How To Use The Oklahoma Joe Smoker Grill: A Complete Guide

If you got a brand new Oklahoma Joe smoker recently, you may have a lot of questions about using it. Trust me, I have been there. So, how do you use the Oklahoma Joe Smoker grill correctly?

It all comes down to mastering the basics of setting up the firebox, building the fire, and maintaining it. Apart from that, knowing what wood chips are and maintaining them properly will make sure that you get delicious meals every time.

I’ll walk you through all of that in this comprehensive guide to using the Oklahoma Joe Smoker. Hopefully, you can take what you learn from here and turn it into awesome cooking for the rest of your life. So, let’s dive in!

how to use oklahoma joe smoker grill

How To Use The Oklahoma Joe Smoker Grill [Complete Guide]

Knowing how to use your offset smoker can be the difference between a good barbecue and a great barbecue. Thankfully, you can learn from the mistakes I’ve made over the years. I’ll share the best practices and you can use them as a guide to make all your future meals delicious and smoky.

Instead of thinking about using the Oklahoma Joe Smoker as a whole, think about it this way; you have to master the different aspects of using it. So, let’s look at them one by one.

How To Manage The Fire In Oklahoma Joe Smoker

A lot of people end up hating their offset smokers because they can’t cook the food to their liking. Despite their best efforts, they just can’t get it right. And it has to do with not mastering the basics that are important for successful offset smoker cooks.

Remember that they’re called stick burners for a reason. You’d have to dedicate a lot of time and effort to mastering fire management when using your offset smoker. But once you can get it right, your cooks will be finger-licking good.

You have to develop the ability to manage the fire using just charcoal and wood. And keep in mind that airflow is just as crucial to maintaining the fire inside the cooking chamber.

When setting up your charcoal pieces, you can’t just dump them in the firebox and expect good results. You need to be smart about it and science the hell out of it. Place a grate at the bottom of the firebox and ensure that it lines up with the side doors of the firebox.

You’ll have better control over the charcoal pieces and the airflow if you do that. However, my first pro tip is to use a basket instead of a grate. It’s much better at keeping the charcoal from making direct contact with the firebox.

using a basket for charcoal

The ashes are also easier to remove this way. I recommend keeping the vents open the whole time so that you can minimize the variables in your cooks. It’ll also train you to manage the fire only using charcoal and wood pieces.

In the main chamber, you’ll have two to three shelves where you can place your food for cooking. Under the main grill, lies the baffle plate. You’ll see the holes get bigger across the baffle plate to control the air temperature better.

The smoke will travel through those holes. Eventually, it’ll go to the other end and come out through the chimney of the smoker. Hopefully, this understanding of how an offset smoker works will help you manage the fire.

interior of the smoker

If you’re going for a slow and long cook, you’ll have to keep on adding wood splits for the first few hours. But after that, you’ll have to go back to adding charcoal. That’s because there’s only so much smoke that your meat can absorb. After all, it’s a piece of meat, not a smoke trap.

When you add charcoal instead of more wooden pieces, only the heat will be maintained rather than the flavor. If you’re extra cautious like me, you can also wrap your food with aluminum foil so that it only gets heat source from the cooking chamber and no more flavor.

However, a word of advice for you is to not add unlit coal into the mix. If you do that, there can be temperature spikes, and it can reduce the fire. So, light up the charcoal before you place it into the firebox.

Remember that you always want to avoid drastic changes in the temperature. For great cooks, the temperature must stay more or less constant throughout the entire cooking period.

How To Set Up The Fire In Oklahoma Joe Smoker?

Okay, I’m backtracking here and talking about the building the fire second. The only reason behind it is to express the importance of managing the fire. And that really is the most crucial skill to master to enjoy amazing cooks from your offset smoker.

However, starting the fire correctly is also essential to make sure you have a great cook. My next pro tip for you is to invest in a chimney to initiate the burning of the charcoal that you’ll be using for your cooks.

starting the cook

I recommend filling up the charcoal basket with nearly one chimney full of lump charcoal. I reckon lump charcoal is better than briquettes as it has pieces of burnt wood in it. Lump charcoal can also withstand higher temperatures, burn longer, and add more smoke to whatever you cook.

