How to Smoke Meat with a Charcoal Smoker

Smoked meat boasts a delicious flavour and tender texture. Although various types of smokers can be used for this technique, charcoal smokers remain one of the most popular means to smoke meat.

Smoking meat in a charcoal smoker takes time and patience, but this pays off due to the rustic flavour provided by the charcoal. The process is long simply because charcoal smoker indirectly heats meat, whereas a grill directly heats meat. In the end this process is healthier and allows for more evenly cooked meat.

To perfectly smoke your meat, consider our tips for smoking meat with a charcoal smoker.

Smoke your meat with your charcoal smoker in 6 easy steps:

 

1. Heat the Charcoal in a Chimney

Before adding charcoal to the smoker, heat the charcoal in a chimney – this will likely need to be purchased separately from your smoker. By heating your charcoal in a chimney, the coals will burn faster and help your food to cook evenly.

According to Weber, you want to fill the chimney starter with 2/3rds of briquettes. If you choose not to purchase a chimney, then heat the charcoal in your smoker before adding any meat.

image of charcoal in charcoal smoker

2. Put the Charcoal into the Smoker

According to WikiHow, after lighting your charcoal, you will want to let it sit for roughly 15 minutes before adding it to your grill or smoker, or before adding meat into the smoker.

Once you put the charcoal into the smoker, it is important to arrange it appropriately. The hot charcoal should be placed on top of any unlit charcoal, and onto one side of the smoker.

3. Elevate Smoke with Wood Chips

Wood chips help the smoking process because they enhance the flavour of the meat and increase the level of smoke for even cooking. Place the wood CHIPS in the smoker off to the same side as the lit charcoal. You can alternatively put the wood in the chimney with the charcoal when you first get the process started.

Add wood chips to provide a unique, rustic flavour to the meat. There are different flavours of wood chips and wood chunks available for pellet grills and charcoal smokers alike, including hardwoods, fruitwoods and nut woods.

It’s up to you to choose which wood chip flavour is best for the flavour palette you are going for, but nut woods burn best are and are typically intended for smoking meat.

4. Add Water for Vapour

Your charcoal smoker will need a water source, as its process requires vapour for indirect heating. Some smokers will include a water pan but, if yours doesn’t, you can use a foil baking pan. Fill the pan ¾ full of cold water to ensure enough vapour is produced to cook your meat properly. Place the pan either in the middle of the grill or on the opposite side of the meat.

picture of meat on charcoal smoker grill

5. Insert Meat at the Desired Temperature

Epicurious suggests waiting for the unit to reach the desired temperature of heat (likely between 220 Fahrenheit and 250 degrees Fahrenheit) before putting the meat in. A meat probe should indicate this temperature.

The charcoal and meat are placed this way to prevent direct heat from the charcoal and to allow indirect heating from the smoke and vapour. This prevents burning and allows for more even cooking.

6. Cover the Smoker & Let the Meat Cook

It’s time to close the smoker and let it do its thing. Just be sure that when you close the lid on the smoker that the vents are above the meat so that there is sufficient airflow coming into the unit. Consider our smoking meat tips and tricks next time you use a charcoal smoker to smoke