How To Use A Char Broil Smoker (Even If You’re A Smoking Newbie)

Welcome to this quick start guide on how to use a char broil smoker. It's full of loads of tips for char-broiling with a variety of smokers. I love char broiled food, so this article has been something of a labor of love 🙂

Browning, flavoring and general cooking of meat by exposing it to smoke have been practiced all through history. This age-old method produces mouth-watering feasts each time. Today, imparting this woodsy flavor to your dish is done using a smoker.

Char broil smokers are the go-to choice for smoking food. By using indirect heat, they allow meat to cook for long periods until tender while imparting loads of flavor. Using logs, wood chunks or wood chips, a pit master can flavor any meat differently to his desire. Below is a quick guide on how to use a char broil smoker for the various smoker types.

There are a great variety of smokers on the market to suit all budgets. All available on

Low Cost (Under $100) - Char-Broil Analogue Smoker | Char-Broil Bullet Smoker

Mid Range ($150+) - Smoke Hollow 30 Inch Electric Smoker

High Range (Over $400) - Char-Broil Oklahoma Joe's Bandera Smoker And Grill

I've broken the article down into distinct types of charbroil smokers, electric, charcoal etc, and provided specific details on how to use each type. Many of the basics are similar, but each style has it's own quirks. Ok, let's get to it!

First Off, Let's get to the real nitty gritty..

Often referred to as a chargrill, broiler or char-broiler, this is a simple method of cooking using a series of grates that can be heated by a variety of fuel sources. Charcoal, electric, propane, even wood. Char-broiling is used in the home and also in commercial applications.

The method produces dark grill marks on the meat or vegetables, much the same as you would see if you used a griddle pan.

Advantages Of Char Broil Smokers
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    Very little experience required to achieve excellent results.
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    Safe to use. No risk of sparks, flare ups, or risks associated with propane.
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    A variety of cooking methods / temperatures are available on the grill
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    Food is cooked quickly due to high temperatures.
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    Does not need constant supervision and temperature adjustment.
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    Great for home use, for entertaining friends, a real center piece of any party.
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    Affordability. Can be purchased for under $100 on Amazon.

Benefits Of Using A Char Broil Smoker

1. Easy to move

One of the main benefits of most of these smokers is their portability. They are not only designed to eliminate unnecessary weight but usually, incorporate wheels. This makes them ideal for bringing along during a picnic or even when camping, as they can be dragged about and loaded onto the back of a truck.

2. Consistently flavored meals

If using a charcoal grill, you stand to benefit from flavors passed from the charcoal through the smoke. Meat that is cooked in a char broil smoker absorbs aromas from the smoking wood. A large number of pit masters highly recommend using charcoal char broil smokers as the produce a distinct smoky taste that gives each cook an authentic grilled taste. To be more specific, go for lump charcoal as it emits more aroma and taste. The same fete is not possible to replicate when cooking with gas char broil smokers without some help from wood chips.

3. Low maintenance requirements

A char grill is quite easy to keep in good shape. With few to no moving parts, all that is frequently required is to clean the smoker. Designed to have a removal grate that can be scraped clean makes cleaning less of a chore. Additionally, an ash collector that is detachable from the fire pit makes ash removal a breeze. A drip pan also ensures you do not stain your smoker with fat dripping from your meat. Cleaning a smoker is somewhat different depending on the type you have, gas, charcoal, electric, but many of the basic principles are the same.

4. Versatility

Other than being one of the healthiest ways to cook a meal, a char broil smoker can also suitable for cooking different types of foods. Commonly used for cooking meat and vegetables, the smoker can also be used to bake cakes, cookies, pizzas and a host of other pastries. All that is required is to regulate temperatures and avoid baking directly above the heat source. Grilling can also be carried out on some grills.

