Bradley smokers have been around for quite some time now, and they have an interesting origin story that led them to producing the unique electric smokers they are known for today.
Wade Bradley, the current owner of Bradley smokers, tells the story of his father founding the company. Bradley was a salmon fisherman and encountered a master smoker who he struck a deal with. Bradley promised he would teach the smoker how to fish for salmon in exchange for teaching him the secrets to smoking food.
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Bradley was true to his word and taught the smoker how to fish for salmon, and the smoker honored his end of the deal as well. In this day, smoking meats was accomplished using sawdust in a cast-iron skillet and a hot plate.
Bradley took the master smoker’s advice to heart and sought out the perfect method for smoking meat. After many trials and many failures, Bradley invented the technology that is implemented in all Bradley smokers to this day.
Bradley smokers are fueled by Bradley Smoking Bisquettes, the invention of Bradley all those years ago. Bradley keeps the composition and manufacturing process of these bisquettes a secret, but they do tell us that they are made with all natural products and that the wood used is clean and has not been used for some other purpose before being made into a bisquette.
Bradley grills stack these bisquettes for automatic feeding into their smokers as the need arises, a system unique to Bradley.
As you can tell, Bradley smokers have a history of exclusively seeking out high-quality smoke for smoking meats. So, in this guide, we’d like to explore how a Bradley smoker stacks up against other electric smokers on the market.
As we mentioned, one of the most unique features of a Bradley smoker is the automatic-feeding bisquette fuel setup. But, what are the real benefits of this system?
The bisquette fuel system that is signature for Bradley smokers offers up to 8 hours of continuous smoking with no need to add more fuel. Other smokers that use pellets or traditional wood chunks will vary based on how large the hopper or wood chamber is. Each Bradley bisquette will produce up to 20 minutes of smoke.
One of the most unique features of a Bradley smoker is the ability to both cold-smoke food and hot-smoke food. Bradley smokers have dual heating elements – one for the smoke and one for the chamber – making this a possibility.
Do you know the difference between cold-smoking food and hot-smoking food?
When wood is burned to the point of ash, quite a lot of heat is produced and very little smoke. This will impart some smoky-flavor but not as much as is possible. When wood is only heated to the point of smoking, quite a lot of smoke is produced but very little heat.
Cold-smoking and hot-smoking food each have distinct purposes. When you purchase “smoked” products as a consumer in the grocery store, you are likely purchasing a cured product that was then cold-smoked for flavor and hot-smoked just at the end for appearance. Curing is a product added to meat to preserve it. For optimal smoke flavor, meats should be cured and then cold-smoked for an extended period of time. You can even cold smoke for flavor and then cook as you normally would. Cold-smoking is also great for foods that do not need to be cooked from raw such as cheeses.
Hot-smoking is ideal for preparing meals to be eaten right away and does not require curing beforehand or additional cooking afterwards.
Bradley Smokers also offers a product unique from most companies. The Bradley Smoke Generator is a standalone device that can load up to 9 hours’ worth of Bradley bisquettes. The device is essentially a smoker minus the smokehouse, allowing you to retrofit any structure you see fit as the smokehouse.
It is important for consumers to know that Bradley’s signature bisquettes are not available everywhere. They are available in some retailers and direct from the manufacturer online. This may be a deterrent for some.
One benefit of the bisquette system is the variety of flavors offered by Bradley. Some examples of Bradley bisquette flavors include
Each flavor bisquette has a different purpose ranging from cheeses, to seafood, to fresh game. Bradley offers an extensive database of recipes, even searchable by the type of bisquette you intend to use.
Bradley smokers are priced quite reasonably in comparison with other electric smokers we have reviewed. Bradley offers several models, at several price points, with varying features and capabilities.
The most common model of electric smoker from Bradley is the Bradley Original Smoker. This model boasts some impressive specifications.
We are pleasantly surprised with the price point of this smoker. Though it seems to vary by retailer, the average sales price of these units is between $250-$300. Bradley also offers their original smoker in a Designer Blue series and covered in camouflage in a partnership with Realtree.
The Bradley Original Smoker has an analog interface. Bradley offers upgraded, digital smokers that have both automatic temperature adjustment and an auto-shutoff feature. The digital version of the Bradley electric smoker is offered in both 4-rack and 6-rack editions. Bradley’s digital smokers retail for about $350-$450 depending on their size.
The newest and highest-end electric smoker offered by Bradley is the Bradley Smart Smoker. The Smart Smoker was made available in April of 2016 and is packed with premium, technologically-advanced features.
