How To Use A Charcoal Smoker Grill?

The Barbeque fans must know the perfect time to plan outdoor grilling and fast food parties. Take time for charcoal smoker out and use it for delightful and quality enjoyment. But first, you need to learn how to use a charcoal smoker grill in the best possible way, whether you will grill in it or plan to prepare bbq. Because it’s quite tricky to operate the charcoal smoker properly, although nothing is impossible, you only need to follow the main guidelines that would surely help you prepare wonderful smokey meat in the charcoal smoker.

There are numerous books written to provide knowledge on how to use a charcoal smoker, but they are too lengthy, and you have to sit and read for weeks at least to understand. However, this article contains information regarding charcoal smokers written in user-friendly language to solve your main problems while smoking. Similarly, all the beginners out there, who want to prepare bbq flawlessly by using these coal smokers, can take this article seriously.

Additionally, this article covers the details about the charcoal smoker, its types, how to use it, advantages, disadvantages, and frequently asked questions. If you consider buying it then go through the charcoal smokers buying guide and pick one for yourself among the top-rated best charcoal smokers grills.

Scroll down and get started!

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What Is A Charcoal Smoker?

The smoker that provides one with the smoked food in the low heat temperature around 220 F to 250 F through the burning charcoal process is called a “Charcoal smoker.” The process of smoking food in a charcoal smoker takes quite a long time, but it serves the best results in the end. 

Moreover, these charcoal smokers are manufactured in different forms and shapes. You can find small and large charcoal smokers in the market with ultimate beneficial features. Hence, these smokers demand extra babysitting and focus but provide wonderfully flavored meat in the end and pay off all efforts.

Charcoal Smoker VS Charcoal Grill

A charcoal grill is a different appliance from a charcoal smoker specially used to cook meat or food openly and directly. However, some companies are selling advanced appliances that can be transformed into charcoal smoker and grill simultaneously. Hence, the charcoal smoker grill can provide smoked meat, but one must attain professional cooking and temperature management techniques.

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Types Of Charcoal Smokers

1. Vertical Charcoal Smoker

There are four main components of vertical smoker that are:

  • Water Pan: It is placed right above the firebox, whereas its purpose is to regulate and control the heat temperature when required. Similarly, the water chamber is approximately full of cool liquid that manages heat temperatures and increases them when needed.
  • FireBox: The firebox is the section where the heat generates. It is supposed to fill with charcoal, briquettes, and wood chips accordingly. But one needs to have proper knowledge of the quantity of coal, briquettes, and wood chips that will go directly into the firebox. Also, one must know the exact time when to add these things. Therefore, adding these chunks to the firebox can slightly transform the flavor of your food into a delicious smokey one.
  • The Lid: The lid can be found at the top of the smoker that helps to keep smoke packed and make your food covered. The lid needs to be closed right after placing the food. Additionally, its purpose is to keep steam and smoke in the chamber, and sometimes when needed, it vents the steam.
  • Cooking Chamber: In the cooking chamber, the food is being cooked or placed. There are grill grates placed in the chamber of charcoal smoker on which the food sits and under the process of cooking.

2. Box or Cabinet Smoker

The box smoker is also called a cabinet smoker. These are like vertical smokers, but the difference is the front load doors they have. Moreover, it has a firebox at the bottom, a water pan, and then on the above food racks. Furthermore, it features a water pan, heat controlling and a damper system. 

3. Offset Smoker

The offset smokers are the most traditional. They are horizontal in shape and are large. Moreover, the charcoal smoker contains two compartments, the small one and the large one. The smaller compartment is where the charcoal is being placed and burned. Then, the heat transfers from the small compartment to the next compartment that is a large one. Also, in a large section, the food is being cooked. Furthermore, it is quite difficult to use an offset smoker as compared to other charcoal smokers. It demands complete babysitting while preparing food and also demands professional skills to run it.

How to Use a Charcoal Smoker?

Charcoal smokers perform their duty perfectly in providing delicious smoked food every time; however, they require a little bit of practice to use a charcoal smoker. After cooking two to three times in a charcoal smoker, one can get proficient and successfully prepare a lump of ultimate smoked meat. Following are the steps that may provide you with information on how to use a charcoal smoker. Scroll down and read the steps carefully so that you won’t miss anything.

