Smoking Meat 101 – How to BBQ

by Top Geek  

Last Updated: October 27, 2023

Everything You Need to Know About Smoking and Best Smokers

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Table of Contents

In this guide we'll cover the basics of how to smoke meat and provide best practice tips.

Most of us already love the aroma of smoke from a campfire. Now, imagine that aroma absorbed into the softest, juiciest piece of beef you’ve ever had. Smoke a piece of meat and that’s what you get.

But have you ever wondered what exactly it means to “smoke” meat? Are there different smoking methods? How is it different from other methods of cooking? And why even go to the trouble of doing it in the first place? A shiny new smoker is glistening on your back porch and you're eager to start your first smoke job. Smoking is a delicate science that requires more finesse than grilling brats or burgers.

By the time you complete this article you'll have a full understanding of the various types of smokers and the art of BBQ as it relates to smoking.

why smoke meat section


Why Bother With It?

If you look up "smoking" meat in the dictionary, the definition you pull up will be something like: The Cooking Method That Makes Barbecue Real Barbecue. Okay, so it will likely be something more defined than that but when people say “smoking meat,” they are referring to one of two methods: 1) preserving meat through long exposure to heat and smoke, which dehydrates it and imparts antibacterial properties; or 2) barbecuing it.

The first method is the more traditional, having been used for thousands of years for preserving meat.

preserving meat in smokehouse
Wikipedia defines smoked meats as: Smoked meat is a method of preparing red meat (and fish) which originates in prehistory. Its purpose is to preserve these protein-rich foods, which would otherwise spoil quickly, for long periods.

The now-more-common use of the term is that of barbecuing: cooking meat slowly over indirect heat for extended periods (often 12 to 16 hours, sometimes even more), while the smoke flavors the meat and gives it a unique flavor and texture. This is the method we’re talking about in this comprehensive guide to smoking meat.

pit barrell company
A drum style smoker by the Pit Barrel Cooker Company. The Pit Barrel Cooker has won our top spot as the Best Smoker Under $500. 

If you think about it, smoking meat (in the barbecue sense) derives from one of the oldest means of cooking used: cooking over an open fire, where the smoke naturally imparts flavor into the meat as the heat cooks it. And who doesn’t love a good piece of steak cooked over a fire? It’s a very primal experience.

A common misconception among those not in the know is that “barbecue” is any kind of meat cooked on the grill, or over open flame. You’ll often hear people invite say they are “barbecuing” this weekend, when really, they are just grilling some chicken and burgers out back.

True barbecue refers only to slow-cooked meat over indirect heat, flavored by smoke, until it reaches that soft, juicy, delicate state we all know and love.

What Makes Smoked Meat So Special?

We’ll be the first to admit that smoking isn’t exactly a quick, easy process. It can take all day (and even all night) to get a large pork shoulder or brisket done just right, and a lot of babysitting can go into it, especially when you’re just learning. If you’re more the sear-and-serve type, the process might bore you. So why even bother?

There are a few reasons to smoke a piece of meat instead of just cooking it over direct heat – even with the extended effort. One reason – and perhaps the most important – is flavor.


As the meat sits over the flame, it absorbs the thick, somewhat tangy, comforting flavor of the smoke itself, creating a unique, all-natural, and dare-we-say, smoky, flavor.

People have been doing this to cook and flavor their food for thousands of years, but thanks to science, we can (to a degree) tell you what causes smoked food to taste so good. Smoke contains over 100 different compounds and phenols. Some of these are solids, like ash. Some are gases, like carbon monoxide and dioxide. And, some are liquids, such as water vapor. The exact content of smoke depends on exactly which wood is being burned, how much moisture is contained within it and even how much oxygen is available for the fire to consume.

Much of the smell and flavor we usually associate with “smokiness” comes from the compounds syringol and guaiacol, respectively. The more of these compounds absorbed into the meat, the “smokier” it will taste. Creating maximum syringol and guiacol may be a too complicated for most of us, but we can control how much smoke we create inside our smokers. Methods include limiting the amount of oxygen and air coming into the fire and using wetter wood to create more smoke.

You don’t want to create too much smoke. That results in a very bitter, acidic flavor that can make your barbecue unpleasant to eat.

The Bark

Absorbing smoke into the meat also helps create the bark, the dark, chewy, spicy and tangy, crust-like texture that forms on the outside of the meat during the smoking process. The bark is considered one of the tastiest parts of the meat and is an important part of judging smoked meats in competition; it’s formed by the smoke reacting with the meat, moisture and spice rub in what is called the Maillard Reaction more on that later.

The second advantage to smoking meat is that that it creates a softer and much more tender piece of meat, by virtue of its low-and-slow cooking process.

Melt In Your Mouth...

Cooking over high heat tends to dry the meat out very quickly. Any moisture within the meat is essentially blasted out, leaving it tough, dry and difficult to chew. For delicate meats, cooking over high heat also means that you have less control over the final product, as the internal temperature can quickly rise beyond your desired temperature before you realize it.

Smoking meat low-and-slow, on the other hand, keeps the moisture from evaporating too quickly, allowing you to achieve the perfect combination of tenderness and juiciness.

slow cooked brisket
I've got 99 problems, but findin' friends ain't one.

More importantly, low-and-slow cooking allows the fats and connective tissue – collagens - in the meat to slowly break down (render) into something soft. Collagen has a very high melting point, and when cooked too quickly, dries out and toughens up into something that feels and tastes like rubber, and is just as hard to chew.

Slow cooking, on the other hand, gives collagen time to soften and melt, rendering into a soft, gelatin-like texture. The result? A super-soft, juicy, and tender cut that can be pulled apart and enjoyed. It’ll also be packed full of the meat’s natural flavor. It’s a delectable, melt-in-your-mouth, culinary experience.

That’s why barbecue was invented, actually. Tradition says that Caribbean islanders who could not afford the more expensive, tenderer cuts of meat simply devised a way to render the tougher, chewier pieces (like pork butt or flank steak) softer and actually edible: cooking them over lower heat for hours on end, till all the collagen had rendered.

how it works sectionHow The Smoking Process Works:

Direct and Indirect Heat

There are two ways to cook meat: using direct heat or indirect heat. Direct heat is how you grill those tasty burgers. But to smoke, you'll be using indirect heat.

direct and indirect heat
A smoker is not required to effectively smoke food

Grilling meat is all about using direct hot heat for short periods of time, while the key to smoking is to use indirect heat to cook meat at a low temperature over a long period of time. Basically, a smoker and a grill are polar opposites.

