How to Use a Smoker Box? [Step by Step Guide ]

How to Use a Smoker Box

Smoking has been a popular cooking method for a very long time. Back when there was no refrigeration, it was arguably the most popular method of long-term food preservation. Today, barbecuing is a common feature of outdoor gatherings, family reunions, or pastime hobbies. The innovation that is the smoker box is arguably the best way to turn the traditional grill into a smoker and get that unique smoky flavor into foods.

If like many other BBQ enthusiasts, you’ve been looking for ways to smoke on your grill, a smoker box might be the best way to go. In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look into how to use a smoker box and get your meat, chicken, and other foods permeated with that unmistakable smoky taste.

What Is a Smoker Box?

A smoker box is a small metal container used to infuse smoky flavor into food while cooking on grills. Smoker boxes are designed to hold wood chips or pellets over or adjacent to a heat source and produce smoke that permeates food in a controlled way.

Smoker boxes feature punctured holes on the top through which smoke rises into a grill’s main compartment where the food is cooked.

Step by Step Guide on How to Use a Smoker Box

There are different types of smoker boxes, and the exact mode of operation could slightly vary from smoker box to smoker box. However, they all work by the same general principles. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to use a smoker box on your grill.

1. Set up your grill

Before you start, you need to set up your grill and preheat it first. There are different ways to set up your grill for smoking, but one of the more reliable methods is set up for two-zone indirect cooking. This involves applying direct heat to a grill area where the smoker box will be placed and leaving a second part of the grill dormant, where the food will cook low and slow. If you’re using a gas grill with multiple burners, engage just one burner on which you will place the smoker box.

If you have a charcoal grill, you want to position the coals on one side of the grill and leave the other side with no charcoal.

2. Load wood pellets/chips in the smoker box

Load wood pellets/chips in the smoker box

Load your preferred wood pellets/chips in the smoker box chamber to get your smoking chips ready. There’s a common practice of soaking wood chips beforehand to prevent them from catching on fire during the cooking process.

However, this is quite unnecessary if you’re using a modern smoker box. Contemporary smoker boxes, unlike older types, don’t feature holes on their bottoms, and as such, wood chips/pellets are not directly exposed to the heat source. You should also know that soaked wood chips will longer time to start producing smoke and may also produce a slightly different smoky flavor, compared to dry chips.

3. Put smoker box directly on the heat source

After loading the smoker box with your preferred wood chips:

  1. Put the box directly on the heat source.
  2. Place the box directly on the burners, if your grill is gas-powered, or directly over the burning charcoal if you’re using a charcoal grill.
  3. Choose the maximum temperature setting to get the box smoking as soon as possible.

4. Start Cooking

As soon as the box starts smoking, bring the temperature setting down to a regular cooking temperature and set up the grilling area for indirect cooking by turning off the burners in the part where the food will be cooked, if it is a gas grill. If you’re using a charcoal grill, you want to cook your food on the grill part with no burning charcoal.

The idea is to keep the food away from direct heat, such that it cooks low and slow without drying out. Keeping you meat away from direct heat will also help preserve the juices.

5. Add more wood chips, if needed

At times, your wood chips can burn out while the food is yet still cooking. If your smoker box stops smoking or if sufficient is not being produced, you’ll need to refill the smoker box with more chips. Use heat-resistant tongs to remove the smoker box from the grill. Open the box wearing a pair of heat-resistant gloves, and fill with as wood chips as necessary.

You can also open the box with the tongs if you don’t have heat-resistant gloves. After refilling with wood chips, put the box back on the grill.

What to Consider When Choosing a Smoker Box?

If you hope to get a good quality smoker box to use with your grill, there are a couple of features and factors to look out for. Some of these are discussed below.

Type of grill

This is one of the less considered factors, but it is one of the most important if you hope to get long-lasting use from your smoker box. Gas grills allow more precise temperature control than charcoal grills, and as such, they can support a wider selection of smoker boxes. With charcoal grills, temperature control is not as precise.

Owing to this, you’ll need to choose a smoke box that can handle high heat.


Smoker boxes are made from a variety of materials, but the two most common are cast iron and stainless steel. Cast iron is very durable and has superior heat retaining properties. However, cast iron is not the most resistant to corrosion, and it requires a high level of maintenance.

We recommend stainless steel smoker boxes if you own a gas grill because precise temperature control is much more achievable on gas grills. Stainless steel doesn’t hold up nearly as well as cast iron at extremely high temperatures.

Although stainless steel smoker boxes don’t come close to cast iron smoker boxes in terms of durability and heat-retaining, they are considerably easier to clean and more resistant to corrosion.


The shape and size of your smoker box choice should fit into your grill. Smoker boxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some built to sit on top of grill grates and some designed to go beneath the grill grates.

Choose a smoker box design that will fit conveniently into your grill. It would help if you also looked out for additional smoker box features that can increase convenience. A hinged lid design, for example, is very secure, and it makes the box easy to open for wood chip refilling.


Well, price is a factor that ought to be considered when buying any appliance or accessory. Thankfully, smoker boxes are generally affordable. However, if you want a high quality smoker box that can withstand higher temperatures without deforming, they come at higher prices than thin light-duty smoker boxes.


All in all, you don’t necessarily need a dedicated smoker to get that smoky flavor infused into your food. Your traditional grill can do the job just fine when you use a smoker box.

What’s better? Smoker boxes are not overly costly, and they are quite easy to maintain.

Additionally, we have discussed a few features and factors that will help you choose the right smoker box to use with your grill. Please remember to save to update new articles

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