How to Smoke With a Charcoal Grill

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Updated April 19, 2023

If you are new to the world of barbecuing, you may wonder how to use a charcoal grill as a smoker. The best grills, after all, make decent smokers once you get the hang of it. To start smoking with a charcoal grill, arrange the charcoal briquettes on one side of the girl and light them. Once the charcoal has turned white, place soaked wood chips on the top for a smokey flavor. On the other side of the grill, place a drip pan with water to catch drippings and regulate the temperature. Adjust the bottom vents to control airflow. Place the food on the grates above the drip pan and opposite of the charcoal, then close the grill lid. Monitor and adjust the temp as needed and replenish the charcoal and wood chips when necessary.

For a more detailed walkthrough, keep reading.


  • Most charcoal grills boast indirect heat and can double as effective smokers to keep the meat moist, providing you have a smoker attachment and a drip tray.
  • When smoking ingredients, adjust the air vents often to regulate the internal temperature and to make sure smoke is venting out correctly.
  • Some modern lump charcoal grills come with a smoker attachment upon purchase, so be on the lookout to increase smoky flavors.

Whether or not you are charcoal briquettes or if you’ve learned how to use hardwood charcoal lumps, smoking is an essential part of the overall grilling experience. Smoking allows you to slow-cook large cuts of meat, creating a rich depth of flavor. This is a preferred method for many types of meat, fish, and more, which is great to do with a charcoal grill or a wood pellet grill

Pork is no exception, with a heavy flavor and long cooking time that can be achieved through smoking the meat. It will result in a rich flavor and tender meat that falls off the bone. Types of smokers, such as an electric smoker, along with a detailed charcoal smoker guide, can help you achieve he perfect smoked meats, whether it’s beef, chicken, or pork.

Insider Tip

Some cuts of meat can smoke for 12 hours or more.

How to Use the Smoker on a Charcoal Grill

STEP 1 Assemble Your Tools

  1. Some charcoal grills come with a smoker attachment while others do not. If you are shopping for a smoker accessory, make sure that it is designed to fit your grill. Consult your instructions for more information.
  2. Don’t forget about the charcoal and purchase your preferred charcoal type, with briquettes and hardwood lumps, each having their own uses. And, pick up pellet smoker parts if you need them.
  3. Don’t forget a lighter and lighter fluid, since you’ll have to start the flame somehow, and a drip pan. If you are new to charcoal, you may want to check out this page to learn when is charcoal ready to cook with.

STEP 2 Set Up Your Smoker

  1. Once you have the right smoker for your grill, set it up according to directions.
  2. Make sure to adjust the smoke vents so that they point in your preferred direction. Just ensure you find the right vents based on your type of smoker.
  3. Arrange the drip pan so that’ll it catches accumulated juices that build up as meat cooks and place wood chips on the grate.

STEP 3 Start Smoking

  1. Place your ingredients inside of the smoker and begin the cooking process.
  2. Adjust the vents every once in a while to ensure that the smoke is being vented properly.
  3. Have a thermometer on hand to check the internal temperature of the smoker, especially if you are cooking delicate ingredients.

STEP 4 Remove and Clean

  1. Remove your ingredients when you feel that they are properly cooked. Each ingredient has different cooking needs.
  2. Be sure to clean the smoker and the grill after cooking, especially if you want to learn how to keep mice away from a grill. If you’re not sure how to do this properly, we have a great article on how to clean a grill you can check out.
  3. Enjoy your freshly smoked ingredients.

STAT: Smokers slow-cook foods at lower temperatures over longer periods of time. (source)


Barbecue: what’s the big deal?

Using a barbecue grill is a great way to prepare certain foods, such as beef brisket, and to enjoy time with friends and family.

How to set up for two zone grilling?

This depends on the design of your grill, but generally speaking, your charcoal smoker grill should feature hot and cool zones spread across the grill grate and charcoal grate. Break out the meat thermometer to find out which burner is the hottest.

What’s the best charcoal for smokers and smoking meat?

This depends on the type of grill you have, as any charcoal type will do in a pinch. Additionally, hot coals, wood chips, a gas grill, or a chimney starter are all good options depending on your preferred type of meat.

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