Fire Management Tips for Smoking

When preparing to complete a smoke, remember that managing your fire is one of the most important parts of pulling off a successful cook. The process of managing the fire in your smoker looks different for different cooks and in different smokers.

First and foremost, USE A CHARCOAL CHIMNEY! It’s much better than manually lighting and guarantees the perfect fire every time.

After filling the chimney with briquettes or lump charcoal, it will take 20-30 minutes for all pieces to become lit and ashed over. Once they are ready, you can load them into the Side Fire Box and add your desired wood type.

To get your fire established much quicker, smokestack and the dampers on your Side Fire Box. The increased air flow will get things heated up fast. Overshooting your temperature and then bringing it down to your target is usually easier and faster than shooting for your exact temperature.

Next, close the Side Fire Box lid. From here, the best way to control airflow, is to open and close the dampers depending on if you want to maintain, increase, or decrease temperature. Another method is to leave the dampers open on your Side Fire Box to promote cleaner smoker and to simply add more wood as needed to maintain the target temperature. With this method, you should plan to add a chunk of wood about every hour.

For optimal results from your cook, it’s important to maintain a consistent temperature. It’s up to you to understand how your smoker will react when you open and close the dampers or smokestack so a little trial and error for your first few cooks is possible.

It’s also important to learn what kind of fuel works best in your smoker. Large wood chunks or logs will work well in an offset smoker, while smaller chunks or chips might suffice in an AKORN or barrel grill.

To keep a constant handle of the temperature, it’s a good idea to have two thermometers: one showing the temperature in your smoker and another showing the internal temperature of your meat; both of these numbers are vital to understanding how you may want to manage your fire.

Smoking can be a therapeutic process, but it’s important to frequently check on the progression of your smoke and watch for indicators that it may need some maintenance, from the colour of smoke coming out of the smokestack (thin blue or invisible smoke is the goal!) to the condition of the fire in your Side Fire Box.


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