How To Use A Smoker: A Process For The Best Smoked Food

Are you looking for articles related to the topic of how to use a smoker?

Many people think that by just buying a smoker, then they can know how to use it quickly. However, things can be more complicated than that.

how to use a smoker featured

It is necessary to understand many vital steps and factors in using a smoker. These can list out, for example, smoker preparation, temperature observations, timing, maintenance, wood chips, etc.

Thus, please refer to the proper instructions below and put them into practice with the smoker you have.

Table of Contents

    How To Use A Smoker? 

    This section includes three processes of using a smoker: preparation, smoking, and maintenance. 

    Preparation

    First and foremost, it’s the preparation process. There are two kinds of preparation to master: 

    Smoker Preparation

    It is advisable to make a complete list of the must-have tools for preparation. Try to refer to the list below to make sure you have enough tools for the smoking process. 

    • A smoker: 

    Depending on the type of smoker you use, you can test its different features. There are two main types of smokers on the market today: charcoal grills (traditional) and electric smokers.

    • Racks: 

    Racks come with the smoker, but you should bring some extra ones for the smoking process. Smoking is often an outside activity, so it is convenient as you don’t come back home to take it. 

    Moreover, some people consider placing racks inside the smoker already for convenience, but it is not recommended because it is not hygienic. 

    • Heating material

    Charcoal is necessary, so you should bring enough heating sources for the fluent process of smoking. As you use an electric smoker, you must check the electrical source. Or you can try wood we recommend in article best wood for smoking

    • Kitchen stuff: 

    They can be bowls, dishes, utensils, etc. For example, you need tongs to grab lightweight food or a knife for cutting the meatloaf. 

    • Wood chips (optional):

    Wood chips are not necessary, but it improves your experience by adding the smoky flavors you love. Thus, you can consider putting it on your list. 

    Meat Preparation

    There are a variety of meats with different recipes that you can use. However, in this step, we will only outline some necessary points.

    You should store the meat in a glass container or large zip bag. The reason is that the smoking process is always outdoors, so it is advisable to use disposable zip bags to reduce the time of cleaning stuff. 

    Otherwise, to ensure the freshness of the meat, you should buy them before smoking for 12 hours, depending on marinade requirements. For example, if you need to leave meat overnight, you should buy it in the afternoon or evening to prepare for the next morning’s smoking process. 

    Process Of Smoking

    Below are seven steps of smoking that you should follow to cook the best-smoked food. 

    Step 1: Set Up

    Set up thermometer
    Set up thermometer before smoking

    In the first step of the smoking process, you will need to set your smoker to a steady temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

    In fact, the smoker’s built-in thermometers only measure the top, not each smoking compartment. Accordingly, the temperature difference will make your smoked food’s quality inconsistent.

    To overcome this point, according to research by barbecue expert Meathead Goldwyn, you need to use the digital air probe thermometer (Minimum quantity: 2).

    Two digital thermometers have similar features to the smoker thermometer because it accurately monitors the temperature and helps you adjust the airflow in and out of the smoker and add fuel to increase the temperature. 

    You can install it by drilling a small hole in the door of each smoking chamber, so you won’t need to open the lid to check the temperature as often.

    In addition, during the setup process, you should place the smoker on a flat and even surface. If it is tilted during the smoking process, your food will drift when it meets the grease, affecting the quality of the final product. The inclined surface creates heat differences in the smoker.

    And, if your smoker grill is brand new, you should remove the paints and solvents first by cleaning the interior with a towel, then wiping the second time with a light layer of cooking oil. After that, you will make a trial of the cooking cycle before officially smoking.

    Step 2: Light Charcoal At The Beginning

    Light charcoal at the beginning
    Light charcoal at the beginning

    Lighting raw coals is one of the essential processes for creating heat. This process takes about 15 minutes.

    However, are you wondering why this step only mentions charcoal? You should avoid using dry wood because it has a large amount of smoke and easily spoils your food.

    Step 3: Adding Coals

    Before adding lit coals, you should open both baffles completely to increase the oxygen level inside the smoker. Intake and chimney baffles contribute to making the smoker hotter. After the temperature inside increases, you will adjust baffles to create a suitable temperature for smoking.

    You will wait till it reaches the desired temperature (between 225 degrees F and 250 degrees F), then place the meat on the rack and close the door.

    Step 4: Maintain Temperature

    smoker baffles
    Adjusting smoker baffles

    The smoking process requires adjusting the baffles for controlling the heat and the smoke. You should put the lighted charcoal under a new layer to maintain heat consistency.

