Starter Guide to Food Smokers and Smoking

Meat Smoker

People have been smoking food as a way of preserving and flavouring for centuries. Portable smokers have made it easy for all of us to attempt this culinary art at home. You can also simply add wood chips to your regular braai to add some of that special smoked flavour.

Types of Smoking

Popular types of food smoking include Hot Smoking – which can take anywhere from an hour to a day, and Smoke Roasting (also known as barbecuing or pit-roasting).

Got Wood?

Both methods above rely on the use of wood shavings or chips. You need to take care with the choice of wood you will use, as some will produce a harsh taste.

Here are some popular wood types and their uses:

Maple. Great for fruits and cheeses

Oak gives a heavier smoke flavor and is great for red meat and game; this is probably the best wood for the best steak. A fantastic wood  for smoking too as it gives a lovely colour and a deep smoky flavour.

Cedar is the traditional wood for fish it is also fantastic for chicken and seafood.

Cherry has a subtle mild, fruity flavour and is excellent for poultry, fish, vegetables and fruit. Smoking in cherry gives a fantastic colour and a subtler, sweeter smoky flavour.

My Butchers Block Wood Shavings Maple
My Butchers Block Wood Shavings


It is important to keep the temperature at which the wood burns relatively low. This is done by restricting the oxygen supply through the use of vents, or by soaking the wood chips in water before placing them on the fire.

Types of Smokers

Offset Smoker
Here the cylindrical cooking chamber has a shorter, smaller diameter cylinder attached (firebox). To cook the food, a fire is lit in the firebox and smoke and heat flows through to the cooking chamber. The heat and smoke cook the food. An example of an Offset Smoker is the Char-Griller Wrangler that has a firebox available separately.


Portable Smokers
Great for home or leisure use, portable smokers such as the Lk’s Stainless Steel Smoker run on spirits. Simply place wood shavings on some foil beneath the grid and light the spirit burner beneath. Smoking duration depends on the type of food, but this smoker is easy to use and great for smoking meat, poultry or fish.
Another option is the Camerons Stove Top Smoker, a very simple option for casual use. This compact smoker is also ideal for camping.

Camerons Smoker
Camerons Smoker

Smoking with a BBQ
One of the simplest ways to smoke meat is using a kettle braai in conjunction with a smoker box. This works best with a kettle BBQ or any other oven style BBQ that allows you to control the oxygen supply. This option is great for achieving that smoky flavour without the need for expensive equipment.

Of course, there are many other options for smoking meat, including Vertical Water Smokers etc. As you progress from an amateur smoker you will do well do research.

What are you Smoking?

Smoking is not only for meat, think about potatoes, vegetable and even sauces! Take a look at these tempting smoker recipes to get you inspired.

Next time you consider a braai or cookout, think about upgrading the experience with some tasty smoke!

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