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Grilling Tips

Mastering the Grill: A Guide to Smoking Wood



Smoking wood is the key to adding incredible depth and complexity to your grilled and smoked dishes. From the rich and robust flavors of mesquite to the delicate and fruity notes of cherry wood, understanding the different types of smoking wood is essential for mastering the art of barbecue.

Wood chips starting to smoke on a charcoal fire.

The art of barbecuing is deeply intertwined with the choice of smoking wood, as it plays a crucial role in enhancing the flavors of your meat. Different woods impart distinct flavor profiles, making selecting the perfect smoking wood for a delightful BBQ experience essential. This guide will explore various types of smoking woods, their unique flavors, and how to pair them with different meats. So, let's embark on this smoky adventure and elevate your BBQ skills!

TL;DR Summary

  • Understand popular smoking woods' characteristics, flavors, and suitability for BBQ.
  • Match specific meats with appropriate woods to achieve optimal flavor in your dishes.
  • Combining different wood types and exploring various smoking techniques to create unique smoke profiles.

Wood Chips, Chunks, or Logs?

Selecting the right wood form for your smoker is essential for achieving the perfect smoke flavor. Authentic smoke flavor can be added to meat in various forms, such as:

  • chips
  • chunks
  • pellets
  • Logs (splits)

Wood chips are smaller pieces suited for electric smokers, charcoal grilling, and for smoking on your gas grill. Wood chips also burn the fastest due to their small size and need to be replaced often to maintain consistent smoke and are ideal for short cooks. Place chips directly on the charcoal or in a smoker box or foil packet above the direct heat. 

Chunks are for charcoal grills and produce a robust smoke flavor for a long time. Add the chunks directly to the charcoal or on the edges. Allow the dirty smoke to burn off before adding your food. 

Pellets are compressed wood designed specifically for pellet grills and smokers. Pellets are used as the fuel source filling the hopper of your pellet grill. But grilling pellets can also be used to infuse smoke flavor via a pellet tube on a gas or charcoal grill. 

Splits work best with offset smokers and low and slow cooking for hours of even heat and good flavor for larger cuts of meat. 


When selecting smoking wood, consider the type of smoking recipes you intend to prepare and choose the wood that best complements its flavor profile. 

Smoket box on grill grates with a steak on the grill.

Oak, hickory, mesquite, pecan, maple, and fruitwood are among the most popular smoking woods, each offering a unique flavor profile to enhance your BBQ experience.

In the following subsections, we will explore these woods in-depth, discussing their characteristics and flavors and their suitability for smoking different types of meat.


Oak is renowned for its versatility and medium flavor, making it a popular choice for smoking various types of meat. Its steady heat and strong, penetrating smoke beautifully complement most cuts of meat, making it our go-to choice when grilling when we don't want a heavy smoke flavor but still want the taste you can only get with authentic wood smoke. 

From coast to coast, you will find different oak varieties, such as white oak, live oak, and red oak. There are even oak chips and chunks made from retired whiskey oak barrels that add a subtle sweet undertone to the flavor of your food. 

Pair Oak with:


Hickory is often considered the king of smoking woods and it's the most commonly used type. It gives red meats like beef and pork a robust and hearty flavor. Hickory is your best bet if you're looking for an intense flavor profile rooted in tradition. Its signature, bold aroma renders mouthwatering BBQ ribs every time.

Pair Hickory with:


Mesquite is the quintessential wood for Texas-style BBQ, imparting an intense, bold, and earthy flavor to the meat. It burns how with an even flame and is most suitable for smoking heavier meats that can handle its intense flavor. 

However, caution should be exercised when using mesquite, as its powerful flavor can become overpowering quickly, causing an acrid taste. Always wait for clean blue smoke when using mesquite for the best results. 

Pair Mesquite with:


Pecan wood provides a mild flavor that's a little stronger than fruitwoods, but not as strong as hickory or mesquite. It's good with poultry, beef, pork chops, and cheese. It's popular among backyard cooks for its nutty, sweet flavor and compatibility with different meats. Pecan wood is primarily used for smoking poultry but can also be combined with fruitwoods to create a harmonious blend of different flavors.


Pair Pecan with:

  • Beef
  • Veal
  • Poultry 
  • Seafood 
  • Veggies
  • Desserts
  • Cheese


Maple wood is known for its subtle, mild, and sweet smoky flavor, making it an excellent choice for smoking poultry and fish. Maple is also ideal for pairing with other woods, such as alder, oak, and apple, creating a balanced and harmonious blend of flavors without being too overwhelming. 

Pair Maple with:


Alder wood imparts a delicate sweetness similar to fruitwood and is particularly well-suited for smoking seafood and other delicate foods. When smoking fish and seafood, it's recommended to use smaller chunks or wood chips.

Pair Alder with:


Fruitwoods, such as apple, cherry, and peach, offer mild, sweet flavors perfect for smoking delicate meats and seafood. These woods bring out a gentle yet flavorful note when grilling, making them ideal for a variety of foods. 

  • Apple: Provides a mild, slightly sweet smoke that pairs well with pork, poultry, and fish. And particularly bacon. 
  • Cherry: Provides a mild to medium smoke that is sweet and slightly fruity, making it an excellent choice for smoking pork, lamb, beef, and dark poultry like duck. It also produces a beautiful color, giving proteins a distinctive red hue. Mix cherry with hickory for a balanced blend of flavors. 
  • Peach: Offers a slightly sweet mild smoke flavor that works well with pork, poultry, and fish. 

These fruit woods can enhance the flavor of your smoked dishes and add a unique touch to your cooking. Try combining fruitwood with oak or hickory for unique flavor combinations. 

Rack coming out of the smoker.

Pairing Guide (downloadable): 

Infographic for smoking wood flavor pairing guide.

Matching Woods with Specific Meats

Pairing specific woods with different meats can enhance flavors and optimize smoking. Here are some wood options and the flavors they impart.

