More People Picking Up the Smoking Habit

By Lisa Metheny published on in Guest Posts, Outdoors, Preparedness, Survival

In the last decade, grilling food has become extremely popular thanks to improvements in barbecue equipment. It seems like everyone has a grillmaster in their family and grilling is certainly a great option for creating tasty meals. However, smoking (as in smoked food) is as equally satisfying as any other cooking method, and it is quickly gaining in popularity.

Choosing a smoking vault is not as difficult as some folks think. There are four types of smokers:

Rack of meat with barbeque sauce on an outdoor smoker.You can create mouth-watering creations with each. Some folks prefer the charcoal or hardwood varieties as they believe it produces more flavor than electric or propane models. However, just like charcoal barbecue grills, the hassle and mess of the briquettes and soot is one of the reasons electric and propane smokers are more popular. Electric smokers get their power source from electricity while propane units rely on propane gas, just like the kind you use for your barbecue grill. Both types generate even, consistent heating. The clean-up is minimal when compared to charcoal or hardwood types.

Now that you have determined what kind of smoker you want to buy, picking the size should be next on your list. Look for something that will work best for you; size equals capacity. The smaller smokers are nice although if you are going to go to the effort to smoke your food, it’s nice to do a lot of food at once. Most smoking experts I have talked with recommend starting with a mid-size unit.

Although smoked food offers a delicious detour from your everyday cooking and grilling, it does have one major drawback and that is time. Unlike your barbecue grill, it does take time to smoke foods—any food—so plan ahead. You can smoke several meals at the same time and then seal and store food for future enjoyment. A smoked brisket can take a day or more to smoke. Weather conditions, such as wind, can also play a part in the smoking process and increase the amount of time needed to properly smoke food.

  • A good rule of thumb for heavy meats, such as a brisket, is 1 to 1.5 hours per pound to smoke.
  • If you have a five-pound brisket, you’re talking 5 to 7.5 hours on the smoker.
  • Smoking jerky can take 24 hours.
  • Smoking an average size unfrozen salmon filet takes about 2 to 3 hours.

Don’t let the length of time deter you from enjoying delectable smoky foods or the enjoyment of do-it-yourself smoking since smoked food is certainly worth the wait.

A stack a cut wood for the smoker

Onto the fun part, and that is creating mouth-watering, flavor-infused foods from your smoker. Although jerky is traditionally associated with smokers, today nearly every type of food including meats, fruits, vegetables and even desserts can be cooked in a smoker. Choosing the variety of wood to use in the smoker is just as important as the type of food you put in it. For example:

  • Hickory wood offers a rich traditional smoky flavor.
  • Fruit tree wood, such as apple or cherry, infuses sweetness into the food.
  • Mesquite wood adds flare to ribs, brisket or steaks and if you add a few jalapenos on the smoker racks all of the flavors blend to create a savory rustic southwest taste.
  • Another popular combination is using cedar wood for smoking salmon filets and cherries for a delicious sweet-cedar dish. Incorporating additional flavors such as fruit juices as marinades or spices and dry rubs will also bring outside flavors deep into the food.

Fall is the perfect time to discover the fun and exciting world of smoking vaults. The combination of flavors and possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Have you tried smoking anything unusual on your camping trips or in your backyard? Share in the comment section.

Lisa Metheny is a published award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, speaker and outdoor skills instructor. Lisa holds several instructor certifications and conducts a number of women-focused outdoor seminars on topics such as archery and hunting throughout the year. She regularly teaches hunters education and archery classes and has become an advocate for promoting traditional outdoor recreation to families across the United States. Lisa is also an avid and accomplished hunter with many big game species to her credit. She is a member of POMA and former Board of Directors member as well as a member of the NRA, RMEF, MDF and DU.

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Comments (5)

  • Brian


    You need to clarify the use of cedar wood, it is not correct. You mention, “Another popular combination is using cedar wood for smoking salmon filets…”

    That should be cedar planks that you put the fish on, not cedar wood that you smoke with.

    Cedar wood and pine wood should never be used for smoke because they are resinous and if used for the whole smoke will make whatever the meat is taste like turpentine. Not only that, but it is potentially toxic.


  • Jim


    I do venison and other meats on a charcoal grill, and use wood chips for smoke flavoring. In the winter, I keep a small cast iron frying pan on the grill next to the food. I put a couple of sticks butter(the real thing), in the pan, and use it to dip the steaks into as I turn them over. You can even put some garlic or other seasonings in the butter before dipping. The butter dripping off of the meat and onto the coals, gives the meat additional flavor and sears the meat. I also pour a small amount of the butter over the meat as it cooks on the grill. When the meat is done to your taste, I transport the food back into the house in the hot frying pan. This way the food stays warm from the grill to the house and keeps it’s flavoring. Note: You can also adjust the grill cover to suit the amount of smoke and heat that you want getting to your food.


  • Brian


    I built my first offset smoker by plumbing the smoke stack from a wall tent style wood stove into the bottom of a mid sized has grill, cut two holes in the lid off the grill with sliding doors over them to control how much smoke coil move through the thing. The first thing I put in there was an 8 pound prime rib. Smoked/Cooked the thing @ 190-210 degrees with Apple wood until I got it to about 140 degrees internal. Now I’m hooked, bought a offset smoker, seems a smoker that’s built by someone who knows what they’re doing is easier to keep the temp even. Even, consistent heat is one of the most important factors in successfully smoking large cuts of meat. Also it’s important to keep the thing out of the wind, wind really F’s things up. When it blows down the chimney, gets too cold in the cook box, if it blows near the air inlet on the firebox the temp can spike to over 500 degrees in about a minute. There’s a pretty steep learning curve so I’d suggest starting with smaller cuts of meat until you have mastered temp control. Once you have the temp control figured out your friends and family will think of you as the BBQ/Smoking God. Be patient, have fun, and enjoy


  • Lisa


    Excellent suggestions. Keep on smokin!


  • Bill from Boomhower, Texas


    Lisa, I know nothing about cooking, but Brian’s right about the cedar shingles. I’ve read or heard about that method over the years. The hard woods are always better for cooking, heating, or even smoking.


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