Learning how to smoke meat is something anyone can do. It doesn’t have to cost the earth either. All you need is a basic Weber Kettle and a small area to setup your grill in.
The best part is with just a bit of research you’ll be enjoying delicious smoked meat as you learn. Unlike the old pit masters who learnt everything the hard way (and ruined a lot of good meat in the process), you can learn from the best bbq and smoking experts without ever leaving your home.
There’s a lot of advice out there but I’ve scoured the internet and collected only the best resources for learning how to smoke meat like a pro.
- BBQ smoking basics
- How to buy the right smoker
- What are the essential accessories for smoking meat
- What to look out for when buying and using charcoal
- What wood types are suitable for smoking
- What are the best beginners guides
- How to smoke different types of meat
- What are the most common mistakes amateur smokers make
- What are the best online bbq & smoking blogs & communities
1) BBQ smoking basics
- Master the Art of Charcoal Grilling – Covers a lot of good basics including the best way to light a charcoal grill, temperature control and starting to cook with charcoal.
- Smoking Meat 101: Barbecue for Beginners – Short and easy guide to starting to BBQ using BBQ ribs.
- The Importance Of Temperature Control, The 2‑Zone Setup, And Indirect Cooking – Detailed information on some of the most fundamental elements of smoking meat.
- Using the Vents to Control Temperature on Charcoal and Wood Burning Grills and Smokers – More from our friends at Amazing Ribs. Master temperature control and you’ll be well on your way to delicious home cooked BBQ.
2) How to buy the right smoker
If you’re just getting started on your smoking journey you probably just need a moderately priced smoker. For affordability, durability and the ability to grill or smoke, a Weber Kettle grill is super versatile and can used as an excellent smoker.
If you’re ready to go straight to a dedicated smoker the Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Cooker is a good place to start. Or check out the links below for more in-depth advice.
- The Best Smokers Under $500 – Updated in 2015 Serious Eats guide to inexpensive smokers under $500 breaks down a number of options including log burners, charcoal smokers, gas smokers, pellet smokers, and electric smokers and includes their recommendation for each.
- Ultimate guide to buying a Weber Smokey Mountain – We did a deep dive to cover off everything you need to know before buying a Smokey Mountain, including how it compares to other common types of smokers.
- How To Buy A Smoker – Smoking Jesus Meathead Goldwyn breaks down what to look for when buying a smoker. A quick look at temperature control, materials, accessories comprehensive reviews of a range of different smokers.
- Top BBQs & Grills for the Pit Master – Advice on what to look for in a charcoal grill, materials used, price as well as size & features.
3) What are the essential accessories for smoking meat
The beauty of using a Weber Kettle to start smoking meat is that you don’t need to buy a lot of expensive accessories. While I would always recommend using a Charcoal Chimney Starter to start your charcoal BBQ and a good leave-in thermometer to monitor temperatures, you can improvise the rest and still get good results.
- 6 Things Every Griller Needs – A good break down of the six items that you really need with links to buy.
- Barbecue Accessories, Tools, And Toys: A Buying Guide With Reviews And Rating – Detailed description of a range of third parties accessories for converting a Weber grill into a smoker, as well as general grilling accessories you should own.
4) What to look out for when buying and using charcoal
You’ve decided to switch from gas to cooking with charcoal. Just need to grab a bag from the store right? Any charcoal is fine to start with, but I remember being surprised by the amount of choice you have.
Skip the budget charcoal which is held together with petroleum products, and grab a bag of premium hardwood lump charcoal. Charcoal is one of the main variables you control so it’s worth experimenting.
- Everything You Need to Know About Buying Charcoal – Good to get a quick understanding of your different options when it comes to buying charcoal.
- Is Lump Charcoal Really that Good? – I wouldn’t want to be considered a charcoal snob but this article makes a pretty good case for it.
- The Great Charcoal Debate: Briquettes Or Lumps? – We can all agree that charcoal is better than gas. It’s clear we need something else to argue over…
5) What wood types are suitable for smoking
Just like with buying charcoal, you can use anything from the BBQ section and get a pretty good result. I still recommend learning about how different types of wood are best suited.
- How to Use Smoke Woods – The ability to use different types of wood while smoking is one of the best parts of cooking with charcoal. Learn about the different ways of using some woods.
