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How to Use a Smoker

When you're ready to change up your outdoor cooking style, consider using a smoker or the smoker attachment for your grill to create meals with deep smoky flavors that will make your mouth water. Using a smoker can be a relatively easy task if you have the right tools and the know-how. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using an indoor or outdoor appliance like a smoker. You'll also need a few extra pointers if you want to build up your smoking repertoire. With these tips on how to use a smoker, you'll be on your way to eating freshly smoked meals and snacks.

Marinate or dry rub the meat before you smoke it

Season the meat the day before you smoke it so that the flavors have time to soak into the meat. You can use a dry rub or a flavorful marinade that will complement the smoky flavors that will come from using your smoker.


Add wood chips for flavor or use flavored charcoal

Whether you have a charcoal, electric or gas smoker, adding wood chips or wood-flavored charcoal will enhance the taste of your meats and veggies. For simplicity in a charcoal grill smoker, look for charcoal briquettes with added wood flavor. You can also add wood chips on top of your coal briquettes or gas grill for that smoky wood flavor. If you use wood chips, it can be beneficial to soak them in water before adding them to the grill. You may need to add more chips throughout the cooking process. Only add chips when you're checking the meat,and keep the lid closed as much as possible.


Season the water

If your smoker utilizes a water pan, you can use some of your favorite herbs or seasonings to create a unique smoky flavor. Try basil and garlic smoked chicken by adding fresh garlic and basil leaves to the water pan when smoking a whole chicken, and then serve it with pasta or risotto.


Pre-heat your smoker

Make sure that the smoker is at the desired temperature, as determined by your recipe, before you add meat to the grates. This will help ensure that you're starting at the temperature level that you want to maintain.


Keep an even heat

The most important tip for using a smoker is to make sure that the temperature is even throughout the cooking process. With a charcoal smoker, it may be more difficult to maintain a steady temperature than with an electric or gas smoker. This may mean you have to keep a close eye on your smoker for the first several smoking experiences to understand when you need to adjust the heat or add more coals.


Avoid opening the lid frequently

While it's important to check on the meat a few times throughout the cooking process, you want to make sure that you aren't opening the lid and letting out smoke and heat on a regular basis either. This will make it more difficult to maintain that even temperature. Keep the lid closed and make use of the vents in your smoker to ensure proper heating and ventilation.


Give it time

Because you're cooking at a low heat, about 200 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, the smoker is going to take more time to cook your food than a typical grill would. Plan to spend several hours with food in the smoker, depending on the size and type of meat you're smoking. The more often you open the smoker lid, the more you'll extend the cooking time.


Practice makes perfect

The best way to get to know your smoker is to keep using it. Once you've read through the manufacturer's guidelines, you'll want to do a trial run with your first smoked meat of choice. You could start by perfecting onestyle of meat, and continue cooking it until you've figured out the ideal way to keep the temperature even throughout your cooking experience. You could also try out a variety of different meats and other items to test the different features and intricacies of your smoker. Either way, the more you practice, the better you'll get at smoking food.