How to Use a Smoker Box (5 Simple Steps)

Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

The art of grilling never grows old. I have been smoking meats for nearly eight years and can attest to the transformative power of the smoker box. Through it, it has been possible for me to try out different flavors, elevating my dishes to another level.

However, as simple as it may look, many people still ask me how to use a smoker box to advance their culinary craftsmanship.

I’ve put together this easy 5-step guide to show you exactly how to use a smoker box to smoke food and get a tasty smoke flavor for grilled meat. We have some tips for gas grills Too.

Quick Summary

  • Using a smoker box includes preheating the grill, filling the box with specific wood chips for different meats, and adjusting the burners once the box is smoking.
  • Cooking slowly with the smoker box allows for delicious smoked flavors in the meat, with specific temperature guidelines for poultry and red meats.
  • There are factors you need to consider when using a smoker box, including using the correct wood chips and preparing your meat in advance to get a flavorful result.
  • The quality of the meat you grill also matters. I usually source my meat from reputable services, like Butcherbox.

How to Use A Smoker Box

Using a smoker box involves more than just adding a smoky flavor. It entails manipulating the heat and smoke distribution, proper timing, and choosing the right type of wood for your meat.

Here is a step-by step process of using a smoker box efficiently:

1. Preheat the Grill and Clean the Grate

It is recommended that you preheat the gas grill for about 10 to 20 minutes long. You can set your burners up to high during this time. This will shorten the time it takes in producing the normal gas grill temperature right.

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

You'll find that preheating the gas grill first allows it to smoke faster when you place it in the smoker box next.

Using a stainless steel type grill brush to directly clean the metal grill cooking grate will also come in handy. You should try to keep your grill brush clean at all times.

2. Fill up the Box With Smoking Chips

smoking chips

Fill up slightly more than half of the smoker box with dry wood chips. One other way is adding wood chunks to allow it to burn more slowly and consistently.

There are many types of wood chips for a smoker box to choose from, and you can pick a type or two.

You can use hickory or pecan to smoke red meat as this would give the best results. Cherry wood and apple wood work well to add a sweet, smoky flavor to chicken and pork.

Mesquite means a strong flavor to red meats, and oak is perfectly made for the light classic beef taste to give you a happy grilling experience.

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

If you don’t want to buy a new smoker, load up a foil pan with the wood chips and cover the top grill lid with aluminum foil. Poke little holes in the aluminum foil for the smoke to escape, which makes for a good substitute for smoker boxes.

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

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

3. Place the Smoker Box on the Grill

If you're using a gas grill , lower the smoker box on top of a burner. For charcoal grill users, make sure to put your box on top of the coals, and always use the best-rated charcoal for smoking.

You need the smoker box to be as close to the heat source as possible.

Don’t pile too much charcoal close around the smoker box when using it, as embers from the fire can fall low in through the holes on the top of the box and set your chunks on fire. For electric grill users, cover the box with foil where you will poke a few holes in it.

If your gas grill burners are not already on the highest setting, one way is to get them going high up, so your smoker box will get hot enough, and the chips will start smoking better.

It's easier to create smoke this way. In case you've run out of gas and need to replace your gas tank, be sure to check out our guide on how to remove the propane tank from your grill safely.

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4. Turn off the Burners Once the Box Is Smoking

Once you see more wood chips smoking, we recommend you turn down the burners on your gas grills to the typical cooking temperature of 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit [1]. This is designed to especially set up your gas grill for indirect cooking.

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

5. Place Meat on the Grill and Close the Lid

Place your food directly on the cooking grate over an unlit burner on your gas grill and close the lid.

The cooking time can vary depending on the beef, fish, or ribs you are cooking, but you need to let it cook slowly to get the delicious mild-smoke flavors. This gas grill method can be up to 1.5 hours per pound of meat.

You can cook poultry at a temp of up to 160 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit and red meats way up to 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you find the smoking chips burned through, though, you can just open it, remove the smoker box with full heat-resistant tongs, and replenish it.

Factors to Consider When Using A Smoker Box

While using a smoker box is one way to elevate your grilling experiences, you need to consider several factors to satisfy your grilling needs.

Here are some points to take note:

  • Use smoker box that is compatible with your grill.
  • The type of material also matters. There are a variety, including stainless steel smoker boxes and cast iron smoke box.
  • Use wood chips with a flavor profile that you prefer. This can be Hickory, Applewood, or Mesquite, among others.
  • The smoker box should support the wood chips you intend to use. Unlike softwood, hardwood tends to burn slowly, hence ideal for long smoking sessions.
  • How you place your smoker box also matters. Decide how you’d like to put the box, whether directly on the burner, grill grates or under the grill gates, then go for one that fits your needs.
  • Consider the positioning of the vents, smoke dispersion, and oxygen supply to ensure proper ventilation and air follow.
  • Choose a smoker box with an ideal temperature control mechanism. You should be able to adjust the heat levels as appropriate.
  • Prepare your meat correctly in advance to get a flavorful and well-cooked dish.
  • Use heat-resistance gloves when grilling and properly extinguish the wood chips when done.
  • Empty the smoke box and clean the residues correctly before storing to optimize its durability.


Will Wood Chips Catch Fire in the Smoker Box?

Yur wood chips will not quickly catch fire in the smoker box. The flashpoint of wood is 482 degrees Fahrenheit or 250 degrees Celsius. The typical temperature range used for the gas grill smoking process is around 220 degrees Fahrenheit or 104 degrees Celsius.

Should You Use Soaked Wood Chips in a Smoker Box?

You should not use soaked wood chips inside the smoker box as they take longer to smoke. The heat is used to evaporate the water into steam which slows down the rise in temperature of the smoking chips within the gas grill smoker box.


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