7 Meat Smoking Mistakes (You HAVE to AVOID These!)


Many people may find themselves getting frustrated by the meat smoking process.

There is a lot to learn when starting out. You are guaranteed to make a few mistakes (we all have)

There’s no need to regret spending all that money on that brand new smoker or $80 brisket.

You can learn how to avoid common smoking mistakes through trial and error and loads of practice.

To help you along your cooking journey, we’ve compiled some of the most common barbecue mistakes that people make.

1. Putting on a Lot of Barbecue Sauce

Everyone loves barbecue sauce. And you should use it on your barbecue meats.

But just like perfume, too much is never good.

The great thing about smoking meats is that you end up with a final product that has a nice bark and is crispy on the outside.

The cooked meat should be tasty and juicy too. However, all of this can easily be ruined if the piece of meat is smothered in thick layers of sauce.

It may even ruin the taste of the actual meat. Because you may not even be able to taste any of the dry rubs anymore.

If you find yourself struggling with the flavoring process of the meat, then it’s always good to strip everything back to the bare minimum.

A fail-proof marinade is a good and basic dry rub. All you’ll need is pepper, salt, and cayenne powder. (You might even like to try using some garlic salt!)

slow cooked bbq lamb shoulder finished cooking and ready to serve with mint sauce

2. Forgetting to Let Your Meat Rest Before Serving It

A super basic step that can easily make or break the final juicy meat product is whether you rest your meat or not.

Resting your meat gives the cuts of meat a chance to reabsorb some of the juices that will inevitably leak out during the cook. 

We understand that it’s difficult to stay patient. Especially after keeping an eye on your charcoal smoker and smoker temperature for so many hours.

But trust us. Letting your meat just sit under a makeshift tent of aluminum foil can do wonders. Just leave it be for at least 15 minutes.

If you find that your meats aren’t as juicy as they can be, then make sure you try this out before you plate up the meat next time!

3. You Can’t Just Smoke Food Based on Cooking Times

Unlike other methods of cooking, you can’t just place uncooked meat into a pellet smoker and check back after a set period.

Leaving a chunk of meat unattended is the worst thing you could do while smoking. This is one of the most dangerous grilling mistakes any beginner could ever make.

Not only do you risk burning the meat, but depending on your type of smoker, it could even catch on fire. So, just make sure that you’re always keeping an eye on the smoking situation. 

Another reason why you can’t just rely on cooking times is that this can vary depending on the size of the hunk of meat, and the type of meat you’re dealing with.

You should invest in a quality meat thermometer. This is because you’ll need to keep a close eye on the internal meat temperature as the meat cooks.

If the internal meat temperature is below the recommended temperature range then you risk serving up raw meat. And if you remove it off the heat only after it exceeds the appropriate temperature range, you’re left with tough overcooked meat.

4. Smokers Can Cook Other Things Too

Smokers aren’t just used by those who eat meat. Ever invited your vegan or vegetarian friends to your backyard barbecue and find that you have nothing to serve them?

Don’t worry, this is one of the common mistakes that every BBQ host kind of makes.

Well, you don’t have to worry about leaving your veggie-loving guests hungry anymore.

Because you can use your barbecue or charcoal grill to grill or smoke loads of vegetables! You can also bake potatoes in these grills.

But that’s not all! Hate using an oven or don’t have one? You can also utilize your smoker or barbecue to cook up some delicious desserts. Here’s a smoked cookies recipe that you’ve simply got to try out!

smoked chocolate chips cookies
The smoked chocolate chip cookies we made!

5. Patience Is Key

Lots of beginner barbecue enthusiasts often get disenchanted when they learn that the smoking process isn’t a quick one.

It’s completely different from boiling something on a stove. And you’re often left standing next to the smoker for hours on end.

Some cooks can take up to 12 hours or more.

Sometimes you have to wake up super early in the morning to make sure everything is ready to serve by dinner.

One of the most common beginner smoking mistakes is not managing your time properly. And then your poor hungry guests are just kept waiting at the table.

What’s the solution? Plan the meal, research how long the cook will take, and start early!

6. Relying on Lighter Fluid

If you use a charcoal grill, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is using lighter fluid to start up your fire.

While it’s certainly efficient, it’s so bad for your health.

This is because the fumes from the chemicals do not ‘burn off’. It penetrates your food and it can also ruin the taste of meat.

The last thing you want to taste is nasty lighter fluid on your perfectly cooked piece of meat.

Instead, there are so many other ways that you can get your smoker or grill going. We always recommend trying the chimney smoker method. A chimney smoker is an inexpensive metal tool and can get your charcoal pieces burning in under 15 minutes. 

To get your charcoal grill going without lighter fluid; you’ll want to do is place the charcoal briquettes inside the top portion.

Then you will want to scrunch up some newspaper and place it in the bottom part of the starter. Then, just light up the paper underneath, and it’ll have your coal pieces red hot in a matter of minutes. 

Finally, just pour the lit charcoal into your smoker or grill and place the grill grates on top. That’s it! You’re now good to go!

Try using a charcoal chimney instead

7. Creating Too Much Smoke

Much like what we said about the barbecue sauce, too much smoke isn’t good either. You also have to be wary of what kind of smoke is being produced. You want to avoid black billowing smoke, as well as lots of white smoke. 

Instead, you’ll want to be on the lookout for thin blue smoke. This is the best kind. Black or white smoke can leave your meats and vegetables tasting bitter, and it can also burn your food. This burnt bitter taste comes from the formation of creosote. 

Creosote is the build-up of many different things; such as old oil, carbon, and smoke particles from burnt wood chips. 

If you notice that there’s too much smoke being produced, then adjust the air vents to control the temperature of the grill. 

8. Not Knowing How to Handle ‘the Stall’

‘The Stall’ is a point towards the middle of the cook where the internal temperature of the meat stops increasing. It may even begin to decrease. A lot of beginners will begin to panic and their first reaction is usually to increase the heat.

But that’s not the right solution. Instead, you need to first learn what the cause of ‘the Stall’ is before you can combat it.

This ‘Stall’ is actually due to the moisture that will come of the meat as it cooks. These water droplets will have to evaporate off before the meat can continue to cook properly.

That’s why the temperature of the meat seems like it just halts in the middle of the cook. You might be wondering what temp does brisket stall? It is usually around 140°F

A simple way to solve this is to wait it out. However, if you’re in a rush you can speed up this process.

All you need to do is wrap it up in a piece of aluminum foil. This stops the moisture from evaporating off and helps the meat retain all that heat.

However, this method may also ruin your meat’s crispy bark. Because all that moisture will soften the meat’s exterior.

Bonus Tip: Using Waxxed Paper

You should never use waxed paper in a smoker.

We recommend using pink paper butcher paper to wrap your meat.

And that’s it for all of our tips and tricks for those who are having trouble getting the grasp of the smoking process. We hope that you found our advice to be helpful to you.

Now, all that’s left to do is to put it into practice. Just don’t give up and you’ll be serving great barbecue meats in no time at all!

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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