In this ultimate gas smoker FAQ guide, I’m going to be giving you the answers to your most frequently asked gas smoker questions. Learn more with The Grilling Life FAQ Q&A
Adding a smoker to your arsenal of outdoor cooking tools is a huge step toward expanding your skills and being able to try new and exciting recipes.
But, as with most things in life, there can be a lot of work involved with operating a traditional smoker!
Not everybody is on board with the time and know-how that comes with lighting and maintaining a charcoal fire.
If you’re in that camp, a gas smoker will be right up your alley!
If you’re not familiar with gas smokers, this FAQ guide is for you. We’re going to cover how gas smokers work, how to use them, the pros and cons of using them instead of their electric or wood and charcoal counterparts, and more.
At the end, we’ll give a few tips on must-have accessories to get you started using your new gas smoker to its fullest potential.
Be sure to check back on this guide, as we often add questions and update the answers with new articles!
Let’s dive into everything you’ve ever wanted to know about gas smokers!
In This Article, We’ll Explore:
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What is a Gas Smoker?
Much like a gas grill, a gas smoker uses propane as the fuel for its flame and smoke instead of electricity or charcoal for smoking foods.
Why Choose a Gas Smoker?
Compared to charcoal smokers, you should choose a gas smoker because it takes less time and guesswork to fire up. They make it easier to maintain the desired temperature and offer set-it-and-forget-it smoking. They also have the benefit of being portable and reaching incredibly high temperatures!
How does a Gas Smoker Work?
Aside from their fuel source, gas smokers work a lot like traditional charcoal smokers, with a cooking chamber where hot air circulates and cooks food via convection.
Gas smokers will also have a wood chip tray that sits on top of a gas burner, where you can add wood to create that coveted smoke.
Finally, an area for a water pan sits above the wood tray to create a moist environment that is perfect for smoking meats.
Gas Smoker vs Electric Smoker
Both gas smokers and electric smokers are relatively easy to use, but there are a few key differences. Because they’re fueled by propane tanks, gas smokers are portable (perfects for tailgates or camping!) and can reach higher temperatures than electric smokers can.
However, depending on the model, they’re not as reliable at regulating their own temperature as an electric smoker is, meaning there’s a small bit more work involved in keeping them running smoothly.
Is Propane Healthier than Charcoal?
Yes, propane has been proven to be a healthier option than charcoal. Research has shown that propane produces fewer carcinogenic substances during smoking than charcoal. On top of that, gas smokers typically emit less pollution-causing CO2, so they’re healthier for the planet as well!
Where is the Best Spot to Use my Gas Smoker?
The best spot to use a gas smoker is a spot that’s sheltered from the elements but gets plenty of airflow. You should always use a gas smoker at least 6 to 10 feet from anything flammable. This will ensure your smoker works efficiently, without the risk of burning your house down.
Is it ok to Use my Gas Smoker in a Covered Area?
No, it is not a good idea to use your gas smoker in a covered area. As tempting as it sounds to smoke in the comfort of your garage, shed, or covered porch, that’s a recipe for a fiery disaster. Keep your smoker at least 10 feet away from any flammable structure when it’s in use and make sure there is plenty of airflow for safety.
Do I Need to Pre-Season a New Gas Smoker?
Yes, we recommend that you pre-season your smoker before the first time you use it to help burn off any residue or chemicals left from manufacturing. Pre-seasoning also helps create a carbon layer inside of the smoker that can help protect it from rust, condensation, foot splatters, and more.
How do I Pre-Season my Gas Smoker?
To pre-season your smoker, first spray the propane connection with a bit of soapy water to ensure no air bubbles are escaping, which would indicate a leak. Next, rub a thin layer of cooking oil on the smoker racks and inside of the door, place the empty water pan inside, and fill your wood chip tray with one cup of chips.
Light your smoker and let it burn for one hour, until it reaches at least 350°F, then let it cool completely. Next, reapply cooking oil, re-light the smoker, and let it burn for another 20 minutes. Now your smoker is seasoned and ready to go!
Should I Line my Grates & Racks With Foil?
