A good friend of mine is opened up a craft beer and sausage restaurant. We wanted to find an indoor smoker to smoke sausages and it wasn’t easy to find one as we thought. Commercial smokers are usually for indoor restaurant use and the top of the line models can get pretty expensive.
We wanted to get one large enough to cook for approximately 80 people per day, which is about 25-30 lbs of smoked sausages per day, without spending thousands of dollars.
The indoor electric smokers are the easiest and least dangerous of the smokers. You don’t need to sit around and babysit the fire or worry about getting smoke everywhere in your restaurant and possibly burning it down. We didn’t consider an indoor electric smoker at first and instead thought propane smokers or charcoal smokers would be the way to go. After talking with some experts that own restaurants, they recommended us
Commercial Smokers 101
Whether you intend to use your commercial smoker in a restaurant, your home or anywhere indoors, there are several things you need to keep in mind.
The first thing that the pros told me is do NOT burn charcoal smokers indoors! You can end up with carbon monoxide poisoning and end up poising yourself or your customers if you’re not careful.
If you have proper commercial exhaust hoods and setup for a grill already you could also look into using an existing gas/propane line setup for an indoor gas smoker. If you don’t know what you’re doing here just run the smoker outside because you don’t want to end up dead, burning down your building or hurting someone else just for some smoked sausage.
You’ll find that there are 3 similar brands of commercial smokers out there that about 99% of the experts recommend:
The least expensive of these three is the Smokin-It, then comes the Smokin-Tex and then the Cookshack at the most expensive at about $900. The Smokin-It and Tex both use analog control and Cookshack uses a digital controller. You’ll find many loyal users of each of the three brands and if I had to pick a fan favorite of the three, it would probably be Smokin-It hands down. Probably because it’s more affordable than the other two options.
Best Indoor Smoker Under $300
It’s difficult to find new high quality commercial smokers that are designed for a commercial setting, such as restaurants. An indoor smoker is not designed for your backyard personal use. You’re going to want commercial smokers that can be used very often for commercial operation.
The advice I was getting from a lot of people is to look at the best commercial smokers that you can afford and try not to be cheap with it. There are a few smaller commercial smokers out there are great for starting out and then once you build up your business, you can get a larger more professional one.
Smokin-It Model 1 Electric Indoor Smoker
Like most people, when we were looking at commercial smokers, we didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars. After hours and hours of talking with people in the restaurant industry, we decided to get the Smokin-It Model 1 for the craft beer and sausage restaurant.
Before ordering this we talked with some long-time BBQ cooks and several of them swear by the Smokin-It brand. We weren’t as impressed with the Masterbuilt commercial smokers and I think Masterbuilt is more designed for backyard cooking.
We also wanted to find commercial smokers that were NSF Certified for Restaurants and this one is. In some states, without a certification such as this you can actually get your restaurant closed down.
The construction of the Smokin-It is a high quality stainless steel metal and looks like it was designed for a restaurant.
- Up to 22 lbs. of capacity per load: Which is actually more like 25 lbs we found out, which was perfect for what we needed to accommodate about 80 people per day.
- 400 watt heating element, 8 amps 120 volt single phase: This thing gets hot! We wanted to make sure the temperature stays constant throughout the cooking process and this one fluctuates by about 10 degrees.
- 3″ Diameter rubber casters and 3 removable shelves included with space for 4 shelves total.
- 18 gauge, 201 stainless steel
- Temperature control from 100F to 250F degrees
- NSF Certified for Restaurant use
- Side Handles for easy movement or lifting of smoker.
- 3-year warranty
We assembled the Smokin-It in under an hour and started cooking right away. It weighs about 50 lbs, so it wasn’t too difficult to get it where we wanted once it was assembled. On their website, Smokin-It recommends using an aluminum foil pan on the bottom of the unit if you plan on cooking greasy foods to keep everything clean, so we did this.
Keep in mind that this is a smoker, not a grill. If you plan on cooking a variety of different meats all at once, you have to keep in mind that the temperature will vary.
Also, follow the instructions! Commercial smokers are not the same as a backyard grill…
Make sure you try your best to use all the functions correctly. If you’ve been cooking on grills or other charcoal smokers, like me, then using an indoor smoker is a bit different. Use your meat probe to test everything out. You don’t need to worry too much about spacing your meats in the indoor smokers because the heat stays constant throughout the entire area.