- Up in Smoke: All About Smoke Woods for Grilling – Handy posters of common wood – food pairings and guidelines on when to use chips, cunks, or planks.
- What You Need to Know About Wood, Smoke, and Combustion – “What you need to know” might be a bit of an overstatement. If you want a deep dive into all aspects of using wood for smoking bookmark this page.
- Best Wood For Smoking Meat – A Guide to Hardwoods for Smoking – Nice breakdown of the heavy woods and light woods commonly used for smoking with flavor profiles for each type of wood.
6) The best beginner bbq guides
You’ve bought your charcoal bbq, got everything setup and now it’s time to cook! These guides are all great introductions to using a Weber Kettle or similar BBQ for smoking.
- How to Turn Your Kettle Grill into a Smoker – Step by step guide on how you can”‘cue at home, even with that simplest of grills”
- How to Set Up a Charcoal Grill for Smoking or Grilling – If you don’t have a dedicated smoker then this in-depth guide to setting up your charcoal grill is a great introduction.
- The Snake Method – Charcoal Kettle Tutorial, Low and Slow Technique (VIDEO) – learn a great technique for setting up your grill for long (8+ hour) cooks without adding more charcoal
7) How to smoke different types of meat
It’s true that you use a lot of the same principles and techniques to smoke different types of meat. I’d still recommend starting with a more forgiving meat like pork butt or chicken before working your way up to ribs and then finally brisket.
Pork butt / shoulder:
- BBQ with Franklin: Pulled Pork (VIDEO) – Learn how to cook a Texas style pulled pork butt. Great simple steps, and no injecting or brining.
- Perfect Pulled Pork Recipe – More detailed instructions for cooking a pork butt, but again without any marinades, injections or brines.
- Smoked Barbecue Baby Back Ribs – Step by step instructions with pictures (good if you haven’t removed the membrane before) and delicious bourbon-bacon barbecue sauce.
- How To Smoke Perfect Baby Back Ribs: Straight to the point and simple instructions for smoked baby back ribs by BBQ master Tim Love.
- Spatchcock Chicken on a Weber Kettle Charcoal Grill (VIDEO) – Learn how to cook a whole spatchcock (butterflied) chicken on a
- Smoked Chicken on the Weber Kettle – All you need to make delicious smoked chicken is a whole chicken, a BBQ rub, olive oil and hickory, pecan or apple chunks.
- Brisket – Smoked & Oven Finished – Comprehensive guide to selecting, preparing and smoking a brisket. This recipe uses the hotly debated Texas crutch technique which involves smoking for several hours and then wrapping in foil and finishing in the oven.
- Barbecue Beef Brisket Texas Style – Step by step instructions, as well tips on best ways to cut your brisket
8) The most common mistakes amateur smokers make
Learning how to smoke meat at home is all about experimenting, making mistakes and adjusting. That said there are several mistakes almost everyone makes when first getting started. Learn from them.
- Top 12 smoking mistakes that can ruin your barbecue – On this very site you’ll find a comprehensive break down of common BBQ mistakes and how to avoid them.
- 12 Grilling Mistakes You Don’t Have to Make (But Probably Do) – Avoid tough, sooty or even dangerous meat. Learn how to avoid the most common mistakes.
9) The best online bbq & smoking blogs & communities
Reading and taking part in online BBQ community forms & blogs is a great way to speed up the learning process. Lots of other people are all sharing their bbq experiences and these are the best places to take part.
- Reddit BBQ – Great community of BBQ enthusiasts. Lots of pictures and BBQ write ups.
- Reddit Smoking – Another Reddit but this time dedicated to “enhancing food with wood smoke flavor”. Lots of delicious looking pictures and good discussion.
- BBQ Brethren Forums – With over 1,842,140 posts about backyard BBQ alone, chances are someone else has already had the same question as you.
- Texas BBQ Forum – Lots of dedicated forums for recipes, general BBQ discussion, competition and more.
Now it’s your turn
These are just a few of the best places to learn how to smoke meat at home. I know there are a tonne of resources out there that I didn’t mention. I’m curious to know what resources you turn to for the best BBQ information. Let me know in the comments!