BBQ 101 Smoker Pit Facts

BBQ 101 Smoker Pit Facts 


►  What kind of wood should I use in a Smoker Pit?   

Although practically ANY wood that gives a nut, fruit, or berry will be suitable for use in a Smoker Pit with an offset firebox, we recommend you start out “learning your pit” using oak or pecan.   These are hard woods that give a mild smoke flavoring.   The fruit woods are interesting but they are softer and burn more quickly.   Learn on the oak and pecan and then later on try the fruit woods. One of our Resources links, FAQ About Barbecue has a section on types of Wood For Smoking that is useful bbq smoker pit information.


►  Can I use mesquite or hickory in a Smoker Pit?

Recently cut mesquite or hickory can give a bitter flavor to the meat.  We recommend that mesquite be seasoned for at least three years and hickory for at least two years.  Avoid the use of green (recently cut) mesquite.  Many people find these woods give too strong a smoke flavor in a smoker pit with an offset firebox. If you are intent on using either mesquite or hickory, we suggest blending it with predominantly oak or pecan. Use it sparingly. Most folks like barbecued meats which have a mild, even delicate, smoked flavor.


►  How long do I need to season wood logs before use in a Smoker Pit?

The wood logs need to be seasoned (aged) and bone dry. You are looking for clear or wispy smoke or just heat rising out of the chimney when the fire settles down. This is important. For oak or pecan we suggest the logs be aged for a year. For mesquite, I age them three years and for hickory I age them two years.  Since all the flavoring comes from the wood, don’t cut corners with the quality of the wood. You have to get this part right for a successful cookout.

►  What color and how much smoke should be coming out of the chimney in a Smoker Pit?

Dark smoke, which continually pours out of the chimney and just won't stop is likely telling you that your wood is still full of sap and not ready to use.  You will probably get a bitter flavor in your smoked meats.  White smoke, which just won't quit billowing out of the chimney, is indicating to you that your wood is full of water and you are likely going to get a heavy smoke-flavored meat.  Grey smoke which continually pours out of the chimney indicates you may have both water-soaked logs and logs that have not been sufficiently aged.  Again, clear or wispy smoke is what is desirable for that delicate, smoked flavor.

►   How do you "burn-in" a new Smoker Pit?

The initial seasoning or “burn-in” of a smoker pit is especially important.  
Do the “burn-in” like we say in
Pit Instructions.

►   What temperatures should I cook at in a Smoker Pit?

Every smoker pit chef on the planet will have their own opinion on this but we recommend cooking temperatures of a smoker pit ought to be 225 degrees for everything except brisket (200 degrees) or poultry (275 degrees). Fish, cheese, bacon, sausage, and beef jerky are traditionally smoked at temperatures of 180 degrees or lower.  Just remember that this is a Smoker Pit, not an incinerator.  If you are in a real hurry throw it on the grill and burn it up.  If you want real barbecue it takes time.


►   Should I put water in the barrel of a Smoker Pit?

We teach that water should be in the bottom of the cooking barrel to keep the humidity level high all around the meat. Remember you are cooking with hot, dry smoke in a smoker pit.  Water in the barrel reservoir greatly retards evaporation of the internal juices in the meat - where the flavor resides.  It is hard to evaporate juices out of meats that are in a 100% relative humidity environment.

►   Can I build a fire in the barrel of a smoker pit to use it as a direct grill?

No experienced smoker pit chef would ever build a fire in the main cooking chamber.  Within a few minutes the fire will burn away all the Pit Character that has developed in the walls of the cooking chamber.  It will likely be a noticeable loss.  Don’t do it.


    How long should I smoke the meat in a Smoker Pit?

Smoking times per pound @ 225 degrees are generally 1 hour/pound for brisket, venison, and duck; 45 minutes/pound for turkey and leg of lamb; 40 minutes/pound for beef ribs and pork roast; 35 minutes/pound for pork ribs; and 30 minutes/pound for whole chickens and link sausage.   These times are a guide and may vary from pit to pit.   


►   How should I move the meat around in a Smoker Pit?  Can I use a pair of tongs?

While cooking we recommend that you do not puncture, poke, or scar the meat with tongs, forks, knives, because the whole object of slow smoking with water below is to keep the juices inside the meat. Get a pair of food-grade, temperature-resistant neoprene gloves to gently handle the meat.   We recommend the Ansell-Edmont Gloves , quite commonly used by competition barbecue chefs.


►   Do I have to cook exclusively with wood logs?

Wood logs are where the flavor comes from.  We teach that large pieces of meat, i.e., brisket, pork shoulders, Boston butts, etc. will uptake all the smoke flavor they are going to take in about four hours.  You can take the meats out at that point, wrap them well in aluminum foil, and then put them back in the smoker pit to finish cooking.  Since the meats at that point don't know where the heat is coming from you can use a log lighter assembly  or gas assist from a
two-part burner to finish the cooking.  For further information about gas burners refer to our Videos.

►   Does the meat need a "rest" period after cooking in a Smoker Pit?

YES.  This is important.  We teach that brisket and any large piece of beef or pork needs one hour resting, foiled, in a dry styrofoam chest or wrapped in several towels.  Ribs need about twenty minutes. You will be well rewarded by doing this. The protein structure will firm up and the meats will cut nicely.  The flavor will be more evenly distributed throughout the muscle tissue.  An experienced barbecue chef knows not to skip this step. Build time for the "rest" period into your meal planning.

►    When do I clean the cooking grates in a Smoker Pit?

We recommend that when you finish smoking the meats that you close the rain cap on the chimney and close the air shutters on the firebox.   Then spray fresh cooking oil on all the cooking surfaces and close all the doors and lids.  Drain the water and grease out of the barrel.  Dig a small hole in the flower beds and pour the water and grease into the hole.  Then cover the hole with the excess dirt.  Quit.  The next day when the pit is cool you can clean out the ash pan.  Quit.  The next time you wish to use the smoker pit start your fire.  When the pit is at temperature, take your cleaning brush and clean all the grates.  Spray fresh oil over the grates and you are ready to cook.  This is the EASY way to clean and if you follow this procedure you will avoid rust on the cooking grates.

►    Do you offer any free Barbecue Recipes for a Smoker Pit?

See our free collection of tested smoker pit Barbecue Recipes.  You can find even more recipes in the Resources section at the bottom of the page by reading the FAQ about Barbecue information, which is listed as the first Resource.  

►   How do you "break in" a Smoker Pit with an offset firebox?

Our most recently updated Smoker Pit break-in Pit Instructions and tips are listed on this website.   Detailed pit instructions are also included with every smoker pit.   Please follow these directions EXACTLY to get the best results. These directions were written in consultation with championship barbecue chefs and will really help you to achieve optimum results early on.  

►   How do I start smoking meats on a new Smoker Pit?

Start with our “TRIED and TRUE” methods (links to the Pit Instructions and to our Barbecue Recipes are in the left Menu below) and after you have cooked a while then start improvising. When you have a smoker pit that keeps temperature you can spend the time on perfecting your recipes.  This is the whole point of the hobby. Your efforts in following this bbq smoker pit information will result in the finest, juiciest meats that anyone can cook.  It isn’t fast, but it produces wonderful tasting food. We know that using a Tejas Smokers® pit can make it simple.

If you learned something here then   



.   Jim  smiley