Learn to BBQ with Ease - Use a Propane Smoker

For those of you who like to set it & forget it, a vertical propane smoker offers an easy alternative to coal. It can also leave even the most critical BBQ judges licking their fingers. Learn how to BBQ with ease!

The Basic Idea


vertical propane smoker

The concept is simple. A propane burner heats a pan filled with wood chunks or chips, causing hot smoke fill the chamber.

Food is placed on the racks, and the drippings are caught by the water pan.


Propane Smoker Pictures:

vertical propane smoker vertical propane smokervertical propane smoker

vertical propane vertical propane smoker


  • Simple and easy to use
  • Doesn’t require constant tending (get some sleep!)
  • Affordable
  • Easy to clean
  • Produces top-quality smoked foods


  • Some models can run too hot
  • Some say it’s cheating – just too easy



Keep an extra propane tank handy

Propane is conserved in better models, allowing for a few all-day cooks before replacing the tank. However, unless you have an accurate propane gauge, it’s hard to tell how much you have left.

Save yourself a last minute run to the supermarket by always keeping a spare tank close by.

Do a dry run

Before using the smoker for the first time, coat the insides with oil and run warm for several hours. No wood needed.

Then, try settings as you would for your first cook - what temperature does the smoker hold? Got it where you want it? Good! Now you're ready for the real deal.

Don’t trust the built-in temperature gauge

Many smokers come with a built in temperature gauge, some more accurate than others.

Bottom line, don’t trust it.

Use a thermometer you know and trust when smoking food.

When it comes to smoking, holding a steady, accurate temperature is KEY. If it’s a new smoker, check the built-in thermometer using another thermometer. The difference in readings will often surprise you!


Buy a large enough model for your intended BBQ dishes

What will you cook?

Full slabs of ribs? A whole brisket?

Bring your tape measure to the store to avoid BBQ pains down the line.


Replace the wood pan with a thinner metal dish

Many propane smokers come with a heavy cast-iron wood pan. These work well, but can take forever to heat up. Some are also too small.

Solution? Replace with a coffee can, pie tin, or other thin metal dish.

The thin metal heats up right away, and the wood starts smoking almost immediately.


Cover the wood to make it last longer

Some propane smokers come with a cover for the wood pan – usually a metal lid with holes in it. This limits the air to the wood, making it burn slower and longer.

No lid with your pan? No problem!

Cover the pan with foil and poke a few holes in the top.


Soak those chips!

Covered chips last longer, but can still burn too quickly when dry. For best results, soak those chips in hot water, beer, whisky, wine, or other flavoring liquid. Keep in mind, the stronger the flavoring liquid, the less soaking time is needed.

Also, no need to soak wood chunks. Read why.

For more tips and info on smoke woods, check out the smoke wood section.


Still interested? Find the propane smoker that’s right for you!

Propane smokers are widely available, with tons of options that can leave your head spinning.

A good place to start is our review section. (link) Read what the owners and experts are saying so you can make an informed decision.