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A Beginner-Friendly Guide on How to Use a Smoker Box & Prevent a BBQ Disaster

by Outdoor Cooking Pros September 01, 2021

A Beginner-Friendly Guide on How to Use a Smoker Box & Prevent a BBQ Disaster

Unsure on how to use a smoker box? You may know it as a box you fill with wood for your gas grill to make smoked brisket.

Do you have to soak your wood chips? Do you put the box on the charcoal or the grills? Will the wood chips catch on fire?

No worries, everyone starts somewhere! Our kitchen and grilling experts will guide you along the way so you can learn how to use a smoker box so your BBQ party will turn into a gastronomic success.

How to Use a Smoker Box

Using a smoker box isn't as complicated as it seems. Here's how to use one for the best results:

Step 1: Stuff Your Smoker Box with Chips

Add your desired wood chips in your smoker box about3/4 of the wood chip capacity then close the lid.

Step 2: Throw Your Smoke Box in the Grill

During the smoking process, your smoker box needs to be placed as close to the heat source as possible.

smoke box on grill

  • If you're using a gas grill,  you'll need to place the smoker box on top of the burners.
  • If you're using a charcoal barbecue,  put it beside the coal.
  • If there isn't sufficient space,  you can put it on top of your charcoal.

You don't need to worry about the chips not burning on the charcoal. The smoker box will keep things at a low temperature so that smoke will appear.

Remember tokeep the lid closed during the cooking process of the barbecue so the smoke doesn’t escape.

Step 3: Refilling the Box

You'll find that you'll need to refill your box with wood chips every now and then. That's because wood burns faster than coal, so don't be surprised if you need to refill it often.

How Do You Know When to Refill It?

You'll know when to refill it when there'sno longer any smoke coming from the holes of your smoker box:

  • Using heat-resistant tongs, take the smoker box out from your gas barbecue. You can use the same tongs or heat-resistant gloves to open the smoker box and add more wood chips in it.
  • Finally, place the smoker box near the heat source again, and you're good to go!

Tips for Using a Smoker Box

Tip #1: Picking the Right Smoker Box

There are two primary types of smoker boxes out there:  the Under-Grate and the Over-Grate.

We'll show you the difference between the two.

The Under-Grate

Under-grate smoker boxes are meant to be usedunder the grill grateof your grill when you're cooking. They're typically made of stainless steel and can be found in different shapes and sizes.

The Over-Grate

The over-grate is meant to beused on top of the grill grate when smoking your food. A stainless steel smoker box like this can be found as pouches, grids, and trays.

Tip #2: Choosing Your Wood Chips

You might also want to know what wood chips you can use for your first smoke session, so we'll tell you what are the most popular wood chips to use during a BBQ session.

smoke box and wood chips

Apple Wood Chips

If you want to give your next meal a mildly sweet and fruity taste, then apple chips are a great option for you! They pair especially well with pork and poultry.

Alder Wood Chips

For asweet and musky touch, you can use alder wood chips. They're mostly used for salmon but you can also use them for poultry.

Cherry Wood Chips

Cherry chips go well with most meats, but they're best used with chicken, turkey, and ham. It's got a  mild, sweet, and fruity flavor to it.

Pecan Wood Chips

Pecan wood chips are best used on poultry, but they work well with most kinds of meat. It has a rich, sweet, and nutty flavor.

Hickory Wood Chips

You've most likely heard of this type of strong and sweet, bacon-like flavor.

It works best with red meats like pork, ribs, and beef[1]. Because of its strong flavor profile, you want to use this sparingly when smoking.

Mesquite Wood Chips

If you're looking for smoking chips that give astrong, earthy flavor to your red meat, then picking up some mesquite wood chips will do you well. Like with hickory chips, don't use too much of it.

Oak Wood Chips

If you want a combination of something like apple chips and mesquite chips, then oak wood chips are your best choice. It has a medium smoky flavor and pairs well with lamb, beef, brisket, and sausages.

Positioning Your Food

So you've made sure your smoker box is as close to the burners in your gas grill, but where does the food go?

When cooking with one, place your meats on the cooking grate,near thevents of your smoking box. That way, it can absorb more smoke from your smoking chips.

Tip #3: Keep Your Temperature Steady

Another important tip is to keep your cooking temperature as steady as you can.

Smoking chips usually start smoking at the heat range of 550 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. So before you add any meat to your grill, blast the grill temperature at its maximum so the wood can start smoking.

When your smoker box starts producing smoke, you can adjust the heat back to its regular cooking temperature.

Tip #4: Want More Smoke? Add a Chunk or Two!

If you want more smoke to come out from your smoker box, adding wood chunks in it will give you the smoke boost you need.

Tip #5: Soggy Chips Are Never Good

There's no need to soak wood chips anymore.

People soaked wood chips in water in the past so they wouldn't catch fire when placed on the burner. However, modern smoker boxes no longer have holes on the bottom.

Aside from that, if you soak your smoking chips in water, it will take longer for them to smoke. Water will evaporate into steam before the wood chips can smolder.

Tip #6: Handling Your Meat

Usingmeat straight from the refrigerator works best in a smoker since it absorbs smoke better than room-temperature meat.

So if you have fresh meat, let it cool in your freezer before using it with your smoker box.

Suggestions for a Smoker Box

If you need a quick suggestion for a smoker, the  Cave Tools Smoker Box is a good option for beginner smokers!

Cave Tools smoke box

It's easy to use with itshinged lid, offers great capacity for wood chips, and has a lifetime satisfactionguarantee! Meaning, if you ever feel like your smoker box isn't working well as you expected it to, you can return it for a full refund, even after a year.

Don't Own a Smoker Box?

So you might be thinking to yourself, I don't own a smoker box or any smokers, so how can I get smoked BBQ? You can makeyour own smoker box with things from your own kitchen!

All you need to do is get a foil pan, place your wood chips in it, cover it with aluminum foil, poke holes in it to allow the smoke to escape, and place it on the burner of your gas grills like you would do with a regular smoker box.

If you're using a charcoal grill, you can place wood chunks directly on top of the coals. You will have tosoak them beforehand though, so as not to risk a fire.

That way, you can still enjoy smoked meat without having to spend money on a smoker box or a smoking grill.

Ready to Use Your Smoker Box?

Now that you know the ins and outs of a smoker box with this guide, all that's left to do is start up your grill and start to use your grill accessories.

With that, we're sure you'll be rewarded with a nice meal with delicious, mouth-watering smoked meat!

There's more to learn about grilling and cooking. See more of our guides below!

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