5. Varying temperature ranges

By making adjustments to the air vent of a charcoal grill, you can regulate how hot your char broil smoker gets. This is great as you can slow cook your skirt steak for hours on low heat until tender. Alternatively, you can crank up the heat to bake a pizza in only minutes. A charcoal char broil smoker can even regulate parts that should be hotter than others.

There are a range of char-broilers you can use, let's take a look at the types you could consider, and in particular, how to use each one.

The Char-Broil Electric Smoker

An electric char broil smoker has the fastest cooking time of all smokers. There are two versions, analog and digital. Each uses electricity to generate heat. They are very convenient and easy to start. At the push of a button, a pit master can start the smoker and regulate temperature using a menu. The charbroil analogue smoker in the image below is really affordable, at under $100 on Amazon at the time of writing.

Char-Broil Analog Electric Smoker

They are preferred over other char broil smoker as they are viewed as being safer to use. With no open flames to talk about, electric smokers use a heating element to heat things up. They are often viewed as indoor appliances as they can not withstand the elements.

This counts as a benefit as they keep to a more regular temperature. Similar to a gas smoker, it offers superior temperature control. For the same size as conventional smokers, you can cook more food at the bottom section is not dedicated to fuel heating. The element requires a very small room in your smoker.

How To Use A Char-Broil Electric Smoker

1. Preparatory work

I discussed how to season a new smoker in a previous article. Not all smokers need it, but check your manufacturer instructions to be sure.

New versions of electric smokers are smart and internet operated. As such you will require an Internet connection (WiFi) to both your smartphone and smoker.

Start by downloading the app for your char broil smoker. It will guide you through the entire cook. Once opened choose what type of cook you intend to have - usually grilling or smoking. You will also be prompted to select the type of food you are cooking - pork, fish, chicken or other food. You will also be required to enter the weight of your meat.

Being connected to the Internet also allows you to browse for recipes using the app. Follow the recipe instructions or pre-season your food.

Masterbuilt Electric Smokers are one of the top models and are certainly worth considering if you are looking to buy.

2. Lighting your smoker

When ready to cook, add wood chips into the smoker box if one is included with your smoker.Check this one out on Amazon if you're not sure what they look like. The smoker box should sit atop your heating element. A water pan may also be included, which can be filled with water or other liquid to increase steam and help maintain humidity.

You can now press the OK button on your app to start cooking. It will then prompt you to press the igniter button on the smoker. This will begin the pre-heating phase. About forty minutes later, your app will inform you that the smoker is hot enough for cooking.

3. Cooking

At this point, open the smoker and add your meat onto the grate. Place a drip pan on the bottom grate to prevent accidental fires caused by wood chips catching the dripping fat. Since this is smart cooking, you will rely less on time than you will on temperature.

Therefore, you will have to insert temperature probes into your meat’s center to get an accurate reading. This informs your smoker when the meat is done cooking. Without inserting the probes, you will have to manually check your cook to see if it is ready.

When cooked through, the app alerts you to check on your meat via a notification.

The Char-broil vertical smoker

Regardless of cooking fuel, vertical smokers offer the most efficient use of space. Designed to be taller than they are wide, they are easy to pack away when not in use, transport to a cooking site or even as an indoor appliance.

Since smoke tends to drift towards the top, vertical char broil smokers circulate your flavored smoke much more efficiently.

Char-Broil Vertical Electric Smoker

How To Use A Char-broil vertical smoker

1. Lighting up

Vertical smokers can have two to three chambers. The exception would be an electric vertical smoker. It may have only one chamber with a heating element at the bottom. For the rest, the bottom chamber is for fuel combustion. A middle chamber for your water and wood chips may also be found on some models. Where this is not available, you can use the lower sections of your cooking chamber for water and wood chunk trays.

Begin by adding wood chunks or charcoal (if you're smoking with lump charcoal) and liquid and load them into the appropriate chambers within your smoker.

2. Cooking

Vertical char broil smokers usually have multiple racks that can be used for cooking. Unfortunately, they have limited width and can therefore not be used to cook whole animals. Even for large cooks, food has to be cooked in batches.