  • Hickory: robust, smoky taste
  • Oak: more subdued flavor
  • Maple: sweet, caramelized flavor
  • Pecan: mild, nutty flavor
  • Alder: mild, nutty flavor

“Foods take on smoke differently, depending on their density. Big cuts like brisket and pork shoulder can handle heavier smoke from oak, mesquite, and hickory woods. Seafood and pasta dishes, like macaroni and cheese, are less dense and absorb smoke much faster. They do best with milder woods like pecan, apple, and alder.”

— Christie Vanover, Christie Vanover, Pro Pitmaster GirlsCanGrill, Food Network BBQ Brawl 

Understanding the flavor profiles of different woods and their compatibility with various meats is crucial for achieving optimal results. Experiment with other wood and meat pairings to find your preferences and perfect your BBQ skills.

Weber grill with smoke coming out of the air vents.

Temps for getting the best smoke flavor: 

The ideal temperature for smoking depends mainly on the type of meat you're cooking, but a general rule of thumb for most meats is to smoke at a temperature between 200 and 225 degrees F.

Here are some guidelines for specific types of meat and the necessary grill temperature: 

  • Poultry: A slightly higher temperature of 250-275 degrees Fahrenheit for chicken and turkey is usually recommended to ensure the skin gets crispy.
  • Pork: For pork ribs, shoulder, or butt, maintain a temperature of 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit for perfectly pulled pork butt. 
  • Beef: A temperature of 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit for smoking beef brisket is ideal to getting that signature smoke ring and juicy tender meat. 
Beef ribs on a drum smoker.

Avoiding Common Mistakes with Smoking Wood

For a great barbecue, it's essential to understand the common mistakes when smoking food. Wood chips should not be soaked as soaking can produce white smoke and steam, harming the flavor. 

Burning green wood that has not or been appropriately seasoned may cause it to burn too hot with organic resins or sap producing off-tastes in your cooked meat. Avoiding these pitfalls will ensure excellent results from your smoked cuisine!

Several common mistakes can hinder your BBQ experience when smoking with wood. Here are some examples:

  • Using too much wood – can cause fluctuations in hea and too much smoke, which tastes acrid. 
  • Selecting an inappropriate type of wood for the meat – see our guide for examples
  • Being hasty – adding food before the smoke is clean 

“Bbq is just like clothes.  If it's dirty, take it off. If it's clean, put it in. Everyone, once in a while, may have to do the sniff test. 

But seriously, when you see and smell dirty smoke, remove your proteins so you avoid imparting them with dirty smoke.  Once you have your fire under control and are rolling clean smoke, you can put them back on.”

— Rasheed Phillips, Pro Pitmaster at Phillips Barbecue Co, Netflix American Barbecue Showdown  

These mistakes can lead to an overly smoky flavor, an unpleasant bitter taste, and a charred texture when the grill burns hot.

Another common mistake is employing wet wood. To avoid this, ensure that the wood is sufficiently dried and seasoned before smoking, with a minimum of six months in an area with good air circulation or using kiln-dried wood.

Jack Daniel's wood chips in a smoker box.
These wood chips earned us the World Champion in Cocktail and happen to be one of our favorites. They are chipped from retired bourbon barrels.

Sourcing Quality Smoking Wood

Sourcing quality smoking wood is essential, as each wood possesses distinct flavor qualities that bolster the flavor of the food. Seasoning the wood, which refers to aging and drying the wood to achieve the desired moisture level for efficient combustion and safe food-grade smoking, is equally important. The recommended time frame for seasoning wood is 6-18 months if air-dried outdoors to avoid acrid smoke when burning. If you're buying wood chips, chunks, or logs, look for all-natural kiln-dried wood for the best flavor. 

Obtaining high-quality smoking wood is essential for achieving the best BBQ results. You can purchase quality smoking wood from wood suppliers such as:

  • Online retailers like Cutting Edge Firewood, BBQ Guys, and Amazon
  • Hardware stores, like Ace or True Value, grocery stores, and retailers that sell grills, like Walmart, Lowes, or Home Depot.
  • Local apple, cherry, or pecan orchards and tree removal companies for hardwoods

Chopping your own wood is another effective way to acquire high-grade smoking wood, ensuring that you have complete control over the seasoning process and wood quality.

When purchasing smoking wood, steer clear of softwoods like pine, redwood fir, spruce cypress – as the sap and flavor aren't great when combined with grilling and foods. And never use treated wood. 

Storing and Maintaining Your Smoking Wood

For optimum flavor and performance from your smoking wood, it is important to practice proper storage and maintenance. 

  • Keep it Dry: The most important aspect of wood storage is keeping the wood dry. Moisture can lead to mold growth, and wet wood produces a lot of smoke and burns inefficiently. If storing wood outdoors, make sure it's elevated off the ground and covered to protect it from rain and snow. However, ensure the cover is breathable or vented to prevent moisture accumulation.
  • Store in a Cool Place: Store your smoking wood in a cool, dry place like a garage or shed.
  • Pest Control: Keep the storage area clean and inspect regularly for pests like termites.

Cooking with wood is an art, and when done correctly can make your barbecuing experience unique. To perfect the flavors you desire from smoking meat on a grill, choose carefully between different woods, forms, and techniques to avoid mistakes that could ruin all of your hard work. When ready for the meal, simply ignite the smoker using only chosen wood before letting its amazing smells wrap around everyone as they savor their perfectly smoked food delicacy!

In this guide, we delved into the world of smoking woods, exploring their unique flavors, characteristics, and suitability for smoking various types of meat. Understanding the differences between smoking woods and experimenting with different varieties, flavor combinations, and smoking techniques can elevate your BBQ grilling game. So, fire up your smoker, and get to grilling. 

Wood chips just starting to smoke.



Hickory and oak may be the most common wood used for smoking, but Maple, Mesquite, Pecan, Apple, Alder, and Cherry are all great options for smoking meat.

How long to burn wood before smoking?

To produce smoke from wood, place it on top of some hot coals and let it burn until it is no longer flaming and the smoke runs clear. For chips, this will be almost immediate, while chunks can take up to 5 to 10 minutes, depending on size, type, and how much bark is still attached to the wood. 

