Can you use charcoal in a propane smoker

Last Updated on: 26th April 2023, 10:22 pm

These are really easy to use and affordable smokers that can smoke meat for a long time at a consistent temperature .

But they can’t provide the smokey taste with propane.

So the question may arise: can you use charcoal in a propane smoker? Here is what you need to know before placing charcoal in your smoker.

Using charcoal in a propane smoker

Using charcoal in a smoker mainly depends on what type of smoker you are using.

You should consider checking your manufacturer’s manual first before throwing charcoal lumps into the smoker.

It can even demage the build of your smoker if not used carefully.

You can add charcoal along with pellets to your propane smoker in most cases, but you should be careful about the amount of charcoal you are going to put inside the propane smoker.

If you add a large quantity of charcoal at once, it can result in the overheating of your smoker.

You should also consider putting your charcoal on a grilling grate in the wood chip pan.

If the charcoal is placed directly into the wood chips pan, then the ash can build up in the pan, which can obstruct the ventilation.

The purpose of the grilling grate is to keep the charcoal out of the ash. You should also consider preheating your charcoal before placing it into the smoker.

charcoal fire

If you randomly throw charcoal into the smoker without prelighting it, then it may take ages to ignite the charcoal lumps within the smoker.

How to use charcoal in propane smoker

To use charcoal in a propane smoker, you should follow these steps.

  1. First of all, you have to make sure that the charcoal is prelit before placing it into the smoker. You can prelit it in various charcoal chimneys.
  2. After that, add a grilling grate inside the wood pan to keep the charcoal out of the ash and allow proper ventilation.
  3. After that, add the prelit charcoal to the grilling grate.
  4. Then wait for some time until the charcoal is white hot.
  5. After that, you may consider adding a few wood chips over the charcoal to add a mixed flavor to the meat.
  6. You may also cover the burner with any type of cover so that in case the ash drops out of the wood chips pan ,it should not fall on the burner tubes.
  7. Use charcoal until a smoke ring is formed on your meat, and after that you can remove the charcoal and continue smoking with propane.

The advantages of using charcoal in a propane smoker

  • The most important reason for adding charcoal to the propane smoker is that it enhances the flavor of meat.
    The meat smoked on propane doesn’t have the same flavor as the meat smoked on charcoal.
    Although some pitmasters argue that the flavor produced by using charcoal is not actually produced due to the smoke generated by the burning of charcoal.
    In fact, it is produced by the drops of meat juices when they fall onto lit charcoal and produce smoke, which gives better flavor to meat.
  • In addition to adding a better flavor, using charcoal also helps in preserving propane because if you keep running your smoker solely on propane, then the propane tank may run out of propane during the smoking process.
  • In addition to flavor, the charcoal also gives a smoke ring to the meat being smoked. The smoke is not produced on the meat smoked by propane.
    So, despite having the same taste , the meat smoked on charcoal can be more pleasing in appearance.
    To create a smoke ring on the meat being smoked in a propane smoker,you should first add charcoal to the wood pan and open the propane for a few seconds.
    After the charcoal is lit ,you can turn off the propane. Keep smoking with charcoal until the smoke ring appears.
  • Adding charcoal to the smoker can also help to keep the temperature stable, as the temperature of the smoker can drop suddenly due to environmental influences in cold weather.
    If you add charcoal for some time, you can maintain the temperature constantly.
  • In addition to maintaining temperature, charcoal can also help in heating up a propane smoker. It is a known fact that charcoal produces more heat than propane.
    So, if you want to smoke meat at a higher temperature while still enjoying the convenience of a propane smoker, you should think about using charcoal in your propane smoker.
  • And last but not least, it gives the feel of actual old-school smoking. For those who are passionate about smoking, it can be more satisfying than just enjoying the smoked meat.

Tips for using charcoal in a propane smoker

  • To keep charcoal out of the ash ,it’s better to use a grilling grate.
    It will provide maximum ventilation to the charcoal and make sure it burns properly without smothering due to the lack of oxygen. you should also use vents carefully to smoke more effectively.
  • If you are planning to use charcoal in your propane smoker frequently,either for higher temperature or flavor, you may consider upgrading to a charcoal grill.
    Because even if you master using charcoal in a propane smoker,it can’t be as efficient as a charcoal grill
  • You may also consider adding an aluminum foil under the wood chips tray so that any waste falling from the meat or charcoal can accumulate in a single place for easy cleaning.
  • You should also cover the burner with a cover so that the ash falling from the charcoal doesn’t affect its tube.
    It’s important to avoid contaminating burner tubes with ash to make them last longer.
  • It’s also best practice to cover the charcoal in aluminum foil before placing it into the smoker.
    It can both keep ash from dropping onto the burner and avoid the quick burning of charcoal, which can overshoot the temperature.
  • You should also consider adding a suitable amount of charcoal at once.
    If you add a huge amount of charcoal in a single go, then you can demage the building of your propane smoker.
    You should read your smoker’s user manual to make sure if you can use charcoal or not.
  • Finally, you should clean the ash and other debris quickly after using charcoal in the smoker because if the ash is not cleaned,it can result in the development of rust.
    Furthermore, if you wash the smoker with water ,you may consider drying it completely before storing it.
    If the smoker is stored with wet parts ,it can result in the growth of mold on the smoker, which can make the cleaning process complex.


Using Charcoal in a propane smoker is really adventurous and can enhance the flavor of your meat.

But you should also comply with the guidelines provided by the manufacturer to make your smoker durable.

You should also keep your warranty card secure Incase anything goes wrong while using charcoal.

charcoal 2

If you are facing difficultly in using charcoal then you should practice it again and again.

It’s a learning curve and you can only master it by playing with it .

We hope this guide would help you in using charcoal in your propane smoker.

if you want to learn more about propane smokers then make sure to check out our guide on how to use vents on propane smoker

What’s the difference between propane and charcoal smoker?

Gas and charcoal smokers are two of the most commonly used smokers nowadays.

Although they are easier to distinguish, some beginners can get confused over their workflow and how they actually smoke meats.
Charcoal smokers are the most common smokers which have been used for centuries.

They are the most ancient smokers which are normal used by pro pitmasters. They use charcoal as fuel and provide more intense smoky flavor than other smokers.

On the other hand, gas smokers are set it and forget it type of smokers that are normally used by beginners.

They use propane as a fuel source and wood chips for the production of smoke. Although they can’t provide the smoky flavor like charcoal smokers,they are still worth using due to convenience.

Do you need wood chips for a propane smoker?

Yes ,you definitely need to use wood chips in a propane smoker for the production of smoke.

If the smoke is not produced during the smoking process, then the flavor of the meat will be the same , whether you smoke it or cook it in an oven.

Moreover the Flavor of the meat is dependent on the type of wood chips used .
If you want an intense smoky flavor ,then consider using hardwood chips, while for light smoky flavor softwoods like apple wood is better
But if you can’t use wood chips due to some reason or trying to smoke for Longer period,then you can use wood pellets or wood chunks in the place of wood chips.

They have different texture than wood chips, but provide similar flavor.

Jakob miller