How to arrange meat in a smoker

Last Updated on: 20th April 2023, 10:22 pm

Smoking is one of the most amazing ways to show your skills to your guests.

But it is a long process and it can take several hours or even days to complete.

So you can’t afford to cook meat in batches, which can take ages to smoke.

So, while smoking multiple chunks of meat together, a lot of people get confused over how to arrange meat in a smoker.

It seems simple if you are smoking multiple chunks of the same meat, but if you are smoking different types of meat together, then it may seem complicated.

Personally, I am very careful about smoking different types of meat together because the meat juices of one type of meat can drip over another and affect its original flavor.

But after hours of research, I have found a couple of ways around this, which I am going to share with you.

So let’s get started.

Arranging meat in a smoker

Smokers come with a limited space because the larger the size of the smoker, the more complicated it’s temperature control will be.

It can be a huge problem when you want to smoke meat for more guests or want to avoid smoking in batches. But we are going to solve this problem once and for all.

When it comes to arranging meat in a smoker, there are two methods.

One is arranging multiple chunks of the same meat and the other is arranging multiple chunks of different types of meat. The latter is more complex than the former.

Sometimes, you might want to smoke a larger quantity of the same meat chunks at once to avoid smoking them in multiple batches.

It is pretty easy and you just have to make space for more chunks to fit in the smoker and leave them to be smoked at the same time.

But when placing meat in the smoker, you should make sure to place the same-sized chunks together.

There is no hard and fast rule, but make sure to place the chunks together that have little to no difference in size. It’s done to make sure to determine the right smoking time.

The thicker chunks will take more time to cook than thinner ones.

So, by placing same-sized chunks together, you will be able to determine the smoking time of different chunks and remove them from the smoker once they are done.

While smoking multiple pieces of the same meat together, you will only have to be careful about the time and temperature of the meat.

You should make sure to maintain the required temperature constant and remove the chunks from the smoker once they are done.

The second and more complicated method is to smoke multiple chunks of different meat together in the same smoker.

It is more complicated than smoking multiple chunks of the same meat and requires more work.

The first issue that arises when smoking different meats together is that they have different smoking temperatures.

For example, brisket requires a different temperature than chicken to be smoked properly.

The second issue is that some meats require less smoking time, while others require a longer smoking period to be cooked properly.

For example, brisket usually needs 20+ hours to be smoked completely, while chicken can be smoked in 4-5 hours.

Another issue that you can face when smoking different chunks of meat together is that all meat produces some meat juices during smoking.

If these juices from one type of meat drip on another type of meat, then they can mess with its natural flavors.

Solving temperature issues

While smoking multiple chunks of different meat together, we will have to be careful about the above mentioned issues to make sure that we don’t end up with a disappointment.

So let’s get started with the first issue to get the smoker hotter.

We can use the two-zone method of smoking when smoking different types of meat that require different smoking times.

According to this, the area near the firebox of a smoker is hotter than the area that is at the farthest end of the smoker.

So we can place the meat that requires more temperature to be smoked near the firebox and the meat chunks that are best cooked at a low temperature can be placed away from the firebox to be smoked properly.

Furthermore, you can remove the chunks of meat that are done before the others and wrap them in foil.

After that, you can place them in an insulated container or any proper storage container and serve them along with the other chunks when they are done.

Solving time issues

The second issue that we discussed above is smoking meats that require different amounts of smoking time to be smoked properly.

This issue can be solved by placing the different types of meat at different times in the smoker.

This may sound complicated, but we have got a solution for this.

You can determine the preparation time of any meat by using a simple math formula.

It can help us determine when to place a specific meat chunk into a smoker, which will be done by the end of the smoking process.

It is

Meat placing time = final smoking time + time required for this meat.

It may sound complicated at first, but we have got your back here and we are going to explain it in a simple way with an example.

So it states that if you are adding a new meat chunk that requires a different smoking time, then you should subtract it from the remaining time.

For example, if you started smoking ribs at 9 am, which will require 8 hours to smoke, then the process will be completed at 5 pm.

So if you want to smoke chicken along with ribs, which requires 4 hours to smoke, then you should use the formula as mentioned below.

Chicken smoking time = 5 pm-4 hours = 1 pm

So that means, if you are planning to smoke ribs along with chicken, then you should preferably place the ribs first and start the smoking process.

After the final 4 hours are remaining, which are around 1 pm in this case, then you should place the chicken inside the smoker and both will be finished together.

Solving dripping issues

The final issue that is faced by pitmasters when smoking different meats together is the dripping of meat juices.

You can avoid this in horizontal smokers by placing meat in different positions, but it is a major issue in vertical smokers.

So, to solve this, you will have to be careful about placing different meats on different racks according to their flavor.

The most common thing while doing so is to always place the chicken meat on the bottom rack.

It is placed at the bottom because chicken has high fat content, which can mess with the flavor of other meat chunks if placed at the top or middle shelf.

Turkey and other common poultry are also placed in the bottom rack.

Brisket and beef are usually placed in the middle rack because they have a bold and intense flavor and are not affected by meat juices.

Ribs are usually placed at the top of the rack because they are very sensitive and can lose their actual flavor if meat juices from other meats drip on them.

Factors that affect the arrangement of meat in a smoker

Cooking multiple chunks of meat together is a complex process and can only be mastered by practice.

You should consider practicing it over time, and eventually you will become a pro at it.

But there are a few factors that affect the arrangement of meat in a smoker.

The most common of these are discussed below.

Cooking Time: As mentioned above, cooking time is one of the major issues that can complicate the process if you are a beginner.

Different meats require different cooking temperatures, and you should consider following the guidelines given above to stay on the safe side.

Meat internal temperature: Another factor that can affect the arrangement of meat is the internal temperature of meat.

So you should not only depend on the smoker temperature, but you should also take into account the internal temperature of the meat to get a good idea of smoking.

Meat juices: Meat juices are also a major issue, especially if you are smoking in a vertical smoker.

You should consider placing meat in a careful way or placing a drip pan below meat to avoid it from affecting other meat flavors.

Type of smoker: The type of smoker is also important for meat arrangements.

In horizontal smokers, you normally have more smoking area, which allows more meat to be smoked at once.

But vertical smokers have vertical dimensions and less area, which makes the arrangements a little bit complicated.

Meat chunk size: Meat chunk size can also influence how meat is arranged in a smoker.

You should make sure to place the meat chunks of identical sizes together to know the exact finishing time of the process.

Can you stack meat on top of each other in a smoker?

The simple answer to this question will always be yes on all three counts.

But you should be careful about the meat juices because if you are smoking different meats, then stacking them can affect the flavor of the meat.

But if you smoke the same chunks of meat, then stacking them doesn’t create any major issue and you are good to go with it.

You should place chicken at the bottom, brisket in the middle, and ribs at the top rack if you are smoking in a vertical smoker.

Can you smoke ribs and brisket together?

Yes, you can definitely smoke ribs and brisket in the same smoker.

But you should be careful because they both require different smoking times to be smoked properly.

Ribs require a shorter time, while brisket can take days.

If you are smoking in a vertical smoker, then you should place the brisket in the middle rack and the ribs in the top rack.

Moreover, brisket should be placed at the start of the process and ribs should be placed later after determining their time by the formula given above.


Arranging meat in a smoker requires practice, and you can only master it by making mistakes.

You should be careful about the temperature, time and meat juices before smoking two different types of meat together.

if you are interested in learning more than don’t forget to read our article on Are pellet smokers healthy

Jakob miller