a bit more straightforward. But once you’ve got it running, operation is as close to a “set-it-and-forget-it” smoker as we’ve found. And that’s pretty much the best reason to get an electric smoker, anyway.
Combine convenience with an affordable entry-level price, and this is one of our top 5 picks for The Best Smoker For Beginners.
Complete Testing & Review by Jacob Cordero of SmokingMeatGeeks.com