Considering that the firebox sits directly below your cooking food, it is recommended, that a grease tray is placed on the bottom rack to catch dripping food juices. This is usually the same pan that contains your water. Letting fat drip directly onto the hot surfaces can ignite flames or unleash aromas that could ruin your cook.

The Char-Broil Gas Smoker

Many novice pitmasters like these smokers as they make smoking a brisket easy. Gas (usually propane) smokers require propane for fuel. To add a smoky note to your cooking, the combusting gas can then be used to burn smoke wood. The vertical cabinet variety is preferred even by restaurants as lighting it up presents no fuss. Requiring minimal space in your cooking area, regulating temperatures is easily done by the turn of a knob.

Its best feature is that it does not require constant checking in on, thus commonly referred to as a set and forget smoker. You would none the less do well to use a dual probe thermometer like the ThermoPro to check on the smoker’s internal temperature as well as the meat’s temperature so that you can tell when it is done.

Some though have mentioned that the propane and stem from liquids in the smoker combine to form an off-tasting aroma that may impact the taste of your cook.

Smoke Hollow 38202G  38-Inch 2-Door Propane Gas Smoker

How To Use A Char-Broil Gas Smoker

1. Preparing your smoker

Before you can begin cooking, prep your smoker. Begin by ensuring that all your connection is secure. Check your burner for any signs of blockage. This can prevent a proper burn affecting your smoker’s temperatures.

2. Add water to the water tray

With that out of the way, open the door to the cooking chamber to inspect the cooking cabinet. When cooking with a char broil smoker, it is recommended that you place a tray of water, apple juice or other liquid on a lower grate. This, in turn, will not only flavor your meat but it will also stop it from going dry. Before adding your liquid to the tray line it up with aluminum foil and return it.

3. Lighting your char broil smoker

Smokers ship with a box on the bottom rack for your cherry, maple, pecan or other smoking hardwood chips. Prior to adding them, they should be soaked for a few minutes in water. This makes them really smoky during the cook. Once the rack is returned, partially open the air vents and the smoker's stack. The smoker stack should remain open for the duration of your cooking.

Note: Lumberjack pellets are also pretty good for this and can be purchased on Amazon in many flavors.

Verify that the burner is off before turning on the propane tank. Hold the igniter button for no more than three seconds before turning on the burner.

4. Cooking your meat

When temperatures are sufficiently high, your chips will begin smoking. Only then can you bring place your cuts of meat onto the bottom rack. Even with their dry rub on, try and find the fat side and let it lie on the rack. Thicker cuts require more time to cook through. The general rule is one to one and a half hours are required for each pound of meat. Temperatures should be regulated between 225 to 250 degrees F.

To retain heat and smoke, avoid opening the smoker’s door unnecessarily. You can check with your probe thermometer from time to time to ensure temperatures are as required. Allow the meat to cook on one side for a couple of hours meat before flipping it over. Each time you open the smoker to add water to your pan or add dishes to the smoker, spritz the meat with a mix of water and vinegar or apple juice to flavor and keep it moist.

Towards the end of your cook, take out the meat pan, cover it with foil and return it to finish. Once done, take out your meat rack and leave it to rest for about 15 minutes.

5. Cooking side dishes

These do not require a long cooking time. An hour or two would be sufficient. They can, therefore, be placed on a pan and cooked on the top grate during the final hour.

Unlike charcoal smokers where you will be required to check how much wood or charcoal is left, a propane grill can cook for hours on end without going out. In the long run, propane use is cheaper than some of the other alternatives.

The Char-broil offset smoker

These are different sized grills that have a horizontal cooking chamber and a firebox or smoking source on the side. This allows only smoke and heat to flow towards the cooking chamber. Wider than a vertical smoker, they allow for huge cuts such as multiple briskets or pork shoulders to be smoked at one go.