1. Fuel Management and Preparation

Before placing the charcoal briquettes, ensure that the bottom section or coal chamber is properly cleaned and doesn’t contain unnecessary stuff and ashes. Then you need to insert the charcoal into the fire ring. Along with pouring coal, one can soak the wood chips in the water. Therefore, when cooking meat, you will need soaked wood chips to add flavor to your meat.

Which Charcoal Is Perfect To Use?

It is best to use charcoal briquettes because it’s easier to burn and provide the good smoke at low temperatures. Also, avoid using fancy lump charcoal because it can get hot very easily, create vast heat temperatures, and burn your food easily. 

How Much Charcoal Is Required To Use?

Most importantly, the quantity of charcoal is directly proportional to the time that total contributed to smoking. Similarly, if you plan to cook for more than 12 to 15 hours, then a 15-pound bag of premium quality Charcoal briquettes is enough.

2. Fill the Water Pan

Filling the water pan with approximately three-quarters of water can provide smoke and moisture to your meat while cooking. Also, it helps in controlling temperature and keeps your meat tender, moist, and soft. Therefore, by doing this, you may save the meat’s crust from getting hard and thick.

3. Use Chimney Starter to Light Up the Coal

Chimney starters are easily available in the market, making the briquettes lighting process feasible and quick. Similarly, you have to light the charcoal briquettes with the help of a chimney starter and burn the coal. Also, if you feel difficulty burning coal, you may use paraffin cubes to make the burning process easier. After that, you can transfer the burning and glowing coals from the chimney starter to the smoker.

4. Now, Place Your Meat in the Grill Grate

Then it is time to place the meat at the bbq grill grate in the charcoal smoker grill to start the cooking process. Usually, a charcoal smoker contains two grates (the upper and lower ones); however, some contain a single grill. So, if you are using multiple grates, you can utilize both grill grates and prepare a vast amount of food. 

If you want to cook the best food on a smokers grills, then you need to marinate the meat with main ingredients like black pepper, salt, and other spices, then cook it in the charcoal smoker. Somehow, most people go with a simply smoked meat recipe and like to add spices at the end.

5. Regulate The Temperature

Normally, smoking meat requires 220 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit heat temperature. Similarly, you have to manage temperatures and regulate heat to around the said temperature. This demands you to check the situation of vents accordingly. Check the next step to view a full description of vents.

6. Open Vents

To maintain the required heat temperature, one needs to keep an eye on the vent’s damper. The main purpose of lower vents is to allow airflow to the smoker to provide oxygen to the coals. You need to open the lower damper when in need to increase the heat temperature of the smoker. In contrast, the upper vent decreases the heat temperature by escaping the air out of the smoker. Similarly, you need to open the upper vent when the temperature of the smoker becomes too hot. Therefore, some advanced smokers contain thermometers that can provide you with the temperature details accurately to open the required vent easily.

7. Add the Wood Chunks

Remember, we have soaked the wood chips in water for extra flavor. Now, it is time to add those chips to the top of the burning coal in the firebox. By soaking wood chips in the starter, it can burn the woodchips slowly and create more smokey textures.

8. Check the Water Pan

One must examine the water pan whether it needs to be refilled or not. In addition, you can add ingredients like oregano, bay leaves, beer, and spices for more flavored water. Also, when checking the water pan, you can look at the charcoal so that you may refill this.

9. Wait For the Meat to Cook Properly

After maintaining and m managing everything perfectly, now you can sit aside and let the meat cook. As you are using a charcoal smoker, it would take much time to give the best results. Similarly, if one is smoking a rack of ribs, it might take 6 hours to cook. However, turkey takes at least 16 to 17 hours to cook properly. Furthermore, try using a meat thermometer to calculate heat temperature.

10. Enjoy The Smoked Meat

After waiting and doing such efforts, it’s the right time to enjoy the delicious smoked meat. The charcoal smoker is ultimate in transforming your food into a delicious irresistible day-to-day meal.

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Things You Will Need When Smoking Meat In A Charcoal Smoker

When you are smoking meat with a charcoal smoker, you must require a few main stuff to facilitate the smoking process. 