The magic of smoking lies in indirect heat. In other words, you’re not placing the meat right on top of the flame or heat source; that’s too hot and too hard to control. Instead, you’re letting the heat and smoke from the flame waft over the meat, while keeping it out of the direct path.

Using a dedicated smoker makes cooking with indirect heat simple. A smoker is uniquely designed to keep the meat out of direct heat while still letting smoke reach it and absorb.  A good smoker is crafted to ensure smoke and heat properly circulate around the meat for an even cook.

Smoking on a Charcoal Grill

If you’re smoking on your gas or charcoal grill, however, you’ll need to use 2-zone setup, which splits the grill into a hot (direct heat) zone, for browning and searing, and an indirect zone, for smoking and slow-cooking.

A 2-zone setup is simple to create. On a charcoal grill, simply pile all the charcoal on one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty, and ignite. The side with the coals will burn hot as it normally does, allowing you to sear your steaks and get good browning. But the real magic – for smoking – is on the other side. If you own a kettle style grill you can purchase the slow 'n sear, which is an ideal accessory to perfect the 2-zone cook.

slow n sear
Smoking a turkey with the two zone cooking method on a kettle grill with the Slow 'N Sear.

The indirect, away from the coals, won’t be hot enough for browning but will let you cook food at a lower temperature, via convection. Perfect for low-and-slow smoking.

Controlling the size of the fire on the hot side will let you get the optimal 225ºF to 275ºF needed achieve maximum tenderness and juiciness. It’ll take practice, as you learn the right amount of charcoal to use, and how your smoker behaves in different weather. But, it’s more than possible with the aid of a BBQ thermometer.

Smoking on a Gas Grill

Setting up 2-zone cooking on gas grill is even easier. Just turn on the burners on one side of the grill, leaving the others off. Like with charcoal, it will take some experimentation to find exactly which burners to turn on and how high to crank them up. But once you have, controlling the temperature and getting it to 225ºF requires little work.

One trick to help keep a consistent temperature using 2-zone cooking is to place a water pan on the grill. Water absorbs the heat and then radiates it out again, which helps keep overall grill temperature consistent when the heat source spikes or drops suddenly.

The added moisture from evaporating water can also prevent the meat from drying out, keeping it moist and flavorful.

The Maillard Reaction & The Bark

We spend a lot of time talking about how slow-cooking creates soft, tender and juicy meat, but that’s not the only thing that makes smoked meat so delicious. Most of us also love that dark, chewy, blackened outside full of smoky flavor that we call the bark. 


finished smoked roast
Gooey and delicious bark is key for pulled pork.

If you’re familiar with the delicious flavor imparted to a steak by a good sear, take that and amplify it 5x, and you’ll have an idea of the sensory delight that is a good crust.

This deliciousness is created by what, in barbecue and in scientific circle, is called the Maillard reaction. The name comes from the French scientist Louis-Camille, who studied the way foods brown when cooking.

The Maillard Reaction is what happens when the surface of a food is heated, and the chemicals and compounds in the food react and change, creating new compounds – thousands of them over the surface of the meat.

Specifically, the amino acids in meat (proteins) being heated react with the reducing sugars (glucose and fructose) in the meat, creating new compounds in the process. It’s like caramelization – what happens when you heat sugar on the stove.
That’s how steaks get their beautiful sear and smoked meats get that chewy bark – by undergoing a process similar to caramelization, but this time with proteins and fats from the meat, instead of sugar alone.

The new compounds created by the reducing sugars reacting with the amino acids, all combine to create that crispy, brown texture we all know and love, as well as the accompanying flavor.

The reaction begins at lower temperatures but gets faster and more intense at higher heats – hence why throwing a steak on the grill browns it so more quickly than smoking a brisket at 225°F. Caramelization, on the other hand, doesn’t really occur until about 300°F.

The Maillard Reaction also helps create one of the most comforting aromas in existence: that of cooked meat. This aroma is the result of methianol, a compound of α-dicarbonyl, itself a compound created in the Maillard reaction, and the amino acid methionine. So if you want really delicious-smelling meat, maximizing the Maillard reaction can help.

The Proverbial Stall

The Maillard Reaction is super important to getting a really-good piece of barbecue. But it requires some exact conditions in order to take place.

For one, you need to be cooking with a dry heat. Moisture can slow down the process or even sabotage it and prevent that bark from forming, as it essentially keeps the meat from getting above the boiling point.

This is why "The Stall” when smoking a meat is essential for excellent bark; the water in the meat must be present to break down the water-soluble ingredients in the rub, but also needs to dry out before turning into bark. Riding out “The Stall” gives the moisture more time to brown. This is also why, if you decide to skip pass the stall by wrapping the meat in foil you'll sacrifice complete development of the bark in exchange for a reduced cook time.

To really get a good bark, you can also help maximize browning by sprinkling with some sugar, giving the amino acids more fructose and glucose to work with to create maximum browning. Oil liberally, too, as oil conducts heat better than just air. Removing any excess fat can help as well.

Another tip: turn the meat frequently which slows down the cooking inside the meat, by essentially cooling each side of the meat, and then gives the outside more time to brown.

As for sugar, using a bit in your rub will help maximize browning when cooking low and slow. However, too much or cooking at high temperatures will cause the sugar to burn and blacked – not what you’re trying to achieve.

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From the Culinary Institute of America –  A guide to the art of BBQ with over 20 tried-and-true recipes.

How Long Will It Take?

Smoke times vary widely. The chart provided above is a rough estimate on what you can expect for various cuts of meat, as well as ideal doneness temperatures.  But it's hard to provide a one-size-fits-all solution here. Factors that effect cook time include: size of cut, cooking temperature, how much salt there is, moisture, and even the weather.

With that said, it’s possible to give a loose estimate: for a brisket or pork butt, estimate about 1.5 hours per pound at 225°F. That means an 8-pound brisket will take roughly 12 hours. Crank that up to 275°F and you could achieve a similar result in about half the time.

The caveat is that certain things can make it take longer. A very moist piece of meat takes longer because water content causes the meat to “sweat”, essentially. And a cold, windy night can drive heat away and cooking times up.

So a rule of thumb is just that. To make sure your meat is cooked properly and safely, you really need to monitor it with a reliable meat thermometer.

Time & Temperature for Doneness

Internal Meat Temperature

The smoker's internal temperature isn’t the only the temperature that requires your attention. The final internal temp of the meat is a vital piece of the puzzle for ensuring both ideal tenderness and doneness, and safety.