Add another load of lump charcoal into the firebox. Throw a couple of fire starters in there and light them to start the fire. After a few minutes, you can close the main lid of the firebox. However, keep the vents open.

When you close the lid, place your choice of wood on top of the exterior of the firebox. Here’s a picture to show you what I’m talking about:

warming up the wood

The idea is to get it to a temperature where the moisture is minimized and make it as combustible as possible. So that when you put it inside the firebox, it can get into action. I recommend using applewood because, in my opinion, it has the best flavor. However, you can choose whatever you like.

In 10-15 minutes, the fire should get going well and be close to the temperature you want. For slow cooks, the temperature is typically around  225°, and for faster cooks, it’s around 275-300°. So, set your desired temperature in the smoker accordingly.

Let the temperature get a little bit higher than what you want to cook at. For example, if you want to cook the meat at 225 degrees, let it get to 240 degrees. That’s because the temperature will drop immediately when you add the cold meat, and you’re better off avoiding that sudden change.

So, when the temperature reaches higher than your desired temperature in the cooking chamber, add your wood splits into the firebox. Keep the lid open until the splits are fully on fire. When you add the wood splits, you can put the meat in the cooking chamber at that stage.

If you’re getting thin smoke or no smoke at all coming out of the chimney, it means you’ve done a good job. That indicates that you have a clean flame, and the flavor of the wood is actually getting through to the meat.

However, a lot of people mistakenly think that thicker smoke is better and means more flavor. Nothing could be further from the truth, and if you want to take away one thing from this section, then let it be this – thin smoke is the way to go, and it’s surely much better than thick smoke.

What To Do If I Am Not Getting Thin Blue Smoke?

Thin blue smoke is ideal, and if you’re not getting that, you can play around with the vents. Even though I normally recommend keeping the vents open the whole time, opening or shutting them may do the trick.

However, don’t make this a regular thing, and try to control the smoke while the vent is open the entire time. In general, if you think that keeping the vent closed is a good idea, you’re wrong.

That’s because oxygen is a necessary component for a clean flame. And if you shut off the vents, there won’t be enough oxygen for proper combustion. Hopefully, that’s clear to you by now.

Secondly, you can also remove the coal that has built up at the bottom of the firebox. Just take them out, and that should lead to a cleaner flame.

cleaning the ash with a shovel

There are shovels you can find that’ll make the job of removing the coal a hundred times easier, and they’re usually pretty inexpensive. Removing the ash leaves room for better airflow, and that leads to a cleaner flame.

How To Use Oklahoma Joe Smoker For The First Time

If you haven’t used your smoker before and you’re about to use it for the first time, you need to be aware of a few things. Most importantly, you’ll have to prepare the smoker for being used.

Following the right practices before starting your first cook is essential if you want a nice finish and don’t want any metallic flavors in your food. However, if you avoid the steps, you can expect the exact opposite. With that said, here are the things you should do to prepare your OJ smoker for its first use:

  1. Use vegetable cooking oil and brush it all over the grills and grates so that there’s no metallic residue on the foods.
  2. Don’t place any charcoal pieces against the walls, and start by building a small fire on the pan or the fire grate.
  3. Close the door and position the damper and the smokestack damper such that they’re about one-quarter open.
  4. Make sure that you keep the fire going for at least two and a half hours to prepare the smoker effectively. But keep in mind that the longer you can do it, the better it’ll be.
  5. After that burning period has passed, you can open the damper and the smokestack damper to about halfway.

Now, your OJ smoker is ready for use. Keep in mind that your first-time Oklahoma Joe smoker will go a lot smoother after following these practices. You can add more charcoal pieces to increase the temperature.

Keep in mind that rust can appear on the internal grill of your smoker. So, spraying them every now and then with vegetable cooking oil is a surefire way of preventing that.

With time, the exterior of your smoker will also start to fade. I use a high-temperature black-spray unit from time to time to make my smoker look clean. And of course, an obvious warning for you is never to paint the smoker’s internal grills or interior.

How To Season An Oklahoma Joe Smoker

To season an OJ smoker, use a high-temperature vegetable cooking oil like grapeseed or canola oil and coat the smoker’s interior with it. Next up, fill up a chimney with charcoal and light it up with a firestarter.

