Many BBQ lovers wonder how to increase heat in a smoker. Smoking meat to perfection is a skill that only gets better with time and practice. The key to this ingenious act lies in effective temperature control throughout the cooking process. Only then can you get the desired result; a tender, tasty and flavorful dish!
You might be wondering; just how hard is it to regulate your smoker’s temperature? To be honest, smoking on a grill really isn’t as simple as it sounds. This is because there’s no one set way to raise or lower your smoker’s temperature. Temperature control largely depends on how you regulate the fuel and oxygen flowing into the unit. The basic premise of controlling your grill’s temperature is this:
- Add more oxygen and the temperature will rise.
- Reduce the oxygen intake and the temperature will decrease.
Yes but, how do you do this?
You need to control the smoker’s intake damper, also known as the top vent, which is responsible for bringing oxygen to the unit. And, the exhaust damper, also known as the bottom vent or exhaust vent, which is designed to pull the oxygen into the smoker via the intake damper. Simply put: by closing off your smoker’s intake damper or top vent, you’re literally starving the fire resulting in a decrease in temperature. Keep the exhaust damper or exhaust vent open and oxygen reaches the coals.
But no need to feel overwhelmed by the science behind temperature control of your smoker. I am here to help shed clarity on the above as well as answer a few burning questions you might have on the process so you get it done the right way. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- 1 How Long Does it Take for a Smoker to Heat Up?
- 2 How to Increase the Temperature in an Offset Smoker
- 3 How to Increase the Temperature in a Charcoal Smoker
- 4 Why Can’t I Get my Smoker Hot Enough?
- 5 What If My Temperature Gets Too High?
- 6 How Do You Keep a 250 Degree Smoker?
- 7 Do You Now Have What it Takes to Effectively Control Your Smoker Temperature?
How Long Does it Take for a Smoker to Heat Up?
To get a better understanding of this topic, how about to start with the basics? Just how long does it take for a smoker to heat up? How long the process takes depends on multiple factors as I’ll explain below.
What Type of Grill Are You Using?
Certain grills are designed to retain heat for longer. As such you don’t have to worry too much about constantly increasing the temperature in your smoker. Smokers that heat up fast generally have a higher BTU. Such smokers will warm up in as little as five minutes. It follows that smokers with lower BTUs take longer to get hot.
Aside from the power generated, the material the grill is made of plays a huge role. Smokers made of thick metal tend to warm up slowly but they retain heat for longer. On the other hand, grills made of thin metal will warm up quickly but will lose the heat just as fast.
Another factor that affects how long your smoker takes to heat up is whether or not it’s insulated. Insulated smokers will warm up faster than their non-insulated counterparts.
What Cooking Method Are You Using?
When smoking with grill, you have two methods to pick from; direct and indirect grilling. Direct grilling involves grilling your meat directly above the fuel source. As you can imagine, this process allows the smoker to warm up pretty quickly, approximately between 10 and 15 minutes.
On the other hand, with indirect grilling, you’re using adjacent heat sources for cooking. It’ll naturally take longer for the smoker to warm up in this case- even up to 20 minutes.
Which Fuel Are You Using?
How long your smoker heats up will also depend on the type of fuel you’re using. Certain types of fuel are designed to burn a lot faster and hotter compared to others. Case in point, charcoal takes a while to warm up compared to pellets. But this will depend on the type of charcoal you use. Natural lump charcoal tends to light up and burn faster compared to other types-especially the cheaper brands.
What’s the Weather Like?
After all is said and done, you need to take the weather into account. Smoking meat in cold temperatures or when there’s plenty of wind means your smoker will take a while to warm up. It follows that the opposite applies when grilling on a hot and sunny day
How to Increase the Temperature in an Offset Smoker
In our experience, offset smokers are a common favorite among many smoking enthusiasts. It’s really not surprising given the tasty and flavorful meat that results after grilling with this smoker. But it’s no secret that controlling the temperature in an offset smoker isn’t the easiest of tasks since the unit takes time to heat up. Thankfully there’s a technique that I’ll readily share with you when it comes to increasing the temperature in this type of smoker. To raise the temperature, simply follow these easy steps:
- When using an offset smoker, you’ll have to be generous with your fuel to keep the fire up. Make sure you have a strong and steady fire to begin with.
- When you notice the temperature decreasing, make sure you add another chunk of wood. Be sure to open the smoker’s firebox and damper all the way as this will keep the fire up. Constantly monitor the fire to see if it isn’t dying down. Every 15 minutes is a good timeframe.
- Inspect your smoker for any cracks that might cause heat to escape and seal them with silicone.
- Use a water pan. In this case, you control the smoker’s water by placing a foil pan with hot water to create a hot smoking environment.
How to Increase the Temperature in a Charcoal Smoker
Charcoal smokers are also popular among many smoking lovers. That’s why I’ll also explain how best you can raise the temperature in a charcoal smoker. As previously highlighted, most charcoal smokers have an intake damper and exhaust damper which you must manipulate to control the temperature.
