A Definitive Guide on How to Use a Vertical Smoker

How to Use a Vertical Smoker

The world of smoking meat is vast and very interesting. And recently, one of the innovations taking the community by storm is the vertical smoker.

Also known as “bullet smokers,” these tools allow chefs to control the smoking process, maintaining the optimal temperature inside the chamber. That way, you can ensure that your meat is smoking at just the right temperature to achieve the desired texture and flavor.

But before you go ahead and buy your bullet smoker, it’s important to know how to use a vertical smoker.

And in this guide, we’re explaining exactly how to do it. So, when your vertical smoker finally arrives, you can get to work right away and start cooking!

Read on to learn more.

How to Use a Vertical Smoker

There are many steps to using a vertical smoker. And while it may seem like hard work, all these steps are essential in making sure you’re using the smoker to its full potential.

In this section, we’ll be getting into the details of every step of using a vertical smoker. We encourage everyone to read this section carefully to ensure that they aren’t making mistakes and using the smoker properly.


If it’s your first time using your bullet smoker, you have to assemble it before cleaning it. Every brand and model has a different assembly process, which is important to consider. Luckily, most smokers come with detailed instructions on how to assemble them. And if they don’t, you can always refer to videos like these:

If you’ve already used the bullet smoker before, the first step is to clean it.  Even if you cleaned it after your last use, leaving a smoker out in the open allows the smoker to develop grime and bacteria. So, before lighting it up and placing food inside, it’s important to make sure your smoker is clean.

Lighting It Up!

After your smoker is clean, the next step is to ignite it. To do this, you need to load it with fuel. The type of fuel for your smoker depends on the make and model, along with the type of meat your smoking.

However, the ideal choices for fuel are either charcoal or wood. If you use wood, we recommend soaking it in water first. This ensures that the wood doesn’t burn too hot and produces more flavorful smoke.

With that said, make sure that the fuel isn’t too hot when lighting up the smoker. Remember, you want a low and consistent temperature when smoking meat. And to get these low temperatures, you need to make sure to light up the smoker properly.

Adding Water

The reason vertical smokers offer a lot of temperature control is that there is a bowl between the meat and the fuel. This is designed to keep the temperatures in the smoker lower. But to make sure it’s working, you need to fill the bowl with water before loading the meat into the smoker.

And if you want a little bit more flavor and character in your food, you can also add your blend of spices into the water. This will add some very subtle notes to your meat which can go a long way.

Adding Food

Once you have the water in the smoker and it has gotten hot enough for the meat, you’re ready to load it in. Place the meats you plan on smoking on the mid-section of the smoker, making sure to give the smoke ample space to travel around the meat. Overcrowding your smoker might result in the meat not getting as much flavor as you would like.

Adding Wood (Optional)

Once the meat is in the smoker, many people like adding wood. This gives the smoker a bit more fuel and increases the smoke levels. However, keep in mind that this step is completely optional. So, if you feel like the smoker has enough wood, you won’t need to add any before closing it.

Monitoring The Heat

Once you close the smoker, it’s best to leave it. This keeps the temperature inside consistent and ensures that your meat smokes at just the right heat. With that said, there are many factors, such as the weather conditions, that can affect the temperature of the smoker.

So, even if you plan on smoking the meat for many hours, it’s important to check the temperature from time to time. And if you notice the temperature gets too high or too low, you can make the proper adjustments.


After completing all the steps above, all you have to do is wait for the meat to cook. This can take some time, depending on what you’re cooking and your chosen smoking temperature. However, it’s important to ensure that the meat is in the smoker for the right amount of time to avoid under or overcooked meat.

And once the meat cooks, the process isn’t done just yet. After using the smoker, the job is only complete once you clean everything up. So, to give yourself an easier time next time you light up the smoker, we recommend thoroughly cleaning it after every use.

You’re going to need to wait a bit after smoking the meat for it to rest anyway, so you might as well clean the smoker while waiting.

Tips for Using Vertical Smokers

Grill and vertical smoker setup

Now that we’ve gone over the process of using a vertical smoker, it’s time to look at some tips to make the most out of it. These aren’t necessary steps, but they will be a huge help if you’re trying to get the best flavor and texture possible from your meat.

Soak The Wood

To start, we recommend soaking the wood in water. Wet wood produces much more smoke than dry wood. On top of that, wet wood won’t burn and will stay at a lower temperature, ensuring that the smoker’s meat will cook just how you want it.

We recommend soaking the wood for at least 30 minutes before firing up the smoker for the best results. This will allow getting wet, but not too wet that it will put out the fire. However, if you’re using a smoker box, you probably won’t need to soak the wood anymore.

Leave Spaces

This refers to when you place the meat on the smoker. It’s important to give the meat enough space to absorb the flavor of the meat and cook at just the right temperature. Overcrowding the smoker can lead to the meat not cooking properly or not developing the proper flavors.

So, if you have a smaller smoker, we recommend giving the meat enough space on the grill.


If you have a smoker, you can reap all the benefits of smoking your meat. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with different spices, rubs, or blends. That way, you can create a recipe that’s truly your own that will stand out from the pack.

Remember, everyone has their own set of tastes and preferences. So, while following the recipe will give you a great starting point, it would be a shame if you didn’t tweak the recipe to your liking.

If you have a smoker at home, you have unlimited tries to figure out the right recipe. If there are some flavor combinations that you believe will work that aren’t featured in the recipe, don’t be afraid to add them to the process to create a unique dish that you can call your own.

Prioritize Safety

Another thing to remember when smoking meat is to follow the best safety practices. This means wearing gloves whenever handling the smoker to avoid burns. On top of that, we also recommend choosing the right areas to smoke your meat so you don’t risk fires and other hazards that can arise from smoking.

What NOT to Do When Using Vertical Smokers

Smoking meat with a vertical smoker is no easy task. And while we laid out the steps with a few tips you can use when smoking meat, there are also some things you would want to avoid if it’s your first time smoking meat.

These are common beginner mistakes that even some experienced smokers make. These mistakes can significantly affect the texture and flavor of your meat, which isn’t something you want.

So, if you’re using a vertical smoker, you might want to avoid:

  • Overcrowding the grill
  • Opening the grill frequently
  • Allowing the meat to touch the sides of the grill
  • Using the wrong type of wood


While a vertical smoker might seem intimidating at first glance, it isn’t. Once you take the time to understand how to use a vertical smoker properly and to its full potential, you might not want to switch back to traditional grills again. So, now that you know all the steps to use your vertical smoker, there’s only one thing left to do. And that’s getting your meat and ingredients ready to start the smoking process today!


We share our knowledge and passion of cooking with you by creating new recipes that your crowd will be sure to love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts