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GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker review: Turning your kitchen into a BBQ joint

The countertop appliance works well, but there are some caveats.

Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

It sounds too good to be true. The ability to smoke meats, seafood and more inside your kitchen without risking your security deposit doesn’t seem like something that should be possible. GE Appliances begs to differ. The company debuted the final version of its GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker just before CES, quickly nabbing the attention of this wood-fired-grill reviewer. Thanks to a unique filtration system, the unit captures smoke while cooking and only expels warm air (out of the front). After getting a small taste (literally one bite) in Vegas of what the smoker could do, I’ve spent the last few weeks cooking a variety of proteins to see if the $999 device is as compelling as it seems.

Design

The GE Profile indoor smoker has the stature of a small mini fridge. It’s not far off from the quick-cooking ovens behind the counter at Starbucks either. Its glossy front is two-thirds door, complete with viewing window, while the remaining space is dedicated to the control panel and pellet waste bin. Up top is a small sliding door at the front left for adding food-grade wood pellets. The sides and back look plain and boring, like a countertop oven or microwave, but that’s just fine. The contraption is short enough to fit under cabinets, but you’ll want to leave space on the sides and back for radiant heat.

The smoker imparts noticeable wood-fired flavor into meats, seafood and sides, plus it offers some handy features. It requires a few extra steps grills don’t, but you also don’t have to venture outdoors to use it.

Pros
  • Indoor smoking
  • Noticeable smoky flavor
  • Easy cleanup
  • Keep Warm feature is very handy
Cons
  • Having to flip and rotate food is a hassle
  • Limited app functionality
  • Takes up significant counter space
  • Puts out a lot of warm air
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At the bottom of the front, there’s a vent where the GE Profile indoor smoker expels warm air while it’s cooking. The company also provides a small drip tray that slides under the front edge to help keep your counter clean. Over to the right, a display sits up top to show you status, probe temperature, smoker temperature, cook time and smoke level. You turn a knob to navigate settings and menus and then press to confirm your choices. Back and Start buttons flank that dial on the left and right sides respectively. There’s progress and status lights that encircle the knob too, adding a visual cue during preheating, cooking and more.

Under the knob is a smattering of buttons to get to certain functions quickly. These include settings, cancel, the interior light, activating the Clear Smoke feature and toggling between probe temperature and cooking time on the display. There’s also a power switch in this group and they’re all touch-based rather than clicky physical buttons.

Inside, supports snap onto the sides to hold the three moveable racks in place. A drip pan slides into the bottom to catch grease and other debris. To keep tabs on food temps, a probe snaps into a jack at the top right of the cooking chamber and can be stored on the outside of the smoker via a magnetic holder when not in use. Lastly, the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker’s prime piece of tech, the Active Smoke Filtration system, is on the back interior wall.

Setup and use

The GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker's pellet chute.
The GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker's pellet chute. (Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget)

Another benefit of the GE Profile indoor smoker is that it’s ready to go out of the box. There’s no seasoning or burn-off required to get rid of oils or other manufacturing leftovers. Simply snap the rack supports in place, slide in the racks, put the drip pan in the bottom and that’s it for the cooking chamber. Once you add pellets in the slot up top and fill the water tank to the indicated level, the smoker is almost ready to start cooking.

One more step you’ll need to do the first time you cook, or anytime you empty the pellet chute, is to prime the auger. This ensures that the device will start producing smoke quickly and efficiently, giving your food as much time as possible to bathe in it. Afterwards, you can choose a preset or opt to go full manual mode (called Customize) and you’re off and running.

GE Profile has dialed-in selections for brisket, pork ribs, pork butt, wings, chicken and salmon. These offer the necessary time and temperature settings for proper cooking, including a recommended smoke level. Additionally, you can determine the duration of the cook based on time or internal food temperature. Once either of those are achieved, the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker can automatically go into Keep Warm mode until you’re ready to eat.

GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker with the door open, showing the three removable racks.
GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker with the door open, showing the three removable racks. (Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget)

A word on larger cuts: you’ll need to portion them out in order to make them fit. For things like ribs and brisket, you can easily slice them in half and make use of the rack system. I did chuckle when reading the recipe book as GE Profile says you can fit a 18-pound brisket in this smoker. That single cut of beef would take up most of the cooking area on some pellet grills, so you definitely have to cut it to fit here. And even then, the pieces will be quite large.

Pork butts fit with ease, as do whole chickens. If you prefer to spatchcock your birds to cook them, that won’t work here. However, you could easily do two chicken halves. I was also able to accommodate nearly four pounds of wings (flats and drums) across the three racks. Basically, any meat you’d smoke on an outdoor grill can be done on this unit, but some of them will take a bit of extra planning, and maybe a few cuts, to get them to fit.

How does the GE Indoor Smoker work?

After you’ve selected your preset or manually entered your cooking parameters and pressed start, the GE Profile indoor smoker will ask you to confirm that you’ve added both pellets to the chute and water to the waste bin. From there, the device will preheat to the appropriate temperature before it begins producing any smoke. This will allow you to put your food inside without having to clear the smoke immediately. The last step is to push the start dial once more to begin the smoking process.

Before you open the door while things are cooking, you’ll need to activate the Clear Smoke function to avoid setting off any alarms in your kitchen. This takes 10 minutes, so you’ll have to plan ahead a bit – unless you don’t mind smoking up the room. I mention this because you will have to flip and rotate nearly everything you prepare in this thing to make sure it cooks evenly. I learned this lesson the hard way with a pork butt that burned on top but was undercooked near the bone. A simple flip and front-to-back rotation for everything about half-way through the process remedied the issue for everything I cooked after that, but it is an extra step that outdoor grills don’t require. You can leave a pork butt on a pellet grill unbothered until it’s done, but those have fans pushing heat around the cooking chamber. GE Profile says it didn’t opt for a convection fan in this unit because of how it would’ve affected the flow of smoke.

Can you taste the smoke?

One of the biggest questions I had about the GE Profile indoor smoker is if you’d actually be able to taste the smoke. The unit burns just enough wood pellets to fill the cooking chamber with smoke, which is enough to give proteins a kiss of flavor. It’s certainly not as intense as what you get on an outdoor grill, but it’s definitely there.

Since the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker does an excellent job of regulating temperature, the texture of all of those meats, and even seafood, is consistently moist and tender. Smoke flavor was most prominent in wings, chicken and salmon, but I could taste it in larger cuts of meat, too. GE Profile allows you to adjust the smoke level from 0 to 5, so you can crank it all the way up to maximize the flavor if that’s your culinary preference. I almost always set it to level 5.

Let’s talk about smoke rings

One thing you won’t see on meat cooked low-and-slow in the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker is a smoke ring. This is the pink area along the outside of sliced meats that most people think indicates how well smoke has penetrated the food. That’s actually a misconception. A smoke ring is caused by a chemical reaction with nitric oxide gas produced by burning wood or charcoal. It isn’t by any means an indication of the level of smoke flavor, or even good barbecue.

Outdoor pellet grills, offset smokers and even a Weber kettle with charcoal will create a noticeable smoke ring on things like ribs, pork butts and briskets. The GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker will not. That’s because the appliance isn’t burning wood pellets as the heat source – it’s only using them to flavor the food. That takes very little fuel, and it also requires barely any heat to smolder them.

You can actually fake a smoke ring if you really want one for the ‘gram, but overdoing it can ruin your food, so tread carefully. For that, you’ll need a small amount of something that contains sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite, like Morton’s Tender Quick. It’s the stuff that’s used to cure pastrami, where the pink color is essential.

Cleanup and maintenance

GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker's interior, including removable racks, rack holders and the drip pan.
GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker's interior, including removable racks, rack holders and the drip pan. (Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget)

Unlike most outdoor grills, all of the racks and rack supports inside the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker are dishwasher safe – simply by virtue of being small enough to fit. Since you’ll have to wipe down the interior of the cooking chamber with a solution of either mild soap and water or vinegar and water, not having to hand-wash what’s sure to be the dirtiest part of the machine is a plus. The drip pan is made out of a similar material to roasting pans you’d use in an oven, so you can probably stick it in the dishwasher too. I have been doing this with no issues so far, but you can always wrap it in foil before you start smoking for easy cleaning.

You’ll also need to empty the water tank that collects and extinguishes the spent pellets after each use, though the smoker may ask you to do so midway through longer sessions. You’ll need to strain out the remaining wood particles from the water before discarding the cooled solids in the trash. Since the water container doesn’t touch any food, a quick wipe and rinse is all that’s needed here.

GE Profile says you’ll occasionally need to clean the pellet ramp to ensure proper smoke production. The company includes a small brush that’s used to keep unwanted debris out of the cooking chamber. Simply lift the smoke inlet cover on the right side of the cooking area and use the brush to remove anything that’s accumulated there. The company also recommends that you wipe the interior light after each use. I assume that’s so you’ll be able to see well during the cooking process, but GE Profile doesn’t elaborate on why you need to do it.

GE Profile SmartHQ app

The Smart Indoor Smoker works with GE Profile’s SmartHQ app to allow you to monitor the small appliance over Wi-Fi. With this software, you can monitor smoker and food temperatures from anywhere, as well as activate the 10-minute Clear Smoke process from the sofa. The app also lets you turn the internal light on and off, but that’s really about it. You can’t actually adjust the smoker temperature without walking over to it.

The smoker comes with a recipe book, but it would’ve been great if those (and many more) were available inside the app. Those instructions, paired with the ability to send the appropriate cooking info to the device, would give new users a lot of ways to get started beyond the simple protein-specific presets. I would also love it if there was a way to trigger the Keep Warm function or shut down the smoker remotely. You know, for the times when I get too excited about putting pulled pork in my mouth and forget to turn the machine off before sitting down at the table.

Is it better than an outdoor grill?

Baby back ribs sitting on a rack inside of the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker.
Baby back ribs sitting on a rack inside of the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker. (Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget)

While it’s tempting to compare the results from the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker to those of a pellet, charcoal or wood-burning grill, it would be like discussing apples and oranges. Since all of the other options have an open flame and use significantly more fuel as the primary heat source, the smoke flavor is much more intense. They also require a lot more planning. First, you’d need dedicated outdoor space where those grills and smokers will be safe to use. You’ll also need to consider the added cleaning and maintenance needed to keep them running well.

All of these outdoor grills have a wider temperature range, so they can be used for more than just smoking. You could use a pellet grill, for example, to do everything from brisket to searing steaks. Ditto for charcoal or wood-burning units. And if you factor in Wi-Fi-enabled features, outdoor grills typically allow you to adjust temperature in addition to just monitoring it. Some of them even offer advanced tools like the Super Smoke mode from Traeger or the ability to send recipes to the grill as part of step-by-step guidance.

All this considered, the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker is still a good option for people who can’t have an outdoor smoker due to rental agreements or a lack of space. You’ll certainly need to plan ahead on how to store the appliance when you’re not using it. But, the fact that you can put it in your kitchen opens up the ability to cook barbecue, smoked wings, tasty seafood and more that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. It’s not entirely a “set it and forget it” type of device, and there are some hoops to jump through in terms of rotating things during the cook. However, you won't have to spend hours babying the meats the cooking starts.

Wrap-up

The GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker works just like the company describes. The only real nuisance is having to flip and rotate foods to make sure they’re cooked properly. I really wish the company was more up-front about this somewhere other than the troubleshooting table and recipe book. It’s a key action that shouldn’t be left to trial and error. Even with that caveat, the device produces noticeably smoky flavor in a range of foods, albeit in a more-subdued way than what an outdoor grill.

Presets make it easy to get started and the manual mode will provide an open playground once you gain some experience. This won’t replace your pellet or charcoal grill, but that’s not really the point. It lets people who can’t own one of those make some tasty barbecue inside their kitchens. You just have to find a place to store it, or give up previously allocated countertop space, between smoke sessions.