How to Operate a Smoker Grill, Types and Working Mechanism

You will find varying styles of barbeque from the mountains of Western North Carolina to central Texas. Depending on the regional traditions, you will witness special spices, sauces, and methods of cooking across the USA. It is because of the innovations of great cooks over the years and available ingredients. 

The only thing that connects barbecuing in all states is a classy smoky flavor filled into the smoked meat that can be changed in any way.

Most importantly, to smoke like a master, you need to know how to use a smoker and its materials. I will provide beginners with a proper guide to using a smoker.

What Is A Smoker?

A smoker is a kind of cooking appliance, using the smoke from wood chips or chunks to cook food. It is designed to replicate barbecue’s flavor but without using charcoal or wood. Smoking is common for cooking meat, fish, and vegetables over low heat for long periods. 

The food cooked in this way is moist and tender throughout. A smoker can be made of any material that conducts heat well, such as stainless steel, cast iron, or aluminum.

You can enhance the flavor by using herbs and spices, such as onions and garlics. It may also be constructed using wood chips or pellets that are soaked in water prior to use.

The main difference between a traditional barbecue grill and a smoker is the smoke they produce when cooking foods at low temperatures.

Barbecues typically produce more intense amounts of smoke than smokers, giving them more flavor while they cook their meats and vegetables.

smoker types

How Smokers Work?

Smokers are simple and effective devices that use heat to produce smoke for flavoring foods. It comprises a metal box which has a firebox below and a chimney above. A rack of wood or charcoal rests on top of the firebox, and hot coals are placed below this rack.

The heat from the coals causes smoke to rise through the chimney and fill the air in your smoker. The food you are smoking will be flavored by the smoke as it rises through your smoker’s chimney. The smoke turns red or brownish in color depending on the type of wood used and its moisture level.

There are some smokers with built-in thermometers that let you know when your food is ready. Whereas others have gauges that show you how much more smoke is needed before your food will be done. After food is prepared, you can turn the smoker off and serve the meal. 

These are the fundamental components of a smoker:


It is where you will place your charcoal or wood pieces at an appropriate temperature before adding them to your smoker. You need to ensure that they are properly burning. Otherwise, the fire will extinguish and will ruin everything you have worked so hard to cook.

firebox management

Heating Surface

how to use a smoker

The heating surface is where you will place your food while cooking in your smoker. It can be metal plates, bricks, or clay bricks placed directly with coals or briquettes (loaded with coal pellets).


A chimney is a simple structure used to control the flow of smoke into your smoker. It is necessary to maintain a steady temperature and remove moisture from the air.

The bottom of your chimney should have an opening that allows smoke to escape the top of the cooker while preventing ash and other debris from falling out.


Smoker Box

smoker box

It is where most of the smoke comes out from the smoker. When you use it, air circulates through the holes in it.

A good way to get great food out of your smoker is using wood chips or pellets instead of actual wood (which may not be available where you live).

Smoker Rack

The part of the smoker holds the food as it cooks, allowing it to drip away from the heat source underneath.

Some smokers have racks built into them, while others require separate racks, which you must purchase separately.


Meat Probe Thermometer

meat probe thermometer

A meat probe thermometer allows you to monitor how hot your food is getting while cooking inside a smoker and whether or not it needs any additional attention.

They’re typically sold separately from the smoker but can sometimes be included with other accessories like grilles or fireboxes. 


How To Use A Smoker?

There are some simple steps that you have to follow when using a smoker.

Start The Fire

Firstly, you will need to start the fire. You can do this by lighting charcoal or using a liquid fuel like propane or natural gas. Lighting charcoal is easiest when you use a chimney starter.

For the best results, ensure that your smoker has enough charcoal and that your cooking area has adequate ventilation. You should also ensure that there is enough space around the charcoal so that no sparks fly into the eyes, face, or other parts of the body.

Start The Fire

Season The Food


Next, you will want to season your food with salt and pepper before putting it in the smoker. It will make it more flavorful and tasty when eaten by humans and pets.

Seasoning food before putting it in the smoker is important because if you leave it uncooked for too long, bacteria may grow on it, making it unsafe for human consumption. 

Place The Food On The Smoker Rack

Put the food (meat, fish, or vegetables) inside the smoker. Make sure that there is enough space for the food to be cooked and not overcooked.

If you use a smoker with a water pan, fill it up with water and place it on top of the food you want to cook. Close it up by putting locks on each side of your smoker (if you have one).

putting meat on grill grates

Adjust The Temperature


Adjust the temperature of your smoker to something around 225° F. It depends on how fast your oven heats up. You should aim for somewhere between 180-200° F for long cooking times, such as overnight or during cold weather conditions.

If you are using an electric smoker, set it at this temperature before putting anything into it, so there is no chance of overheating or burning anything inside.

Turn Off The Smoker After Cooking

After you have done this and taken out the cooked meat, you can turn your smoker off and leave it until the next time. As a result, it will cool down and stop emitting smoke. Once the smoker becomes cool, you can store it, but try to clean it properly before storing it.

How To Set up A Smoker?

Follow these steps to set up your smoker: 

  • Season your smoker to protect it from rust or corrosion due to the dryness inside it. You can eliminate the impurities out of your smoker no matter it is a factory residual, grease, or dust.
  • Place your meat on the rack, fat side down. This is important because it allows fat to drip off during cooking and prevents flare-ups from the fat.
  • Place wood chips or chunks on top of your meat. The wood provides a smoke flavor but not too much heat, so you do not burn your meat. You can also use fruit wood chunks or applewood chunks for some extra flavor. 
  • Fill the smoker with about 1 inch of water (or enough to keep it moist). It will yield vapors in the smoker and produce tender and juicy meat. 
  • Ensure that there are no gaps around the door or bottom of your smoker while cooking inside it. Otherwise, cold air will come in and cool down your food before it is done cooking. 

Types Of Smokers

Following are the common smoker types you can get: 

Electric Smoker

An electric smoker is powered by electricity to heat the food for cooking it. Electric smokers are ideal for smoking, grilling, and smoking fish or meat.

They have an element inside that heats up the water pan and creates steam that circulates around the food and cooks it evenly.

It suggests absolute beginners have an electric smoker as they are easy to use. 

electric smokers

Gas Smoker


This smoker uses gas or LPG to heat up its cooking chambers. It is inside a separate box from the main body of the grill itself. 

You can easily clean this smoker than electric ones because it do not have any moving parts. However, they require more maintenance than electric smokers because you will need to clean out ash buildup occasionally. 

Charcoal Smoker

This type of smoker uses charcoal as fuel for heating the grill’s cooking chamber. Charcoal burns at a much slower rate than wood, so you can cook more at once without having to add more charcoal.

It produces more smoke than electric smokers because electricity is not needed to heat up the cooking chamber. For a beginner, it can be tougher to operate than an electric smoker.


Pellet Smoker

pellet smoker

If you want the convenience of an electric smoker and the delicious smoky taste of a charcoal smoker, then a pellet smoker should be your pick.

The pellet smoker is an excellent choice for beginners because it is easy to use and clean, but it requires a little more attention than other types of smokers.

The pellets are made with wood or other natural materials, and they burn slowly and evenly, giving you consistent results every time you use the smoker.

Final Words

When it comes to using a smoker, the better you know how to use it, the better meat can smoke. From knowing how to choose the best smoker for your needs to purchasing the best fuel, all of that is covered here. Even if you have been using one for years, it is good information to keep on hand whenever you are in charge of smoking food. 

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