It is often recommended by many pit masters to go for countered smokers constructed of heavy steel. This ensures temperatures are retained. Their weight makes them less portable than smaller sized vertical cookers. So go for smokers with wheels to ease portability.

Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker

How To Use A Char-broil offset smoker

Most offset smokers can be used in one of two ways. They can be used for grilling or smoking. The difference is where the heat source is located. If you place your charcoal in the cooking chamber but below the cooking grate, then you are grilling. When the heat source is from the firebox, then you are smoking.

Grilling raises temperatures to high levels. Meat cooked in this manner does not require long to cook as would smoked meat.

The Char-broil charcoal smoker

This is wood or charcoal powered smoker. It is a more involving cooking style than the above-mentioned char-smokers. Cooking on a charcoal is more laborious and requires your attention throughout the process.

Char-Broil Charcoal Grill, 580 Square Inch

How To Use A Char-Broil Charcoal Smoker

1. Lighting up The charcoal

Lighting up a char-broil charcoal smoker is not as easy as with an electric or gas smoker. It requires extra items such as a chimney starter, lighter fluid, and charcoal.

Start by cleaning out any ash remains from your last cook. Open the bottom dumper to allow air flow. To get your fuel combusting quickly, begin by stack your chimney starter with charcoal to the top. Place a couple of lighter cubes and place them on your charcoal grate.

Using a gas lighter set the cubes alight. Sit your chimney starter on top of the cubes and wait about 10-15 minutes for the fire to spread to your charcoal. As soon as the charcoal on top begins to turn gray with ash, your charcoal is ready for cooking. Dump the charcoal onto the charcoal grate. Add your pre-soaked wood chips or chunks to get the smoker smoking. Allow time for your wood chunks to start combustion. Ensure the bottom dumper is open to its largest opening setting.

2. Cooking and cleaning

Once lit, wait for the cooker to reach temperatures of between 215 and 250 degrees F. Check the attached thermometer for the current internal temperature. Add your preferred smoking liquid to an aluminum lined cooking tray and place it on the bottom grate. It will act as a grease tray as well as keep your meat moist.

Similar to other smokers, char one side for a couple of hours before cooking the other side. To tell when your meat is ready, use a BBQ thermometer in the thickest part of your cut of meat.

Cooking in a charcoal smoker takes more effort to deliver great tasting meals. You will require to keep an eye on the temperatures throughout the cook. When temperatures are too low (below 215 degrees F), open the lower dumper to air your charcoal and smoking wood chunks. If it heats up and stalls at lower temperatures still, then it is time to add charcoal or wood chunks.

When the smoker’s temperatures are higher than ideal, close the bottom dumper. If still too high, open the top dumper to let out some heat. Using these two usually works to cool down your smoker in a few minutes. If it still persists with the higher temperatures, you can then consider opening the cooking chamber for a brief moment. This is a last resort effort to cool down the char broil smoker and is often avoided unless very necessary.

Once your meat is cooked through, remove it from the grate and allow it to rest. To make cleaning much easier, later on, use a firm BBQ brush to remove any pieces of meat or other remains still stuck to your grate while the oven is still hot. This is the best way to clean out fat remains.

The Char Broil Vertical Charcoal Smoker

A vertical charcoal smoker has a top cooking chamber and a bottom firebox. See the picture below to put that into context.

Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS681VCS-D Heavy-Duty Vertical Charcoal Smoker

How to use a char-broil vertical charcoal smoker

Most charbroil vertical smokers ship in two-door versions. A top cooking chamber and a bottom firebox. One of the main concerns of using a vertical charcoal smoker, especially a square-top one, is that smoke does not get to the top corners. In any case, the smoker manages to surprise by dishing out great meals from your favorite recipes.

As stated by many reviewers, the thermostat attached on the top chamber’s door, is commonly off by about 50 degrees F. Should you find this to be the case, worry not as it can be simply remedied by purchasing a separate thermometer.

