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how to use a smoker box

How to Use a Smoker Box – All You Need to Know

If you’ve been wondering how to use a smoker box, you’ve come to the right place. In article will focus on this and more.

Our ancestors have been smoking meat since Paleolithic times. Thankfully with the best smokers available now you don’t need to put up with your home filling from floor to ceiling with thick plumes of smoke just to enjoy the deliciousness of smoked meat.

While the art of barbecuing has remained relatively untouched by the influence of the modern age, especially when it comes to barbecuing directly over charcoal, some modern influences are very much welcome.

One such modern influence is the innovative yet simple smoker box. A smoker box is a heat-resistant metal box used to hold the wood chips needed to successfully smoke our meats.

How to Use a Smoker Box

Using a smoker box couldn’t be any easier. Simply place wood chips in the smoker box, place the smoker box near the heat source, add your meat to the barbecue and refill the chips as & if needed. For a more detailed look at how to use a smoker box, either on a gas barbecue or a charcoal smoker, keep reading.

Smoking box

Your Step by Step Guide on How to Use a Smoker Box

While the exact step by step process can differ slightly from smoker box to smoker box, the general principles of using a smoker box remain the same. Let’s take a look at them.

Step 1: Place Wood Chips in Smoker Box

Place dry wood chips of your choice into the chamber of the smoker box. Some people prefer to soak their wood chips beforehand to reduce the risk of them catching fire. With modern smoker boxes this is unnecessary as they don’t feature holes on their bottoms so there is no risk of the chips being exposed to direct flames.

Step 2: Place the Smoker Box Near the Heat Source

Place the wood chip filled smoker box near the heat source. On charcoal barbecues this means that the smoker box should be placed directly on top of the coals. On gas barbecues you’ll place the smoker box on top of the burners. It’ll take a while for the smoker box to start producing smoke, so it’s recommended that you turn the heat up to maximum on gas grills.

Step 3: Start Barbecuing your Meat

Once your smoker has started to produce smoke, adjust your burner back down to its regular cooking temperature. When a smoker box is properly heated it will remain hot throughout the entire cooking process. Throw your meat on the barbecue and cook it as you normally would.

Step 4: Refill Wood Chips as Needed

Sometimes your wood chips will burn out before your meat is finished cooking and you’ll need to refill the smoker box’s wood chip chamber. If this happens to you, grab a pair of heat-resistant tongs and remove the smoker box from the heat. Still using your tongs or a pair of heat-resistant gloves, open the smoker box and refill the wood chips & place the smoker box back on the barbecue.

Tips for Using a Smoker Box

To make the most of a smoker box, you need to know how to use it properly. Here is a tip and a trick to keep in mind when using a smoker box.

  • Cold meat straight from the refrigerator absorbs smoke better than room-temperature meat.
  • Keep the lid of your barbecue closed as much as possible while your meat is smoking. This is to ensure your smoke properly permeates the meat as much as possible and does not escape.
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smoker box

Features Every Good Smoker Box Has

Now that you know how to use a smoker box, you’re probably keen to get your hands on one for yourself. But before you click ‘Add to Cart’ on your shiny new smoker box, keep your eyes peeled for the following features:

  • Made with high quality metals: A smoker box needs to be made with high quality metals such as steel or cast iron to prevent the box from melting and warping. High quality metal smoker boxes will cost you a little more, but they’ll last a whole lot longer.
  • Should have a traditional design: As is the case with a couple of things in life, simple is better when it comes to a smoker box’s design. A smoker box should feature fixed holes for proper flow of smoke without risking any ash escaping and landing on your meat.
  • Must have a non-stick coating: Without a non-stick coating, a smoker box will be difficult and unpleasant to clean. As wood chips burn, they create ash which can clog up the holes if it gets stuck. If you’re using your smoker box directly under meat on the grill, juices and fats will also fall down into it which needs to be cleaned.
  • Must be easy to use: Pick a smoker box with a top-open lid to make sure that you can refill the wood chips while it’s still on the grill. The shape and size of your smoker box should also fit easily in your barbeque for optimal results.

Learning the Ropes? Here are the Best Meats to Smoke

If you’re not too confident in your meat smoking skills just yet, we’ve got you covered. The best meats to smoke when you’re just learning how to use a smoker box are:

  • Beef brisket
  • Beef ribs
  • Whole turkey
  • Whole duck
  • Lamb shoulder
  • Salmon

While the choice of meat heavily impacts the success of a smoke, you might not be so surprised to hear that the key part of successful smoking lies in the wood chips used.

What are the Best Wood Chips to Use in a Smoker Box?

