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10 Tips for Smoker Success

Using a propane smoker is by no means difficult — but knowing these 10 tips makes the difference between a smoker newbie and a smokerhouse pro.

1. Marinate before and during smoking

The honest-to-god best way to marinate before smoking is with a Weston Vacuum Sealer (we're not just saying this to get you to buy one - it's the truth!). The vacuum of the sealer opens the pores of the food, allowing more marinade to get in. This means more marinade inside of the food, a faster marination time, and a bolder flavor. Once you're smoking, use a marinade injector and/or basting brush to add even more flavor and moisture during the cooking process.

marinated meat

2. Soak your wood chips thoroughly

Wood chips need that water in order to smoke, so give yourself at least a half hour of soaking time to ensure the smoke rolls from that smoker box. Not a bad idea to soak overnight if you can.

3. Fill the water bowl right away … and with hot water

smoker water bowl

The classic rookie mistake goes like this:

"Got my smoker to 300°F like the recipe said. Put the meat in. Filled the water bowl. Stupid smoker. This thing's only 100° now. Must be broken. "

Anytime anything is added into that smoker cabinet, the energy will go toward heating it. If you put the water bowl in after preheating, the temperature is going to go down because energy is being spent on heating up all of that water - and it takes a lot of energy to heat water. 

It's an easy fix. Fill the water bowl with hot water before you even open the propane tank. The water's already hot, so the energy will go to heating the cabinet rather than the water, and once you hit your preheat point, the only lowering that will happen is when you put in your food - which is how it should be. Clearly, we could go on about this forever...

4. Keep the dampers closed to bring the smoker to temperature

Easy. You wouldn't preheat your oven with the door open, would you?

5. Vent the dampers on the sides of your smoker about half-way once you're ready to generate smoke

Those dampers are there for air flow and smoke generation. On a warm, not overly windy day, cracking the side dampers allows for proper airflow for the smoke to blow, without losing all of your heat and smoke out of the sides.

smoker damper

6. Keep the top damper mostly closed

Heat rises, smoke rises. While it will make its way out of the side dampers eventually, you'll trap much more smoke up toward the top of the cabinet, where the food is... forcing much of that smoke into the food.

smoker wood chips

7. Change out your wood chips at least once an hour

Wood turns into ashes when it burns. Leave your ashy wood chips in that smoker box, and I guarantee your food will taste like ash rather than smoke. Be sure to empty the box out before you fill it with fresh, soaked chips.

8. Invest in a digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the food you're smoking

While our smokers have temperature gauges, those are for the temperature inside of the cabinet. You have no idea what the temperature of the center of your food is unless you measure it (or cut it open and look at the color …which isn't recommended for many, many reasons). If you're not closely monitoring the internal temperature, you can easily end up with a dry, overcooked product, or with one that is perfect on the outside and perfectly raw on the inside.

9. Snag yourself some heat-resistant gloves

You can get around it, but if you want to really make friends with your smoker, get gloves that will allow you to change out the mega-hot smoker box as often as you like, pull the scorching metal racks out, turn the dampers throughout the smoking process, and pull out & replace the water bowl. If you can't touch the metal parts of the smoker while your food is cooking, you become very limited in your smoking abilities. 

Weston Smoker

10. Low and slow is the key to smoking

Don't get anxious about getting that delicious smoked roast out of the smoker to eat. Your food needs time to get a smoky flavor. An hour at 400° will produce about the same effect as an oven for most foods - kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? You also run a high risk of drying foods out in the smoker. The water bowl will certainly help with this, but the higher your temperature, the more quickly moisture evaporates out of your food. Time is your friend here, and the lower and slower you can cook at, you're going to want to. A pork shoulder smoked at 150-160 for 12 hours is well worth it. 

There you have it: 10 of our top tips to successfully using a propane smoker!


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