Overall, we were very happy with the construction of this indoor smoker.
We were concerned that it might not get hot enough but that turned out not to be an issue. We orderedon Amazon and received it in 3 days in perfect condition, which is rare for an item this large.
You simply plugin this baby in and it works. We cooked some back ribs on it and I do have to say that the flavor was comparable to my charcoal smoker, which I didn’t expect because its electric. About a month ago we smokes some brisket making sure to follow the instructions and using the auger and meat probe. It was better than any brisket I’ve ever smoked before!
If you’re just starting out in a restaurant and want to cook meats, this is the way to go if you’re on a tight budget.
Masterbuilt Electric Indoor Smoker (MES40)
If you’re looking to wet your feet, the Masterbuilt is a perfect way to get started.
When we were talking with people on which commercial smokers would be ideal for the restaurant, everyone was telling us that Smokin-It was the best. Much better than the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker (MES 40) and many people didn’t have very good things to say about the MES40, while other people loved it but wouldn’t recommend it for commercial use. The Masterbuilt seems to be more for beginners.
One of the things that caught me off guard was the number of mixed reviews about the MES40. Many people gave it a 5 star rating and others gave it a 1 star. This usually doesn’t happen with quality products but we wanted to see this one in action.
While we didn’t end up buying this one, we did find someone who owned it and got to see it working in person.
The bluetooth device on it was pretty cool. You can monitor the temperature from the other room but that seems little bit unnecessary if you ask me. Some people have complained about the bluetooth app malfunctioning when cooking and raising or lower the temperature automatically.
- Integrated Bluetooth technology: We read a lot of complaints about this…
- 975 sq. Inch of cooking space: A little more space than the Smokin-It
- Built-in meat probe thermometer
- Side wood chip loading system-add chips without losing heat or smoke
- 1,200 watt heating element for even, consistent smoking up to 275 degrees
One advantage of the MES are that it does come with a window, so you can see what’s cooking inside!
The reviews for this one are mainly positive but I just don’t trust the bluetooth. It seems that these Mastercheif are great starter smokers and we had a lot of fun watching it in action. I could tell that the quality of the materials where not as good as the Smokin-It commercial smokers, which is a huge thing for us. You really want some high quality stainless steel when cooking in order to get the best flavor.
In the above photo somebody was using two different thermometers to measure the temperature and you can see that the reading on the built-in panel is off by almost 20 degrees… This is bad. This is finally what deterred us from purchasing this unit because we didn’t want to have all the food burn due to a faulty app. What happened to the good old fashion dials?
Overall, it was pretty clear to use after looking for the best indoor electric smoker that the Smokin-It won hands down. People on the BBQ forums have been using them for almost a decade and say that nothing else compares when it comes to a good indoor smoker.
Best Indoor Smoker Under $600
If you´re looking for larger commercial smokers then you’re going to need to spend a little more money if you want quality. The next two options are designed to be commercial smokers for use inside kitchens. We talked with both of the manufacturers and they were very helpful on answering all of our questions.
Smokin-Tex 1400 Electric Indoor
If you’re looking for a step up from the Smokin-It, then Smokin Tex 1400 is the way to go. We didn’t get to see this one action because we couldn’t find anyone around here that owns one. But after talking with people in the community and reading endless reviews, this certainly seems to be one top of the line indoor electric smoker.
They make a lot of helpful videos that you can find on YouTube for recipes and different smoking techniques.
In this video he demonstrates how to use the 1400 and from I can tell it’s pretty similar to the Smokin-It Model 1. About the same size and with the same style of construction.
In fact it is a bit larger and can accommodate up to 33 lbs with a cooking temperature of 300°. It’s pretty difficult to see how this one differs from the others…
After looking at the few reviews on Amazon it seems to be a solid design but there just aren’t that many reviews, even on the forums. certainly, the Smokin-Tex 1400 is not the most popular of commercial smokers but from what I could find out they seem to have quite a big following. If the price was a bit lower we would have gone with this one, just because it’s a bit bigger and heats up quicker and stays hotter.
Overall, not sure it’s worth it to go with this one just due to the lack of reviews that we could find.