What wood not to use for smoking?

It is not recommended to use Eastern Cedar, Cypress, Elm, Eucalyptus, Sassafras Liquid Amber Pine, Redwood Fir, Sycamore, or any treated wood when smoking meats and other types of food.

Do you soak wood before smoking?

No, soaking wood before smoking is unnecessary as this will hinder the smoke production process. Soaking wood produces steam, not smoke. We start with dry wood when cooking for the best authentic wood-smoked flavor. 


BBQ wood chips are the smallest and give off smoke quickly, perfect for shorter cooks. For those longer smokes, larger chunks of wood provide more consistent burning during slow-cooking processes. Logs offer maximum burn time when using large smokers or fireboxes due to their sizeable nature.

What is the best type of smoking wood for beginners?

Applewood or hickory are great choices for beginners due to their mild, versatile flavors.

Do different types of meat require different types of wood for smoking?

Yes, different meats can benefit from different woods. For instance, poultry pairs well with fruit woods like apple wood or cherry, while red meats can handle stronger flavors like hickory or mesquite.

How can I tell if my smoking wood is seasoned or green?

Seasoned wood is dry and lighter in weight, while green wood is heavier and has a fresher smell.

How much wood should I use when smoking my meat?

This varies based on your specific grill and the intensity of flavor you desire, but a good rule of thumb is to start with a handful or two of chips or 3 to 4 smoking wood chunks and adjust based on results.

What's the difference between using smoking wood or using charcoal or gas for grilling?

Smoking wood adds a distinct flavor to the meat that can't be achieved with charcoal or gas grills alone. However, as shown in our guides, you can smoke on your gas grill and charcoal grill with the addition of wood chips.   

How can I control the amount of smoke flavor in my meat?

Control smoke flavor by adjusting the amount of wood, the type of wood, air flow, and the smoking time.

What should I do if my smoking wood catches fire?

If your smoking wood catches fire, try reducing the oxygen supply by adjusting the vents, move the wood to the cooler side of the grill using long tongs, or carefully spraying a small amount of water onto the flames.


By: Kita
Title: Mastering the Grill: A Guide to Smoking Wood
Sourced From:
Published Date: 7/11/23

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you keep a charcoal grill lit.

A charcoal grill needs to be lit first. Then, place the coals in the grill. This is easiest to do with a chimney starter. This device consists of a metal tube filled with charcoal briquettes, which, when ignited, creates hot air that rises through the chimney and ignites the charcoal inside the grill.

How do I clean a charcoal barbecue?

To clean your grill, remove any burnt food debris and wash it out thoroughly with water. It is important to heat the grill before you use it. Grease that has built up can be removed with a spatula. You can wipe the grates clean with a damp cloth.

A piece of wire mesh can be used to scrub the grates. After cleaning, rinse off the grate.


What is the difference of a barbecue and a smoker?

A grill is an open-flamed cooking device that uses open flames. A smoker cooks food by using smoke.

Grills are commonly used for grilling meats and vegetables, as well seafood, poultry, and other foods. Smokers can be used to smoke meats, cheeses or fruits and vegetables.

There are many options for grills today. Some grills are better suited to certain foods than others. A pellet grill can be used to cook large pieces of meat while a kettle grill is more suitable for grilling steaks and chicken breasts.

How to Start a Propane Gas Grill

Propane gas grills can be one of the most simple types of grills. You just need to fill your propane tank, set the grill on high, and then wait for your food. Propane is safe and easy to use.

Propane tanks can also be purchased at Home Depot or Lowes. They usually come in sizes ranging from 20 gallons up to 60 gallons.



  • According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2011 and 2016, US fire departments responded to an average of 9,600 home fires started by yearly grills. (
  • That's why America's Original Butcher can give a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and the grocery store can't. (

External Links

How To

Gas Grilling Tips: For Beginners

How do I start grilling with gas?

Gas grills are a popular choice for cooking. They are very easy to use, and can be used to quickly and easily cook food. They can be dangerous if they are not used correctly. This guide provides tips for beginners who want to learn how to grill safely.

Before you begin your gas grill, the first thing to do is determine which fuel type you want. Because it emits no harmful emissions, natural gasoline is the most safe option. Propane is safer than natural gases, but it's less efficient at heating food. You can choose to use propane or natural gas, depending on the best fit for your kitchen.

Next, ensure you are familiar with how your gas grill operates. If you don’t know how your gas grill works, it could result in serious injuries to you and others. Some models use electric heat elements while others burn hot coals. For some models, charcoal briquettes are required. It is important that you fully understand the instructions before you attempt to operate your model.

Remember safety when you use any appliance. Children should never be left unattended around a gas grill. Never allow another person to use your gas grill, unless you are sure they understand how it works.


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Grilling Tips

Vertical vs Horizontal Smoker: Comparing Cooking Styles for BBQ Enthusiasts



When it comes to smoking meats, the choice between a vertical and a horizontal smoker is a pivotal decision that can affect the ease of smoking, the flavor of the food, and the overall smoking experience. 

Vertical smokers are typically more compact, making them a convenient option for those with limited space. Their stacked design increases heat naturally, leading to more efficient smoking and energy use. In contrast, horizontal smokers, often offset smokers, have a side chamber where the heat source is located. 

This setup promotes better airflow and can give you more control over the temperature, which is beneficial for cooking larger cuts of meat that require a longer smoking time.

A vertical smoker stands tall next to a shorter horizontal smoker, emitting smoke and heat

The differences in design also play a role in the capacity and versatility of the smokers. A vertical smokers may have less cooking surface area, but it's usually easier to maintain the right smoking environment, which is crucial for beginners or hobbyists. Horizontal smokers provide more space for multiple racks of ribs or briskets and often feature additional cooking methods like grilling. Considering the pros and cons of each style, including factors such as temperature control, smoke distribution, maintenance, and cost, will help you decide which smoker is the best fit for your backyard barbecues.