Within 10-15 minutes, the chimney will likely have a very strong flame. Add more charcoal pieces into the firebox as the chimney continues to heat up. Place the lit charcoal into the firebox when the chimney is fully heated.

Both the air intake and the exhaust should be fully open so that the smoker has the highest possible airflow. Never close the exhaust, as it can be dangerous.

Increase the temperature of the smoker to higher than what you plan to smoke at. Let the smoker reach a temperature of 275- 300 degrees Fahrenheit and let it last for 2-3 hours.

Doing so will make sure that any unwanted chemical residue gets burned off. That’s all you have to do to season your OJ smoker. Now, all you have to do is let the smoker get completely cool and then you can do your next cook on it.

How To Use Oklahoma Joe Smoker Grill For The First Time?

If you’re cooking with an OJ pellet grill instead of an offset smoker, you still need to prepare it. Even though the rest of this guide is for those who use offset smokers, a lot of people ask me how they can prepare their OJ pellet grill when using it for the first time.

So, this section is dedicated to them. Here are the steps you need to follow when you’re using your pellet grill for the first time:

1. Remove the center grate and baffles from the grill.

2. Connect the grill to a power outlet and turn it on by pressing the power switch on the Pit Control panel.

3. Check the hopper and make sure that the auger isn’t jammed.

4. Set a temperature of 250º by turning the control knob and push it to lock in the settings. Let it run for a few minutes and check the following things:

a. Inspect the hopper to confirm that the auger is turning.

b. Listen and check if the fan is blowing. You’ll also feel air coming out when the fan is active.

c. Wait for 5 minutes and check that the ignitor is glowing red inside the firepot.

d. Double-check that the ash cup is tightly screwed on.

5. Press and hold the power button to power off the grill.

That’s it. Doing these things will ensure that your grill is ready for its first cook. Thankfully, the process doesn’t take long, and you can finish the entire inspection in less than 10 minutes. After that, you can enjoy using it.

Well, here, it’ll be helpful for you to go through my complete guide on Oklahoma Joe pellet grill troubleshooting to solve any issues that you may face.

How To Clean The Oklahoma Joe Smoker

Trust me, cleaning the smoker at periodic intervals will continue to deliver great cooks. If you don’t clean the smoker, the food will taste acrid and have that ew-like metallic taste that everyone hates.

Now, how often you’ll have to clean the smoker depends on how frequently you use it. That’s a fair deal, if you ask me. I’ll get to the cleaning bit in a second. But before that, a pro tip for you is to make sure that the charcoal pieces are completely exhausted after your cooks.

Get rid of the ashes with the shovel even during the cook like I showed you in an earlier section. When it comes to cleaning the OJ smoker, rinse it with water and let it dry completely before using it again. As for the interior, you can use paper towels or a piece of cloth to clean it.

Apart from that, just follow the usual clean-up procedures. On top of cleaning the ashes during the cooking, make sure you get all of them out after you’re done cooking. That’s because they tend to collect moisture, and it can be a problem later on for your future cooks.

Coat the interior with a high-temperature vegetable oil from time to time to keep it fresh, and paint the exterior when needed. If you use a bristle brush for cleaning the cooking chamber, please follow two things.

Firstly, only do it when the cooking chamber has cooled down. Secondly, make sure that no bristles remain in the cooking chamber when you’re done. If you follow these tips, your smoker will almost always be as good as new.

What Wood Chips Should I Use In My Oklahoma Joe Smoker?

If you have any experience using a smoker or a pellet grill, you know that adding wooden chips adds more flavor to the meat. Now, a lot of first-timers get confused in terms of which wood chips they should use.

wood splits

But don’t worry, I’ve got your back. One rule you can keep in mind when using wood chips is that hardwood that bears nuts or fruits can be used here. Along with that, here are the types of hardwood I recommend depending on the type of meat you’re cooking:

  • Chicken – Apple, Alder, Hickory, Mesquite
  • Pork – Oak, Fruitwoods, Hickory
  • Beef – Mesquite, Hickory, Oak
  • Veal – Fruitwoods, Grapevines
  • Lamb – Mesquite, Fruitwoods
  • Seafood – Mesquite, Alder
  • Vegetables – Mesquite

Keep in mind that it’s my recommendations and my recommendations only. You may have a different personal preference and like some other flavor better. That’s completely fine – no judgments.