The Bradley Smart Smoker has iSmoke™ Technology allowing you to control and monitor smoking activity in real time with a Bluetooth-enabled device. The smoker also is larger than previous models, have a full ten racks for smoking foods. For advanced temperature monitoring, the Bradley Smart Smoker has two spate temperature probes. The unit comes with adjustable legs and wheels in case you decide you need the unit to be portable. The Bradley Smart Smoker can be found at retailers for about $600.
At a macro level, Bradley electric smokers are quite affordable. They have many of the same features as other smokers on the market today that retail for several thousands of dollars – while the most expensive Bradley electric smoker is available for under $1,000.
Especially because of their affordability, you’re probably wondering how Bradley electric smokers actually fair. Luckily, you don’t have to exclusively take our word for it – there are plenty of others reviews on the web.
The Spruce Eats reviewed the Bradley Original smoker and noted its effectiveness while cautioning consumers to be aware of the size of the unit prior to purchasing.
“While this might not sound like authentic barbecue, this unit is designed to get you about as close as you can without having to tend a fire and set vents. This is the perfect appliance for someone who just doesn't have the time, patience, or space to do it the old-fashioned way. The payoff is that you now have a completely self-contained unit and a highly versatile cooking appliance that smokes (hot and cold), roasts, and dehydrates food. If you are looking at this type of smoker, you are probably familiar with its refrigerator size and shape. The Bradley Original Smoker is 31 inches tall and 24 inches wide with the generator, a substantial piece of equipment that not everyone has room for on their patio. And, because of Bradley's unique structure, you need to use Bradley flavor bisquettes as the fuel (sold by Bradley as well as other online retailers).”
A verified purchaser, named Mike, noted the resilience of the unit and pointed out that his original Bradley smoker works great despite having been treated harshly.
“I've had my smoker for 10 years and it still works great. its been rained on, snowed on and ignored for months. It still works just fine. I suggest you buy a cover for yours. These things are very safe, no fires to start its all electric. I use a remote meat thermometer. Those things work very well, I bring the wire through the vent and bring the remote receiver in the house. Perfect internal meat temp every time and I don't have to check on it. I read on the factory website that after two hours of smoke we can stop the biscuits. The meat can't take any more smoke so just let it cook. I load 6 biscuits for the two hours of smoke time and put in 2 extra biscuits as pushers. (You will still have smoke in your unit after 4 hours and you save on the biscuits) This unit can also cold smoke. you can turn off the main heat unit and only use the smoke generator. I put in bricks of cheese on top rack and allow them to smoke for 10 to 15 min, wow is that good! Good luck with yours, I still love mine.... even though it looks BAD!”
On the other end of the pricing spectrum is the Bradley Smart Smoker. Michael, a verified purchaser of one of these units, shared his concerns with the technological features of the smoker.
“Being a tech enthusiast I bought this smoker excited for the smart features. Must say I'm disappointed with the smart features. App is EXTREMELY glitchy, to the point of being unusable (android). The range on the bluetooth is roughly 10` at best. However as a smoker it works great and cooks good food. I have an igrill and use it vs the smokers smart features, which are pretty much useless unless you're standing right in front of the unit. Don't waste the extra money, buy the digital smoker and an igrill for better features and range (120'). Would return but is too difficult being so big.”
However, another consumer, David, shared his delight with the product even sharing that he has been a loyal Bradley fan since his first smoker.
“Great product! This is my 3rd Bradley Smoker and it is the best. I started with the dial type Bradley and then the digital and now the smart Smoker. Great product!”
As far as capability goes, Bradley smokers are not short of their competition. They do everything you would want your smoker to do.
The most common complaint about a Bradley smoker has pertains to the original model. The complaint is the absence of set-and-forget capability. If you are a novice smoker, this may be a concern to you. If, however, you don’t mind manually monitoring temperature and the amount of smoke being produced, you can’t find a better smoke in this price point.
Additionally, Bradley offers remedies at a reasonable price point if you are in the market for true set-and-forget cooking.
We certainly recognize the place in the market for Bradley smokers but caution that not all models are a great fit for every buyer. The price is certainly right, but the capabilities may not be.
For consumers looking for a technologically advanced unit that makes smoking a breeze, the digital and smart models of Bradley electric smokers are a great product at an entry-level price point. Also, the original Bradley smoker is a great buy for an experienced smoker who wants a bare-bones, affordable unit that has room for culinary creativity.
We don’t think, however, that those looking for a true smart-smoker will be satisfied with the options offered by Bradley. Some Bradley smokers offer auto-shutoff and automatic temperature regulation, but if you’re looking for more technologically advanced features you’ll need to search outside of the Bradley brand.