Meat can harbor various pathogens, such as the particularly nasty E. Coli and Salmonella. To kill them, the USDA recommends that beef and pork chops and steaks be cooked to at least 145°F, while chicken be cooked to 165°F. At these temperatures, you can be sure that your food is completely safe to eat.

Unfortunately, most of us find that cooking food to these temperatures is too much. A steak cooked to 145°F will be encroaching on medium-well territory, far too done for most steak lovers. A chicken breast cooked to 165°F is dry and chewy, not juicy.

Thankfully, a closer reading of the USDA standards shows that’s it’s not totally necessary to cook your meat to those exact numbers. The numbers listed are the temperatures at which pathogens are killed instantly, but they can be also be killed if exposed to lower temperatures for longer periods of time.

cooking to proper tempeture
Beef, for one, can be pasteurized if held at 135°F for 37 minutes – although you probably won’t want to wait that long.

Most of us who like a good steak are probably just going to take our chances with rare or medium, since any bacteria on the surface will already have been killed. And when it comes to pork, the traditional threat has been trichinosis, which has been all but eradicated in the Unites States over the past few decades.

Luckily, when smoking meats like pork butt or brisket, we don’t have much to worry about, as our target temperature is usually between 195°F and 205°F - plenty hot enough to kill all dangerous bacteria.

The only accurate way to know all this is to use a meat thermometer. When smoking, you’ll want a specialized Wi-Fi or Bluetooth thermometer to let you keep an eye on your barbecue over the course of a 12-hour smoke. At the very least, you'll need an instant read thermometer for checking doneness. Avoid relying on unproven "hack" methods for checking doneness.

cook times and doneness chart
Smoking Meat Temperature Cheat Sheet

 Grill (AKA Ambient or Pitt) Temperature

Grills usually operate around 400°F while a smoker is best around 225°F.

Meats don’t all cook the same way and throwing a pork butt or brisket onto a flaming grill wouldn’t exactly turn out the way we’d like it to. The high heat will have caramelized the outside of the meat – via Maillard Reaction – long before the inside has a chance to heat. Leave it on too long, and it will simply burn on the outside, with a layer of dry, unappetizing meat beneath it.

A general rule of thumb is that the thinner the meat, the higher heat. The thicker the cut, the lower the heat. That’s why we throw steaks on the grill for just a few minutes, but a roast takes all day.

While the high heat from the flame cooks the outside of the meat, the inside is cooked by the radiant heat coming in from the outer layers of the meat. You need to give ample time for the heat to migrate throughout the roast, allowing it to reach the desired internal temp before the outside burns or crusts beyond a desirable point.

Cooking low-and-slow also lends more control over the cooking process, ensuring you don’t overshoot and dry out the barbecue. There’s room for error, and minor heat flareups don’t ruin the food.

The traditional temperature for smoking brisket or pork butt is 225°F, which gives the most control and results in the juiciest final product. Many people, however, find that 275°F gives solid results in much less time, results good enough to satisfy most casual barbecue fans. 300°F is another possibility when you’re in a time crunch, but the meat will likely become noticeably less juicy and tender. For beginners, I always recommend smoking between 225°F to 250°F.

Is Smoking Meat Safe?

Cooking meat low-and-slow is as safe as any other cooking method, provided it’s done right.

Since pathogens are killed instantly at temperatures 165°F and above, the outside of the meat – where most bacteria is – will be pasteurized almost immediately once stuck on the smoker at 225°F-275°F, just as if searing. If the temperature remains at 225°F or above the entire cook time, it will remain safe to eat - provided the inside is cooked to safe temperature as well.

Be sure to thoroughly thaw your meat before putting it on the smoker. Since you’re cooking at low temperatures and because a pork shoulder or brisket is large, any frozen meat in the middle can take too long to thaw on the smoker, spending too much time in the “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F. It’ll also take longer to smoke; additionally, as your meat thaws on the grill it will cause more moisture to drip on your coals, cooling them down in the process.

how to smoke meat sectionHow to Smoke Meat: BBQ FUNDAMENTALS

Now the good part.

We’re going to go into detail about how to smoke the ultimate piece of barbecue. A delicacy so smoky that your neighbors will be clamoring at the door for a piece and so tender that died-in-the-wool barbecue fans - from Santa Maria to San Antonio – will be asking for how you did it.

Hyperbole? Maybe. But arm yourself with the know-how in this guide and prepare your next barbecue the right way, you might just find yourself with a brisket that good.

Selecting a Meat for BBQ

You can have the most expensive smoker money can buy and all the time in the world, but if you don't start with a good cut of meat your dreams of barbecue badassery may never take off.

There are a few general pointers you may want to take when selecting the right meat for barbecuing.

Make sure it’s from a high-quality source.

Discount pork from the back of the freezer at Mega-Box Grocery might be cheap, but it’s likely old and pumped full of fillers and a gross saline solution (that “3% Added Water” you also see in packaged chicken breasts). This solution oozes out as you cook, which is both unpleasant and can ruin the final cooked temperature.

Instead, head to your local butcher where the meat is less likely to contain fillers, is usually fresher, and comes from higher-quality sources.

If the thought of avoiding budget meats scares you, don’t worry.

You don’t have to dish out on grass-fed, or expensive cuts of steak

Fattier, Tougher (AKA Cheaper) Cuts Work Great for Smoking.

No need to dish out for tender, choice cuts when smoking. Fattier, tougher cuts often work best, thanks to the science behind smoking and how it renders tough cuts of meat so tender after hours of low-and-slow cooking.

Remember, that’s why barbecue was invented: to find a use for those cheap and tough cuts of meat that nobody wanted -inedible when cooked over direct heat - and turn them into something soft, juicy and downright delicious.

For the best flavor and perfect barbecue, need to look for cuts of meat with plenty of fat and collagen. These will provide plenty of moisture for the meat as it sits in the smoker, slowly tenderizing, melting and rendering into a giant, juicy, cut full of natural, meaty flavor. It’s better to have a piece of meat with plenty of Intramuscular fat and collagen instead of one with just a giant fat cap, as this will allow it to infuse throughout the entire piece of meat. Additionally, fat caps cover large sections of the meat's exterior, this is not conducive to yielding a tasty crust. This crust, often referred to as 'bark', is key to the perfectly smoked peice of meat; more on this later.

So, in short, don’t be afraid of the tougher and cheaper pieces of meat. Given adequate time and heat in the smoker, and they’ll turn out more tender than a ribeye.

Popular Meats for Smoking

Now that we know what we’re looking for, let’s look at some solid standby options.