Key Takeaways

  • Vertical smokers are space-efficient and easier to use, ideal for beginners.
  • Horizontal smokers offer greater capacity and temperature control for large cuts.
  • The choice of smoker impacts flavor, maintenance needs, and overall costs.

Understanding Smokers

A vertical smoker stands tall, with multiple racks for smoking food. A horizontal smoker is long and low, with a large chamber for smoking

In my exploration of smokers, I've discovered their unique features and how they impact the smoking process. Allow me to share some specifics about the basics of smoking meat and the distinctions between vertical and horizontal smokers.

Basics of Smoking Meat

Smoking meat is a cooking technique that tenderizes and infuses meat with a smoky flavor. It involves slow-cooking meat at low temperatures over an extended period, typically with wood chips or charcoal to produce smoke.

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Vertical Smokers

Vertical smokers are tall and often cylindrical, ideal for tight spaces. In my experience, the heat source is below the smoking chamber, and the smoke rises naturally through the cooking area. This design tends to be more fuel-efficient, as explained by Carnivore Style.

Horizontal Smokers

Horizontal smokers and offset smokers lay out the cooking area and heat source on a horizontal plane. I've appreciated their versatility, providing space to grill directly over the heat source. Horizontal smokers allow for better temperature control and airflow adjustment, perfect for smoking large cuts of meat, as detailed by Griddle King.

Design Differences

Vertical smoker: tall, narrow structure with multiple shelves. Horizontal smoker: wide, rectangular shape with a single large cooking chamber

In comparing vertical and horizontal smokers, examining how they're built and how heat travels within them is key. I'll guide you through their construction differences and heat management systems.


Construction and Shape

Vertical smokers are designed with a compact stature, where the smoking chambers stack over the heat source. This design makes them ideal for those who have limited space. They often resemble a tall box or cylinder, so many refer to them as cabinet smokers. On the other hand, horizontal smokers typically feature a long, horizontal chamber with an attached firebox, which makes them look similar to traditional barbecue grills. Thanks to this layout, they usually provide a larger cooking surface, which is beneficial for smoking big cuts of meat.

Heat Source and Flow

In a vertical smoker, heat rises naturally from the bottom, creating a consistent and direct heat flow through food racks. This can result in more even cooking with less need to rotate the meat. The heat source is typically found directly below the cooking area, which can make fuel management a bit easier. With a horizontal smoker, the heat source is located in a separate firebox alongside or below the main chamber. Smoke and heat enter the main chamber through a small hole or conduit, flowing across the food before exiting the chimney. This design requires more attention to maintain a consistent temperature, especially for longer smoking sessions.

Ease of Use

A person effortlessly adjusts a vertical smoker while struggling to maneuver a horizontal smoker

In my experience, the user-friendliness of smokers can vary significantly depending on their design. Let's look at how vertical and horizontal smokers operate to give you a better sense of what to expect for ease of use.

Operating Vertical Smokers

Vertical smokers are generally known for their simplicity. I find them particularly straightforward because of their stacked design, making it easier to access and add fuel or wood chips. These smokers typically have a water pan that helps control the temperature and maintain humidity. The control mechanisms are usually user-friendly, and I've noticed most models have easily adjustable vents and dampers, allowing me to manage the smoke and heat levels with minimal fuss.

Operating Horizontal Smokers

Horizontal smokers, especially the offset kind, have a different dynamic. They require more attention and technique, as I have to maintain a consistent fire in the offset box and manage heat distribution across the main chamber. I often find myself adjusting the vents frequently to keep the temperature steady. Despite this, I appreciate my greater control over the cooking process, particularly when I'm looking to achieve a specific flavor profile or bark on my smoked meats. The larger cooking surface also provides me with more space for different types of food.

Capacity and Sizing

A large, vertical smoker stands next to a smaller, horizontal smoker. The vertical smoker looms over the horizontal one, showcasing its capacity and size difference

When selecting a smoker, considering the amount of food you plan to smoke is crucial. Here's how capacity varies between vertical and horizontal smokers.

Vertical Smoker Capacity

Vertical smokers are known for their compact design, ideal for smaller spaces. Typically, I've found that they offer multiple racks or shelves, allowing you to smoke a decent amount of food, such as ribs, sausages, and chicken pieces vertically. The capacity can often be ample for household use, but it may be somewhat limiting if you're looking to host larger gatherings. For example, a medium-sized vertical smoker can generally hold 3-4 racks of ribs or 2-3 whole chickens.

Horizontal Smoker Capacity

Horizontal smokers, on the other hand, usually feature a larger footprint. This means they can accommodate more significant cuts of meat or a higher volume of food in a single session. In my experience, horizontal smokers are the go-to for events or for people who like to smoke large batches of meat. A common size for a horizontal smoker could easily handle upwards of 6-8 racks of ribs or 4-6 whole chickens. The often included firebox on the side doubles as a grilling space, which adds to the versatility.


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In essence, if you need more room and versatility for bigger smoking sessions, a horizontal smoker might be what you need, while a vertical smoker caters well to everyday family needs.

Temperature Control

When I'm smoking meats, I find temperature control the cornerstone of creating that perfect, tender brisket or deliciously smoky ribs. Getting that balance right relies heavily on the type of smoker I'm using and understanding how each manages heat.

Managing Heat in Vertical Smokers

In my vertical smoker, heat and smoke travel upward, making more efficient use of space and fuel. Maintaining a constant temperature is often simpler in my vertical unit because the heat source is directly below the cooking area and doesn't require as much tending. However, keeping an eye on it is crucial since some models can have trouble keeping heat consistent. For example, vertical smokers are often said to be space-efficient and great for beginners, which I agree with because they're less tricky to manage heat-wise.

Managing Heat in Horizontal Smokers

With my horizontal smoker, the firebox is off to the side, which creates a different heat distribution challenge. I'm always mindful that heat management here can be less straightforward because the smoke and heat must travel a longer path to exit the chimney. Horizontal smokers offer more versatility but require more attention to temperature control, especially when cooking larger meats. My experience aligns with the commonly held view that horizontal smokers offer better temperature control for large cuts due to their design, which often includes multiple dampers for fine-tuning airflow and temperature.

