Building a “Fire” in your Charcoal Water Smoker is as easy as lighting the charcoal. All you need is a quality charcoal, a charcoal chimney, and a wad of newspaper. Maintaining a consistent temperature in your smoker is a different story.
About fifteen minutes after you light your initial batch of charcoal, it will be ready for your water smoker. You can easily pour it in the fire pan, insert the water pan and grill grates. After that, all you need to do is slap on the meat and put on the lid.
If that’s all you had to do, then you would be set. Come back in three to five hours (depending upon the weight of your meat), and it will be ready. Right? If you do that, you’ll will be sorely disappointed.
In order to maintain a temperature of 225 degrees, you are going to need to be adding additional hot charcoal every 45 – 60 minutes. Considering it takes approximately 15 minutes to light the charcoal, you need to be lighting a new batch ever 30 – 45 minutes.
One big downfall of a less expensive smoker is that it can be difficult to access the fire pan. There is a small door in the front that gives you access to the water and fire pans. You have a couple of options here.
You can insert the hot coals through the small door with a set of barbecue tongs. I’ve done this many times and it works pretty good. I would recommend wearing a pair of gloves if you take this approach.
Another suggestion is to make modifications to your water smoker. One recommended mod is to install the legs on the outside of the smoker and place the fire pan on top of stacked bricks or pavers. This way all you will need to do is lift the smoker in order to empty the ashes and add hot coals.
The Minion Method is another way to use charcoal. This method involves loading the fire pan with unlit charcoal and placing hot coals on top. As the red hot coals burn, they will slowly light the unlit charcoal below.
Regardless of the method you use, just make sure you maintain the internal temperature between 200 and 250 degrees. A good rule of thumb is one hour per pound of meat. Part of the joy of smoking meat comes from the process involved. Best of luck and happy smoking!