Generally considered the king of barbecue cuts. It’s cheap, chewy, and difficult to make with other methods, but when smoked for 10 or 12 hours, is just the right amount of tender and delicious for a good sandwich - especially when that smoky crust is done just right. The downside is to brisket is that it’s one of the more expensive BBQ cuts and is less forgiving for beginners.

Pork Butt

Pork Butt (AKA boston butt, pork shoulder, picnic shoulder, among other names) is the second most popular choice for smoking, after brisket. Popular in the South as the traditional cut of choice for pulled pork, it’s generally got tons of fat and connective tissue, making for a very soft, juicy cut, and usually comes in 4-8-pound chunks. Pork butt is also cheaper than brisket, and more forgiving. If you’re smoking for the first time, try a pork butt for the best results.


Another favorite; who doesn’t enjoy the meaty taste of fall-off-the-bone ribs, paired with the right barbecue sauce? Ribs have the right ratio of fat, meat and connective tissue holding them to the bone to soften up after a long smoke; they also don’t need as much time on the smoker as large cuts. Like brisket, however, they can be unforgiving if not done right, and can take some getting used to.

Other BBQ Ideas

Some meats are more reliable than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun; barbecue is perfect for experimenting with unconventional cuts of meat, as the low-and-slow process leaves plenty of room for trial and error.

For example, try smoking some chicken wings; they’re cheap, small and quick, and delicious when fall-off-the-bone tender.

smoking tomatos for salsa
Smoking tomatoes and chilies for a tasty homemade salsa.

You can throw a lot more than meat on the smoker, too; smoked tomatoes are delicious as a topping or side and can even be turned into a smoky sauce. Cold smoke some cheese, which pairs well with salami and crackers. Or, try the old standby smoked portobello mushrooms, which work both as a side for your barbecue or on their own as a vegetarian entrée.

Preparing the Meat

Before you put the meat on the smoker, there are a few things you need to do to get it ready, depending on cut of meat.

To Trim or Not To Trim?

If you’re smoking a pork butt or brisket, one of the first questions you’ll encounter is – do you remove the fat cap, or not?

The answer? Yes, if you want to.

trimming fat of brisket

We touched on this earlier, when discussing how to select your cut.  Contrary to popular belief, the fat cap will not penetrate the meat as it melts. Meat is too dense, as well as mostly water. Fat is oil. The two don’t mix.

Leaving the fat on or not doesn’t make a huge difference for most of us.

Perhaps if your using a standard grill to smoke you can leave it on, as it can provide a layer of protection from direct heat. However, the fat cap will trap moisture in the meat, you may not get as good and crispy a bark.  And speaking of the bark, if it covers a large portion of the meat's exterior this is surface area that gets rubbed with seasonings only to be scraped off at the table, at which time you lose all the tasty flavors.


If you’re just starting out, we recommend removing the fat pad just to make to things easier and to create a better bark. You’re not going to eat the fat, anyway. As you gain more experience, you can experiment with leaving it on and see what you like better.

So, go ahead and trim that fat pad as closely as possible. A neat, nicely shaped piece of meat all the way around helps it cook more evenly.

Tying (or trussing)

The expression “trussed up like a turkey” refers to when a turkey (or chicken) is tied up neatly for roasting on a spit or even in the oven. But is this necessary when smoking, and for other cuts of meat?

when to tie meat
You might find that your pork butt comes tied up when you get it at the store. That’s usually just to make a particularly large or unevenly-shaped roast fit a bit more uniformly into the packaging.

If that’s the case, it can be useful to keep the string on when smoking it, keeping any flaps of meat or odds and ends from cooking faster or slower than the main roast. If your pork butt is already evenly shaped, trussing is not necessary.

Trussing is most vital is with chickens and turkeys, however. Since these birds are (quite obviously) shaped irregularly – with legs and wings – tying it up makes a neater, more compact package. This can help it cook evenly, but also makes it easier to turn and move frequently - essential for grilling or smoking. It’ll also prevent the skin from splitting.

The takeaway: truss up birds before cooking, and if your pork butt/brisket/etc has lots of uneven flaps, think about tying them up too.

rubs and sauces for meat


Properly seasoning meat can mean many things to many people. The one thing everybody can agree on is salt.

Salt does two things: it penetrates the meat and helps tenderize it, making it easier to chew and more pleasant to eat. It also makes it juicier, helping moisture migrate further into the meat and stay there during cooking, so it doesn’t dry out too quickly.

Second, salt adds flavor. Rather, it “brings out” the flavor. An old saying in culinary circles is that meat is flavorless in the absence of salt and fat. Thankfully, a good barbecue recipe has all three.

A good rule of thumb when deciding how much salt to apply, go with about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound or if using table salt go with 1/4 teaspoon per pound.

Adding salt to meat suppresses bitter flavors, enhances sweetness, and helps increase taste bud usage. The result? The meat tastes that much better.

After salt, the most important seasoning is pepper. Pepper adds some spice that helps balance out the salt, ensuring a well-rounded profile on the palate.


For most brines, all you need is a hefty dose of salt applied evenly into the meat, and given adequate time to penetrate. This is commonly called a dry brine. Salt is about the only seasoning that will penetrate the meat.  Additionally, salt literally attacks tough proteins to help break them down through a process called denaturation. I often wonder about dry brine recipes that call for seasonings and herbs since so little of their aromatics will be pulled into the meat.

Brining is best for poultry and fish since these meats contain very little fat which is what makes meats rich and juicy. A brine is really salty, but don’t worry, if done correctly the meat will not taste over salted.

A wet brine, on the other hand, is a solution of salt and other spices – mixed into water. Sometimes it also contains acids, such as vinegar or lemon juice, to further tenderize the meat. Letting the meat marinade in brine for several hours (sometimes up to 24) allows it to absorb more moisture, as the salt penetrates the meat and brings water with it. This moisture will remain during cooking, translating into a juicier finished product.

Be careful not to overdo it or you'll end up with mushy, unappetizing meat.

Salt and acid soften the outer layer of the meat, and leaving it unattended for too long can cause it to break down too much, resulting in a soft texture that just doesn’t look – or taste – the way we’re expecting.

Dry Rubs

You’ll want to add a rub to your meat just before smoking it. Unlike salt, the herbs and spices in dry rubs don’t penetrate the meat and stay solely on the surface. For that reason, they don’t need to be applied more than a few minutes before throwing the meat on the smoker. Rubs are usually made with just a few ingredients; you want to add flavor without overpowering the meat. The base of a good rub is usually salt, sugar, pepper, garlic, and onion. From here you can add any spices or herbs you like to make your very own unique flavor.

