How To Use A Charcoal Smoker? A Comprehensive Guide

Charcoal smokers offer a simple and delicious way to cook food outdoors. This post will show you how to use your charcoal grill for smoking in such a way that even a beginner can do it.

We also have some tips on getting the most out of every session to make sure things turn out great with minimal effort from start to finish – let’s get started right away!

What exactly is a Charcoal smoker?

Before knowing how they work or even whom to use them, you need to know some things. A charcoal smoker uses hot ash from hardwood trees as its heat source; this creates an environment perfect for barbecues because it can withstand high temperatures without burning anything down!

There isn’t much difference between Upright vs. Horizontal Offset smokers, except that the former is vertical and the latter is horizontal.

Sometimes, people will want something with more space inside (like if we’re making jerky), so people would pick either one of the above for their needs.

Why Charcoal Smokers are Great

The reason many people prefer charcoal grills for smoking as opposed to other types of smokers (electric smokers, pellet smokers and so on) is the flavor that is added from the charcoal.

When smoking on any type smoker you’re pretty much always going to use some sort of wood. The wood is what give the flavor to the meat. When the wood chips or pellets heat up they will begin to smolder which causes them to emit smoke and is what gives that smoky flavor to the meat.

On gas grills, pellet grills, electric smokers, the wood chips or wood pellets are the only thing that gives the flavor. But on a charcoal smoker you will not only get the wood smoke but also the charcoal smoke which gives an extra char-like flavor.

What is the purpose of a charcoal smoker, and how does it work?

How to use a charcoal smoker? Charcoal smokers cooks meat at a constant temperature for many hours. The interior temperature of the meat will eventually be equal to that of the air within the cooker.

People can only achieve that unique BBQ smoker flavor if the meat is simmered, which differs from a standard barbecue grill in which flames lap at the meat and sears within minutes.

The main advantage is that you can regulate how much heat source there is- since it’s just charcoal! You’ll also get that “smokey flavor” which no other type of smoker will give off entirely as this one does.

And don’t forget about all those different fuels such as wood chips or grapevine leaves added to the mix; they make certain dishes pop with something extra special.

Advantages of Using a Charcoal Smoker

The main advantage is that you can control how much heat source there will be, which allows for more versatility when adding different fuels like wood chips or hardwood pellets into the mix; This also leads back down some tasty paths!

When meat cooks up perfectly on one of these bad boys – especially if we’re talking about beef jerky here, folks- it tastes fantastic no matter what type of foodie you are.

How Long Should you Smoke the Meat for? – Smoking Chart

Here is a helpful chart with all the recommended smoking times and final temperatures of different meats.

You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat.

Type of MeatSmoking TempTime to Complete *Finished Temp
Brisket (Sliced)250°F1.5 hrs/pound205°
Brisket (Pulled)250°F1.5 hrs/pound210°
Beef Ribs250°F3-4 hrsTender*
Pork Butt (Sliced)250°F1.5 hrs/pound185°
Pork Butt (Pulled)250°F1.5 hrs/pound205°
Whole Chicken250°F4 hrs165°
Chicken Thighs250°F1.5 hrs165°
Chicken Quarters250°F3 hrs165°
Whole Turkey 12#250°F6.5 hrs165°
Turkey Leg250°F4 hrs165°
Turkey Wings250°F2.5 hrs165°
Turkey Breast – bone in250°F4-6 hrs165°
Pork Tenderloin250°F2.5 hrs145°
Breakfast Sausage250°F2 hrs145°
Fatties250°F2 hrs165°
Meat Loaf250 -300°F3 hrs160°
Meatballs (2 inch)250°F1 hr160°
Spare Ribs225-250°F5-6 hrsTender*
Baby Back Ribs225-250°F5-6 hrsTender*
Salmon225°F1 hrs145°
Smoked Corn225°F1.5 – 2 hrsN/A
Smoked Potatoes225°F2 – 2.5 hrsN/A

Using a Charcoal Smoker: Step-by-Step Instructions

It’s time to learn how to utilize a charcoal smoker. The Charcoal Grill is very simple-to-operate charcoal, but getting the cooking procedure correct. You can make delicious tasting meat the first time you attempt with effort and patience. Moreover, there are many different methods of smoking meat, ranging from traditional wood smokers to propane gas grills with custom-made inserts.

For instance, a good charcoal smoker is an attractive choice if you want the best effects and have room in your yard or garage. The hardwood charcoal has a more intense smoke flavor than briquettes. Slow smoking over low heat ensures that you get the most outstanding results.

Here are the instructions for using a charcoal smoker:

1. Getting Your Smoker Ready

If it’s packed when you buy it, take everything out of the box and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set up your smoker.

2. Make sure your grill grates are thoroughly clean.

If you have used your smoker or grill before, brush the grill grate clean with a wire brush or scrape it with a metal spatula before adding any charcoal. If necessary, use pliers to remove any stubborn char bits from the grill surface.

