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How to prepare a smoker barbecue for cooking

MoonshineBen
Experienced Contributor

Difficulty: Beginner

A smoker barbecue can cook mouth-watering food, but taking some time to prepare your smoker for a big cook-up is essential.  This step-by-step guide is for an offset smoker, where the fire chamber is off to the side, leaving plenty of room in the food chamber for big pieces of meat.

Video Tutorial

Steps

Step 1

Fire up a chimney starter with a full load of lump charcoal. This is going to start the bed of coals that you build your fire on.

 

Step 1 - Get a full load of lump charcoal.jpg  Step 1.5 - Light lump charcoal.jpg

Step 2

Ensure the vents on your offset’s firebox are half open. Then tip the lit charcoal into the firebox and push towards the back. You want to keep the front clear to preheat your wood.

 

Add some smaller pieces of wood to the fire and place two larger logs away from the fire at the front of the firebox to preheat. Now close the lid.

 

Step 2 - Half Open Vents.jpg  Step 2.5 - Charcoal into Smoker.jpg

 

Step 3

After five to 10 minutes, lift the lid. Using tongs, place the two preheated logs onto the fire. They will light quickly. Place another log at the front of the firebox to preheat.

 

Close the lid and let your fire build. The smoke will start white but eventually thin out.

 

Step 3 - Add logs to fire.jpg

 

Step 4

Watch your temperature gauge for the desired temperature and use your vents to control airflow and stabilise it. You are looking for blue smoke before cooking – very thin smoke that is almost invisible. Too much white smoke can overpower meat and result in an unpleasant taste.

 

Step 4 - Wait for desired temp.jpg  Step 4.5 - Look for blue smoke.jpg

 

Step 5

Once stable, repeat the process of adding a log and preheating during the cook. Depending on the insulation in your smoker, the amount of air, the thickness of the steel and the outside temperature, the logs will burn at different rates. Typically, I add a new log every 30 to 45 minutes.

 

Step 5 - Once stable, repeat the process.jpg

Materials

  • Lump charcoal
  • Ironwood or similar hardwood splits (logs)

Tools

  • Offset smoker barbecue
  • Tongs to handle wood and charcoal
  • Barbecue chimney starter

Images

Step 1 - Get a full load of lump charcoal.jpg

Step 1.5 - Light lump charcoal.jpg

Step 2 - Half Open Vents.jpg

Step 2.5 - Charcoal into Smoker.jpg

Step 3 - Add logs to fire.jpg

Step 4 - Wait for desired temp.jpg

Step 4.5 - Look for blue smoke.jpg

Step 5 - Once stable, repeat the process.jpg

2 Replies
Kermit
Trusted Contributor

Thanks for the tip about "blue" smoke @MoonshineBen. I didn't know white smoke can result in an acrid taste. 

MoonshineBen
Experienced Contributor

@Kermit , no worries, glad you found it useful! I had way too many cooks early on where I thought the white smoke was it, but it's amazing the difference it makes.

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