How To Use A Vertical Smoker?

First-timers may find it confusing to use a vertical smoker. But, after learning how to use a vertical smoker, you will find it very easy to use. It is not very challenging to see it. However, vertical smokers are much more popular in the market as it is easy for the beginner to learn their usage.

A vertical smoker is an ideal smoker for smoking meats and vegetables. Different liquids and spices can enhance the flavor of your food. An easy way is to throw the charcoal and light it, add a waste bowl, enter the food, close the smoker and wait. You can read the further in detail process in the article.

What Is A Vertical Smoker?

All gas smokers can be considered vertical, provided they are vertically oriented. It means they come in several variations based on the fuel they use — for example, water smokers, electric smokers, ugly drum smokers, and vertical charcoal smokers.

In a vertical charcoal smoker, a firebox is located at the bottom of the cooking chamber or cylinder/vertical box, where the fire is lit. Vertical smokers do not have mechanical or electrical parts, which is why they are beginner-friendly.

There is no need to debate why this part is not working or which part is connected to which part. The main thing you should remember is that it has a small cooking chamber so that you can cook only a few pieces at a time. However, it is big enough to put ten ribs, pork shoulder, and 2-4 pieces of meat, each carrying 10 lb.


The good thing about such smokers is that they are low-priced smokers of all kinds. Because of their low price, they are affordable for those who want to do smoking without purchasing an expensive smoker.

They are also portable and lightweight, so you place them anywhere except for the electrical smokers that need a lot of space.

Besides the many more benefits of vertical smokers, there are also negative aspects. As I have already told you, there is a small cooking chamber, so it will waste a lot of your time cooking large quantities of meat. The water pan becomes dirty quickly, so you need to clean it after each use.

How Does A Vertical Smoker Work?

Vertical smokers are divided into three different sections.

  • Cooking Chamber
  • Water Pan
  • Firebox

There is a water pan in the middle and a firebox at the bottom from where the heat comes. You will need a water pan to make sure that the food is flavorsome, succulent, and in place, and it contains a liquid that keeps your food moist while cooking. 

Vertical smokers have cooking chambers at their top, and because the cooking chamber is above the Smoke, the flavors gradually infiltrate the meat. Your vertical smoker should have the following basic features. There is less Smoke coming out of front-loading doors when checking on meat than from top-loading doors.

Several vertical smokers even come with two doors, so you can check whether the water pan is complete and the heat level is adequate without opening the chamber. You have to ensure that you have checked the temperature range of your smoker, and for additional flexibility, choose a smoker with adjustable shelves.

The smoker’s temperature should be appropriate for your needs since thicker meats such as steak may need a higher heat than slimmer fish. Charcoal vertical smokers are the most widely used vertical smokers as they provide good flavor, but you can also use electric or gas smokers for cooking.

How To Use A Vertical Smoker?

Now, you know what a vertical is and how it works. So, it is to discuss how to use a standing smoker bbq. The complete guide on how to use a vertical smoker with an offset firebox is the following: 

Set Up Your Smoker

If you are going to smoke, you should place your smoker in a place that is easy to access and away from structures so that you can easily eat the meat. Taking your smoker apart and set the base where you want it is a good idea. Besides, ensure that you keep it on flat ground, and there should be no obstacles around it. 

Fire Up The Smoker

Assuming you bought a vertical charcoal smoker for continuity’s sake, it does not matter which type you have. You have to proceed in the same way. In the following process, light up your smoker.

The concept of the vertical charcoal smoker is the same as that of electric vertical smokers, but electric smokers have a little different mechanism. The charcoal and wood chips give better results, so that you can use any of them.  

You have to place the fuel into the charcoal chimney or charcoal grill and light it up with the help of lighter fluid. Since charcoal lights up reasonably quickly and maintains its heat consistently, wood chips can help enrich the Smoke depending on the wood you use. Add the wood chips when they start becoming light gray. 

Fill The Water Pan With Water

Water the water pan after igniting the fire. The pan’s liquid helps moisten the meat and stabilize the temperature during smoking. However, you can also use different liquids, such as beer, to flavor your food uniquely. Spices can also be added to the water to flavor it.

It is more important to fill the pan with liquid so the meat will remain lenient and moist than to choose the fluid type. Fill the pan 3/4 with water, it is pretty enough, and you do not need to refill it again while smoking. 