However, if you’re getting started, I suggest you get started with the list I showed and slowly experiment with different flavors as you keep on cooking. Always avoid green wood, as it can turn black and use well-seasoned wood, that has been dehydrated.

What Safety Protocols Should I Follow When Using My Oklahoma Joe Smoker?

Smoking and grilling can be a lot of fun. It’s a cool way to passively pass the time and enjoy the rewards of a long wait when the food is cooked. However, that fun can easily turn into major health issues if you’re not careful.

So, you should follow some basic practices to maintain your safety when using them. For starters, don’t jump into the fire while you’re cooking. Not helpful? Hopefully, the rest of the tips will follow. Here they are:

i) Keep Yourself Clean

Whenever you’re handling raw meat, it’s super important to keep your hands clean. Before and after you touch the meat, wash your hands thoroughly with soapy water.

A good rule is to wash it for 20 seconds. If you don’t want to count, you can just sing the Happy Birthday song twice, because that also takes nearly 20 seconds.

ii) Don’t Mix Stuff

You’ll likely be dealing with both raw and ready-to-eat food during your cooks. Apart from keeping your hands clean, make sure you don’t mix the two of them, as it can transfer bacteria from one to the other.

When it comes to utensils, you should also separate them. The ones you use for ready-to-eat foods should always be clean and separate from ones you use during cooking.

iii) Reach At Least The Minimum Temperature

Depending on the type of meat you’re cooking, you’ll have to reach a minimum temperature to kill all the bacteria in it. Use the temperature gauge in your OJ smoker along with thermometers to measure the internal temperature of the meat you’re cooking.

reach the minimum temperature

The USDA has regulations regarding the minimum temperature that must be reached for different kinds of meats. Here’s a list that you can easily go through that covers the minimum temperature for the most common kinds of meat you’ll cook using a smoker:

  • 145° F – Fish, Whole Pork, Veal, Lamb, Steak, Roasts, & Beef. (When there’s a 3-minute rest time)
  • 160° F – Beef, Veal, Lamb, and Ground Pork.
  • 160° F – Egg Dishes.
  • 165° F – Turkey, Chicken, & Duck.

iv) Be Attentive

Even though you don’t have to be fully active during the entire cooking process, it does require your presence. You have to be aware of when to add new pieces of charcoal or hardwood to the firebox and manage the fire.

The thickness of the meat, the starting temperature, and the weather conditions all have an impact on the cooking time. So, you should be present and tend to the fire so that you can learn from your cooking experience and also have a nice meal at the end of the day.


Why should I avoid wooden splits that have moisture?

They won’t burn clean and will leave an acrid taste in the meat. A slow-cooked barbecue takes a lot of time and effort. So, ruining it with wooden splits that have moisture doesn’t sound like a good deal.

What to do if the temperature inside the cooking chamber gets too high?

In that case, you can close the vents to decrease the airflow, and that will weaken the flame. So, the temperature will eventually come down. You can also shut down the opening of the chimney, but don’t close it all the way.

Can external factors change my cooking time?

Yes, absolutely. External weather conditions like snow, rain, and wind can affect the cooking time and temperature. You’ll have to add more charcoal and wait for longer periods when the weather isn’t favorable for cooking.

What to do if there’s a big flare-up?

For times like this, you should prepare a spray bottle and fill it with water. When there’s a flare-up, you can spray the water on the flames. But make sure you don’t overdo it, as water can blow the ashes and make a colossal mess.


How do I use the Oklahoma Joe Smoker grill? Hopefully, you’ll no longer have this question in your mind after going through this guide. I’ve compiled many years of cooking experience in this guide, and I hope that you can put it to good use.

Remember that it can take a few tries to get the cooks to how you like them if you’re just getting started. So, have fun and enjoy the process during your first few. Check out my guide on controlling the heat on your OJ smoker if you want to become even better and master the cooking process.

About William

William is the founder of He has real life practical skills in fixing smoker & heating appliance issues. He loves to share his knowledge & helps others in fixing their appliances & saving their money. William firmly believes that anyone can repair his or her unit with the correct guidance & knowledge. See more at about us.

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