In order to raise the temperature inside your charcoal smoker, try out the following:
- Open the intake damper all the way if you want to raise the temperature inside the smoker.
- Keep the exhaust damper partially open at all times so that smoke exits the chimney.
- Close the lid to avoid heat from escaping the charcoal smoker.
- Add combustibles like fully lit coals as soon as you notice the temperature decreasing. You could add unlit coals but just know that there’ll be a lot of smoke produced in the process.
Why Can’t I Get my Smoker Hot Enough?
Even after learning the various tips, you can incorporate to raise your smoker temperature, there are cases where your smoker still doesn’t get hot enough. If this happens it could be because of one the following reasons;
- The environmental temperatures are just too low. Smoking in extremely cold conditions can make it difficult to get your smoker’s cooking temperature up.
- Check if the intake damper or top vent is open. Make sure that it’s open all the way at all times.
- Check if the exhaust damper is opened or closed. Again, keep it open all the way at all times.
- Smoking with a cheap quality smoker that has a lid that doesn’t close tightly might be the cause.
- Using a cracked smoker that allows oxygen to escape the unit might be sabotaging your efforts.
- Grilling with a smoker that isn’t insulated can also contribute to the problem. Opt for an insulated smoker designed to retain heat for longer.
- Are you using enough fuel? Be sure to stock up on enough wood and charcoal.
- Adding excess wet charcoal can reduce your cooking temperature.
- If you’re constantly opening the lid and peeking inside the grill every five minutes, you’re preventing your grill from heating up. Close it.
What If My Temperature Gets Too High?
As mentioned, grill smoking requires strict temperature control. That means you have to effectively control the smoker temperature depending on the cooking process. Do you want it low, high, or constant?
Remember that the idea is to strike a balance between the heat and smoke produced by your smoker at any given time. While we want consistent temperature, that doesn’t mean that it should be too high. So, what happens if your temperature gets too high? I don’t need to deliberate on how extremely high temperatures can cause flare-ups resulting in burnt food., right?
There are a couple of things you can do to try and reduce the heat such as the following:
- Adjust the temperature via the smoker’s vent or chimney. Open the top vent or bottom vent depending on the smoker’s design. Why? This is because the wider the vents, the more air can flow into the smoker thereby reducing the overall temperature inside the unit.
- Add briquettes to your grill because they are designed to burn slower. As a result, they’ll neutralize the temperature inside the unit resulting in a decrease in the overall heat inside the smoker.
- Add wet wood chips: The concept behind adding wet wood chips is pretty similar to when you add briquettes. They burn slow, keep the flames low, and reduce the smoker’s temperature.
- Aim for medium smoking temperatures. The secret to a perfect grilling experience lies in constant temperature inside the smoker. Preferably between 225 and 250 degrees.
How Do You Keep a 250 Degree Smoker?
Here’s a little secret; when smoking meat, keeping the temperature at 250 is the key if you expect a tender and smoky outcome. The only problem with this is that it’s very difficult to keep your temperature at this magic number. This is especially true if you’re using old fashioned smokers as the temperatures tend to fluctuate constantly. But all hope isn’t lost. There are a few tips and tricks you can incorporate to keep your smoker at the 250-degree mark such as the following:
- Firstly, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the smoker’s temperature. Investing in a quality and accurate air temperature thermometer is the first step. But be sure to place the thermometer in the top vent of the grill with the probe hanging down to monitor the temperature.
- Use light charcoal to start up your fire. The result is a steady and consistent fire to avoid abrupt flare-ups.
- Open both the exhaust damper and intake damper.
- Adjust the exhaust damper and intake damper where necessary. If the temperature is too high, close the vents a bit. Open them a bit more when it’s too low.
- Set up a two-zone grill to create a low cooking temperature. You do this by piling coal on one side of the grill and then place your food on the opposite side for indirect & slow cooking.
- Always monitor the fuel and refuel when it’s too low to keep the temperature consistent.
- Observe the smoke. You want to make sure your grill is producing blue smoke, The moment it turns translucent, it means that your wood isn’t burning properly resulting in a temperature decrease.
Do You Now Have What it Takes to Effectively Control Your Smoker Temperature?
Smoking on the grill can be a tedious process if you’re still new to the grilling world. But with time and lots of practice, you’ll soon get the hang of it. As mentioned, the art of smoking meat well lies in your ability to control the smoker’s temperature. You need to know when it’s time to open or close your vents as well as which vents to adjust at any given time; is it the top or bottom vent?
Where possible I’d strongly advise you to take your grill for a dry trial run first before loading it with meat. Even more so if it’s your first time using that particular grill. Before fretting about the fuel you’ll burn up unnecessarily, know that this process helps you figure out how long your smoker takes to warm up, how your vents work, and how best you should adjust them. This process might be just what you need to make you the barbecue extraordinaire you ‘re meant to be!