Top Ten Tips for Smoking

Top Ten Tips for Smoking

One of my favorite pastimes is smoking. There’s nothing like the aroma of wood smoke, and the awesome flavors of a well-smoked meal.

With multiple smokers in my backyard, you could say this pastime is more of an obsession, so it always surprises me when someone tells me that they are intimidated by the art of smoking.

While smoking does take some finesse and knowledge, it shouldn’t be seen as a skill that is difficult and only for grilling experts. With a little time and practice, everyone can become an expert.

So…grab your wood chips and check out Weber’s Top Ten Smoking Tips from our cookbookWeber’s Smoke™ by Jamie Purviance.


  1. START EARLY: Many of the flavor compounds in smoke are fat and water soluble, which means that whatever you are cooking will absorb smoky flavors best when it is raw. As the surface cooks and dries out, the smoke does not penetrate as well.
  2. GO LOW AND SLOW (MOST OF THE TIME): Real barbecue is cooked slowly over low, indirect heat—with wood smoke—because that's a traditional way to make sinewy meats so moist and tender that you hardly need teeth. But don't miss easy opportunities for adding sweet wood aromas to foods that are grilled over a hot fire for just minutes, like steaks, shrimp, and even vegetables.
  3. REGULATE THE HEAT WITH A WATER PAN: Big fluctuations in smoking temperatures can tighten and dry out foods. Whenever you cook for longer than an hour with charcoal, use a pan of water to help stabilize the heat and add some humidity. Obviously a water smoker already has one, but for a charcoal grill, use a large disposable foil pan, and don't forget to refill it.
  4. DON'T OVERDO IT. The biggest mistake rookies make is adding too much wood, chunk after chunk, to the point where the food tastes bitter. In general, you should smoke food for no longer than half its cooking time. Also, the smoke should flow like a gentle stream, not like it is billowing out of a train engine.
  5. WHITE SMOKE IS GOOD; BLACK SMOKE IS BAD: Clean streams of whitish smoke can layer your food with the intoxicating scents of smoldering wood. But if your fire lacks enough ventilation, or your food is directly over the fire and the juices are burning, blackish smoke can taint your food or lead to unpleasant surprises when you lift the lid.
  6. KEEP THE AIR MOVING: Keep the vents on your charcoal grill open and position the vent on the lid on the side opposite the coals. The open vents will draw smoke from the charcoal and wood below so that it swirls over your food and out the top properly, giving you the best ventilation and the cleanest smoke. If the fire gets too hot, close the top vent almost all the way.
  7. DON'T GO GOLFING: Smoking is a relatively low-maintenance way of cooking—but remain mindful and be safe. Never leave a lit fire unattended, and check the temperature every hour or so. You might need to adjust the vents or add more charcoal.
  8. TRY NOT TO PEEK: Every time you open a grill, you lose heat and smoke—two of the most important elements for making a great meal. Open the lid only when you really need to tend to the fire, the water pan, or the food. Ideally take care of them all at once—and quickly. Otherwise, relax and keep a lid on it.
  9. LET THE BARK GET DARK: Barbecued meat should glisten with a dark mahogany crust that borders on black. This "bark" is the delicious consequence of fat and spices sizzling with smoke on the surface of the meat and developing a caramelized crust over the luscious meat below. Before you take the meat off the grill or wrap it in foil, make sure the bark is dark enough that it tastes like heaven.
  10. FEATURE THE STAR ATTRACTION: The main ingredient in any smoked recipe is like the lead singer in a rock-and-roll band. Every other flavor should play a supporting role. In other words, don't upstage something inherently delicious with a potent marinade, heavy-handed seasonings, or thick coats of sauce. Harmonizing flavors in ways that feature the main ingredient is what separates the masters from the masses.