No, we do not recommend that you line your grates or racks with foil when smoking foods. While foil may make cleanup more manageable, it can block the airflow needed for ideal convection cooking and leave you with disappointing results.
How do you Start a Gas Smoker?
Before starting your smoker, make sure that the connection to your propane tank is secure and that the smoker door is fully closed. Most gas smokers have a simple ignition button, so when you’re ready to smoke, just give that a push and set your temperature controls to your desired temp.
Do you Preheat a Propane Smoker?
Yes, we suggest preheating your smoker for 10-15 minutes to ensure it reaches and stays at your desired cooking temperature. Let the smoker slowly come up to your desired temperature and let it settle before adding your food.
What Temperature Ranges should I Target in my Gas Smoker?
The temperature you target with your smoker depends entirely on what kind of food you’re smoking. For cuts like brisket or ribs that come with a lot of connective tissue, smoke them low and slow at 180°F–225°F to help melt that tissue down.
For leaner cuts, including fish and chicken, you’ll want a brief exposure to high heat to kill off bacteria but keep the meat juicy — aim for at least 300°F.
Should you Soak Wood Chips for a Propane Smoker?
No, we do not recommend soaking your wood chips before adding them to a propane smoker. Soaking wood chips isn’t really necessary, and it can end up just dragging your smoker’s temperature down and creating steam instead of the smoke that we’re after.
How Often do you Add Wood Chips to a Propane Smoker?
How often you’ll need to top off your wood chip tray will depend on the temperature you’re smoking at, but a good rule of thumb is to change the chips every five or six hours. When in doubt, look at the quality and quantity of the smoke and decide from there.
Can I Combine Hardwood Flavors Using a Gas Smoker?
Yes, you absolutely can and should experiment by combining hardwood flavors when using a gas smoker. Experimenting with your own hardwood blend with woods like hickory, mesquite, apple, and cherry is part of the fun of creating delicious flavor with a gas smoker.
How Long does it Take for Wood Chips to Start Smoking in a Gas Smoker?
It should take wood chips around 20 minutes to start smoking after adding them to the wood chip tray. Things like the temperature you are cooking at, outside weather, and elevation can be a factor but around 20 minutes is a solid baseline.
Should I Use a Water Pan in my Gas Smoker?
Yes, you should use a water pan in your gas smoker. We’re huge proponents of using water pans. They can help regulate cooking temperatures, keep your food juicy, and the added moisture allows the smoke to infuse into your food better. What’s not to love?
Does Opening the Vents on a Propane Smoker Make It Hotter?
Yes, the air vents help regulate the temperatures within your smoker. Where there’s air, there’s fuel for your fire, so opening the vents will help your smoker’s wood chips burn hotter and quickly reach your goal temperature.
How do you Control the Temperature on a Propane Smoker?
While some higher-end smokers will feature temperature controls, the most sure-fire way to regulate your smoker’s temperature is with its dampers and vents. You can increase the temperature by opening the dampers or vents at the bottom of the unit and letting air flow in, feeding the flame.
If you open the vents and dampers at the top, heat will escape and lower the temperature of your smoker.
How Hot Does a Propane Smoker Get?
Most propane smokers can typically reach up to 450°F which lets you use them to bake, roast, and barbecue foods as well.
How do I Get More Smoke Out of my Propane Smoker?
There are a few different ways that you can get more smoke out of your propane smoker. First, make sure you’re working with the right size and type of wood, with the ideal amount of natural moisture (which most commercial chips have).
Next, be sure you’re spreading the chips evenly across the wood chip tray, which allows it to heat and char uniformly.
Finally, set your temperature between 225°F-250°F and manage your airflow properly to let plenty of air move through the smoker.
You can also add three to four charcoal briquettes to the wood tray for added smoke and flavor. Never add more than a few briquettes.
Finally, you can use a smoker tube with wood pellets added for additional smoke.
How can I Manage the Moisture In my Propane Smoker?
A water pan is a great way to manage the moisture inside of your smoker. Beyond that, you can try spritzing your meat with a liquid like water or juice once an hour to raise the humidity, moisten the meat, and draw more smoke to the food. Finally, be sure to keep the lid or door closed as often as possible to maintain ideal conditions!
