How to Use a Charcoal Grill as a Smoker

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Updated February 11, 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. So why use a charcoal grill as a smoker and how do you get started? Keep reading to find out.


  • 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.

Why Use a Charcoal Grill as a Smoker

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

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.

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.
  3. Arrange the drip pan so that’ll it catch 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
  3. Enjoy your freshly smoked ingredients.


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.

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

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