We have all been there. You get the smoker out, line up some beers and invite some friends around. You are all set for a great garden party and some tasty food is cooking away on your electric smoker. And then the skies open and the rain pours down.
Suddenly you are wondering, can you use an electric smoker in the garage? It is a great question and one that many people are curious about. So we thought we would give you the full low down on using an electric smoker in the garage.
Is it safe to use an electric smoker in the garage?
Using an electric smoker in the garage is not safe and is best avoided. By using an electric smoker in a confined space like a garage you risk a build-up of carbon monoxide inside and the extreme heat of the grill is also a potential fire risk.
Whilst moving your smoker into the garage might seem like the perfect solution on a rainy day, we definitely do not recommend it. If you check out the manual that came with your smoker it is sure to say that it should not be used indoors, which includes a garage. There are good reasons for this and we suggest that you follow the instructions on this one.
Why can’t I use my electric smoker in the garage?
Electric smokers are great and the fact that they use electricity makes them seem a bit like an oven so it is understandable that many people think that it would be ok to use one in their garage. After all, there is no flame or hot charcoal to worry about.
Electric smokers are so user-friendly you can just turn it set the temperature and wander off to chat with your friends. There is no need to check that it is topped up with pellets or tend to a fire.
But, despite all this, it does produce actual real-life smoke, and lots of it. This is why you wanted one, it is the smoke that gives the food such a delicious flavor. But, this is also why you shouldn’t be tempted to take your smoker into the garage.
The smoke produced by your electric smoker needs plenty of room to escape and even having the garage door open doesn’t provide enough air to be considered cyclical ventilation.
I am sure lots of people have done this and got away with it but we can’t recommend using an electric smoker in garage for these reasons.
Risk of Fire
Ok, so we know that there are no flames on an electric smoker. So, you might be thinking it can’t be a fire risk and it is no different from using an oven indoors.
Well, not quite. Using a smoker requires extremely high temperatures and the high heat will cause the smoker itself to become very hot on the outside. This heat is what you need to get the wonderful smoky flavor on your food but it does pose a risk when enclosed in your garage.
Have a think about what you have in your garage, is there a mower? A fuel can? Bits of timber? Maybe this is where you keep your wood chips for smoking, wood pellets, some charcoal, or gas canisters? Chances are that there are quite a few things that are highly flammable.
So there is a definite risk of something melting from the sheer heat of the smoker or in the worst-case scenario, some of your flammable items could catch fire and you are looking at a pretty nasty situation.
Build Up of Carbon Monoxide
Everyone has heard of carbon monoxide, it is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas. This makes it especially dangerous as there is no way of knowing it is there until it is too late (unless you have a carbon monoxide alarm).
If carbon monoxide levels are allowed to build up they can take away the oxygen that you need and cause illness and even fatality.
Why am I telling you this morbid stuff? Well, it is because carbon monoxide is produced through the burning of gas, wood, propane, and charcoal. All the time that you are using your electric smoker carbon monoxide is being produced.
Don’t worry in an outdoor environment, this all gets whisked away in the breeze and disseminates in the air around you so there is no issue at all.
The problem comes when you use your electric smoker in the garage. As there is less air around (especially with the door closed) smoke will build up in the garage. This build-up of smoke will result in an increased concentration of carbon monoxide.
If the levels of carbon monoxide build-up too much then it can become unsafe for you or anyone else in the garage. This is most likely to happen when there is no air movement at all through your garage. The best and easiest way to avoid this is simply to avoid using an electric smoker in the garage.
Your garage will smell of smoke
Whilst this is a far less dangerous issue than fire or carbon monoxide poisoning, it is a big issue because it is basically certain to happen. All of your things that have ended up in the garage because you have nowhere else to keep them will be infused with a smoky smell that will linger for months or more.
Think about what you have in your garage, maybe you have old baby clothes, rarely used sports outfits, old photo albums, Christmas decorations, and winter coats.
If you are anything like the rest of us there will be all sorts of random junk in your garage that could be ruined if you fill up your garage with smoke from an electric smoker.
It is a nightmare trying to get rid of the smell of smoke and you don’t want to be giving yourself all that extra cleaning hassle because you used your electric smoker in the garage.
So, take our advice and keep your smoker outside.
Can you use an electric smoker on a covered porch?
You can use an electric smoker on a covered porch as long as there is sufficient airflow around the smoker. As long as the porch is open on three sides and you can place the smoker away from the house wall, a covered porch is one of the best places to use a smoker if the weather is less than perfect.
An electric smoker needs a power source which is likely to be possible on a porch. It is also a great location to easily go in and out if the rest of your crowd has moved indoors. Other places that you might want to use an electric smoker in the rain are under a tarp, canopy or gazebo.
Does cold weather affect electric smokers?
The biggest effect of using an electric smoker in cold weather is that it will be harder to heat up and maintain the temperature of the smoker. But, it is absolutely possible to use an electric smoker in cold weather so you can smoke meat all year round.
If you are using an electric smoker in cold weather you might want to think about using some insulation to help keep the heat in the smoker. You could use furnace insulation, water heater blankets, or a specially designed insulated jacket for your smoker.
You should also ensure that you pre-heat your smoker before adding wood chips (you should be doing this in all weather anyway).
Can I leave an electric smoker outside?
You can leave an electric smoker outside but it is not the ideal place to store one. If possible you should keep it in the garage or shed when not in use. If you are storing an electric smoker outside you should find a dry place out of direct sunlight and ensure that the cover is on.
Can an electric smoker get rained on?
If an electric smoker is rained on it is likely that water will get into the vents, grease tray, and the electronics in the control panel. Using an electric smoker in the rain is potentially dangerous and rain may also cause the electric smoker to rust.
For these reasons, we recommend keeping your smoker in a dry place and not using it in wet weather. As described above don’t be tempted to take your smoker in the garage when it rains. It is best to have a permanent or temporary canopy in place so that you can use your smoker in all weather.
Can you use an electric smoker in the garage? The verdict
I hope that if you have read this far you can already answer the question ‘can I use an electric smoker in the garage?’. It is not completely safe to use an electric smoker in the garage due to the potential risk of fire and carbon monoxide buildup.
There is also the certainty that your garage and everything in it will stink for months to come. So we think it’s best not to use an electric smoker in a garage, shed, or similarly enclosed structure.
If you are serious about smoking, barbequing, or grilling outdoors then you might want to look at building an open-sided structure in your garden or yard. If it is more of an occasional thing you can look at getting a temporary canopy or tarp to cover your cooking area.