3. Prepare and Bring in the charcoal, A.K.A fuel.

Fill your smoker’s fuel tank. After cleaning the grill grate, add a layer of charcoal to the bottom of the smoker. Because standard charcoal briquettes burn at the correct temperature for smoking, they should be used. For instance, it’s unnecessary to spend a lot of money on boutique lump charcoal; most of it burns too hot for smoking. The most refined charcoal is the type that comes with your Grill.

You can also easy a chimney smoker to heat up the coal first, before putting it in the bottom tray of the smoker.

4. Wood chips are an excellent way to give your meat a smokey taste.

Put a handful of wood chips in a smoker box or an aluminum foil pouch and lay it on top of the charcoal if you want to enhance the flavor of your meat with smoke. You may use hardwood chips, such as apple, cherry, or hickory. Alternatively, place the wood chips in a stainless steel bowl. Place a metal mixing spoon or ladle over them to keep them from drying out. When you’re ready to cook, place the wood chunks in your firebox among the coals and wait for them to smoke up!

5. Temperature Control: Fill your water pan halfway with cold water.

To demonstrate, you should be able to get by with three-quarters full. The purpose of the water pan is defeated if you start with hot water, which serves as a temperature regulator.

6. Start a charcoal fire in the smoker.

If you don’t have a charcoal chimney starter, use a pyramid of coals to simulate its effects or heat up the coal within the grill itself. A little lighter fluid is also OK. Allow the coal to burn until it’s covered in a thin layer of white ash. This is when you may add the lit coals to your smoker. Then light it and wait for the coals to become white-hot.

7. On the Grill, grate your meat.

Place your meat on the grill grate above the burning charcoal and carefully avoid the flames. If you’re using a covered smoker, make sure it’s closed. You may cook your meat directly on the barbecue grill grates in your smoker. Some only have a single grate, whereas others have an upper and a lower grilling surface to simultaneously cook multiple foods. Beforehand, many pitmasters will create a special salt-and-pepper rub out of salt and spices and massage it onto the meat.

8. Keep the meat off the fire.

Make sure your meat isn’t sitting right over the fire. Don’t allow a wood-chip smoker box to rest against the top of the grill grates if you’re using one.

9. Monitor it: Raise or lower the temperature of your smoker.

Adjust the temperature. The optimum and absolute best-guaranteed grilling temperature for smoking meat is between 220ºF-275ºF. To decrease the temperature of your smoker, open its vents or take off its lid for a few minutes to release heat into the air. Close these gaps by repositioning charcoal, so there are fewer coals in the center and more around the outside of the pile to raise the temperature.

The lower ports allow air to enter the smoker. The additional oxygen in the mixture permits the coals to scorch faster.

On the other hand, the top vents allow the smoker to breathe. Accordingly, if the temperature is getting too high, you can open both upper vents and close both lower ones. If the temperature is too low, alter one or more. Most smokers come with a built-in thermometer for easy monitoring.

There are other options as well, including but not limited to: a grill cover, side burner/stand, and rotisserie attachment. These will work well with grilling meat on a gas or charcoal grill. These steps will show you how to achieve an evenly cooked steak at the end from the same materials used in smoking it.

10. Occasionally inspect your meat.

Check on your meat every half hour to ensure it isn’t overcooking. In this case, if the heat is too high, move the meat to a more fabulous area of the smoker. Raise the smoker’s temperature slightly if it takes too long to cook (every 30 minutes). Allow your meal to cook for a long time and slowly. It takes a long time to smoke with charcoal. The time needed to prepare a rack of ribs is probably about six hours, but it’ll take considerably longer for a large turkey. When you think your meal is done, use a meat thermometer to be sure. After putting in so much effort, you don’t want to trust your final product to non-numerical estimation.

11. Allow the heat to work and remove the meat from the smoker when it is soft, tender, and juicy.

Remove the meat from the smoker after it has cooked to your desired degree of doneness. Hence, let it rest for a minute before cutting and serving.

Extra Tips on How To Use a Charcoal Smoker Effectively

A good way to keep the temperature at a constant level between 220ºF-275ºF, is to have new coal heated before the old ones burn out. This is easiest to do with a chimney starter.

Usually charcoal will give you 2-3 hours of burn time, but for best results monitor the heat yourself regularly.

When the coals about to run out of heat, simply burn some new ones in your chimney smoker and replace them with the old ones.


So, there you have it, everything we need to know about using a charcoal smoker: How to use a charcoal smoker? By following or heeding these simple tips and tricks, you’ll be smoking up a storm in no time.

Moreover, if you still have any questions or concerns after reading this guide, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more help.

To conclude, we love nothing more than helping people create delicious smoked food, and we’re always happy to share our expertise with our readers.

Get out there, get some high-quality cuts of meat, and start practicing! Charcoal smokers’ barbeque taste will make your taste buds rejoice.

You may also experiment with various woods and tastes to develop your unique recipes once you’ve got them. Now get out there and start cooking! Cheers!

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