How to Use a Smoker Box for Beginners

by Véronique Raymond
grilled meat

Let’s face it. Our ancestors have been outdoor cooking and smoking meat since the Stone Age. Fortunately, with the advent of technology, your home doesn’t need to be filled with thick plumes of smoke to revel in the tastiness of smoked meat.

Granted, the art of barbecuing has been fairly uninfluenced by the modern age, particularly when it comes to using a charcoal BBQ. However, some contemporary influences have been ushered in, for instance, a smoker box.

It’s a simple innovation that houses the wood chips required to smoke meat. In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of how to use a smoker box.

How to Use a Smoker Box – Step-By-Step Cooking Process

The BBQ process may vary from one smoker box to another. However, the concept of using a smoker box is standard and entails following the steps below.

1. Put Wood Chips in a Smoker Box

Put dry wood chips into the chamber. You can soak them beforehand to prevent them from catching fire. Nevertheless, if you’re using a modern smoker, you don’t need to soak the smoking chips as they lack holes on their bottoms, reducing the likelihood of direct exposure to flames.

2. Put the Smoker Box Next to the Source of Heat

On a charcoal barbecue, this implies that you should position the box directly above the coal. On a gas barbecue, you’ll put the box over the burners, after which you’ll need to wait patiently for the box to begin emitting smoke. For that reason, if you’re using a gas grill, it’s advisable to preheat to maximum levels.

3. Barbecue the Meat

When the smoker box begins emitting smoke, turn your burner down to the standard cooking temperature. Once a smoker box is well-heated, it’ll retain heat throughout the cooking duration. Toss your meat onto the barbecue and cook as you usually would.

4. Refill Wood Chips as Required

The wood chips will burn out at times before your meat is ready to eat. You’ll need heat-resistant tongs to remove the smoker box and refill the chamber when that happens. While wearing heat-proof gloves, use the tongs to open the box and refill the chamber with more chips.

Tips on How to Use a Smoker Box

To make full use of your box, you must understand the best way to use it. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

  • Refrigerated meat absorbs the smoke flavor better compared to that of room temperature
  • During the smoking process, make sure the lid of your barbecue is closed. This smolders and ensures the smoky flavor permeates the meat without escaping

Features of the Best Smoker Box

With an understanding of how to use a smoker box, you might be looking to invest in one. However, before you do, keep an eye out for the following features to ensure you get value for your money and avoid unwarranted surprises down the road.

Crafted from Top-Grade Metals

A smoking box must be made of high-end metals like cast iron and steel to prevent the box from warping or melting – most use stainless steel, which works well. Keep in mind that a box of excellent quality will cost you more but is more durable. After all, as with everything else in life, you get what you pay for.

A Conventional Design

When it comes to choosing a smoker box, less is more. Opt for a simple design with fixed holes that allow the flow of smoke without the risk of ash landing on your meat.

A Nonstick Layer

A smoker box that lacks nonstick layering will be tedious and frustrating to clean. When the wood chips burn, they produce ash that may clog up the holes. If the smoker box is directly below the grilling meat, fats and juices will inevitably land on it and require cleaning.

Easy to Use

Choose a smoker box that contains a top-open lid to facilitate the easy refilling of wood chips while it’s on the grill. Additionally, the size and shape of the box should be a snug fit in your barbecue for the best outcome.

What Are the Best Meats to Smoke?

meat grilling

Source: Unsplash

If you’re still learning the ropes when it comes to smoking meat, here are the most suitable meats to smoke in your smoker box.

  • Beef ribs
  • Duck (whole)
  • Turkey (whole)
  • Salmon
  • Lamb’s shoulder
  • Beef brisket

What Are the Best Wood Chips for a Smoker Box?

Although the choice of meat significantly affects smoking success, it’s not surprising that the types of wood chips are equally as important. With the wealth of options that have littered the market, you might be engulfed in a wave of confusion if you don’t know where to begin.

Let’s discuss the main types of wood chips and when to use them in a smoker box.


It’s perfect for smoking breeds of wild birds, pork, and chicken. Applewood has a mild flavour profile with a subtle sweet aftertaste. Keep in mind that it’s a gentle smoke which means it’ll take a few hours for the smoke to pervade the meat.


These wood chips usually come in handy when smoking salmon. However, Alder’s sweet yet subtle flavour blends well with other types of fish.


These wood chips are a perfect blend with all types of meat but are best suited to ham, turkey, and chicken. Cherry chips have a subtle fruity and sweet flavour profile that compliments most types of meat.

Grape Vine

These chips are best suited for smoking poultry, lamb, and pork. That’s because Grape Vine has a bold, tart flavour with tinges of fruitiness. Given their bold flavour, these chips should be used sparingly.


These chips are ideal for smoking larger chunks of meat such as ribs, shoulders, and pork. Hickory has a bold, sweet flavour that mimics bacon. Like grape vine chips, hickory should be used in small amounts to avoid overpowering the flavour of your meat.


These are best suited for game fowl and poultry meat. Maple wood chips have an undertone of sweetness and a mild flavour.


These chips gel with all types of red meat. Mesquite has a bold, earthy flavour which means you risk overly flavouring the meat with excessive use.


These wood chips are suitable for sausages, lamb, brisket, and beef. If you’re looking to strike a balance between overly strong mesquite chips and subtle apple chips, then oak chips are right up your alley as they have a moderate smoky flavour.


Although these chips pair well with poultry, they are suitable for most meats. Pecan has a bold, sweet, and nutty flavour profile.

Should You Soak Wood Chips?

A smoker box typically eliminates the risk of wood chips catching flames which is why most people opt to soak them. Besides the relatively unnecessary process of soaking the chips, wet wood takes considerably longer to burn and smoke compared to its dry counterparts. If you choose to soak your chips before adding them to the smoker box, here’s the best way to get the job done.

Select a Soaking Agent

Although hot water is typically the go-to option, you can use wine, lemon juice, whiskey, or beer if you want to infuse more flavours into the chips.

Soak the Chips

The soaking time is based on the strength of the agent. Therefore, the stronger it is, the less time your chips are soaked. We recommend soaking the chips in water for 45 minutes to an hour or 15 to 20 minutes in wine.

Drain the Chips

Once you’ve soaked them for the recommended duration, drain your wood chips and let them drip dry.

Pour the Chips into the Chamber

Once the chips have drained the liquid, pour them into the chamber of your smoker box.


Let’s explore the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about smoker boxes.

1. How does a smoker box work?

When it’s filled with wood chips and placed next to a heat source, it starts emitting smoke controllably. The smoke will stem from the strategically positioned holes and pervade the meat.

2. Can you smoke other foods besides meat?

If you enjoy grilling veggies on your barbecue, you’ll be pleased to learn that your smoker box will come in handy for a rich, smoky flavour. Examples of veggies that taste better with the infusion of smoke are cabbages, corn, eggplants, and zucchini.

3. How many wood chips should you use in a smoker box?

The more wood chips you use, the thicker the smoke and the longer it will last. Most manufacturers of smoker boxes suggest filling the chamber with wood chips to avoid the predicament of using an insufficient amount which leads to frequent refills. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the quantity of chips used varies based on the type of meat and wood.


You don’t require a smoking grill for perfectly smoked meat. With a smoker box, you can use a propane grill, charcoal grill, or pellet grill. Just make sure to use some aluminum foil and have a cooking grate in your BBQ to make the process easier for yourself. Smoker boxes are affordable and low maintenance, making them a worthwhile investment.


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