1. Lighting up

Vertical charcoal smokers have a damper in each chamber. The bottom chamber damper feeds air to your firebox while the top damper lets you regulate the cooking chamber’s temperatures. Before starting a cook, ensure the bottom damper is open to allow air in. The top damper can remain closed while the smoker heats up. The firebox usually has two shelves. One for the fire bowl and the other for your cooking liquid.

Since a fire bowl is completely enclosed except for the top, you will find it quite easy to snuff out your embers for lack of sufficient air. Though many end up drilling 3/4“ holes in the fire bowl, this is not recommended. A better alternative is to use a grill wok placed on top of your fire bowl. The fire bowl can then serve as an ash catcher.

Start by stacking your chimney starter with lump charcoal pieces and lighting them up. Pour our your hot charcoal to the grill wok and place it on the bottom shelf of the firebox. Shut all doors allow time for your smoker to heat up. Once the appropriate temperatures are reached, add your smoking wood to the hot charcoal. At this time also add your cooking liquid to the top shelf of the firebox.

Close the doors once again and wait for the clear blue smoke to appear from the chimney. You can now and your meat or vegetables to the cooking chamber for the appropriate time.

2. Cooking

Char-broil vertical smokers have been criticized for letting a lot of smoke escape through gaps between the door and smoker’s frame. By attaching fire tape all round between the frame and the door keeps the cooking chamber properly sealed. Any further smoke leaks in welded parts or smoker’s body can be sealed off using high-temperature food safe silicon.

Keep a keen eye on the smoke quality from your chimney. Should the smoke emitted change to grayish, cloudy colors, open the lower dumper to allow your fire to breathe. This also works for temperature falls.

When the temperatures get too high, the top damper can be opened to let out excess heat thereby lowering temperatures. If that fails too, open the top chamber’s door for a brief period.

3. Clean Up

Similar to all other smokers, begin by removing any food particles trapped on your grates. Additionally, use warm soapy water and cloth to wipe it down and remove food juices. Open doors to both chambers to let it dry-off completely before closing them again. The fire and water trays should also be emptied of their contents, cleaned and allowed to dry.

The Char Broil Offset Charcoal Smoker

An offset charcoal smoker is best for smoking than for grilling purposes. It uses indirect heat and smoke to cook up your meat. By incorporating a separate chamber for fuel combustion, and a separate cooking chamber, this smoker is ideal for long cooks. In spite of availing more cooking room, they are physically large. They require more room to store.

Oklahoma Joe's Charcoal/LP Gas/Smoker Combo

How To Use A Char Broil Offset Charcoal Smoker

1. Lighting up an offset char broil smoker

Begin by adding some briquettes to your firebox. Light up some more briquettes in a chimney starter as previously explained. When hot enough, dump them into the firebox. Leave the firebox air inlet open to allow your briquettes to all begin combustion.

Also, ensure that the chimney is left open. When the thermometer reads the correct temperature for your cook, you can then add your dry smoke wood into the firebox. Leave the firebox door open for a brief period to allow even more air to circulate.

Once the wood begins to combust, close the chamber. Wait for thin, blue smoke to begin emanating from your chimney. Only then can you begin your cooking.

2. Controlling the firebox

If the smoke turns heavy and white, this is an indication that there is insufficient oxygen getting into your firebox. When this happens, open the air inlet wider. If that does not work, open the firebox and move the wood chunks around with a poker to get air flowing properly.

Temperatures too must be monitored. As pit masters often say, If you’re looking, you’re not cooking’. As such avoid opening the cooking chamber unless truly necessary, like when flipping over your meat. Instead, use the thermometer included with your smoker, or invest in a Bluetooth thermometer [] that will update you of temperature changes.

When temperatures are too low, add more wood to get them up again. Just as before, keep the firebox open for a while for the new wood to begin combustion.

