With an electric, you won't get much of a "smoke ring". Thing is, a smoke ring has no taste. With a good electric, you will get precise temperature control, extreme ease of use, cold smoke possibilities, and safety. Yes, you can use an electric on a deck. Since there's no open flame, you can also sidestep the rules of many landlords and condo and co-op boards.
Does an electric produce inferior smoked foods? I don't think so. You won't be able to precisely duplicate the secret recipes and techniques of a favourite pit master who hot smokes over oak logs in an open pit. However, you will be able to develop techniques of your own. It's all about the meat, the wood, the seasonings, the temperature, and the timing. Since you don't plan on competing with, say, Blue Smoke or Arthur Bryant's, who cares what supplies the heat?
Unless you plan to do primarily cold smoking, the shape makes no difference at all. To cold smoke with a wood or charcoal HEAT source, an offset barrel is best. However, my fridge-shaped electric is quite capable of cold smoke (though this isn't its strongest suit).
My smoker is a Centro, a Canadian house brand that appears identical in every respect to the Masterbuilt Electric Smokehouse. Since the electronics sit right on top, you MUST keep it covered when not in use and I wouldn't run it in the rain. Masterbuilt does not have a cover that fits this model, but Cookshack conveniently does. It's extremely easy to use and to clean and it holds a temperature within about 2 degrees F over a wide temperature range. Since I've only had it for one season, I can't comment about durability, but the performance has been great.
I know several Cookshack users, all of whom rave about their units. They have a good reputation for durability, an unknown with my smoker, but they perform pretty much the same. The higher end Cookshacks have some convenience features, such as temperature probes, but I just stick my Polder remote thermometer probe through the vent on top. I feel that the Cookshacks are trickier to use than the Masterbuilt/Centro, but it isn't really a big deal. Cookshack is MUCH more expensive (I paid under $200). I thought the Cookshacks cost too much, though did get myself the Cookshack cover for my Centro.
I do NOT recommend Bradley. They seem to combine electric convenience and control with offset smoke, but I keep hearing about major reliability and durability issues. Also, you are locked in to using Bradley's proprietary smoke producing pucks, which come in a limited variety of wood types and are not necessarily available at the time and place you need them. You can use pretty much anything to produce smoke in a Masterbuilt or a Cookshack.
· 9 years ago