1. Smoker

Firstly, you have to buy a premium quality charcoal smoker. We recommend Weber Smokey Mountain because it’s portable and versatile. Your bbq smoking grilling may become more feasible and smooth with a smoker like 3. . Whereas, with such a beneficial product you must end up having a wonderful bbq meat party without getting any problems. 

Along with a smoker, you will require

2. Charcoal Briquettes

Charcoal briquettes will be your essential fuel source when smoking in a charcoal smoker. Most people now use briquettes rather using lump charcoal because briquettes are more reliable and run slow. However, lump charcoal is expensive and required you to have more in the backup.

3. Hardwoods

Wood chunks or chips are the reason that adds most of the heavenly smokey flavor to your food. Whereas adding different flavors of hardwood can transform your meat into an outstanding one. Also, you need to check whether the flavor you are using will suit your food too or not. Because sometimes, it creates an inadequate combination that spoils the food and doesn’t impress the eater. Similarly, adding a vast amount of hardwood can also ruin the taste of the food. So it is essential to add a maximum of four hardwood pieces to the water pan not to make it spoil.

Furthermore, the best practice is to soak the woods for at least half an hour when you are preparing charcoal. So then you need to add it; they are all set. One can set large pieces of hardwood right on the top of the charcoal while cooking. However, some people use it by wrapping it in aluminum foil and placing it between or inside the coals. There are various flavors and varieties of hardwoods that one can consider while preparing the best smoked meat. They are:

Hickory: Sweet, exquisite, and generous, hickory adds a bacon flavor to the food. Ideal for all meat and poultry, yet particularly ribs and pork shoulders. 

Cherry: Mild and fruity, works out in a good way for hickory wood. Tasty with ham, chicken, and turkey. 

Maple: An inconspicuous smoking wood with a gentle smokiness. Best for the game, pork, vegetables, and poultry. 

Birch: a fragile smoking wood, birch is fabulous with all fish. 

Walnut: A nutty wood with a sweet flavor. Utilized for briskets, meals, and ribs.

Oak: a fundamental wood with a medium-solid flavor that doesn’t overwhelm. Ideal for sheep, brisket, and frankfurters. 

Apple: Fruity smoke flavor, ideal for a hamburger, and pork.

Mesquite: A strongly seasoned wood with a one-of-a-kind flavor. Best for red meat. 

Lastly, try not to utilize delicate, resinous wood like pine, cedar, or aspen wood for smoking.

4. Grill Brush

Grill brush helps in cleaning the charcoal grill smoker easily and efficiently without any hassel.

5. Paraffin Cubes

Moreover, the Paraffin cubes help in burning and lighting up the coals. Avoid using chemicals to burn the coal because toxic chemicals can ruin the taste of your meat. 

6. Chimney Starter

Without a chimney starter, it would be difficult to smoke meat on coal smokers. But also, keep in mind the amount of charcoal you need to use in smoking meat can be measured with a chimney smoker. Do this practice and use an adequate amount of coals. Otherwise, it may create more hurdles for you.

7. Lighter

Lighter is the accessory that is important to start cooking. At the same time, it’s better to keep the lighter with yourself but pick the one with a long neck. Furthermore, some people use petroleum fluid and other toxic ingredients to light up the charcoal, which may be beneficial and can leave a severe odor to the meat.

8. Some Newspapers

The papers help in lighting charcoal when needed.

9. Fire Poker

This tool is extremely useful in moving and rearranging fire logs easily, even from some distance.

10. Meat Thermometer

This apparatus is ideal if one wants to get aware of meat temperature. Besides, with a meat thermometer, the risk of overcooking food is minimized. Moreover, nowadays the advanced smokers have a thermometer enabled that makes cooking more feasible. But the attached thermometers are not so reliable. That is why it is best to purchase one separate meat thermometer.

11. Grill Tongs

You will need to touch meat while cooking in charcoal smoker, so it’s better to use grill tongs for the purpose. Hence, prefer buying wooden-handled tongs. They are the best.

12. Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is required to wrap wood chunks. Also, don’t forget to add these hardwood chunks because they are the perfect way to add more flavor to your meat.

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Average Time A Charcoal Smoker Consume In Smoking Different Types Of Meat

The time and proper heat temperature of food can be measured through a meat thermometer. But time always varies on the type of meat or food you are preparing. Similarly, if you are smoking chicken, then it can take you an hour to cook properly. However, if one is cooking turkey, then it can require 22 hours to smoke perfectly.

