How to Use a Vertical Smoker


The holidays are coming up and you want to make a delicious smoked turkey. You can’t decide what kind of smoker to use, but don’t worry because this blog post will help. A vertical smoker is perfect for smoking meats without having to rotate them on the grill.

With a vertical smoker, there’s no need to flip the meat over halfway through cooking time which saves time and makes it easier than ever. This blog post will give you tips on how best to use your new vertical smoker so that you’re successful every time.

Step 1: Prepare Your Supplies

  • A vertical smoker
  • Lump charcoal
  • Your meat of choice
  • Water
  • An oven mitt
  • A pair of tongs
  • A sharp knife to trim and slice the meat
  • Aluminum foil
  • Grill gloves
  • A spray bottle filled with apple juice or other liquid flavoring to spritz on your meat while cooking
  • A meat thermometer

Step 2: Pick a Suitable Location

Many smokers run off of electricity with their heating element. Care must be taken to provide adequate ventilation and to avoid potential fire hazards caused by overheating or sparking, such as clothes too close to the smoker catching on fire.

A good option is outside, but you will need to be careful about having smoke blow back into your house and about the risk of fire if you leave it unattended.

Step 3: Fill Up the Water Pan

Fill up the water pan (you should be able to find a line indicating where the maximum fill level is) and close your vertical smoker. Fill your water pan so that it’s not too full. You need enough space for water to evaporate while smoking, but if it’s overflowing you won’t get enough smoke.

The less you open and close the door, the better, as each time increases your chance of letting heat escape.

Step 4: Load Your Wood Chips

Load your wood chips or chunks in the provided chip pan or by wrapping them up in foil. If you are using a charcoal smoker, set it up to run on indirect heat by placing some sand in an oven tray underneath the coals and placing this under the grate where you will be smoking.

If using a propane smoker, turn the burner closest to you down to low.

In a charcoal smoker, light your briquettes and wait until they become white and ashen (about 20 minutes). Spread them out across the bottom of your smoker and place your oven tray with sand underneath. Place grate on top of the oven tray/sand setup and place the meat on top of the grate.

Check whether there is enough fuel in your coal pan. If it is less than 3/4 full, add more fuel or you will run out of fuel quickly.

Step 5: Let Your Meat Reach Room Temperature

Let your meat sit out for about an hour and a half (or as long as you can) to make sure that it reaches room temperature before putting it on the smoker.

Step 6: Turn Your Smoker On

Turn your smoker on by turning up or lighting your gas burner or lighting your charcoal with lighter fluid.

Step 7: Insert the Food in the Smoker

When you’re ready, grab your tongs and place your meat on the grate of the vertical smoker. Make sure there’s enough space between the bars of the grate so that the smoke can circulate through it (this will ensure that your food gets an even amount of smoke all over it).

Close up the door and let everything cook. For smaller items like chicken breasts or burgers, you only need around 3 hours to let them cook through. Larger cuts of meat like brisket or whole turkey will take around 4-5 hours to fully cook through (this is assuming that you’re using a digital thermometer with an alarm that goes off once it reaches the desired internal temperature).

Keep an eye on the internal temperature of the meat to make sure that it is not cooking too quickly. If it is, adjust the temperature by opening or closing vents. Keep an eye on the food in case of flare-ups.

Remember, the less often you open up your smoker, the better. Every time you do, heat escapes which lengthen the cooking time.

Step 8: Check the Temperature

After around 3 hours of cooking, check in on how things are going by using an instant-read thermometer. For smaller items like chicken breasts, the meat is usually done when it has an internal temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once you’re cooking larger cuts of meat like brisket or a whole turkey, wait for them to reach around 145 degrees Fahrenheit before wrapping them in foil followed by a thick towel. This will allow the meat to continue cooking but will also ensure that it’s tender and moist.

Step 9: Enjoy!

Once everything is done, let your food sit for around 10 minutes before cutting into it. If you cut into it right away, it will lose all its juices making the meat tough and dry.


After reading this blog post, you should now know the best way to use a vertical smoker. This is perfect for those who want to smoke meats without having to rotate them on the grill and it’s also better because you don’t have to flip your meat halfway through cooking time like you would with other smokers.

You’ll get great results every time if you follow these tips!

Bobby Johnson

When he's not writing about barbecue, you can find Bobby smoking meat for friends and family. He's been a backyard pitmaster for roughly half his life, and has worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands-on guide to teach them BBQ, but that's what Bobby hopes to do with Electric Smoker HQ. He wants to help people create amazing food that they can be proud of.