    If you need to increase the cooking temperatures when the charcoal is weakening, you should open the baffles wider and gradually adjust so that the temperature is in the right range.

    Step 5: Add Wood Chunks

    Flavor Wood Chunks
    Flavor Wood Chunks

    When your meats are on the racks, you can add wood chunks for smoke flavor. At this step, it is advisable to use large chunks of wood instead of using chips for slowlier burning. 

    The recommendation is to put flavor wood once or twice for all cooking processes. 

    Also, you will not worry about the chunks affecting the temperature and smoke, for you control them by baffles. 

    Step 6: Add Moisture

    Adding moisture step
    Adding moisture step

    Adding moisture plays a role in helping your meat absorb smoke easier. To do it, you have two methods as below:

    • Place a metal mesh on top of the firebox, and then you will prepare a pan of water and place it on top of that grid. The boiling water will evaporate, creating moisture in the smoker.
    • Before adding the meat to the smoker, you can spritz the meat with a little water or apple juice to sweeten the meat, increasing smoke absorption and reducing the risk of the meat drying out.

    Step 7: Waiting For The Result

    Smoking Result
    Smoking Result

    Smoking food takes time, and you will wait for the final result. The larger your meatloaf is, the more time it takes to smoke. You can prepare other dishes at that time, but you should frequently pay attention to the temperature and smoke.

    Maintenance

    The topic of how to use a smoker always includes the instruction of maintenance. The fact is that the best way for maintenance is right after cooking.

    However, after completing the final product, you should remove the firebox to help the smoker decrease the heat. After cooling down, you can start your maintenance.

    You will use a wire brush and water to clean the grill grate. As for the sides and bottom, you should wipe them with a paper towel, then cover them with a thin layer of plant oil for anti-rust. 

    Although grease or debris can be useful in retaining the BBQ flavors, it will accumulate in the smoker’s bottom. This accumulation is not good for your health in the long run.

    Note For Using A Smoker 

    #1 Note For Preparation 

    Smoker Place
    Smoker Place

    To use smoker most effectively, you should pay attention to the following points:

    • For meat:

    During lightning charcoal (15 minutes), many people take the meat out of the refrigerator to cool down before smoking as a habit. However, you should take it as late as possible because cold meat will absorb the smoke better than meat at room temperature.

    • For smoker:

    You should find a suitable location to place your smoker. 

    The smoker is ideal for outdoor activities, so you need to place it in a well-ventilated area. As placed in tight spaces or indoors, the generated smoke will stick to the walls and ceiling, causing staining or an unpleasant greasy smell in the long run.

    In addition, to ensure safety, you should not place the smoker on wooden floors or places that catch heat easily. If it is a lawn, you can put a layer of lining underneath the smoker to easily clean and limit unnecessary risks.

    Plus, ensure that the place where you place the smoker should be flat. The tilted ground can cause a heat difference inside the smoker.

    #2 Smoker Checking Timing 

    During the smoking process, you need to pay attention to timing. Each type of meat and smoke has its timing. However, typically, you will need to smoke for about 1 to 1.5 hours for every pound of meat you have.

    You should note that it is applied to large chunks of meat. The smoke process is faster than smoking small pieces.

    Accordingly, the frequency of checking the meat in the smoker is only once or twice in a cooking cycle. The period between each checking time is at least 1 hour apart. That is regulated to minimize heat loss in the smoker, ensuring the meat is cooked properly.

    You have to turn the meat every two to three hours. Each time, before flipping, mop a little of marinade fluid on all the meat surfaces. 

    When you smoke meat, the lower part gets the direct heat first, so it cooks first. Due to gravity, the amount of marinade will gradually soak down, making the taste of the meat uneven. 

    Therefore, coating the meat with a thin layer of the marinade before turning it over will help distribute the flavor evenly and reduce the meat drying risk.

    After completion, you should not leave the smoked meat in the smoker,  even on the top rack, because it will affect the quality.

    #3 Time & Temperature For Smoking Each Kind Of Food

    Here are some suggestions for smoked foods as you can refer to. 

    Beef

    Below is a table of some smoked beef dishes that you can refer to. 

     

    Brisket

    Meatloaf

    Hamburger

    Fattie

    Prime Rib

    Size (lbs)

    6-12

    2

    ¾ inch thick patties

    4-8

    Temperature (F)

    225

    250

    275

    225

    225

    Time

    45 mins-1hr/lb

    2 hours

    1½ – 2 hours 

    2 hours

    45 mins/Ib

    Internal Temperature (F)

    190-200

    165

    165

    165

    130 (Med-rare)

    Pork

    Also, let’s check the table of some smoked pork dishes! 