Flavor and Smoke Distribution

Smoke billows out of the vertical smoker, while the horizontal smoker evenly distributes flavor

When I talk about smokers, the flavor and how smoke moves through the unit are key aspects. In my experience, the design directly influences how the smoke is distributed and impacts the taste.

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The smoke travels across the meats for horizontal smokers, flowing from one side to the other. This journey allows the smoke to envelop the meat, potentially giving stronger smoke flavor as it lingers before exiting the chimney.

In vertical smokers, the heat and smoke move upwards, passing by the meats in a more direct path. Due to their design, vertical smokers might provide a more even smoke distribution since heat naturally rises, ensuring the smoke bathes the meat consistently.

Here's a succinct breakdown:

  • Horizontal smokers:
    • Smoke travels horizontally.
    • Meat gets exposed to smoke longer.
    • Possible for intense flavor.
  • Vertical smokers:

As for me, I find using a vertical smoker quite efficient for a uniform smoky taste, while I choose the horizontal type when I aim for a bit more intense flavor in my barbecue.

Cleaning and Maintenance

A person cleaning and maintaining a vertical vs horizontal smoker, using a brush and cleaning solution to scrub the interior and exterior surfaces

Maintaining and cleaning smokers is essential for their longevity and ensuring good flavor in your smoked meats. I'll outline some straightforward approaches to cleaning both vertical and horizontal smokers.

Cleaning Vertical Smokers

For vertical smokers, I remove any loose debris from the cooking chamber after it has cooled down. Regularly wiping the racks and interior surfaces with water and mild detergent helps prevent buildup. I use a grill brush for tougher residues—it's effective and doesn’t scratch the surface. It's crucial to rinse thoroughly and air-dry to prevent rust.

Cleaning Horizontal Smokers

When cleaning my horizontal smoker, I pay special attention to the longer smoke path, which can accumulate more residue. After each use, I make it a practice to brush off the grates and empty the firebox. Occasionally, taking apart the smoker to scrub each component with a steel brush goes a long way in maintaining a clean airflow. Ensuring the smoker is dry before reassembling minimizes the risk of rust.

Cost Considerations

When I'm looking into buying a smoker, I always pay attention to how much I'll need to invest upfront and over time. Let's break down what you might expect regarding costs for vertical and horizontal smokers.

Firstly, vertical smokers are often more cost-effective at the purchase point. They generally require less material to manufacture and can be easier to design, thus sometimes being lighter on the wallet. They can also be more energy-efficient because their design lowers ongoing costs.

  • Initial Cost: Typically lower than horizontal smokers
  • Energy Efficiency: Often higher, leading to lower fuel expenses

On the other hand, horizontal smokers usually come at a higher initial price. They're often larger and may come with more features, which can drive up the cost. However, their design often caters to consistent temperature maintenance, which can be a boon for serious BBQ enthusiasts aiming for perfection with larger cuts of meat. They may use more fuel, but the versatility might be worth the extra cost for some.

  • Initial Cost: Generally higher due to size and features
  • Fuel Usage: Can be higher; consider this for long-term costs

Remember, additional features and build quality can affect the price of both types. So, it's wise to consider both the short-term and long-term expenses. Sometimes the right choice isn't just about what's cheaper to start but what aligns best with my smoking style and how often I plan to use it. For more on the differences, check out these insights on vertical and horizontal smokers.

Popular Models and Brands

A vertical smoker stands tall next to a compact horizontal smoker. Both display prominent branding and sleek designs

When I look at the range of smokers available, a few standout models and brands consistently catch my eye. Here's a brief overview:

Vertical Smokers:

  • Weber Smokey Mountain: It's an icon for a reason—efficient, durable, and perfect for my backyard smoking sessions.
  • Masterbuilt: Their electric and propane models are great for beginners. The digital control panel on their electric smokers is something I find super convenient.
Brand Model
Weber Smokey Mountain
Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker
Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker

Horizontal Smokers:

  • Oklahoma Joe's Highland: This smoker, with its heavy-gauge steel construction, is something I'd recommend for those who take their smoking seriously.
  • Traeger: Known for wood pellet grills, Traeger allows me to add that delicious smoky flavor with ease.


  • For versatility, Traeger stands out in the horizontal category—they lead the pack in wood pellet smoker-grill combos.
  • Want a traditional smoking experience? Oklahoma Joe's offsets.

Whether you're a novice or a seasoned pitmaster, these brands offer some of the best experiences in my opinion. Happy smoking!

Frequently Asked Questions

A vertical smoker and a horizontal smoker side by side, with smoke billowing out of their chimneys, surrounded by a group of curious onlookers

In this section, I'm going to address some common queries regarding vertical and horizontal smokers, focusing on their advantages, flavor outcomes, drawbacks, and suitability for different spaces.


What are the advantages of choosing a vertical smoker over a horizontal one?

Vertical smokers are typically more space-efficient and can be a great choice for beginners. Thanks to their design, they often require less fuel and are easier to manage in terms of temperature, which is especially beneficial for those new to smoking.

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Are there different flavor results between vertical and horizontal smokers?

Yes, the flavor results can vary. A horizontal smoker might offer a more traditional smoke flavor, as they often allow for better smoke circulation around the meat. They have the space to create a two-zone system, which can contribute to a richer, smokier flavor profile.

What are some common drawbacks of using a vertical smoker?

One of the drawbacks is that they might not be as versatile as horizontal smokers for cooking more massive cuts of meat or multiple food items simultaneously. The stacked racks can limit the size of meat you're able to smoke at once.

How does cooking meat in a vertical pellet smoker differ from a horizontal smoker?

Cooking meat in a vertical pellet smoker generally provides more consistent temperature control and can be more fuel-efficient. In contrast, a horizontal smoker requires more attention to maintain consistent temperatures but can offer greater versatility for cooking large cuts of meat.

