Tips For Using a Smoker

For Father's Day, my dad got a shiny new smoker. While he's enjoyed experimenting with it so far, he's run into some technical difficulties. When I asked him what the instruction booklet said, I was shocked to hear that it does not include any smoking directions! Well listen up dad — and anyone else out there who is using a smoker this Summer — here are some important tips on how to properly use a smoker.

  • First of all, be patient. Smoking is an art form in which meat is slow-cooked over a long period of time. It involves an element of trial and error.
  • Soak the wood chips overnight or for a good amount of time.
  • The temperature in a smoker is controlled by vents. Most smokers have two: one at the bottom by the firebox and one on the top. The bottom vent sucks in air for the fire, while the top vent is a draft that pulls the hot air through the smoking chamber. If both vents are open, the fire will grow and the temperature will rise.
  • To better understand the way these vents affect your smoker, play with them a little. Once the fire is going, close the bottom vent and leave the top one open. Note the change in temperature. Then close the top a little and see how that changes the temperature, etc.
  • The meat absorbs a lot of heat, so be sure to check the temperature regularly.
  • Use a water bath. Fill a roasting tray with water and place underneath the meat. As the meat cooks, the water tray will catch the juices, which then evaporate and infuse the meat with more flavor.
  • Different types of wood chips — hickory, mesquite, cherry, etc. — will affect the flavor of the meat.
  • The ideal temperature for smoking is between 230° and 250° F.
  • If using charcoal, remember that the coals will start to cool after 60 minutes so be sure to have plenty of fresh charcoal.
  • Each pound of meat needs about 90 minutes of cook time.
  • Don't lift the barbecue cover too often — it will let all the smoke out!

Do you have a smoker? What are your tips for smoking meat?

Don't trust the built in thermometer. They're not very accurate. Pay close attention to the temperature! Use hardwood charcoal. You can add them to the firebox at any time unlike briquettes. For longer smoking times, use chunks, not chips. Don't oversmoke.
I saw some smokin bacon on there.......
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