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How to use a smoker

    Each pit style provides a different type cook and for the best results you will need to change your cooking style to accomodate the type pit that you use. The best pits for barbecuing Texas style have an offset firebox seperate from the cooking chamber, and smaller ones are commonly avaliable at your local hardware store or through my link below. These pits are give you the barbecue experience at a budget. The seperation of the firebox from the cooking area will help keep your cooking temperatures consistent while still allowing the smoke to roll through the meat. The only type smoker that I do not reccommend is the vertical smoker where the fire is beneath the meat. The meat gets all the direct heat therefore making it tough to keep it low enough to cook properly.

   The most common type of household smoker that you can pickup at Lowes or Home Depot is the Oklahoma Joe type pictured below. This smoker provides the necessary offset firebox with a grilling area, provides a decent size cooking area large enough for 2 briskets, adjustable air vents, and provides a thermometer to monitor the cooking chamber. Many smokers that you purchase will have a silver grommet where the thermometer goes. Purchase and install one before you attempt to barbecue, otherwide your cook will not go well I promise! Without it there is no way to monitor hot that area is and maintain a consistent temperature. In this type smoker, the meat is close to the fire therefore you really want to keep your temperatures at or slightly below 250 degrees.

   Your meat can become over-smoked in smaller off-set cookers, to avoid this I normally wrap my cook halfway to minimize the smoke exposure. It is also necessary to rotate your meat so that one end does not cook faster than the other for odvious reasons. You can smoke with charcoal, but the flavor it provides is really geared toward grilling. To properly smoke large cuts of meat, use various woods that are great for smoking. You can visit the Smoking Wood section for information on different woods. So lets look at the good vs the bad on these model smokers.


  • Inexpensive and commonly available
  • Has all the features of the pro grill, just smaller
  • You can make some great Barbecue!
  • Fire is very close to cooking chamber throwing off normal cooking temeratures
  • Does not evenly cook the meat, the meat must be turned
  • No built in way to add water in the cooking area to provide some humidity
  • Your meat will receive more direct smoke and may need to be covered through portions of the cook.

   As you can see, you can still make some great tasting flavorful barbecue with this pit, it will just require more work and maintenance on your part!

Preparing You Smoker

    Upon unpacking and assembling your new smoker, be sure to add the proper grates in the firebox to protect the bottom of the firebox. This area of the grill will reach very high temperatures and cooking directly in the bottom of the firebox will weaken the walls to the point where it will eventually break. It is normal for the factory paint to bubble and peel in this area. I normally touch my grill up with some high heat black paint in the off season and keep it covered when not in use to help prevent rust.

   Make a note where your air vents are, these will be instrumental in adjusting the temperature of the fire. As you open the vents this lets more air in, and in turn the fire burns hotter and faster. As you close the vents this starves the fire of air cooling it off and down to barbecuing temperatures.

Curing Your New Smoker

   It is absolutely necessary to cure your pit if you have never smoked on it before. Meat tends to absorb flavor from its cooker and if you have fresh steel with maunfacturing oil or any other contaminents, that is what your food will taste like. To cure your pit, just start a fire as if you were cooking on it, let the cooking area get up to about 400 degrees then vent it down to 250 and let it smoke for several hours. This burns out any contaminents while giving the inside of you pit a much needed layer of creole or burnt sap. You have probably heard the saying, the more you smoke on a pit the better the cook turns out and there is some truth to this statement. Once the inside of your is covered with a nice think layer, you are finally ready to cook on it.

Your First Cooking Fire

    Arrange your logs in a way that air can get around each log, may start with some smaller logs then move to bigger ones as the fire heats up. The initial fire should be fairly large as most will hopefully burn down to coals before you begin cooking. If you have a propane torch, this is the perfect method to start your wood burning. If a torch is not available, you can use a small pile of charcoal soaked in lighter fluid under your logs. Open up all your air vents wide open so that the fire is getting maximum air. Light her up. Let your fire burn until you have a good deal of coals and it is self sustaining, this usually takes 20 to 30 minutes depending on greeness of the wood. The cooking area should reach temps of close to 400 during the warm up.

   Once the fire has reached this point I shut the air vents down to extinguish the flames for a few minutes, then barley open them so it puts the fire in a smoldering state barely getting enough air to smoke. Careful not too leave it closed too long as your fire will go completely out.
Thank you for reading, if interested in further specializing your skill for competetion cooking please see this detailed guide

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