Dry rubs are used in a lot of regional barbecue styles. Santa Maria Tri-Tip, for example, uses a mixture of black pepper, lots of garlic powder, onion powder, and some cayenne and maybe paprika for a tangy, spicy flavor. Many dry rubs also include sugar, which adds some sweetness and helps the meat caramelize.

While the simplest barbecue recipes usually just call for a liberal coating of salt and pepper, many traditional recipes from different corners of the country call for a dry rub – a hefty mixture of spices and herbs, in addition to salt and pepper. Pretty much everything from chili powder to jerk seasoning is a dry rub and finding the right one is mainly a matter of personal taste; experiment with some of your own recipes to find what you like you best. We've hand picked a few rubs to try out below.


Few things elicit as many strong emotions among barbecue lovers as the sauce being slathered on. Carolina barbecue fans love their vinegar-based sauces, while Texas-style aficionados may not care about the sauce all that much. A Kansas City eatery might give you dozens of sauce choices.

There’s a lot of sauces to try out there, and if you wish to experiment, it’s not hard to come up with your own – whether tomato or vinegar-based.

In classic barbecue, sauce isn’t applied until the meat is removed from the smoker, and at the discretion of those partaking.


Get Started

slow cooked brisket

Beginner's Brisket Recipe (KISS)

Top Geek
Wrapping the brisket helps speed up the cooking process while reducing novice challenges that arise when attempting to maintain a proper charcoal pit environment for an extended duration of 10+ hours. Allowing the brisket to sit overnight in a dry salt brine is another way to protect the meat against less than ideal pit environments.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 12 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 10 People
  • Smoker / Grill
  • Chimney
  • Charcoal
  • 10 lbs Brisket Trimmed
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Kosher Salt Skip if brined
  • 1/3 cup Paprika
  • 1/3 cup Chili Powder
  • 1/4 cup Black Pepper
  • Trim fat, apply rub, bring smoker/grill to 225°F
  • Place brisket in smoker until internal meat temperature reaches 165°F (about 7 hours)
  • Remove brisket to wrap in butcher paper (or aluminum foil) place brisket back in smoker/grill until the point (thickest end of the brisket) reaches 200°F.
  • Check for doneness by probing the flat (thinest end of the brisket) for tenderness. Once tender remove brisket.
  • Leave brisket wrapped and allow it to rest for at least 45 minutes before slicing. Serve and enjoy.
If you brine the brisket do not add the salt into the rub.
Keyword bbq, brikset, charcoal, smoking

pork in smoker

Beginner's Classic Pulled Pork (KISS)

Top Geek
Simple, tasty, and plentiful. This is the easiest and most basic pulled pork recipe, perfect for just about any occasion. It’s a lot simpler than many others, making it the perfect choice of smoked meat for sandwiches, slathering with sauces, etc.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 12 People
  • Smoker / Grill
  • Chimney
  • Charcoal
  • 7 Lbs Pork Butt Trim fat cap
  • 3 tbsp Course Sea Salt
  • 3 tbsp Paprika
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Dry Mustard
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a small bowl and rub the resulting blend all over the pork butt, massaging and patting it into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.
  • Start your grill or smoker, bringing temperature to 225°F.
  • Place pork butt in smoker until internal meat temperature reaches 201°F (about 9 hours).
  • Remove pork butt from smoker, wrap in foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes before pulling.
Skip the salt if the meat has already been brined.
To speed up the cooking process you can wrap the pork butt in foil or butcher paper for two hours when it begins to stall (around 165°F); once internal meat temperature reaches 185°F unwrap and continue cooking until removing from the smoker when internal meat temperature reaches 201°F.
Keyword boston butt, pork butt, pork shoulder, pulled pork, smoking

smoking vs grilling, braising section imageWhat Makes Smoking Different From...


Grilling is the process of cooking food by exposing it high, direct heat from an open flame. Grills can use gas, charcoal or wood to create this flame. Each of these fuels has its own cooking properties and creating its own unique flavor; cooking over wood and charcoal creates stronger smoke flavor than cooking over gas.

Grilling is meant to trap the moisture and juices in the meat while creating a crust of sorts on the outside (usually called the sear). Done right, the sear is like a lesser version of the bark formed by smoking. Hopefully, the inside is juicy and tender, too.

Grilling uses hotter, more direct cooking than smoking – often temperatures up to 500 or 600 degrees. If you’re not careful, it can quickly dry out or overdo meats if the right technique isn’t used.


Grill-roasting is the act of roasting your meat on the grill, using said device like an oven to create indirect, convection-heat; you crank up the heat on the sides (either by piling charcoal or using the burners) to heat the grill up to 300 or 400 degrees, while leaving the middle cooler so you can place the meat on it. The lid is left down, to trap the heat in like in an oven.

This method is close to that of smoking meat. The difference is the lack of smoke, which doesn’t impart its flavor into the meat. The roast will incidentally pick up some of the flavor from the charcoal or gas flame, but only a tiny amount – not the strong, bark-forming smoke used in barbecuing meats.


Braising is when a piece of meat is browned in fat or oil, and then simmered over low heat in a liquid (maybe that same fat or oil, maybe in wine) for a slightly-more extended time. This creates a softer, juicer, more tender piece of meat – similar to the soft, succulent meat that barbecue creates – and helps it gain a lot of flavor. It’s frequently used on tougher cuts of meat but works great for virtually anything if tenderness and flavor matter.


...Hot Vs. Cold Smoking

As you can probably guess from the name, hot smoking and cold smoking are differentiated by the temperatures at which the food is smoked. Hot smoking is our usual barbecue method, usually somewhere between 225°F and 300°F (or at least 165°F) where the food is cooked while also being flavored by the smoke.

Cold smoking, on the other hand, uses lower temperatures; you’re flavoring the meat with the smoke till it’s delicious, but you’re not cooking it. This is like the traditional definition of smoking that has been used for millennia; drying out and preserving meat with smoke. This would be achieved by placing the meat further away from the flame or in another chamber, where the smoke could reach it.

As with many things barbecue-related, there’s some debate over the exact temperature where these two are differentiated, but generally, a cold smoke is done between 90°F and 120°F, sometimes up to 140°F. Bacteria breeds rapidly at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F.

If you leave food out for too long while being cold-smoked, you could be venturing into dangerous territory.

Cold smoking best done with with foods that don’t need to be cooked. Doing it properly and safely requires expertise and the right tools.



using wood section

Wood & Smoking

Science of Smoke

You need to have a basic understanding of how smoke works.

Smoke is created by the process of combustion. When you light a grill you are creating combustion, which is just the reaction of oxygen when it hits fuel, but combustion is what creates smoke.

