How to use a smoker bbq in 10 easy steps
A smoker barbecue, also known as a pipe smoker, horizontal smoker, or an offset barrel smoker is a device that is designed to allow you to smoke meat slowly. This process allows for a gentler, slower, and longer cooking process. The low and slow method creates a fall off the bone dreamy, tender texture in your meat.
There’s no denying that smoker BBQ is a more complex device to use than a standard grill, and you have to learn how to use it to get the best results. This guide will explain how to use a smoker BBQ in 10 easy steps. If you follow these basic instructions and give your smoker grill a few trial runs to help you get your temperatures right and to calibrate the machine, you’ll soon be smoking meat as well as anyone.
Whether you choose a more complicated reverse flow, offset smoker, or you’re looking for a more simple device, this guide will help you smoke properly, each and every time.
#1 Buy a BBQ Smoker
The first step is to buy a smoker and there are several options open to you. You can choose either gas, charcoal, or electric device, all of which can easily smoke everything from Turkey to Jerky.
Your primary focus is to create meat with a deep smokey flavour, so we’d always recommend a charcoal smoker. They are slightly more difficult to master as maintaining the temperature is complicated and much harder to regulate than electric or gas smoker BBQs. However, for a true smokey taste and texture, there simply is nothing better. Remember that learning to smoke meat is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you’re not too concerned about the quality of your meat, then you could always buy an electric smoker as they’re simple to use. You just plug it in set your temperature and then you can walk away. However, they create nothing as authentic as the smokey taste you’ll get from a charcoal smoker.
Buying a gas smoker will just literally be a matter of preference. They are comparable to electric smokers in that you can set the temperature and leave it alone. The only differences are that you must monitor it to make sure you don’t run out of gas.
You can find a whole range of smoker BBQ’s in our online shop.
#2 Choose the Fuel you want to use
If you follow our recommendations and go for a charcoal smoker BBQ then the next thing you have to choose is the type of fuel you want to use. The wood chips you use in your smoker will dictate the taste and flavour, you can choose from a wide variety of woods which will each give you a unique taste.
The five most popular are Apple, Hickory, Cherry, Alder, and Oak. Always make sure that the wood you use is cured and chemical-free as you really don’t want to add any chemicals or chemical tastes to your food.
#3 Set up two temperature probes
The key to successfully smoking meat is maintaining the temperature of your smoker BBQ. The vast majority of low to middle-range smoker BBQs come with cheap thermometers which can be fairly inaccurate. This is because they are only really designed to measure the temperature at the very top of the grill. However, since your food is in the center of the grill, the difference will lead to fairly large discrepancies. Purchasing high-quality open thermometers will help you monitor any fluctuations in temperature as your wood burns.
Experts recommend that you have a small hole in the door on either end of the smoking chamber, but as close to where your food will be placed as possible. This is where you should place your temperature probes so that you don’t have to lift the lid of your smoker and release the smoke or heat inside.
Purchasing two thermometers that have a 4-inch stem and placing one on either side of your BBQ smoker will help you keep a good idea of the internal temperatures of your device, therefore, creating more accurate results.
#4 Buy a chimney starter to light your charcoal BBQ
Once you’ve prepared your meat and are ready to cook the next step is to fire up your smoker BBQ. A chimney starter is a great little device to make this process more straightforward. Simply light the chimney starter and wait 15 minutes and it will then be ready to be poured into your grill.
The best advice is to stick with charcoal as a primary fuel as wood fires are far too difficult to manage and too many people end up spoiling their meat because of the ash and smoke. Wood should only really be used in order to flavour the meat.
#5 Open the Chimney and Intake baffles and add your lit coals.
Every smoker BBQ needs oxygen and fuel to create heat, so how you control your grill’s intake of oxygen is the most simple way to control its temperature. Most standard BBQ smokers come with chimney baffles and intake baffles. Open both fully before you add your fuel and you can adjust them as your smoker heats up.
Add your charcoal into your firebox and wait until your BBQ smoker reaches the temperature you want. This is usually between 106 degrees Celsius and 121 degrees Celsius. After adding your meat always ensure that you seal the firebox and smoker doors as much as possible, as any opening will trigger a temperature fluctuation and allow smoke or heat to escape.
#6 Monitor and maintain the temperature
The next point in the process is to adjust the smoker BBQ intake baffle to control the heat. They design these baffles as we mentioned earlier to control the flow of oxygen to your BBQ and they have the single biggest impact on the smoking process. The chimney baffle will control the smoke levels in your BBQ and have a slight impact on the temperature in the cooking chamber.
In the beginning, you should leave the chimney baffle open fully and set the intake baffle at half open, gradually adjust these until you get a stable temperature. If you see any drop off in temperature, you need to adjust the baffles and refuel the smoker when required.
#7 It’s time for the flavour
Once you’ve reached and can maintain your required temperature it’s time to add your flavouring. Most experts will recommend that you use wood chunks instead of chips as they offer a more consistent and slow burn. You must place them around the edge of the charcoal and not directly on the hottest point. Remember you’ll only need a few chunks per cooking cycle to help infuse your meat with the wood smoke. Fruit woods and hardwoods offer the best smoking flavour and you must avoid using softwoods because they are high in resin that can produce toxic smoke.
#8 Increase the humidity in the BBQ Smoker
If you can introduce some moisture to the smoking process, it will help your meat absorb more of the smokey flavour. This can be done in two ways, firstly by adding a water pan to the grate directly over your coals. This will help humidify the smoke as the water evaporates. Secondly, later in the smoking process if your meat appears to be dry you can have a spray can of a mixture of water and apple juice on the side and spray your meat and this will help it stay juicy and absorb more smoke.
#9 You have to be patient
Perfecting the art of smoking meat takes a lot of time and patience so you must set aside at least several hours but if you’re taking on a larger cut or even a whole pig, you must smoke this for up to 24 hours to ensure that the meat is tender. When you’re looking to use the smoker BBQ, you’re not interested in a medium-rare side of beef, you’re looking for a moisture-rich, tender cut that has a specific texture throughout the meat.
For example, if you’re smoking chicken this can be done at around 74 degrees Celsius but if you want the best results, cook it at 82 degrees Celsius as this will cause the collagen in the chicken leg to turn to gelatin making the meat far more tender and giving it a perfectly soft texture
#10 The last check
As we mentioned previously, using a smoker BBQ is not an exact science and several variables can affect the smoking process. One hour before the meat is due to be finished, always give it one last check.
It’s always better to slightly under smoke or undercook your meat rather than overcook it. Unfortunately, overcooking is very common in smaller home smokers. So before the process finishes remove the meat and check to see if it’s done, also remember that some types of wood will give your meat a redder colour, making it slightly more difficult to identify when it is cooked correctly.
Learning to smoke meat is a skill, and once you get your hands on your first smoker BBQ, it won’t take long to appreciate how special this process is when compared to a standard BBQ. Mastering the arts of smoking meat for a long time while adjusting and replenishing the fuel as needed will prove to be an exhilarating journey. Once you get your first cut with its unique rich flavour, crispy outer skin, and tender melting texture inside, you’ll realise that your smoking journey has only just begun. If you’ve enjoyed our How to use a smoker BBQ in 10 easy steps article, please share it.