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How to Use a Smoker Grill — A Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide

by Outdoor Cooking Pros October 30, 2021

How to Use a Smoker Grill

When it comes to outdoor cooking, having a smoker grill is often a crucial kitchen requirement. It’s every home owner’s dream to smoke meat in a luxurious charcoal grill, but not everyone is a cut-out for the tedious smoking process. Luckily, you can make your cooking times easier with this step-by-step guide made by our resident cuisine experts. 

What are Smoker Grills?

As you may have already known, a smoker grill is ideally meant to cook meat at low temperatures. As a cooking chamber capable of keeping the heat low for several hours, it can easily create smoke to make a flavorful food. 

When you shop for smoker grills, you’ll find ones operated with charcoal pellets and others that run with wood. While both offset smokers do bring smoky flavors to food through indirect heat and have a remarkable temperature control function, a charcoal smoker heats more easily by burning coals. On the other hand, wood grills get a smoky flavor by putting pellets in the firebox. 

How to Use a Smoker Grill: 8 Easy Steps 

Step #1: Prepare the Grill and Meat

Before you start cooking, it’s important to prep your smoking chamber properly. It may sound like a basic step, but preheating and cleaning your offset smoker will determine if your smoked meat will be cooked at a consistent temperature. 

After you’ve confirmed that the cooking surface is clean, it’s time to set up the temperature probes. Heat the smoker to an internal temperature of 400 degrees. 

Once it hits that desired temperature, lower it down to 200. Don’t skip this step because direct heat helps cleanse the grill grate and keep it away from contamination.

Prepare the Grill and Meat

When preparing meat to go on a smoker grill, you should consider the cooking cycle that’s allowable to your available time. If you intend to grill food that’s quicker to serve, our resident chefs suggest going for meat with thinner cuts. Hot dogs, in particular, are easier to smoke or grill, but the opposite applies to red meat such as beef. 

If you want your meat to have a rich flavor, you have the option to place the water pan or a hard foil bowl with spiced water under the grill grates where you’ll be cooking meat. The mixture of water and vegetable oil will create moisture for the meat during the smoking procedure.

Besides learning how to use a smoker grill, we also advise trying to create your own dry rub recipe to coat the meat with more flavors. It can be a mixture of any spices you want your food to taste, such as salt and pepper. 

Step #2: Light Charcoal

To turn the heat up, our food experts suggest using wet wood that has been soaked for at least 30 minutes. Only after that should you lit coals to let it produce smoke. It’ll take about thirty minutes before you can see the coal ash over.

Step #3: Place Charcoal on the Firebox 

After all that is done and well, open the grill firebox and add coals to enhance the production of smoke. Our team suggests keeping the smoker grill lid and firebox tightly closed until you need to put the meat in to avoid heat loss. 

Place Charcoal on the Firebox

Step #4: Maintain the Temperature

It’s no secret that complete oxidation will create more smoke[1], so it’s best to make use of the vent on your smoker grill while doing this process. Once the charcoal grills reach 225 to 250 degrees, you’re good to proceed to the next step.

Knowing the right amount of time to leave the meat enclosed is also crucial when trying to learn how to use a smoker grill. As for our team, we always advise beginners to follow the rule of thumb, which is one and a half hour cook timer per pound. 

Step #5: Place the Meat on the Smoker 

As soon as the temperature’s up, the smoker grill is ready to cook your meat. Put it on the middle grill grate for an even smoking process. Although it’s tempting, try not to open the smoker grill lid as this would affect the doneness of your food. 

Step #6: Add Wood/Wood Chips

Next, add wood chunks so that the grill chamber can deliver the smoky flavors to the food you’re cooking. For pork meats, our chefs would recommend hickory wood. But for turkey, it’s best to select cherry or applewood pellets for a mild taste. (Here's how to smoke turkey in an electric smoker.)

Step #7: Splash Water For Moisture

Nobody wants to serve dry meat during a special meal, so the best you can do is spray water to keep its surface moist. You can opt for apple juice if you want to play with the flavors at hand. It’ll humidify the hot smoke in the grill in addition to the water pans. 

Step #8: Check the Meat

Using the meat thermometer, check the meat every hour. The desired temp of the food would depend on your preferred doneness. The larger the cut, the longer it should stay on the grill. We also recommend refilling the water basin from time to time and duel up the smoker box (instructions on using a smoker box here).

Check the Meat

Tips and Reminders 

On Sustaining the Temperature 

It can be hard to control the food temperature when the meat is cooking in the smoker grill, but you can use the bottom or upper damper to release smoke and lower the heat. There are smokers that’ll allow you to adjust dampers according to how much airflow you want to release. 

Cleaning the Grill Regularly to Avoid Rust and Damage 

Right after serving, it’s a good idea to clean the grates with a steel brush while the surface is still hot. Doing this will give you an easier time to clean your grill and will help in avoiding rust as well. 


How do you start a smoker grill? 

To start a smoker grill, you have to set up the temp probes until it reaches consistent temperature. From there, light up the charcoal before putting it on the firebox. Upon heating up, place the meat inside. After that, throw in wood pellets for additional flavor and spray water for moisture until it’s done cooking.

Do you keep adding wood chips when smoking? 

Yes, you should keep adding wood chips every thirty minutes when smoking. However, it’s also recommended to add them early on in the process when the meat is still cool. And while it’s good for soaking in the food with smoke flavor, don’t do it before the flames are hot or when the coal is still raging with smoke. 


The key to learning how to use a smoker grill is knowing when to take action and when to stay still. And while many recipes differ by the serving portions and available tools, our resident chefs suggest mastering the ways of patience and controlling the temperature as this would result in an amazing smoked meal.

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