Depending on the heat source, coal, wood, gas or pellet, the flavor of the smoke changes because each fuel source produces its own unique combination.

Let’s try layman's terms... when wood burns it creates chemicals, some of those chemicals dissolve, what's left attaches itself to new chemicals found in the meat. The correct combination of chemicals in the smoke and in the meat are essential, too much nitrogen dioxide or smoke, and you will end up with a culinary Hindenburg.

With that being said, the best smoke is almost almost invisible.

A common rookie mistake is to create billowing white clouds of smoke. You're after a light blue smoke.

Burning the right type of wood will make or break your meal. You need to use hardwoods for the best smoking flavor, like fruit and nut trees. Softwoods usually contain more air and sap and cause a mixture of garbage that makes your food taste like, well, garbage.

Types of wood

So, it’s time to start smoking that thing, but not before we get the smoker all set up. First step? Wood.

One of the main reasons to smoke meat is, of course, to get all that delicious smoke and wood flavor in the meat. The kind of wood also has some effect on the final flavor.


wood pairing
Pairing chart by

Hickory is a common choice for smoking, thanks to the very strong smoky flavor it imparts; it’s reminiscent of bacon.

Oak is another very popular choice; it’s easy to find, well-rounded and works with almost anything you throw on the grill.

Some like their barbecue sweet. In that case, choices might include apple, mesquite, which is popular in Texas barbecue; and almond.

With that said, many people believe that the exact wood being used doesn’t have a huge effect on the flavor of the final product. Just be sure to avoid pine and other sappy woods, which flare up, create a lot of smoke, and give off a bitter, unpalatable flavor. You also want to find wood that has been properly dried and aged (aka, cured). Kiln dried wood is very low in moisture and thus burns much hotter and faster, while naturally-cured wood might have a bit more water in it, burning more slowly and creating more smoke (for more flavor).

You can even try out the same kinds of wood but from different places; each wood is affected by the terroir (climate, soil, weather, etc) in which it is grown, and will taste and burn a bit differently tree to tree. Applewood from New England is different from applewood grown in California.

For a more detailed pairing chart, check out this PDF from Deejay's smoke pit.

Logs, Chips, Chunks, or Pellets?

samples of wood

When smoking with wood, you can get it in wood chips or whole logs, or pellets. The exact choice depends on what kind of smoker you’re using; traditional pit smokers often use logs, smoking on the grill calls for wood chips, and a pellet smoker necessitates wood pellets.

Throwing whole logs into your pit might sound fun and “old-timey,” but requires expertise to get right; whole logs need to burn at higher temps to create clean smoke. Instead, they are often pre-burned into embers, which are then used for smoking.

Chunks are more desirable for pitmasters of all skill levels; they burn faster and are easier to control than logs, but more slowly than chips, giving you more control over the cooking process.

Wood chips are common and can be picked up at almost hardware or grocery store. They’re good for smoking on a gas or charcoal grill, as they can be placed in foil and moved around. And while they burn quickly, you can easily add more by grabbing a handful and tossing them on.

Pellets are becoming more common as pellet grills become more popular. They’re created by taking wet sawdust and pressing it so tightly that it holds together in pellets; there are, no fillers or glues holding them together, and if they became wet, they would merely become sawdust again.

Wood pellets are very convenient as, like chips, you just toss some more into the fire when needed. Many pellet smokers also have automated augers that feed pellets into the pit when the thermostats signals, keeping a consistent heat going. They also create a smooth, clean smoke that imparts a generally desirable flavor.

Avoid using pressure-treated wood, which can sometimes contain toxic compounds.

Soaking the Wood

Many people think it’s a good idea to soak your wood chips or chunks before putting them on the fire, but we don’t think that’s the case. The conventional wisdom is that soaking the wood helps it burn more slowly, while also creating more smoke. In practice,the water barely makes it beyond the outer layers of the wood and the interior remains bone dry.

If you put wet wood on top of the flames, it will smolder while the water on the outside evaporates. Once it has evaporated, the wood will simply burn.

Throwing wet wood right into the pit also makes it harder to keep a consistent temperature, as it cools off the fire before having time to dry and ignite.

Preparing Wood for Smoking

If using wood chips on a gas or charcoal grill, you can prepare them by placing them either in an aluminum cooking tray, or by wrapping them up in an aluminum foil and creating a pouch. Pole some holes into it to let smoke and air in.

tin foil pouch
Smoking on a gas grill with a DIY tin foil pouch.

You then place this pouch or tray full of wood chips either right on top of the charcoal, or above one of the gas burners. As the wood burns, it gives off the smoke, just like a wood-burning smoker.

Some gas grills come with dedicated smoker boxes, set right over their own gas burners; alternatively, you can purchase a smoke tube. Simply place your wood chips directly in the smoker box and crank up the burner. Voila.

How Much Wood Do You Use?

There really isn’t a rule for this; you’ll need to add enough wood to keep producing smoke as long as you need.

One thing worth mentioning, people often ask if the meat stops taking on smoke after a certain period of time. The answer is no. As long as the wood's still smoking the meat will continue to absorb smoke throughout the duration of the cook.

For a classic pork butt or brisket in a traditional smoker, that usually means starting with about 10 ounces of wood, and adding more as it burns down. On a grill, you can get away with less. On a charcoal grill, you likely need a little more.

Chickens and turkeys need less wood for smoking than brisket or pork as you aren’t trying to impart as smoky a flavor or as thick a bark. Fruits, vegetables, cheeses, etc, need even less.

Always remember, if your creating billowing clouds of smoke you're doing it wrong. Your neighbors shouldn't wonder if you've set fire to your house. Too much smoke will give the meat a bitter flavor after about an hour. The goal is to maintain a light colored, almost invisible, stream of smoke throughout the duration of the cook.

Feel free to experiment and find the amount of wood – and thus the amount of smoke – you prefer for your barbecue.


smoker accessories

BBQ Accessories

Start out by checking our collaboration of cool things grillers should own. Aside from that, the items below are good basics to have on deck.


Control is Key, Knowledge is Power: Why You Need a Thermometer

We’ve mentioned several times how essential a meat thermometer is for smoking meat. Allow us to reiterate that point:

Thermometers are the only way to ensure that meat is properly cooked to a safe temperature and that all harmful pathogens in or on the meat are killed off.

For most cooking, an instant read is all you need; poke it deep within the meat and see your food’s doneness within seconds.