If you know anything about smoking meats, you’ll know that there are many wood chip options available. From oak chips to apple chips—the amount of available wood chips can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Here’s a quick guide to the main kinds of wood chips and when you should use them:


Applewood is great for smoking pork, chicken and wild bird breeds. Applewood’s flavor profile is mild with a slightly sweet aftertaste. Be mindful that Applewood is a gentle smoke so it will take a good couple of hours for the smoke to permeate the meat.


This wood chips are mostly used when smoking salmon, but its delicate flavor lends itself to most types of fish. Alder wood chips have a light subtle sweet flavor.


Cherry wood chips pair well with almost all meats but is particularly well suited to chicken, turkey and ham. It has a mild sweet and fruity flavor that compliments most meat types.

Grape vine

These wood chips work well with lamb, pork and poultry. Grape vine wood chips have a sharp, tart flavor with fruity undertones. Because grape vine wood chips provide such strong flavors, use it sparingly.


Hickory wood chips are perfect for bigger chunks of pork meat such as shoulders and ribs. These wood chips have a strong sweet bacon-like flavor. Just like with grape vine chips, use it sparingly to avoid over-flavoring your meat.


Maple wood chips are best used with poultry and game fowl meats. It has a subtle flavor, with a slightly sweet taste.


Mesquite wood chips pair exceptionally well with red meats. It has a head earthy flavor. Mesquite wood chips provide a strong, intense flavor so make sure you don’t use too much of it.


Oak wood chips are perfect for lamb, beef, brisket and sausages. They are the in-between chip of choice when apple chips are too light and mesquite chips are too strong. Oak wood chips have a medium smoky flavor.


Pecan wood chips work best with poultry but can be used on most meats. It has a nutty, rich and sweet flavor profile.

To Soak or Not to Soak

As we mentioned above, most smoker boxes are specifically designed to eliminate the risk of wood chips catching alight which is the main reason why people choose to soak wood chips. In addition to the somewhat unnecessary step of soaking wood chips, wet wood chips will take much longer to burn and start smoking than dry wood chips.smoker box

Ultimately though, the choice is yours. If you’re determined to soak your wood chips before adding them to the smoker box, here’s how:

  • Choose your soaking agent: Most people just use hot water but if you want to impart even more flavor into your wood chips you can use lemon juice, beer, whiskey or even wine.
  • Soak your wood chips: The soaking time is dependent on how strong the soaking agent is. The stronger the soaking agent, the shorter the soaking time. Soak wood chips in water for around one hour and soak wood chips in wine for a mere 15 minutes.
  • Drain the wood chips: Once the soaking time is up, drain the wood chips and allow them to drip dry until they aren’t dripping liquid any longer.
  • Place the wood chips in the smoker box: When your wood chips have been drained, simply place them in the smoker box’s chip chamber.

How to Smoke Meat Without a Smoker Box

You can still enjoy smoked meat without a smoker box, although for best results it is recommended that you invest in one. Here’s how to smoke your meat without a smoker box.

Smoking on the Barbecue without a Smoker Box

If your cooking your meat on the barbecue, pour your wood chips onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Place another sheet of aluminum foil over the wood chips and twist the ends into a bag-like shape. Use a skewer to poke holes in the foil to allow the smoke to escape. If you’re using a charcoal barbecue, you can use the same method as listed above or place wood chunks directly onto the coals.

Smoking in the Oven

When you’re smoking meat in the oven it’s recommended that you soak your wood chips beforehand as they aren’t contained by a proper smoker box. Drain and place the soaked wood chips in an aluminum pan, making sure to only cover the bottom of the pan & not layer with wood chips. Place the pan in the oven. Place your meat into the oven and cook as you normally would.


Before we wrap this article up, we thought we’d answer some of your burning questions. If your question isn’t answered here and hasn’t been addressed above, feel free to ask it in the comments section below.

How do smoker boxes work?

When a smoker box is filled with wood chips and applied on or near a heat source it begins to emit smoke in a controlled manner. This smoke will emerge from the strategically placed holes and permeate the meat.

Can I smoke anything other than meat?

Those of you that love grilling vegetables on the barbecue will be happy to hear that you can use a smoker box to get a smoked vegetable flavor too. Zucchini, eggplant, corn and cabbage fare particularly well from the addition of smoke.

How many wood chips?

The more wood chips you use, the thicker the smoke will be and the longer the smoke will last. Most smoker box manufacturers recommend filling the box up with wood chips to avoid using too little and having to refill the chamber. This is subjective of course and the type of wood chip you’re using as well as the meat you’re smoking must be taken into consideration.


You don’t need a smoking grill to smoke your meat to perfection, all you need is a barbecue and a smoker box. The best part about a smoker box is that they’re cheap to buy, easy to maintain and wonderful to have on hand.

Now that you know how to use a smoker box will you be buying one for yourself? Let us know in the comments section below.

How to Use a Smoker Box - All You Need to Know