How To Use A Charcoal Smoker In 10 Steps (With Pictures)

Charcoal smokers are the most common types of smokers having been used for a longer time than any other type for smoker.

There’s one thing that a charcoal smoker gives which keeps it at the top of its game, that is the char- grill flavor that it gives off to foods. This cannot be compared to any other.

Charcoal smokers, however, are a bit more delicate to handle when it comes to heat management.

Hence, for this reason, we share easy steps on how to use a charcoal smoker to help you make the best of foods your guests will drool over.

Read along!

Charcoal Smoker 1

1. As required, get a charcoal smoker

A charcoal smoker is usually designed to cook food under direct heat hence an offset smoker might not give you the same result as you desire if you are thinking of cheating the rule.

Charcoal Smoker 2

2. Get your fire and heat ready

Open the smoker’s lid and remove the grill grates. Then, pour some coals in the fire area and light it up.

Leave the fire open to air to allow it have a good light on all the coals.

Once you have got a good light on your coals, manage the heat.

The specialty of using a charcoal smoker is the technique of managing the coals while cooking. Then, all the other aspects fall into place more easily.

Follow the next three steps to guide you in choosing the best form of coal arrangement to give you the best result on your food.

Charcoal Smoker 3

3. One – sided filling

Get a complete balance of hot and cold with this one. Arrange coals on one side of the fire area and the leave the other side empty.

The purpose for this is to allow you move food from the heated side to a completely cold area to control the heat level cooking the food.

A trick to this is that you can place an aluminum bowl with water on the empty side of the fire area. This will aid in adding some cool to the heated food when placed over the bowl.

Charcoal Smoker 4

4. Double sided filling

This technique unlike the former requires you to spread the lighted coal onto both left and right sides of the fire area while leaving the middle part clear of any coals.

It is a technique that should be used for cooking big portions of food as this creates more heat than the previous method.

A trick to this is to have one side loaded with more hot coals than the other to aid with heat control as you move the food from one side to the other.

Charcoal Smoker 5

5. All across filling

The third technique allows for an equal filling of coals across the fire box.

However, in order to control heat, the coals used will have to be less dense and spread openly across the fire area so as to create a fair balance of heat for smoking.

Charcoal Smoker 6

6. Add some flavoring

Soak some flavored wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes and then add them to the lighted coals. The goal of the wet wood chips is to give off the sweet smoky flavor to the food which is essential for the char-grill effect that we mentioned earlier.

Charcoal Smoker 7

7. Start cooking

Now that you have chosen your style for arranging the coals, you can now proceed to cook.

Place the grill grates over the fire and place your food on the grill grates and cook.

Charcoal Smoker 8

8. Apply the golden rule

Close the lid of the grill afterwards and leave the food to cook for at least 1 hour before opening the lid to check for anything.

Charcoal Smoker 9

9. Use the heat control setup

This is a good time to bring the coal set up style to food effect.

Open the lid and alternate the food over the arranged coals to manage the amount of heat that goes into the food as you desire.

Charcoal Smoker 10

10. Manage temperatures

Make good use of the dampers at the top and sides of the smoker to control airflow into the smoker.

Also, it is important to check temperatures with the thermometer attached to the machine or any other that is convenient to use to ensure that you have the exact temperature required to cook the food.



Make fire separately

An alternate way for making fire is to light up the coals in a separate chimney with coals and once they light up, transfer them to the smoker’s fire box.

This may be a more convenient method for some users.

Oil your grates

To avoid the grill grates from sticking food onto it, always grease it by brushing some vegetable oil on the grates.

A little oil should go a long way.

Have lighted coals on standby

Always ensure to have some more lighted coals in readiness to add to the fire if the heat is reducing and requires some more fire.

This will help maintain a uniform level of heat in the smoker.

Stay safe

Always wear heat proof gloves when cooking as the smoker will get very hot after a while.
Don’t risk yourself by using just a napkin when touching the smoker. This is too light a material to take chances with.

Take it one step at a time

For entry level users, it is advisable to start with a small amount of rib pieces while learning to smoke. (And if you’re newbie, I suggest you read this guideline about how to use a general smoker.

Then gradually, you can build yourself up and in no time you might be cooking for your community.

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