Are you a beginner when it comes to using propane smokers?
Read on to learn how to use a propane smoker, including the basics, setting up your smoker, and preparing the most delicious meat and other food with one of these excellent smokers.
Propane smokers: the basics
Most of the leading propane smokers are preferred for their space-saving vertical shape combined with a large capacity for smoking a lot of food at once.
Propane smokers are easy to set up and start and retain the heat and control the temperature thanks to their intuitive control panels.
Usually, they will be able to reach temperatures of up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, which is sufficient for smoking.
Prepare the food
Since propane is much easier and faster to light up than charcoal, it is advisable to have your smoking wood chips and your food prepared when starting your propane smoker.
The best way to prep the meat for cooking it in a propane smoker is to apply a dry rub of your choice, wrap it in some cling film and let it rest, and marinate in the fridge for about an hour.
Start the smoker
The method for starting up the propane smoker depends on the specific smoker you have. But usually, a propane smoker will have a basic ignition button, a control panel for temperature adjustment, and a display showing your settings.
The fact that the propane smoker is so easy and quick to startup is one of the main advantages of this type of smoker as compared to others.
To be safe, always remember to check that the connection to the propane tank is secure before pushing the ignition button. Check the gauge of the tank to confirm that it shows a good and reliable reading, and also make sure that the door of the propane smoker is properly shut.
Once you start the smoker, set the cooking temperature. The usual target temperature for smoking is 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most propane smokers will heat up to the desired temperature in only 10 to 20 minutes.
Add the wood chips
Once the desired temperature is reached, add the wood chips of your choice to the wood chip tray or smoker box of your propane smoker.
The type of wood depends on your taste and the food you are smoking, with some of the most popular ones being apple, hickory, or oak.
Avoid soaking the wood before use because this can affect the temperature inside the smoker and also affect the flavor of your food.
Add the water pan
A water pan is very useful for enhancing the performance of the propane smoker.
The water or other liquid in the water pan will help keep the temperature inside the smoker stable, and will also prevent the drying of the meat or other food, and allow it to remain juicy and moist instead.
Best of all, water pans are easily accessible, inexpensive, and very easy to use.
All you need to do is to fill it with water or another liquid such as cider, beer, or apple juice and place it on the bottom or on the lowest grate of the propane smoker’s chamber.
Then the water will start evaporating while the food is cooking, so you may want to keep an eye on its level and refill it as soon as it is empty.
Control the airflow
Propane smokers, like all smokers, have intake and exhaust dampers (vents) on the bottom and top. The bottom vents are the intake vents, and the top vents are the exhaust vents.
These vents are essential for letting the air and oxygen in and letting it out. Oxygen is vital for combustion, so you will need to ensure sufficient airflow in the smoker.
The vents can be used for controlling the airflow and thus the heat. The more oxygen you let in, the hotter the temperature will be.
For the best results, open all of the vents completely when you are starting the propane smoker. This will ensure that you reach a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit as quickly as possible.
Once the desired temperature is reached, you can adjust the vents by closing them halfway, which will ensure that the temperature remains consistent throughout the cooking.
But keep in mind that since the different smokers can differ in these controls, you may want to experiment with the vents to see which adjustments work best for you.
It’s time to add the food
Once you have set up the smoker, you can place the food inside it.
Make sure that you let the food rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes prior to smoking it.
If you are smoking a single cut of meat, make sure that you place it above the water pan in the middle grates of your propane smoker. This will warrant that the heat and smoke circulate evenly and that the juices from the meat drop in the water pan and then evaporate to add to its flavor.
Close the cooking chamber door and allow the meat to smoke at 225 degrees Fahrenheit or at your desired temperature. Remember to keep an eye on the thermometer to make sure that the temperature in the smoker remains stable.
The cooking time depends on the type of meat or other food you are smoking and its volume and weight.
But even if you are tempted to keep a close eye on your meat, avoid opening the door of the cooking chamber more than necessary to prevent the loss of heat and smoke.
The golden rule is to perform the first check of the meat after two hours of smoking.
Once the meat thermometer indicates that the meat is done, you can take it out of the smoker and let it rest as needed.
Check the water and wood chips
Once you have placed the food in the smoker and have started cooking it, you should not forget to keep an eye on the water in the water pan as well as on the wood chips in the wood chip box.
If they are almost empty, then go ahead and refill them as quickly as possible and close the door immediately to avoid the loss of smoke and heat.
Check the meat
Use a reliable meat thermometer to monitor the doneness of the meat. Start checking it after two hours of smoking, and insert the probe in the thickest part of your meat cut.
Once it reaches the desired doneness, remove it from the propane smoker and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
Is soaking wood chips necessary?
While some pitmasters recommend that the wood be soaked prior to smoking to produce more smoke and burn slower, we advise you against it, especially when using a propane smoker.
The reason is that, unlike offset and charcoal smokers, propane smokers allow for easy and reliable temperature control.
Also, by adding wet wood into the wood chip box, you may enhance the production of thick white, gray, or black smoke, which is unhealthy and will give your food a bitter taste.
The goal when using a propane smoker is to achieve a thin blue smoke instead. And using good quality, dry wood chips is one of the best ways to make sure this happens.