If you are in the mood for a savory and delicious meal, smoked ribs, pork, chicken, or any other kind of meat is sure to make your mouth water. Cooking your favorite meat recipe on a charcoal grill allows the earthy smoke flavor to adhere to your food and blends perfectly with the umami taste. But to get the recipe just right, there are certain procedures and tools that you should be using throughout the cooking process to create a 5-star meal.

Read on for some gourmet-chef-worthy tips and tricks that will teach you how to smoke meat on a charcoal grill.


Start Your Fire the Right Way

To truly cook an epic smoked dish, it is essential that you perform the proper prep work so that your fire will burn the right kind of smoke that can deliciously infuse your food.

When you are setting up your grill, it is recommended that you add an aluminum pan to one side of the base and fill it with liquid. This liquid will moisturize your food during the cooking process so that the meat can retain its juiciness. For this step, you can just use water if you want simple flavor, or you can add beer, or even apple juice, for added taste. On the other side of your grill will be where you place your charcoal and start your fire.

To get the best smoked flavor, it is recommended that you shop for natural hardwood charcoal and that you avoid using lighter fluid. This is because lighter fluid will give your food an unpleasant chemical taste that will detract from the overall quality of your dish. Instead, using a chimney starter, like the Weber Chimney Starter Rapidfire, can help you get a pure BBQ fire going without the chemical aftertaste.

Give your Dish Extra Flavor by Adding the Right Kind of Wood

In addition to the charcoal, adding some wood chips to your grill can give your food some extra flavor. Below we have listed the tastes that you can achieve from various types of wood:

  • Maple: subtle and sweet

Commonly paired with: poultry, brisket, ribs, and lamb

  • Hickory: strong and sweet

Commonly paired with: bacon, ribs, brisket, ham, sausages, and lamb

  • Oak: medium heavy

Commonly paired with: ribs, brisket, and lamb

  • Pecan: sweet and fruity

Commonly paired with: ham and brisket

  • Mesquite: strong and savory

Commonly paired with: ribs, brisket, lamb, and chicken

  • Apple: light, fruity, and sweet

Commonly paired with: ham, pork chops, and poultry

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If you want to maximize the natural earthy flavor of smoking your meat recipe with charcoal and wood, you can use a smoker box, like the Cave Tools BBQ Smoker Box. Using this tool can take your recipe to the next level, by allowing the natural aroma of the wood to work with the charcoal from your grill to create the perfect smoke flavor that you are going for.

Cook Your Food Evenly with the Right Tools

Once your fire has started, you can set your cooking grill in place, add your choice of meat over top the aluminum pan, and close the lid (leaving a small opening). While cooking, it is essential that the heat and smoke from your fire cooks the meat evenly so that you aren’t left with any overly chard or raw pieces. Uneven cooking can make your meat dry and tough, causing it to lose its juicy tenderness.

To ensure that your grill does not get too hot, you may also want to invest in a thermometer to regulate the temperature. The exact temperature will depend on your recipe and the type of meat you are cooking. For example, when cooking ribs, keeping your temperature between 225-275°F is a good range, but you may need to adjust per your desired cooking time.

To cook your food evenly, it is important that you flip your meat periodically so that every part of it is exposed to the heat. To do this, you will need a good set of tongs or a BBQ fork.

Rib racks, like the Original Weber Rib Rack or the Cave Tools BBQ Roasting Rack, are also handy tools that allow you to evenly smoke and cook your food—and not just when you are cooking ribs, but poultry or roasts too.


Smoking is one of the most versatile cooking methods, as—depending on your recipe—you may be able to complete your meal in just an hour, or you let it smoke (under supervision) for several days. When done properly, smoking your dish will give it unmatched savory-ness for a meal that the whole family will enjoy.