How to Use a Vertical Smoker


Grilling is a lot different than smoking. Grilling is cooking food under high temperature usually over 400°F and usually it cooks food faster. On the other hand, smoking only requires low heat and it takes a longer time to cook food. The meat is placed in a relative distance from the heat source. Temperatures only plays around 200 to 275°F. Cooking larger cuts of meat usually take an hour and a half of smoking depending on the temperature, the type of meat being cooked and the type of smoker being used.

A vertical smoker is a smoking chamber which have both the heat source and smoke source situated directly below the cooking area. The cooking area have multiple shelves which used to hold the meat while it is cooking. Food inside the chamber are cooked faster because of the position of the heat source.

Grilling recipes can now be easily accessed whether via online or by the traditional cookbooks. However, these do not often tell us how to grill or how to use a grilling equipment the right way. We will guide you on how use your grilling equipments and hopefully, open a path to a perfectly cooked food that you have always dreamed of. Today, we will guide you on how to use a vertical smoker. If you are using a smoker for the first time, it is important that you read the manufacturer’s instructions.


Charcoal/Hardwood Smokers is considered the authentic type of vertical smoker. The smoke comes directly from the combustion fuel and they do not require special hook ups. These types of smokers are safe to use in any desired location.



● Prepare the heated charcoal.

You need to heat the charcoal before you put it inside the smoker. We recommend that you use a charcoal cylinder or a charcoal chimney which you can easily purchase from your local store or via online. However, if you prefer not to invest on it, you will have to use your skills and wit to properly heat the charcoal. Let it sit for about 15 minutes.

● Add the charcoal to the smoker.

Make a pile of unlit charcoal on one side of the smoker. Slowly pour the hot charcoal over the unlit charcoal. It is important the you place the charcoal on one side and place the meat on the other side of the smoker.

● Enhance the smoke with the use of woodchips or chunks.

Woodchips and woodchunks are used to promote the flavor of the meat being cooked. Oak, apple, cherry, and hickory chips are often the best choice of the wood in smoking.

● Fill the pan with ¾ full of cold water and let it sit at the center section of the smoker.

Smokers usually includes a water pan or you can use a foil baking pan if there is now water pan. The cold water offsets the higher temperatures of the grill. This helps meat and vegetables to cook evenly.

● Fill the grate with meat.

Be sure to put the smaller items and vegetables on top and the large pieces at the bottom.

● Set the lid on the smoker

The vents must be positioned on top of the meat.

Gas Smokers uses propane or natural as fuel which also means, it uses live flames. The flames will heat up a tray with woodchips to give off smoke. You need to permanently set up a propane tank or a natural gas hook-up. These type of vertical smoker models are transportable but bulkier than charcoal models.



● Fill the water pan with either water, cider or beer 

Depending your choice

● Light the burner.

But first, you will have to plug in the propane or natural gas outlet to the smoker and open the valve. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to light the burner. If the burner doesn't light immediately, close the valve. You need to clear the gas before trying again.

● Once you have established the flame, set it to the desired temperature.

The ideal temperature is 225 too 250 degrees for slow cooking. Some models are calibrated to low, medium and high. Check the smoker manual to see the correct temperature that responds to your cooking needs.

● Preheat the smoker

You need at least 10-15 minutes to preheat the smoker or until the temperature is steady enough for cooking. you need to adjust the vents as often as needed.

● Add wood chunks or chips to the pan or a tray that is situated above the burner.

Continue preheating until the smoke comes out from the chimney or the dampers.

● Distribute and arrange the food inside the chamber.

● Maintain the heat inside the chamber.

Replenish the water inside the smoker as often as needed. Make sure that there is a steady heat. Watch out for the flames and dangerous gas build up that may occur while cooking.

● When cooking is done, remove the food.

Turn off the flame and disconnect the gas tank from the smoker. Allow the smoker to cool down. You may clean the smoker afterwards.

● Electric Smokers

Has a heating element similar to that of an oven. This heating element heats wood shavings, wood biscuits or sawdust to give off smoke. You can use this type of smoker anywhere where an outlet is available as it uses electricity.

● Place your smoker in an area outdoors and away from flammable objects.

● Fill the 2/3 to ¾ of the water pan with hot water

This will help the smoker to easily raise the temperature to the desired level.

● Plug the smoker cord to the electric outlet.

● Monitor the temperature.

The temperature should be around 220-240 degrees but it you can adjust it according the type of meat being cooked.

● Place the smoker wood on the smoker

● Coat the food grates lightly with oil

To prevent the food from sticking on the grates.

● Use a meat thermometer to monitor the heat inside the meat.

● When the food is done cooking, remove it from the smoker

● Unplug the smoker and let it cool down.


●  Always use your smoker outdoors and away from flammable materials to prevent unwanted accidents.

● Regulate your temperature by opening the top and bottom vents.

The top vent must be left open and use the lower vent to regulate the temperature. If the fire is slowly dying, open the lower vent. If the temperature is too high, close the lower vent. The top vent can only be closed if regulating the bottom vent did not change the temperature the way you wanted it to.

● Keep the temperature in the smoke steady.

The ideal smoker temperature is about 220°F

● Only take the lid off if you add water and charcoal to the smoker.

Smoking is a hands-off process and requires no need to check from time to time.

● Always prepare another set of hot coals and add them as necessary.



Learning how to use a vertical smoker is easy. Whatever the type of smoker that you prefer to use, always remember to read the smoker's manual before you use it. Prepare all the things that you will need beforehand and most of all, ensure all the safety precautions.