How Long will a Propane Tank Last on a Gas Smoker?
A 14-16 oz disposable propane tank will last for about 1.5 to 2 hours of cooking. You’ll get way more time — 18-20 hours — with a standard 20 lb tank. Always keep an extra tank on hand to be sure you have enough to keep the party going!
Can I Connect my Gas Smoker to Natural Gas?
For the majority of gas smoker models, the answer here is no. However, some smokers offer conversion kits that allow you to hook them up to a natural gas line instead of propane. If you’re unfamiliar with these, get a professional to install them for you.
Can you Use Charcoal in a Propane Smoker?
Nope! Your propane smoker is designed specifically to work at the temperatures where gas burns, so don’t try to use anything but gas to fuel it. Using charcoal can damage your smoker by clogging its essential components with ash, requiring either expensive repairs or an entirely new smoker.
The only exception is adding 3 or 4 briquettes to the wood tray for extra smoke and flavor. Never add more than 3 or 4.
Can I Use my Gas Smoker in the Winter?
You absolutely can use a gas smoker in the winter; you’ll just need to take a few extra steps to make sure it’s working well!
First, understand that cold weather will make heating up your smoker and cooking your food take longer than usual, so be patient! Try to place your smoker somewhere where it’s relatively sheltered from the elements, and invest in a jacket that can help insulate it from the cold.
Finally, avoid opening the door or lid as much as possible! This is a good rule of thumb for any weather, especially in cold weather when it’ll take longer to replace the heat that escapes.
How should I Store my Gas Smoker when I am Not Using It?
You should store your gas smoker covered when not using it or move it into a garage or shed after it’s cooled completely.
If you plan on storing it for long periods, make sure you give it a good cleaning, then cover it well so insects and critters do not make a home out of it while it is being stored.
What is the Best Way to Clean my Gas Smoker?
You should be cleaning all of the surfaces inside your smoker — pans, cooking grates, drip pan, and walls — after every time you use it. Avoid using harsh chemicals and opt for a 50/50 mix of apple cider vinegar and hot water sprayed inside and wiped down with a damp sponge.
Electric Smoking Tools & Accessory Must Haves
Buying your smoker is just one part of the recipe for successful smoking. Consider investing in these accessories to make your cooking sessions run smoother.
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You’re going to be handling some hot stuff when using your smoker and burning your hands will put a serious damper on your cookout.
You check out my recommended Heat-Resistant Glove here:Best Heat Resistant Gloves For Grilling
Your food isn’t going to take itself in and out of the smoker, so you’ll want to grab some tools like BBQ tongs and a spatula to help.
Check out some awesome Grilling Toolsets here: Grilling Toolsets
A Good Grill Brush
A sturdy, wire-free grill brush is a great tool to help clean stuck-on messes out of your smoker.
You can see our recommendations for the Best Bristle-Free Grill Brushes Here: 10 Best Bristle Free Grill Brushes
A Guide to Smoking Meats On an Electric Smoker
Whether you’re new to smoking or have been at it for years, cookbooks can help add some new recipes to your repertoire and keep smoking exciting!
Check out this guide to smoking for fantastic techniques and recipe ideas.
Final Thoughts on our Gas Smoker FAQ
Using a gas smoker is an excellent way to create juicy, smoky meat without the hassle of charcoal. Add the fact that it’s portable into the mix, and your new gas smoker might just become your new favorite outdoor cooking tool!
We hope this Gas Smoker FAQ has been helpful if you’re starting research into purchasing a gas smoker of your own. If you want any more information or have additional questions, send us an email or comment below. We’ll do what we can to get you an answer, and you might even see it added as a new question to this FAQ guide!
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A backyard warrior, certified carnivore, lover of good whiskey, self-proclaimed grill master and I’m Living The Grilling Life!
I have a passion for cooking with live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I’m a real person just like you, who loves outdoor cooking and BBQ. Food, fun, and time spent with family and friends are what it’s all about! It is my mission to take my passion and knowledge for outdoor cooking and all things BBQ and share this expertise in techniques and grilling equipment with you. In other words, Living The Grilling Life!