*excerpt from Weber's Smoke™

What are your thoughts? (16)


Manuel M

hi, How much water do I need for a pork shoulder and brisket! Just got a wsm22"

Pork Shoulder 10 pounds
Brisket 15 pounds
all 25 Pounds



Kevin Kolman

I would add about 4-5 liters of water to the water pan. This should be enough for the entire cook. If you notice throughout the smoke that the smoker is getting hotter it could be because the water pan is low. Something to think about when you are getting ready to cook. Hope this helps and if you need anything else you can find me here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard and always, Grill On!!


John C

Is it ok to cut the ribs in half and smoke that way? I have a 22" kettle and sometimes the ribs can be pretty long in the rack. I don't want to sacrifice quality so I don't mind doing it but it would be easier when half as long.


Kevin Kolman

Not a problem cutting them in half. You can also wrap them in a circle and put a skewer or two through them to keep them nice and compact. You can fit a lot using this technique. Keep me posted on if you have any other questions but you are good either. Hope this helps and Grill On!


Stephen B

How much water do I need for a pork butt or ribs! Just got a wsm18", and the first ribs I smoked I filled the water pan to the top, and I had a hard time getting the temperature up to 225°. Any ideas?


Kevin Kolman

My rule of thumb when using a 18.5 inch WSM is 2-3 liters of water for ribs or 6-8 hours of smoking. Anything more I go with 5-6 liters of water (brisket, shoulder etc). Overfilling will definitely cause you a problem with getting temps so try to follow the above. Hope this helps and if you need anymore help you can find me here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard and always Happy Grilling!!!


Mark A

Should you have a pan of water when you are smoking with a gas grill? I have the chips but it seems the air should be more moist inside the grill. Your thoughts?


Kevin Kolman

You can use a water pan in a gas grill to provide some humidity inside your gas grill. I have used one in mine for sometime now and the results have been pretty amazing. Personal preference but know the more humidity inside a grill the more smoke will adhere to your food. Hope this helps and if you need more info you can find us here or on Kevin Kolman's backyard on Facebook and Twitter and always Happy Grilling!!
Kevin Kolman


Christopher K

Tip number five claims that "white smoke is good." I agree that black smoke is bad, but it's always been my understanding that white smoke itself is undesireable as well. The best smoke is blue, correct?


Jennie Lussow

Hi Chris! Thin white or blue smoke are both good signs of clean-burning wood. What you really want to stay away from is black smoke, which creates an unpleasant flavor in the food.


Frank C

Just purchased a Q2400 electric grill. There doesn't seem to be any information on smoking on an electric grill. Any ideas?


Kevin Kolman

Follow the instructions on how to smoke on the gas Q. Preheat your grill with the smoker box on the grates. 10-15 minutes later you should have some nice smoke going. At this point, place your food on the grill and away you go!! Hope this help and if you need any more help you can find me at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard on Facebook and Twitter and always Happy Grilling!!


Richard N

I have the 14" Smokey Mountain Cooker; it's my first smoker. On page 7 of the Owner's Manual, beginning with instruction D), it talks about the top vent but not the three lower vents. It's not clear what position the lower vents are supposed to be in, and how they factor in regulating the temperature. Presumably, they should be full open when starting but, at what point(s) should they be adjusted, and by how much ? How do these vents interact with the top vent ?



Kevin Kolman

When using the smoker I like to set my all of my bottom vents open about 1/4 of an inch. I then adjust the temperature with the vent on the lid. This will make it easier when you try to either raise or lower the temperatures. A bonus tip is keep the vent on the lid open about 1/2 way when you start. This will help you because if you need more heat you can open it all the way up. If you need less heat you can turn it down. I do not like to adjust the bottom vents too much during a cook because I am looking for consistency. I only adjust the bottom vents if the unit is not getting hot enough with the vent in the lid completely wide open. Hope this helps, good luck and Happy Grilling!!


Kevin Q

How practical is it to refill the water pan during smoking on a kettle? Must you remove all the food and the grate or can you just pour the water through the grate? I've read many a blog post about refilling, all express the importance, but none have described how to do it.



Renee S

Do you need to soak your wood chips and chunks before smoking?


Andy H

We have a E220 grill with only 2 burners. Do you have any recommendations for smoking with this grill?


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