Check out the following table to understand the time consumption details of different foods along with quantity.

Meat TypeQuantityTemperatureTime Consumption
Turkeywhole (7-8.16 kg)8-10 hours165 degrees
Turkeywhole (4-5 kg)4-5 hours 165 degrees
Chickenwhole (2.2 kg)2 ½ – 3 ½ hours165 degrees
Duckwhole (1.8 kg)2-2½ hours180 degrees
Roast Of Pork2 to 3.6 kg5-6 hours180 degrees
Pork shoulder2 to 3.6 kg8-12 hours190 degrees
Pork RibsThe ribs4-6 hoursRequired consistent checking
HamWhole (6 to 8.16 kg)8-12 hours170 degrees
Lamb2 to 3.17 kg5-6 hours160 degrees
FishWhole (3 to 4.53 kg)3-4 hours145 degrees
Beef brisket1 to 2.72 kg6-8 hours190 degrees
Beef RibsThe ribs6-7 hours160 degrees
GameLarge cuts (3 to 4.08 kg)6-8 hours170 degrees

The Most Common FAQs That People Ask About Charcoal Smoker

1. How To Control Temperature In A Charcoal Smoker?

The temperature plays a crucial role in making the meat juicy and tasty. When you prepare and adjust the temperature and insert food, make sure the smoker is ready to place the meat. Otherwise, doing everything early can give you the worst results. It is recommended to keep the temperature low to soften and cook the meat properly as per the chefs. Also, doing the same at a high temperature can lead your meat to hard, dry, and tasteless meat.

Most of the people are curious about how to control charcoal smokers’ temperature The answer is to check the heat temperature frequently and manage the airflow. You need to verify the damper system. Similarly, there are two vents, upper and lower; both the vents play an important role in increasing and decreasing the heat temperature. So, you have to open and close the damper as per the required temperature. That’s how one can manage and regulate heat temperature in a charcoal smoker.

2. What If The Smoker Temperature Rises?

As mentioned above, if the smoker’s temperature runs too hot, you need to manage the lower vent. All that is required is to close the vent. This can break the oxygen supply to the firebox and decrease the temperature effectively. You can do it when the temperature rises so that the heat can be decreased as soon as early.

3. What If I Want More Heat Temperature In the Smoker?

Firstly, the heat temperature depends on the coal and fuel that you have inserted initially. If the coal is not according to the required amount, then you may face the chance of low heat temperature during cooking. Secondly, if you require increasing the temperature, close the upper vent and open the lower one. The opening of the lower vent can increase oxygen to the firebox and create more heat. Furthermore, after doing the vent setting, one has to wait for 25 minutes to show the changes.

4. What Is the Right Time To Put Meat To the Smoker Grill Grate?

The range of temperatures of each smokers grills differs. However, after maintaining temperature to approx 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, you are required to set meat in the grill grate of the charcoal smoker for the cooking process. But make sure the grate is properly cleaned and ready. Additionally, some charcoal smokers contain multi grill grates that are beneficial in making a vast amount of meat at the same time. So, if you are using the same, add meat first in the lower grate and in the upper one. After putting, close the lid and start noting the time. Also, one can use the appliance meat thermometer for rechecking of temperature during cooking. Hence, after the addition of meat, keep on checking the status of the vent to maintain adequate heat temperature. 

5. How Do You Know When Charcoal is Ready?

The charcoal smoker is fueled with charcoal briquettes and wood chips. It’s more important to know when the charcoal is ready, and one can start cooking. When you are lighting up the charcoal using a chimney starter and paraffin cubes, you have to burn the charcoal. Similarly, the best way to light up the charcoal is with a chimney starter because it can burn coals in a minimum time. After burning, wait for the charcoal to start glowing orange and leaving their ashes. Once the process of burning starts, then it means the charcoal is ready. Therefore, after 10 minutes, one can add meat or food to the great and start cooking.

6. What Kind Of Meat You Can Smoke In A Charcoal Smoker?

Any type of meat can be smoked in a charcoal smoker; however, the process and time consumption will differ. One can cook ribs, pork shoulders, brisket, lamb, sausages, lamb shoulder, turkey, chicken, fish, etc. Furthermore, any kind of vegetables can also be cooked on a charcoal smoker. Also, one can even bake in this smoker, but it requires proper skills and knowledge of using it.