When barbecuing, however, thermometers have other equally important purposes: 1) monitoring and maintaining pit temperature, and 2) watching the meat’s internal temp to ensure its reaches the point of maximum tender juiciness without drying out.

Types of Thermometers

Bi-Metal Dials

Bi-metal bbq theremoter

These are the small dial thermometers with red needle you see embedded in the top of your grill or smoker. You can also find them in probe form for sticking into a roast or bird. Bi-metal thermometers use two metal coils within the probe, which expand when exposed to heat.

Bi-metal dials are generally included with grills because they’re simple and cheap. Unfortunately, they’re also unreliable. Many have been to be anywhere from 50 to 100 degrees off! Hard to achieve a tenderly smoked brisket that way. They are also quite slow, taking up to a whole, tedious minute to stabilize.

Just throw that cheap one out and invest in a real meat thermometer.

Instant Read Thermometers

best priced thermomter for meat


Digital instant read thermometers are perfect for regular grilling and cooking in the kitchen; insert it into the meat and an accurate reading appears within seconds. They’re quite accurate, within 1F +/- of true temperature, and read out within 1-2 seconds.
Instant reads come in two types; thermistors and thermocouples.

Thermistors are cheaper and more basic than thermocouples. They conduct electric signals through the probe, where a resistor sits, and measure the changes in resistance as changes in temperature. While not as accurate as thermocouples, they can get within 2-5 degrees. They’re also slower, taking anywhere from 5-10 seconds to stabilize.

Thermocouples are more expensive and sophisticated; they are more accurate (down to .7F) and faster. They function thanks to two metal wires in the probe, which react to changes in temperature and create an electric current in response. They are usually bit pricier than thermistors, but we find the few extra bucks worth the accuracy and speed.

Instant read thermometers are designed for quick and general use in the kitchen, so they’re usually simple in design. But, they may have some extra nice features like waterproofing and intelligent displays. Battery life is great, too. Our pick is the ThermoPop coming in at $34.

Bluetooth Thermometers

thermoworks bluetooth dot winner

Instant read thermometers are great for everyday cooking, but barbecue calls for a little more power. With the magic of Bluetooth, you’ll be able to monitor these temps live with the app on your phone or tablet, as you wander around the house instead of hovering about. Most thermometers have an effective range of 100 feet, while some might get 150-300 feet. Our favorite Bluetooth thermometer is the BlueDot by TheremoWorks. It combines the best of affordability, ease-of-use and features into one complete package.

Bluetooth thermometers are smart devices, consisting of a device and a handful of probes (usually 2-4, sometimes 6 or 8) attached by way of heat-resistant cables. By sticking a probe (or several) into the slabs of meat and placing one in the pit itself for an ambient reading, you get to keep an eye on temps during long, all-day smokes.

Bluetooth thermometers include smart features such as auto alerts and temperature thresholds alerting you when your food or pit gets too hot or too cold. Most have cool features like cooking graphs and logs to track your progress and learn from each meat smoking session.

WiFi Thermometers

wifi bbq thermometer winner

WiFi thermometers are the biggest, baddest and most powerful of all meat thermometer for BBQ. They’re also some of most expensive. For a true meat geek, there’s no other choice: you need a WiFi thermometer. You can see our complete write-up where we review all the top WiFi devices here.

These devices are similar to Bluetooth, the big difference, they connect to your phone through the cloud via WiFi, as opposed to Bluetooth. Cloud connectivity means you can monitor your meat on your phone free from distance limitations. So, feel free to head out and do some errands or grab a cool beer with a friend during the 14-hour smoke. As long as you keep your phone with you, you can watch the meat’s precise progress.

High-end WiFi thermometers also often support integrated pit controllers; using a special PID-enabled cable or device, the device can be connected to a fan blower which attaches to your smoker/grill to control your internal pit temperature to maintain your desired ambient pit temperature throughout the duration of your smoking session. You are now free to enjoy a set-it-and-forget cook (like you can with an electric smoker) while getting all the benefits of smoking meat with wood or charcoal.

We love the Fireboard, it offers the most features of all the WiFi thermometers on the market, while receiving 5 stars from us across the board for quality, accuracy, and functionality.

BBQ Gloves

Smoking meat involves heat, and where there’s heat – there’s the danger of burning yourself. A good pair of BBQ gloves can help keep your hands safe – and comfortable.

BBQ gloves come in 4 types:


Silicone gloves are the best for handling food directly, fashioned from food-grade silicone. They don’t have as much insulation as other types of gloves and aren’t very dexterous. But the non-slip silicone lets you grab food and move it around the smoker; it’s also easy to clean.

Our favorite silicone gloves are the EkoGrips BBQ Oven Gloves.


Leather is old-school, and reliable. A pair of leather gloves makes grabbing hot grates, handling tools, and throwing logs into the fire comfortable and easy. Their thickness makes them good for protecting your hands, but not for dexterity. And since leather is hard to clean, they are not ideal for handling food directly.

Our top pick for leather BBQ gloves? Steve Raichlen Extra Long gloves, which boast 18” long gauntlets.


Usually made from some sort of heat-resistant fabric like Kevlar or Aramid, fabric gloves are nimble and easy to use, with non-slip grips on the palms. They’re not great for handling food but work fine for grill grates and hot pans. Just don’t use them when wet: water makes them conduct heat rapidly, making them dangerous to use.

Our favorite fabric gloves are the Grill Armor 932, with their insane 932F rating.


Synthetic gloves are a good compromise between fabric and silicone gloves. They usually have a fabric inner and rubber or silicone exterior, for grabbing both utensils and hot food directly. They’re usually pretty easy to clean thanks to the rubber outside, and well insulated to keep your hands safe – just don’t use them when wet, as with fabric gloves.

We like the Mitt Pitt BBQ gloves.

Charcoal Chimneys

As anybody with a charcoal grill can attest, fires can be difficult to start in a hurry. A charcoal chimney can help. A chimney has a place for sticking newspaper in the bottom compartment and charcoal above it; light the paper and put the charcoal above it. The oxygen coming in from the bottom creates a bellows effect that causes the fire to burn white hot, lighting the charcoal within minutes. From there, put the coals into your smoker and add more if necessary.

About the author Top Geek

I have always been a believer: “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’ve been lucky enough to use my professional experience in the meat industry over the past 20 years to create a business where I love to go to work.

Smoking Meat Geeks is all about bringing people together that enjoy food as much as I do. We provide a place for everyone to share thoughts, ideas, and recipes; to be a go-to spot for cooking inspiration. Feel free to leave a comment, say hello, or provide any tips. There is no right or wrong input, as long as you’re engaging, you’re a Meat Geek!

