How to Use a Smoker – 6 Easy Steps

Whether you have a traditional charcoal smoker or an electric smoker similar to the one I’m using today, the basic smoking principles are the same.

Masterbuilt 3000 Electric Smoker

To show you how to use a smoker, I will be smoking some salmon and chicken.

Step 1. Season the Meat
Before you start the smoking process, the very first step is to season your meat. Today I am smoking salmon, so I created a brine and soaked in the brine overnight before smoking. You can create a simple brine by mixing 2 cups water, 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup maple syrup.

With the chicken, today I have selected Stubb’s Chicken Spice Rub. This is a really flavorful chicken seasoning. Ingredients include sea salt, sugar, honey powder, spices, mustard seed, onion, red bell pepper, ground turmeric, celery powder, garlic, natural smoke flavor.

Stubb's Chicken Spice Rub

Step 2. Bring your Smoker to Temperature
Bring the temperature to approximately 200 degrees and wait before your smoker reaches this temperature before adding any wood. We have found that whether you are smoking chicken, pork, beef or other meats, 200 degrees is a good temperature.

Step 3. Add Smoker Wood and Water to the Water Pan
Because I am smoking salmon today, I’ve chosen Alder wood. You can visit our Types of Smoker Woods to see our recommendations for which types of wood to use when smoking different meets. You can purchase wood chips at many different places. I’ve purchased on eBay, at the big box stores and hardware stores.

Alder Smoker Wood Chips

Add water or your favorite liquid concoction to the water pan. The water will evaporate through the heating process and help to keep your meat moist.

Step 4. Add Meat to the Smoker
Once you have a good smoke going, Step 4 is to add the meat to your smoker. Now, I like to wait until there is a good smoke going before adding the meat.

The salmon and chicken will take 3+ hours. You will want to have a good meat thermometer to check for doneness. A nice feature about this Masterbuilt Digital Smokehouse that I am using today is a built in digital thermometer. I simply place the thermometer in one of the chicken breasts and then I can actually monitor the temperature from the display without opening the door. Remember, each time you open the door the temperature will drop and extend your cook time.

Step 5. Baste Your Meat and Maintain the Smoker
The next step is to baste your meat. Because I am only expecting 3 to 4 hours total cook time, I will baste once at around 2 hours. You will also need to add more smoking chips as they burn down and if you are using a charcoal smoker, you may need to add more charcoal to maintain your temperature.

Step 6. Apply Finishing Sauce
This step is optional, but many people want BBQ sauce on their ribs and chicken. If you are planning to apply a finishing sauce, do that in the last 30 to 45 minutes of smoking. For this chicken I am using “Doc” Pierce’s Bar-B-Que Sauce. Pierce’s Pit Bar-B-Que has been turning out awesome BBQ at their restaurant since 1971.

Doc Pierce BBQ Sauce

Check your smoked meat for doneness, remove from the smoker and let rest. Opinions on how long to let the meat rest vary, but I like to let it sit for at least 30 minutes.

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