Can you recommend the best type of smoker for small outdoor spaces?

I'd recommend a vertical smoker for small outdoor spaces due to its compact footprint. They can fit into tighter spaces without sacrificing the quality of the smoked meat.

Do vertical smokers use fuel more efficiently than horizontal smokers?

Generally, vertical smokers are considered more fuel efficient than horizontal smokers. Their design allows heat and smoke to rise naturally, leading to more efficient fuel use and better insulation.

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Grilling Tips

The Secret to Tender, Flavorful Lamb Chops That Melt in Your Mouth



In my previous blogs, “Grilled Pizza with FlavrQ: A Wood-Fired Experience On Your Gas Grill” and “Gas Grill with the Searing Heat of Charcoal? Try This Sizzling Argentinean Surf and Turf,” I introduced you to FlavrQ. The FlavrQ Grid System was developed by grilling, smoking, and barbecue experts and is designed to “Boost Your Q” on your gas grill. The FlavrQ system allows you to add natural, wood charcoal grilled flavor to the food you cook on your gas grill and consists of the FlavrQ Grid and charcoal chips.

The FlavrQ Grid System

How does the system work? The FlavrQ Grid is placed under the grates of your gas grill. The charcoal chips are then placed on the grid.

FlavrQ Grid System

You ignite your gas grill as usual; the charcoal chips are hot in just a few minutes, and you’re ready to go. The high heat of the charcoal chips increases the temperature you can cook at and imparts a natural wood flavor. The grid is easy to install, is stainless steel, and can be left in your grill. The charcoal chips are made from Canadian sugar maple. The ultra hot charcoal chips sear your food faster than when cooking with gas alone. The charcoal chips leave minimal ash and requiring minimal clean up.

FlavrQ Grid System Clean

If you haven’t tried or seen the searing power of the FlavrQ, then I think this dish will make you want to give it a try. A nice sear creates a crusty exterior while the inside of your steak, pork chop, or piece of fish remains moist on the inside.

Grilled Lamb Chops

The warm spices of Moroccan cooking inspired this dish. Since lamb is the one of the most cooked meats in Morocco (in the world, really), I decided to sear lamb chops over the FlavrQ system.

I already had the FlavrQ Grid in my gas grill, so I just had to add the charcoal chips and start the gas grill as usual. The FlavrQ Grid can be conveniently left in the grill even when you’re not using it.

While the grill and the charcoal chips heated up, I prepared the lamb chops and veggies. I started by painting the lamb chops with olive oil and then seasoning them with a Moroccan spice rub. Next, I cut a red onion, a red and yellow pepper, and one zucchini into one-inch pieces. I tossed the veggies with olive oil and seasoned with the same Moroccan spice rub. I skewered the veggies on flat metal skewers. The flat skewers keep the veggies from spinning while cooking.


Grilled Lamb Chops and Veggies

I also prepared a chermoula sauce to pair with the lamb and veggies. In a food processor, I combined the Moroccan spice rub, olive oil, parsley, garlic cloves, and preserved lemon. Chermoula is the Moroccan version of an Argentinian chimichurri.

Once the charcoal chips were glowing hot, I placed the lamb chops on the grill grates. I seared the chops for 90 seconds and gave them a quarter turn and cooked for another 90 seconds. I flipped the lamb chops and repeated the process. I placed the lamb chops on a wire rack over a sheet pan to rest.

Lamb Chops on the Grill

While the lamb chops rested, I grilled the veggies.

Grilled Veggies

The lamb chops developed a crispy and flavorful exterior due to the Moroccan spice rub and the high heat of the FlavrQ system. The lamb chops were juicy inside. I enjoyed the contrast of crusty exterior and the tender inside. The grilled veggies developed a nice char and paired perfectly with the lamb chops. The Moroccan spice rub boosted the flavor of the fresh veggies and tied the whole meal together. The chermoula with the preserved lemon added a freshness to each bite.



If you are looking for the perfect sear on a meat, fish, veggies, or fruit the FlavrQ system doesn’t disappoint.

Moroccan-Inspired Grilled Lamb Chops and Veggies with Chermoula Recipe

Grilled Lamb Chops

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The post The Secret to Tender, Flavorful Lamb Chops That Melt in Your Mouth appeared first on

By: Daniel Hale
Title: The Secret to Tender, Flavorful Lamb Chops That Melt in Your Mouth
Sourced From:
Published Date: 9/26/23

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can My Charcoal Grill Stay On?

For a long time, your charcoal grill can be left on to cook an item. Be careful not to leave your grill on because it could get too hot.

After 30 minutes, the best time to turn off your grill is. This is when the coals have sufficiently burned to stop any flare-ups.


The second best time to take your charcoal grill off is after one hour. You will find that most of your charcoal is gone by the time you are ready to eat.

After three hours, it is best to dispose of your charcoal. By this time, most of the coals in your firewood will have gone black and are no longer useful. Charcoal will also cease to provide heat.

How to keep a charcoal grill lit?

You need to first light the charcoal grill and then place the coals on the grill. This is easiest to do with a chimney starter. The chimney starter is a tube made of metal filled with charcoal briquettes. When ignited, hot air rises through the chimney to ignite the charcoal in the grill.

How to Set Up and Light a Charcoal Grill?

Charcoal grills come in two types: electric and charcoal. Electric grills are easier to operate than charcoal grills but don't produce the same amount of heat. Electric grills are also less expensive than charcoal grills.


First place coals around the bottom half of the grill to light a charcoal grill. Next, add wood chunks or chips to the firebox. After the coals are heated, use tongs and spread them out evenly on the grill. Once the coals have started to burn, take off the lid and wait for them all to go out.

How to Start an Electric Grill?

It is important to find a trusted supplier that sells high-quality equipment at affordable prices before you start an electric barbecue. The first thing you need to do is decide on the grill type that you want. Next, think about how much space you have, where you intend to place it and whether you will use gas or electrical. The last thing you need to decide is whether you want to use propane or charcoal grills.


