How to Adjust Smoker Vents


Outdoor smokers are equipped with adjustable vents on the sides as well as a chimney or vent on top to control smoke and heat during the long cooking times required for barbecued meats. Tender pulled pork and beef brisket must be cooked at a steady temperature for hours to achieve the texture and succulent flavor prized by barbecue connoisseurs. Adjusting the smoker vents helps you sustain the required temperature with the aid of a cooking thermometer if your smoker does not have a built-in temperature gauge.

Things You'll Need

  • Hot mitts
  • Cooking thermometer
  • Light a charcoal or wood fire or ignite the burner system on a gas smoker as you would normally start the appliance.

  • Insert the tip of the cooking thermometer into the smoker chamber to measure the internal heat if your smoker does not have a built-in thermometer.

  • Cover your hand with a hot mitt.

  • Rotate the tab on the side vent controls to open the holes wider for increasing the internal temperature of the smoker. Open the vents in increments and read the thermometer to measure the temperature increase until you reach the required level for your recipe. Adjust the vents gradually to control heat fluctuations.

  • Turn the tab on each side vent to narrow the holes if you want to lower the internal temperature. This cuts the oxygen supply to the fuel, lowering the fire and the temperature as a result.

  • Rotate the top vent wider or the chimney cover to release smoke faster if you want more mildly flavored meats. For a more robust smoke flavor, turn the top vent or chimney so the opening is smaller.

Tips & Warnings

  • Many barbecue recipes call for smoking meats at a temperature of 200 to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Opening the side vents to raise the temperature will also burn fuel faster, so stock a supply of wood chunks and charcoal or an extra gas cylinder for long smokes using the appliance.
  • Avoid opening the smoker once you start cooking. Opening the appliance causes heat to escape rapidly, which extends the cooking time for your barbecue and requires additional vent adjustments to restore the desired temperature.
  • High wind blowing directly on a smoker can affect your ability to control the temperature. Wherever possible, try to position the smoker outdoors where it is shielded on at least one side.

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