Ideally, a smoker box will keep your wood chips burning between 550 and 750 degrees Fahrenheit (287.7 - 398.8 Celsius). Anything outside of that range will take you from a BBQ hero to grilling zero in no time. Luckily I've put together this simple 5 step guide that will show you exactly how to use a smoking box. Let's jump in.

Step 1. Preheat the Grill and Clean the Grate

Preheat your grill for about 10 to 20 minutes. You can set your burners up to high during this time to shorten the time it takes to get to the normal grill temperature.

You don’t need many tools to smoke your food. A smoker for grill purposes is sufficient and often comes at the side of a smoking grill.

Preheating the grill helps the smoker box to smoke faster when you put in the smoker box.

Use a stainless steel grill brush to clean the grill grate.

Step 2. Fill up the Smoker Box With Smoking Chips

smoking chips

Fill up slightly more than half of the smoker box with wood chips. You also have the option of using wood chunks which burn more slowly and consistently.

There are many types of wood chips to choose from and you can use hickory or pecan to smoke red meat for the best results. Cherry and applewood work well for chicken and pork. Mesquite adds a strong flavor to red meats and oak is good for the classic beef taste.

Some people say you should soak your wood chips in water for 30 minutes to prevent them from catching fire. However, most smoker boxes do not have holes on the bottom so the chips are not in direct contact with the flames. Soaking them may increase the amount of time needed for them to start smoking.

Don’t want to buy a smoker box yet? Fill up a foil pan with the smoking chips and cover the top with aluminum foil. Poke holes in the aluminum foil for the smoke to escape.

“If you want to get serious, get a wood-fired smoker.”

- Derrick Walker, co-owner of Smoke-a-holics BBQ in Fort Worth, Texas

Step 3. Place Your Smoker Box on the Grill

If you are using a gas grill, place the smoker box on top of a burner. For charcoal grill users, put your box on top of the charcoal. You want the smoker box to be as close to the heat source as possible. Don’t pile too much charcoal around the box as embers from the fire can fall in through the holes on the top of the box and set your chunks on fire.

If your gas grill burners are not already on the highest setting, turn them up so that your smoker box will get hot enough and the chips will start smoking.


Step 4. Turn off Most Burners Once the Box Is Smoking

Once the chips are smoking, turn down your burners on your gas grills to the typical cooking temperature of 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit [1]. This sets up your grill for indirect cooking.

You can keep the burner with your box on and turn down the others so that wood smoke continues to be produced throughout the cooking process.

Step 5. Place Meat on the Smoke Grill and Close the Lid

Place your food on the cooking grate over an unlit burner on your gas grill and close the lid. The cooking time can vary depending on the meat you are cooking, but you want to let it cook slowly to get the smoke flavor and this can be up to 1.5 hours per pound of meat.

You can cook poultry up to 160 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit and red meats up to 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your smoking chips have been burned through, remove the smoker box with heat resistant tongs and replenish it.

Check these variety of meats you can try on your smoke grill:



Will wood chips catch fire in the smoker box?

No, your wood chips will not catch fire in the smoker box. The flashpoint of wood is 482 degrees Fahrenheit or 250 degrees Celsius [2]. The typical temperature range used for the smoking process is around 220 degrees Fahrenheit or 104 degrees Celsius.

Should you use wet wood chips in a smoker box?

You should not use wet wood chips as they take longer to smoke. The heat is used to evaporate the water into steam which slows down the increase in temperature of the chips.


A smoker box is a useful tool for adding that smoked flavor to your meat recipes. You can use smoking chips or chunks for smoking on grill and they take an average of 15 minutes to smoke. For more evenly cooked meat, use a vertical pellet smoker.

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1. Fellows, P. (2000). Food processing technology. Woodhead. Retrieved from

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