  • That's why America's Original Butcher can give a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and the grocery store can't. (
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How To

Five Common Mistakes When Grilling Over Charcoal

You should avoid making mistakes when grilling with charcoal. Five rookie mistakes to avoid when grilling charcoal are listed below.

1) Do not use too much charcoal.

It's easy to burn your food when you don’t know how to properly grill. If you want to cook something, then you must first put the right amount of charcoal into the grill. It is important not to add too much charcoal as this can cause the fires to go out very quickly. This could mean you don't get heat from your fire. In addition, you may also lose the flavor in your food.


2) Keep the lid shut.

If you keep the lid open while cooking, you might end up losing the smoke that gives your food its unique taste. It is better to close the lid, so that the smoke doesn't escape. But, you should not cover the entire grill. To make sure you can still see what is happening, cover only half the grill.

3) Do not forget to turn off your gas.

Never forget to shut off the natural gases before closing the lid. You will be exposed to a lot carbon monoxide poisoning. Grilling is one of most common causes for death.

4) Do not leave the grill unattended.

It is important to always look after the grill while you are using it. Make sure that you have someone else nearby in case anything goes wrong. Make sure the lid is closed while you are away.

5) Never use lighter fluid.

Fluids that are lighter in color can be highly flammable. Therefore, you should never use lighter fluid when grilling. Instead, spray water into a spray bottle. This will make it easy to extinguish any possible flames.


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Grilling Tips

How to Trim Spare Ribs: Step-By-Step Guide



Want to grill or smoke ribs that are tender and meaty from edge to edge? The trick isn't only in the sauce; it starts before the ribs even hit the grill. It starts with a uniform and evenly cut rack of ribs. This step is important for achieving mouthwatering, fall-off-the-bone tender ribs from one end of the rack to the other. And we're breaking down the easy steps for exactly how to trim spare ribs.

When it comes to the types of ribs on the market, some come right out of the package ready to go, like baby back ribs, and some need a little more attention. But did you know spare ribs are St. Louis style ribs? One just happens to be trimmed neatly for meaty bites and a pretty presentation. That's the only difference between the cut. And with our easy guide, you will have a beautiful rack of ribs so that you can then move on to how to smoke ribs like a pro.

Whole slab of pork spareribs, untrimmed.

The Cut: What are Spare Ribs

Spare ribs are long ribs from the side of the pig, below the curve of baby back ribs. They have a thick meaty top with rib bones and finish with meat hanging around the bottom breastbone/sternum area. They are not as curved as baby back ribs, filled with rich flavor from fat, and are perfect for slow cooking methods like smoking, grilling, braising, or even oven baking.

Once trimmed properly, spare ribs are called St. Louis ribs. And these are perfect for the 3-2-1 method, hanging in a drum smoker, or traditional smoked ribs. They're great ribs that have a bit more fat than baby backs, but that adds to their delicious flavor. And they are a personal favorite in the Girl Carnivore Meat Labs.

Why should you trim spare ribs?

Do you have to trim your spare ribs? No. But there are a few reasons you should.

  • First, it helps with even cooking. Trimming the spare ribs creates an even rectangular shape that will cook better throughout the rack. When left untrimmed, the flap can get overdone while waiting for the first few ribs reach temperature.
  • Secondly, it helps with the overall presentation. When left whole, spare ribs go from a long edge to a skinny edge, which from some butchers, can be quite dramatic. When you take the time to trim your spare ribs properly, they will look clean and have an even size for every bone. It also makes slicing the ribs for serving a lot easier.
  • And finally, when you remove the membrane, you help the finished texture when you bite into your perfectly cooked ribs.

How to Trim Spare Ribs

How much you need to trim your ribs will greatly depend on the butcher who originally cut them. We have seen clean ribs come from our local grocery stores with minimal trimming needed. And then there are times when we really need to clean things up for our personal preference.

Trimming a full rack of spare ribs is easy, you will need:

  • A large cutting board or clean work surface
  • Filet knife, a chefs knife also works here, but we find our filet knife to make quick work of trimming ribs
  • Butter knife
  • Paper towels
Spare rib rack with the sternum ribs tips area removed.

Remove the sternum / rib tips

We start by removing the breast bone that hangs below the curve of the ribs. To do that, find where the rib bone ends. You will find a curved piece of meat, the breastbone, attached at the bottom. Sometimes it has a bit of the sternum bone attached.

With the pork ribs facing up, place the blade of your knife beneath the bottom of the rib bones and run it carefully along the curve of the ribs. You may have to do this once or twice to make a clean line at the rib tip section.

Rack of spare ribs, trimmed to show breast bone and flat meat removed.

Remove the flap

The next step is to remove the flap meat, the odd triangular-shaped piece after the last rib. To do this, simply cut between the last rib and the meat with your sharp knife, along the bone, removing the excess meat.

Remove the skirt

With the bones still facing up, remove any access meat along the edges of the ribs. This is known as the skirt meat and may or may not be present depending on your butcher.


Take the time now to trim any excess fat hanging off the ribs on either side. Don't remove every ounce of fat, as it adds flavor and moisture, but if there are large pockets hanging to the outside of the meat, you can trim those now. You can use all of these trimmings in soups, make stocks, or cook them for quick snacks.

When done with all of the trimming, your final product will be an even rectangular rack of St. Louis cut ribs.

Infographic for how to trim ribs.

Remove the membrane

The last step for how to trim spare ribs is the same for any rack of ribs, removing the membrane. This long silver skin runs along the back of the ribs and, when removed, makes for a better bite when finished. Once you learn how to remove the membrane from a slab of ribs, there's no going back.

Start by sliding the tip of a dull butter knife along the bone, under the membrane, and gently wiggling and pulling up. We like to start at from the second longest bone, almost at the edge of the membrane. As you pull up gently, the silver skin will loosen a bit. Using a paper towel for a good grip, grab the membrane and gently pull back. This may come off in one easy pull, but it often takes a few tries to remove the whole membrane. It's a skill where practice will indeed make perfect.