Filling it until the top is not recommended, as the fluid can spill outside, and the fire will extinguish before the process starts. After filling it with water, place it inside the smoker and go further. 

Place The Grills and Food

After setting up the firebox and water pan, it is time to put your meat into the cooking chamber. First of all, place the grill properly in the middle. Whenever you are placing your food, make sure it will not touch the sides of the smoker, as it might end up soaking up dirt that may be there.

Doing this can also ensure that the hot air and Smoke can adequately go to your food. Each piece of meat should have some space between it. When the smoker is finished smoking, close its lid. To keep your hands from getting hot, you should wear heat-resistant gloves.

How To Use A Vertical Smoker

Monitor The Heat

How much time your food will take for smoking depends upon the type of fuel and food. You can check the temperature of the smoker by using a thermostat. Always remember not to remove the lid to check the food. You will have to add other things and fuel after the 90 minutes. There is no need to check the water bowl and food. After 90 minutes of it, your food will become ready. 

Take The Meat Out And Let It To Rest

It should be clear that your meat has been appropriately smoked if you followed the previous steps. Take it out by using tongs and leave it to the rest. 

Types Of Woods That Add A Distinct Flavor To Your Food

With wood chips, you can enhance the flavor and taste of your food. Your choice of wood will affect the result. Wet woods are recommended for this purpose rather than dry woods. A few types of wood chips are described below:


Applewood is a better option if you want a sweet and mild flavor to your food. It will prove best for cooking with turkey or chicken. With this wood, you can expect low and slow cooking as the applewood smoke takes some time to infuse into the food.


If you are cooking cold-smoke salmon or fish, the best wood for your smoking is alder, which will add a delicate and sweet flavor to your food.


Cherry wood is always the first choice of grill masters. It contains a fruity and soft flavor that can enrich the taste of ham, chicken, turkey, and beef. Also, it will become better when used along with other hardwoods like hickory.


The more versatile wood that you can use for cooking is hickory. It will work best with any red meat and significant cuts of ribs. If you are adding spices, you will need to be extra cautious since hickory wood chips introduce a very robust flavor to your meat. Your meat can taste bitter if you use it in excess.


Maple wood can introduce a more robust and subtle flavor to your food, so it works ideally with poultry and pork. It can add a sweet and flighty taste to beef, which is also suitable for beef smoking.


The mesquite wood is exceptional for grilling and smoking red meat because it contains a strong flavor. The safety precautions while using it are to use it in small quantities, as excessive use can destroy the meat’s natural flavor.


Oak will give a strong flavor to your meat, so it is an ideal wood for beginners. Use it in small quantities, or it will destroy the meat’s taste. It will work best with meats such as sausages, brisket, and beef.


If you want to get the nutty and sweet flavor, then pecan wood is recommended. Using it with other hardwood is also advised, as it contains an intense sweet flavor. However, it is best for smoking beef briskets and ribs. 

Vertical Smoker Tips

It is easy for beginners to learn how to use a vertical smoker. The more you use it, the more you discover new features to simplify the process. The tips that can help you a lot while cooking with the vertical smoker are the following:

  • Learn To Wait
  • Wash your smoker regularly
  • Always ensure that you have to wear your gloves while smoking
  • Refill the water pan if necessary
  • Marinate your meat
  • Do not check the food again and again
  • Learn how to control heat

Frequently Asked Questions

Fill the water pan with hot water, then place it in the barrel on the bottom hooks. Now, place this barrel carefully on the charcoal pan section. The wire racks should be replaced in the barrel section, one over the hooks and the other over the water pan. And your smoker is ready to smoke.

The heat source of the vertical smokers is present on the bottom so that the maximum temperature will be here. Place the lightweight meat on the higher rack and the heavy-weight beef on the bottom.

Depending on your smoker’s size, you can use gas, charcoal, or wood. Before transferring your fuel to the base unit, give it twenty minutes. The energy should have been scorching by this time. But, you have to ensure that it will not be too hot as it can burn the wood too rapidly.

If you start the grill on Smoke while the lid is open, you will see a lot of Smoke within 4-5 minutes. Now, you have to wait till you notice less Smoke and hear the less thriving sound of the fire, then close the lid and turn it to the desired temperature. Then, add the food to the smoker when the temperature reaches your will. 

Final Words

Vertical smokers are becoming more popular day by day. They are more lenient and easy to use than other smokers. I hope you can follow the instructions in this article which can guide you through the process of smoking food in your vertical smoker.

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