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Meat Smoking for Beginners

Smoker grills give you the best tasting meat you've ever enjoyed - cooked slowly on a smoker, your favorite cuts will be tender and simply irresistible. These are available in many sizes and styles and include a variety of different features. With proper planning, they're great for those who enjoy entertaining guests.

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Infographic: Cate White / Copywriter: Kelly Weisenberg
Meat Smoking 101

Smokers are not like traditional outdoor grills. Instead of putting your food directly over a heat source for a short amount of time, heat, smoke, and moisture from smoldering coals are allowed to slowly influence the meat. You'll find different designs, shapes, and sizes, but every smoker has a grill (where you put the meat), a water pan or bowl (keeps the environment moist and tasty), and a charcoal/wood chip bowl (brings the heat).

The Best Smokers for Beginners

For the casual smoker and entertainer, we recommend a smoker/grill combo. It's convenient and space-saving and still provides the option of traditional grilling. Some of these even allow you to cook different foods at varying temperatures at the same time.

Safe Temperatures For Meat
Type Degrees
Poultry Breast 170° F
Whole Poultry 180° F
Beef, Veal & Lamb Roasts 145-170° F
Pork 160-170° F

Smokers are grouped into three main categories: charcoal, electric, and gas. Charcoal varieties are our best-selling models, thanks to the convenience of grill combos and easy-to-use vertical smokers. Charcoal may be more traditional and ideal for beginners, but electric and gas designs offer outstanding temperature control. Most of our box-shaped designs are propane-fueled with the convenience of push-button ignition systems.

What to Look for in a Smoker


This square, cabinet-like design stands on four splayed legs. Some models feature two bottom drawers for easy access to the water pan and wood chip box without letting heat escape. A box combines the larger capacity of an offset design with the temperature-efficient design of vertical models.


Low-cost and easy to use, this is the most popular option for beginners. The heat rises from the unit's bottom through a water bowl or pan. Infused with moisture, this hot air makes for tender, meaty vittles. The small size and efficient shape of vertical models is offset by their limited capacity, but this is a great choice for backyard family BBQs.


These models consist of a primary cooking chamber and a side firebox for indirect heat smoking. Most designs of this kind are combination charcoal grills and smokers. Heat and smoke from the side box pass through the grill and out through the "chimney" or smoke stack. This design offers much more cooking space than vertical models.

Fuel Types Used for Certain Meats

The most common and traditional process used to fuel a charcoal smoker consists of combining commercial charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal along aromatic wood chips or chunks. For electric and propane-fueled smokers, you'll still combine wood chips, chunks, or pellets with a heat source and moisture to produce smoke, and - in most cases - there won't be a need for the use of charcoal (unless desired).

Wood chips provide the flavor for the food. Each type of wood yields a different flavor, and some are better suited for certain meats and fish than others. Most backyard chefs are likely to choose from hickory, pecan, red and white oak, and mesquite for beef and pork, and you can't go wrong when smoking fish using alder and classic fruitwoods such as apple and cherry.