3. Cleaning up

Once done cooking, scrape off any food remains ash and wood that did not combust. Leave the door to your cooking chamber and firebox open for your smoker to dry out and get rid of any trapped moisture.

Which Char-Broil Smoker Should I Buy?

Oklahoma Joe's Bandera Smoker and Grill

Oklahoma Joe's Charcoal/LP Gas/Smoker Combo

Char-Griller 2-2424 Table Top Charcoal Grill and Side Fire Box

With all the facts at hand, the next thing would be to decide which cooker your should get. Having a checklist will allow you to narrow down your list of smokers. This can be resolved by asking yourself the following questions.

1. What is your budget?

Each type of char broil smoker has different variations of the same smoker each supporting different features. Of interest, however, is that each category greatly affects the cost. If looking for a starter smoker, or have a tight budget, you would be better off going for a vertical rather than a horizontal smoker. This cost-effective smoker’s major sacrifice is room. They can only cook small batches of food at a time. For large cooks, you might have to scale up your budget by going for a horizontal smoker.

Gas char broil smokers also cost many more than other smoker types.

The Char-Griller is a good initial purchase, available on Amazon for usually well under 100 bucks.

2. Under what conditions will you do most of your cooking?

For a pit master that cooks a lot off-grid, you would want a smoker that is portable and weather resistant. Charcoal smokers are better for all cooking conditions. Their portability and ease of locating fuel make them easy to love.

For all the benefits an electrical smoker presents us, it can only cook in limited environments. Unable to withstand changing weather, electrical cookers are best suited for home use and away from the elements.

3. What amount of meat will you be cooking?

As stated, avoid vertical smokers if you intend to cook whole animals, a lot of fish or vegetables. The wide-surfaced, horizontal smoker would be more up to tour speed.

4. How much smoking experience do I have?

For those new to smoking, an electric char broil smoker is the way to go. It offers the ultimate hands-off cooking experience. Coming in at a close second would be the propane-powered gas smoker. This too is not as complex to use. For more experienced pitmasters with time on their hands, a charcoal smoker would be the best choice.

5. Supported features

Most new char broil smokers support features that make it easier for you to cook. With some using an internet connection to update you on cooking progress, they are literally set and forget smokers. What is essential is deciding whether the higher prices are justified by the added features. Check if the features actually add value to your cooking or are gimmicks.

In any case, we highly recommend either a vertical or horizontal charcoal char-broiler. Not only does food taste great, but these smokers check all boxes for a great smoking experience. Their portability implies that they can be used virtually anywhere. Charcoal or wood fuel sources are also readily available. If your fear your brisket will get too dry, you can always add a liquid to the drip pan. Wine or beer is great in steaming up the smoker while imparting trace flavors on your meat. Being that it is also easy to clean, and requires almost no maintenance as it no moving parts only proves why it is such a favorite.

This wouldn't be a how to use a char broil smoker without a clear warning that you should stay clear from using treated lumber and plywood. These may contain harmful substances that can be transferred to your food. Instead, go for packaged wood chunks. Different chunks have different flavors and strengths. There is no shortage of wood chunk varieties to choose from. Crowd favorites include apple, mesquite, oak and cherry.

Western Premium BBQ Products Apple Smoking Chips, 180 cu inch

Charcoal Companion Mesquite Wood Smoking Chips

Western Premium BBQ Products Post Oak Cooking Chunks, 570 cu inch

Western Premium BBQ Products Cherry Cooking Chunks, 549 cu inch

How To Char Broil (Grill) A Steak (video)

Although a commercial kitchen setting, this video gives a nice insight into how to char broil.

Wow! That was a lot of article 🙂 Almost 4000 words of char broiling heaven. What did you think? Has it pointed you in the right direction? I hope so. Leave a comment if you have any thoughts or observations on the best char broil smoker, or any pics of your smoking setup of smoking results.

Smoke On!!!

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