Best Indoor Smoker Under $900
Many of the people who compete use Cookshack and swear by the brand. We were just starting out with commercial smokers, so didn’t want to make such a big investment. This commercial electric smoker is for serious chefs! If you want your business to provide the best food in your area, than go with this one if you can afford it!
Cookshack SM025 Indoor Smoker
If money is not an issue then you should go with the Cookshack. You won’t find anyone complain about their cookshack and people who have them will tell you that they are the best in the business. We did get to see the SM025 in action at a local restaurant. The best way to find out how well these commercial smokers perform is by seeing them in person and talking with people that have used them for years.
From what I’ve been told the company’s customer service is exceptional. They’ll answer any questions you have and replace something if it’s damaged without any questions. The Cookshack is definitely built well and the SmokinTex and CookShack are designed to be commercial smokers for restaurant kitchens.
The SM025 is one of their smaller units but this is the one we got to take a look at, so I can’t really comment on the other models. However, from what I can tell it’s about the same size as the Smokin-It Model 1.
When you turn on the Cookshack the heating element will ignite for about 20 minutes and create a bunch of smoke. Most of the cheaper models don’t produce enough smoke. It’s assumed that an indoor electric smoker doesn’t produce the quality of smoke than a charcoal smoker but you might find that Cookshack is an exception.
I talked with the manufactures over at Cookshack and they were very helpful. We told them what we were looking for and they recommended this one. It was a little difficult to decide on the commercial smokers to look at but these three brands seem to be the best of the best.
Overall, it was difficult to find anything bad about Cookshack other than the price. The quality seems to be second to none and one of the best commercial smokers out there for sure!
Safely Cleaning Your Indoor Smoker
The first thing you need to remember when cleaning is that the smoke that you’re trying to get when you’re cooking, can be affecting by the chemicals you use to clean your indoor electric smoker. The smoke we all love from a steak is a concoction of thousands of chemicals, which are called carcinogens. If you plan on using commercial smokers to cook for people then you need to be paying extra attention to the chemicals that you’re using to clean with.
It’s generally agreed that phosphates are the safest way to clean commercial smokers. This is found in most dish soaps and laundry detergents. It’s used to dissolve smoke residue very well. You can find the pure form of phosphates in the paint department or on Amazon as seen here. It’s one of the best natural ways to remove grease and mildew and many people in the industry use this brand.
Using Trisodium Phosphate will destroy just about everything on the surfaces of your indoor electric smoker or any other smoker for the reason. Be sure to wear some rubber gloves and goggles to be on the safe side. This stuff can rip the fats and oils out of your skin!
If you’re looking to destroy smoke residue then just put a little TSP in some hot water and watch it work it’s magic. You can also put a teaspoon or so into your dishwasher and add your favorite soap to help clean anything in your home.
Stay away from cheap chemical cleaners…
Many of these chemicals will remain on the surface of the stainless steel or vaporize and combine with the meats and smoke. Or they will break down with the heat and become toxic compounds. Some people believe that one chemical cleaner is safer than the others, when this might not necessarily be true. Usually there’s not enough information about what chemicals are in the cleaning solution. The makers of the cleaning solution don’t like to make it easy and often times add various potentially dangerous chemicals.
The cleaning agents many people use might say “natural” but upon investigating them further, you’ll find dangerous chemicals in the cleaners. While I may be worrying too much this is certainly one thing to consider when you’re cleaning.
The best advice is to make sure to wash with hot water all of the chemicals you can. You don’t want to get water to get inside the working areas of the indoor electric smoker. perhaps a damp rag will do the trick.
Choosing the Best Indoor Electric Smoker
It took us write a while to find the best indoor electric smoker… Each person will be using their smoker for a different purpose and while you may not be opening a restaurant you still want to do your research. Maybe watch some videos and if possible find one that you can check out in person, like we did. You can always check around your neighborhood and posibbly get a discount on a used one as well.
While the Masterbuilt commercial smokers seem to be popular, there are a lot of complaints about them. Many people who use them don’t use them in restaurants and they are more a hobby smoker for home use. If you want a professional indoor electric smoker then you should go with the other 3 brands mentioned above.
In conclusion I really think we did well by going with the Smokin-It and the size is perfect. All of the companies above make larger models than the ones we reviewed but these sizes were optimal for our needs. If you’re planning on using commercial smokers in your restaurant or for personal use, then I would definitely stick with the brands reviewed here!