     

    Baby Back Ribs

    Pork Butt Sliced

    Pork Butt Pulled

    Pre-cooked Whole Ham

    Hot Dogs

    Size (lbs)

    Full slab

    4-6

    6-8

    6-8

    Package

    Temperature (F)

    225

    225

    225

    225

    225

    Time

    4-5 hours

    1-1¼  hours/lbs

    1 hr/lb unwrapped + 30-45 mins wrapped

    30-35 mins/ib

    45-60 mins

    Internal Temperature (F)

    165

    165

    190-200

    165

    To desire

    Poultry

    Poultry is one of the favorite materials for smoking. Turkey is one of the most popular poultry. You may like smoked turkey recipes Below are seven kinds of smoked poultry. Let’s check it! 

     

    Turkey Wings

    Turkey Legs

    Chicken Thighs

    Chicken Quarters

    Whole Turkey-Slow

    Whole Turkey

    Whole Turkey-Fast

    Size (lbs)

    Small

    2

    Medium

    Medium

    12-16

    3-5

    12-16

    Temperature (F)

    225

    225

    225

    225

    225

    225

    275

    Time

    2-3

    3-4

    2-2½ hours

    3-3½ hours

    30-35 mins/lb

    4-5 hours

    18 mins/lb

    Internal Temperature (F)

    165

    165

    165

    165

    165

    165

    165

    Sides

    Are you interested in other side dishes except for smoked meat? The usage of the smoker is versatile, so you can take advantage to get an improved experience. Below are some popular sides such as Mac-N-Cheese, Corn On The Cob, potatoes, etc. You also can invent more delicious dishes as you want. 

     

    Mac-N-Cheese

    Corn On The Cob

    Potatoes

    Jalapeno Poppers/Abt’s

    Size (lbs)

    1½ 

    6-12

    Medium

    Large

    Temperature (F)

    225

    225

    225

    225

    Time

    1 hour

    1½ hour

    1-1½ hours

    1½-2 hours

    Internal Temperature (F)

    Golden brown

    Until tender

    Until fork tender

    Until fork tender

    Game

    You can make some smoked food for a game based on the table below. 

     

    Venison Roast

    Venison Tenderloin

    Jerky

    Size (lbs)

    4-6

    4-6 

    ¼ inches thick strips

    Temperature (F)

    225

    225

    140

    Time

    45-60 mins/lb

    45 mins/lb

    12-16 hours

    Internal Temperature (F)

    165

    165

    To desire

    #4 How To Use A Smoker With Wood Chips

    Flavor wood chips
    Flavor wood chips

    It’s up to your favorite flavor to use the exact dry wood chips. Besides, using wood chips is very easy as you just put them in while smoking. 

    Here are some kinds of flavored wood chips you can use: 

    • Hickory: Bold flavor and suitable for all meats
    • Mesquite: Bold flavor and suitable for only beef, poultry, and veggies
    • Alder: It has a mild sweetness and is advisable for fish and seafood.
    • Pecan: You can have mild sweet, and apply it for poultry, pork, wild game, cheese.
    • Maple: It provides mild sweetness and is suitable for poultry, pork, and cheese.
    • Apple: This flavor contributes delicately sweet and suits poultry, pork, wild game.
    • Cherry: Fruity sweet and for poultry, pork.  

    It is necessary to note that some flavors are not good for mixing, so they should be separative in smoking food. 

    Recommended Dishes For Using A Smoker

    You can check these recommended dishes below to practice smoking. 

    #1. Whole Fresh Ham

    Whole fresh ham is one of the popular dishes in smoked food meals. It is usually made for the holidays and is suitable for every season.

    #2. Smoked Trisket

    Simple with 3 ingredients but you will love this taste!

    #3. Beef Brisket

    Beef brisket is also one of the recipes you should try. The brisket includes tendon, which makes this dish more delicious.

    Final Thoughts

    Understanding how to use a smoker is necessary to make the best-smoked food. You should follow the process and tips above for perfect smoking. It is also advisable to try some smoked recipes to practice what you have learned. 

    Hopefully, our article helps you figure out the omission in the process of using the BBQ smoker. As a result, you can have the best experience in smoking delicious food for your family and friends. 

    Roger Lee
    Roger Lee

    Thanks for visiting my website. My name is Roger Lee, and I am a 30-year-old man with a hybrid blood of Chinese and Russian. I decided to set up this site to share with everyone my love and passion for open-air cuisine. It all started when my parents opened a restaurant and I had the chance of getting exposed to the art of outdoor cooking.
    This website aims at sharing about my hobby, recipes, and tips for cooking to everyone. Try them out and tell me about your experience.