Smoking With (Or Without) Your Side Fire Box: A Guide

side fire box

On the phone, we get lots of questions about how to smoke (cook indirectly) with our grills.  Each grill is different, so whether you’re a beginner or a veteran smoker, this post might shed some light on how to smoke our way.  There are a couple ways to do it, depending on what kind of equipment you have.


Situation #1:

You have one of our barrel grills, with a Side Fire Box attached.  Your setup looks like the picture above.  Congratulations!  You have an optimal grill situation for smoking.  If you haven’t done so already, attach the Side Fire Box to your main grill (instructions here), making sure to remove both the damper plate on the grill and the one on the fire box, so that there is nothing but open space between the two units.

Once that’s done, you’re ready to start the process.  Get some split logs chopped from fruit or nut-bearing trees, such as hickory, cherry, apple, walnut, etc., and that have been cut for at least 1 year.  Remove the bark from the logs to avoid an acrid flavor.  If you cannot find split logs, you can use wood chips, but we do not recommend soaking the wood in water.  To extend the burn time of your wood, try wrapping it in foil, keeping the ends open.

Start your fire with charcoal, but add the wood once the coals are lit.  Wood burns lower and longer, so it is the best fuel for smoking.  However, charcoal is best to start your fire, since it will catch more quickly and burns hot enough to catch your logs on fire.

With the door of the Side Fire Box and the hood of the grill closed, adjust your side damper and smokestack damper until the temperature in the main grill is between 180°F and 220°F.  The more the side damper on the Side Fire Box is open, the hotter the fire will be.  Inversely, the more open the smokestack damper on the main grill, the more heat is allowed to escape, and the lower the temperature will be.  Be careful not to exceed 300°F in the main grill when using the Side Fire Box, as this will damage the finish on the fire box.


Situation #2:

You have a barrel-style charcoal grill, with no side smoker attached.  You can definitely still smoke with this setup, using a small amount of charcoal instead of wood.  We recommend using our Drip Pan with this style of smoking, positioning it directly below the meat on one side of the grill.  Your fuel should be on the opposite side of the grill, as far from the meat as possible.  Using a Charcoal Basket may help to keep the fuel confined this way.  Place your firegrate/ashpan in a low position, and control the heat using the ashpan, and the side and smokestack dampers.


General Rules:

The general rule for smoking times is one hour of cooking per pound of food, or for every inch of meat thickness.  When you are cooking slowly at low temperatures, the meat will stay moist and needs little attention.  If you so desire, you can wrap the meat in foil after a few hours to limit browning and to keep it moist.  You can also baste it while smoking, but keep in mind that each time you open the smoking chamber, your smoking time will increase.

“If the smoke is white, the fire’s right; if the smoke is black, add some draft.”  If you see black smoke, your fire is dying and needs more wood or charcoal added.  Do not over-smoke your food either; too much smoke flavor will cause it to taste bitter and turn black.

You can use a drip pan with any of the above configurations.  Just make sure the pan is directly underneath your meat.  In the pan, you can put a mixture of water and wine, water and beer, water and apple juice, or your favorite marinade.  This way, the liquid will add extra flavor by evaporating up onto the meat when it gets hot.  Check the water level after 4 hours or if you cannot hear the water simmering.

Before you put your meat on the grill, we recommend marinating it overnight in the fridge, using your favorite marinade.  Then let it stand at room temperature before and after smoking.  To ensure the meat is fully cooked, insert a probe of your Dual-Probe Remote Thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, without touching bone, and allow at least 5 minutes to register.  Internal temperature for birds should be 170°-180°F.  Pork and beef should be 140°F for rare, 160°F for medium, and 170°F for well done.  After smoking, you can also put the meat back in the marinade (after boiling it to remove bacteria) for several minutes before serving, to make it juicier and more flavorful.


Tune in for more information on how to smoke with our other models, including the Kamado!  Happy grilling!


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2 thoughts on “Smoking With (Or Without) Your Side Fire Box: A Guide

  1. Horizon smokers February 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm Reply

    A handsome and decorative design for a great appearance. The thermometer lets
    you know when the grill is the perfect temperature. For individuals, in the
    northern part of the United States, this is fantastic.

  2. Jason Mair www June 23, 2013 at 2:41 pm Reply

    I just purchased your Super-Pro with the offset firebox. This post helped a lot. Thank you!

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