  • Very informative, thank you for the effort you put into that article. Nevertheless, one question sticks in my mind. First you wrote, wetting the wood is not necessary and then later you wrote to out the wood at least for an hour into water when smoking on charcoal grill. Why is that?

    • Wetting the wood isn’t necessary for propane/electric smokers (and even depending on the articles you read may not be recommended) because you want a clean burn while moisture will prevent this from happening. It will also dampen the aromas of the wood chips. In a charcoal grill however the heat is much higher and putting dry wood will result in them burning quickly and requiring more wood.

  • We’ve been updating this article for the last three weeks. It should be done by the end of the month. We will no longer be advising that you should soak wood/chips.

  • You have given a ton of info that was very helpful. First time and looking for positive results. Will let you know.

  • I am new to smoking. I’m using a older model Char Broil offset grill. So far I have cooked 2 pork loins. The first one I just cut off the fat put rub on and off I went. I poured way to much charcoal and used fluid to start. It came out tough. The second I had watched some videos and read some articles and realized some of my sins I bought and used a chimney with only 70 briquettes and mostly kept a 230 temp once in awhile it would drop to 150 and would have to scramble to get the temperature back to 230. It tasted good at the end but was chewy. Over cooked I would say. I need to buy a decent thermometer that has a outside reader so I know when the meat hits that perfect mark 146. I realize now that smoking is a ART that has to be mastered. Happy grilling yall.

    • Welcome to the beginning of an amazing journey. Offset grills can be tricky when it comes to maintaining a consistent temp. You’re right about grabbing a thermometer; it will give you an accurate idea of what’s going on with the meat and pit. Here’s a link to our main page on thermometers:

      Now with that out of the way, two things: 1. Consider smoking a pork shoulder/butt on your next session, I think you’ll be much happier with the final result here’s our writeup on the process: 2. Instead of shooting for 146°C (295°F) shoot a little higher, like 200 – 205°F, at 295°F collagens are still in the process of breaking down. Best to all the tasty homecooked meals that await.

  • First time smoker. Made my own uds with propane burner. Burner gets wood smoking then I turn off the gas and let the wood do the work. Does that sound efficient? Brand new at this

    • Congrats on jumping in head first. The idea behind a UDS is a “set it and forget it” type approach, otherwise known as RONCO technology. Using wood is a whole new beast and can pose a few initial problems. I personally have never used wood in my UDS, mostly because mine are designed to keep charcoal going which requires less air flow. The main issue is temperature control. Wood burns less predictably than quality charcoal. I know people do use wood in their UDS but I think it’s a matter of dialing in the air flow or using a thermostatic controller ( to regulate air flow. Additionally, you’ll want a door that would allow to easily add in more wood for longer cooks. All in all, the plans we feature on our site ( for building a UDS do not include the proper air flow needed for burning wood and I haven’t seen any plans for constructing them in this manner so you’ll likely have to play around with the amount of air you’re allowing into the barrel. So to answer your initial question, I know it can be efficient (using wood in your UDS) but it will take some tinkering around to get it right.

  • I am a meat geek. I am trying my first ever brisket next weekend. I am using a green egg and some oak wood. A USDA prime brisket and you tutorial and I am on my way. I can’t wait.

  • I’m in the process of building an outdoor pizza/ bread oven, it’s thick masonry, where you burn a fire inside, pull out the ashes, and then bake. I was wondering if there is any way to configure it or the chimney to smoke and preserve meat?

  • 5 stars
    Great article! I usually grill my barbeque using direct heat, but my wife hinted that she’d prefer some fall-off-the-bone ribs. I purchased an offset box and added it to my grill yesterday so that I could cook using indirect heat for the first time this morning.

    My temperature was consistently about 275°. The ribs were on the grill for almost three hours, which was a tad bit too long. Once I was done, my internal temperature was around 180°. I’ll probably need to invest in a thermometer for the next time. I’m also going to try to reduce my temperature a little more so that I can keep the meat on there longer.

    I had some good bark starting to form, which was amazing! I’d never seen that happen before.

    I used hickory wood and you’re right – I had to keep adding it to continue to produce smoke, which I didn’t mind. Thanks to your article, I knew not to do too much at one time. Every 15 minutes or so, I’d just reach into my wood chips, grab a handful, then throw it on top of the coals.

    The meat smells differently. Its texture is different. It’s very different from the way I usually cook it, a nice change of pace. One other bonus is that I wasn’t worried about flare ups!

    The information you provided gave me a great level of confidence this first time. I look forward to doing more in the future! Thanks a million!

  • Griller Greetings, Top Geek!

    Your work here is quite fullsome, dare I say complete. Your patience, passion, and professionalims is justification for your title of Top Geek.

    Thank you for your generosity in sharing with us your experience, preferences, and your advice. You will have saved many from costly pitfalls, cringing palates, and crumbling egos.

    Before reading this, I had tried to smoke a pork loin in my ceramic grill (a commendable copy of the ‘green egg’), using hardwood lump charcoal, with soaked chips. I was semi-successful. Using the vents, I was obvioulsy in an experiment. The temperature was a tad high, and the meat was quite smoky.

    Now armed with your generous work, I am ready to try all manner of proteins (fish, bacon, briskets…) in all 4 seasons.

    Thank you for everything you have done, and do, in encouraging the plebes!


  • 5 stars
    first time pellet griller thanks for all the good info i saved your article to my favorites so I could refer back to it again later

  • 5 stars
    The Pit Barrel Cooker and utilizing a combination of “charcoal and wood chips (not chunks)” seems an excellent chance for me to use the knowledge that you have posted on the web page to ensure that I have the most effective, simple, and proper way of “smoking” brisket and chicken. My question is: Should I use wood chips (or chunks) only, or would the “smoking effect” for beef, chicken, and seafood, be better with a combination of both wood chips and charcoal?

    • Pit Barrel Cooker works great as a set-it-and-forget-it ( using charcoal. It takes a good amount of “dialing in” when it comes to using straight wood. Moreover, smoking chicken or fish are best done with light smoke which lends itself to charcoal without wood (chips or chunks). When smoking beef or pork, I’d recommend following Pit Barrel Cooker’s instructions using charcoal, mixing in wood chips/chunks.

  • We have an ugly barrel smoker with 2 racks. Headed to a family reunion and plan on doing 4 briskets. Is there a limit as to how much meat you can put in a smoker at a time? We have extra racks that would keep them from touching and allow circulation, but I am still afraid it may change the flavor because of sharing smoke between twice the meat and will it change the overall cook time? What are your thoughts?

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