7. How To Clean A Charcoal Smoker?

It is recommended to properly clean the grill grates and charcoal smoker right after the cooking. Because at the time, oil and other food particles are soft and can be cleaned easily; however, if left uncleaned, it can get hard and worsen and get more time and difficulties cleaning properly. Also, before adding meat into the grate, it’s essential to clean the grate first. The best way to clean charcoal smoker grill grates is to clean them with dish soap and a wet sponge. But first, bring out all ashes and food particles with the help of a cloth piece. Also, one can rub the grills with the brush for easy cleaning. Moreover, practice the same once a year at least so that whenever you need to prepare bbq, you can get a clean grate.

8. What Are The Pros Of Charcoal Smoker?

The first advantage of a charcoal smoker is they come in different sizes, shapes, and types. One can easily get a smoker that is suitable with all the required features. Furthermore, they are portable, and one can take them to their next camping adventure easily. Moreover, with charcoal smokers, your food adopts a deep smokey flavor that no other smoker can provide. Mostly, people give charcoal smoke to their food to maximize the taste of the meal. Similarly, charcoal smokers are ideal in transforming meat to a next-level smokey flavor. Therefore, they are versatile and can provide the food that you desire.

9. What Are The Cons Of Charcoal Smoker?

One of the disadvantages is they are quite difficult to use. A charcoal smoker requires perfection and skills to apply while cooking or grilling. Moreover, it is necessary to babysit when using these smokers because temperature management is the main factor that can lead you to desired food. Otherwise, the food can get uncooked or sometimes overcooked, unlike the electric smokers, which only demand you to plug in and forget. Also, another disadvantage is its initial process of lighting charcoal, which takes time and effort. Furthermore, if you use a smoker created with metal or other low-quality material, the grills can get rusty easily. These smokers do not come with quality tools and extra accessories. Lastly, it would be difficult to clean these smokers before and after cooking because there will be ashes everywhere requiring proper cleaning and consuming your precious time. 

10. Why One Should Buy Charcoal Smoker?

If you are obsessed with smoking meat or food, you must need a premium quality charcoal smoker. However, most people don’t like the flavor of smoke, so they should prefer other smokers for bbq purposes. One should also buy charcoal smoker when one is smart enough to maintain the temperature controls and run these smokers ideally. Also, they are cheap compared to other smokers and can be found in different sizes and shapes. Lastly, they are portable, which’s a plus point for adventurous and food lovers.

11. Are Charcoal Smokers Affordable?

Normally, charcoal smokers are not so expensive. However, if you consider an advanced one with all its ultimate features, it can cost you quite expensive. In comparison, it is cheaper than electric, gas, and Kamado smokers. However, the appliance is affordable, but fuel (charcoal) can cause you more extra dollars. But in the end, these are durable and affordable. One can get a premium quality smoker by spending a maximum of 300$. For further details, check the below products with prices.


Charcoal smokers and grills are no doubt most people’s favorite choice among smokers. Alike, many people just like the smokey meat that it provides in the end with a touch of charcoal flavor. At the same time, others are attracted by its versatility and portability qualities. Apart from such characteristics, these smokers are affordable and easily available in the market worldwide. One can get the ultimate smoker within just 300$. However, the pellet, gas, and electric smokers demand you to spend more than thousands of dollars. Therefore, charcoal smokers are durable and don’t require to spend a lot of money in repairing and maintenance.

Charcoal vs Wood Pellet Grill; It’s Your Choice!
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  1. […] Therefore, all the hardwood is because of that unique taste that charcoal smokers only attain. Furthermore, these smokers come in different shapes, sizes, types, and models. One can get the best charcoal grills and the best charcoal smoker. […]

  2. […] Charcoal smokers usually achieve the flavor of smoky meat. But today, most advanced electric smokers can provide the ultimate flavored food that a charcoal smoker does. Similarly, a wood chip tray is available in an electric smoker supposed to fill with wood chips. You need to add when you are going to start smoking. Hence, the wood chip addition would transform the taste of your food perfectly. […]

  3. […] Click Here if You Want to Read More About “How To Use A Charcoal Smoker Grill?” […]

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