Now that you have a perfectly trimmed rack of ribs, you need to decide the best way to cook them.

Bone side of a uniform rack of ribs showing the thing membrane.
Bone side of a full spare rib rack showing membrane removed.


Do you have to trim spare ribs?

No, you do not have to trim spare ribs. Trimming the slabs of ribs creates the St. Louis style ribs, which cooks more evenly, but you can smoke spare ribs right out of the package.

Do you remove the fat from ribs before cooking?

Fat helps add moisture and flavor to ribs, so you don't want to remove all of it. But you do want to trim any fat that's hanging or is too thick from the meaty side of the ribs.

Do You have to remove the membrane from the pack?

We get it; peeling off the membrane is frustrating. However, it is a key step to making every bite of your ribs more enjoyable. No, you do not ‘have to' but we find it such an important step, we never skip it.

Learning how to trim spare ribs is an essential skill for any barbecue enthusiast or home cook. Properly trimming the ribs not only improves their appearance but also enhances their flavor and tenderness to help you not overcook them. Remember to remove the membrane, trim excess fat, and shape the rack for even cooking. With practice and attention to detail, you'll soon master the art of trimming spare ribs and be able to enjoy deliciously succulent results every time you fire up your grill or smoker. Grab your knife, and get ready to elevate your rib game!

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Preparing spare ribs for smoking or grilling can be a bit of an art form, and it all starts with the trimming process. Properly trimmed ribs not only look more appealing but also cook more evenly, ensuring a perfect result that fall off the bone.

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  • start by removing the breast bone that hangs below the curve of the ribs. To do that, find where the rib bone ends. You will find a curved piece of meat, the breastbone, attached at the bottom. Sometimes it has a bit of the sternum bone attached.

  • With the pork ribs facing up, place the blade of your knife beneath the bottom of the rib bones and run it carefully along the curve of the ribs. You may have to do this once or twice to make a clean line at the rib tip section.


  • The next step is to remove the flap meat, the odd triangular-shaped piece after the last rib. To do this, simply cut between the last rib and the meat with your sharp knife, along the bone, removing the excess meat.


  • With the bones still facing up, remove any access meat along the edges of the ribs. This is known as the skirt meat and may or may not be present depending on your butcher.

  • Take the time now to trim any excess fat hanging off the ribs on either side. Don't remove every ounce of fat, as it adds flavor and moisture, but if there are large pockets hanging to the outside of the meat, you can trim those now.


  • Start by sliding the tip of a dull butter knife along the bone, under the membrane, and gently wiggling and pulling up. We like to start at from the second longest bone, almost at the edge of the membrane.

  • As you pull up gently, the silver skin will loosen a bit.

  • Using a paper towel for a good grip, grab the membrane and gently pull back. This may come off in one easy pull, but it often takes a few tries to remove the whole membrane.

  • When done with all of the trimming, your final product will be an even rectangular rack of St. Louis cut ribs.

By: Kita
Title: How to Trim Spare Ribs: Step-By-Step Guide
Sourced From:
Published Date: 9/20/23


Frequently Asked Questions

How to Start an Electric Grill

To start an electric grill, you need to find a reliable supplier who sells quality equipment at affordable prices. First, choose the type of grill that you want. Then, you should consider how much space you have for the grill, where you plan to place it, and whether you want to use gas or electricity. You should also consider whether to choose from charcoal or propane grills.

What is the difference in a grill and a smokehouse?

Grills are open-flame cooking devices that use open flames to heat food. A smoker is a device which uses smoke to cook food.

Grills are used for grilling meats, vegetables and seafood. Smokers are commonly used to smoke meats and cheeses as well as fruits and vegetables.

There are many grills on today's market. There are many different types of grills on the market today. For example, a pellet grill is good for cooking large cuts of meat, while a kettle grill is better for cooking steaks and chicken breasts.


How do you keep a charcoal grill lit.

Light the charcoal first and then place them on the grill. This will keep the charcoal grill lit. A chimney starter is the best way to do this. This device is made up of a tube of metal that has been filled with charcoal and briquettes. Once ignited, it creates hot air which rises through a chimney and ignites the charcoal within the grill.

How to Start A Propane Gas Grill

Propane gas grills are one of the easiest types of grills to use. You simply fill up your propane tank, light the grill, and wait for food to cook. Propane is safe and easy to use.

You can also buy propane tanks at Home Depot and Lowes. They come in sizes that range from 20 gallons to 60.



  • That's why America's Original Butcher can give a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and the grocery store can't. (
  • According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2011 and 2016, US fire departments responded to an average of 9,600 home fires started by yearly grills. (

External Links

How To

Five Common Mistakes When Grilling Over Charcoal

You should avoid making mistakes when grilling with charcoal. These are five rookie errors to avoid when grilling with charcoal.

1) Don’t use too much coal.

Grilling is a very simple way to cause food to burn. You must ensure that you have the correct amount of charcoal in your grill to cook the food. The fire could go out faster if you add too much charcoal. You won't be able to get heat from the fire. This will mean that your food may lose its flavor.

2) Keep the lid tightly closed.

The smoke that gives your food its distinct flavor can be lost if the lid is left open. The lid should be closed so that the smoke remains inside the grill. But, you should not cover the entire grill. Instead, only cover half of the grill to keep it visible.

3) Don't forget to turn off the gas.

It is important to remember to shut off natural gas before closing the lid. Otherwise, you will end up having a lot of carbon monoxide poisoning. Grilling is one of most common causes for death.

4) Don’t leave the grill unattended

It is important to always look after the grill while you are using it. For any problems, be sure to have someone with you. Keep the lid tightly closed while you're away.


5) Never use lighter fluid.

The fluid that is lighter than the recommended one is extremely flammable. Therefore, you should never use lighter fluid when grilling. Instead, use water in a spray bottle. This will enable you to easily extinguish any flames.

Did you miss our previous article…

Continue Reading