Start a Fire In A Horizontal Offset Smoker

How to Start a Fire in a Horizontal Offset SmokerHow to start a fire in a horizontal offset smoker or any smoker for that matter is something that many folks struggle with and I must tell you that I am no expert by any means.

I can cheat and use the liquid firestarter or use a weedburner but to really start a fire with just kindling is an art that must be practiced in order to get good at it.

I have not mastered the art but I can get the fire going and “most” of the time it actually stays lit;-)

The trick is to take that nice sharp axe hanging in the shed and cut some long, thin slivers of wood.. what we use to call kindling. I happen to be VERY good at this as it was my job as a boy of ten and on up to keep plenty of kindling at the ready. We burned wood up in those North Carolina mountains and starting fires was a constant thing.

I did not get any pictures of me chopping kindling as I could not figure out how to do that with only two hands and I really needed both of them but I did get some shots of the kindling and how I stack it in order to start the fire in the firebox.

Brinkmann Smoke N' ProThis smoker happens to be the Brinkmann Smoke n’ Pro and as it is several years old the firebox is starting to show it’s age. Still works pretty good though and I just smoked some chicken quarters on it in less than two hours.

As you can see, I have my newspaper and lighter ready for use.

This is how I start.. I lay two pieces of kindling about 6-8 inches apart and then lay two more pieces in exactly the same configuration only perpendicular to the first two.

Stacking the Kindling with NewspaperI stack about four or five layers of those and then maybe an extra piece here or there for good measure if I feel like it.

Then I get some nice dry newspaper and place a few wadded up pieces in strategic locations under the kindling. I normally use about three or four pieces as this usually does the trick.

Once the kindling is started it is very important that you get some slightly larger pieces of wood on top so it can be catching fire. The kindling will not burn long and you must have something with a little more substance getting going so as to create the kind of fire that will maintain 225 degrees or more in the smoker.

Add Final Piece of Wood on TopOnce those slightly larger pieces are started good you can lay one more nice sized piece on top if you need it. This will usually at a rate of about one three inch diameter stick per hour or so. You will have to practice to see how it works out in your particular smoker.

Just a note: I leave the firebox lid open the entire time I am getting the fire started. I don’t even worry about getting the heat into the smoker until I am seeing coals starting to develop. Once I add the final piece of wood and it is burning really good.. THEN I close the lid on the firebox and watch the temperature gauge to tell me if I need to adjust the dampers.

For my smoker it’s firebox vent wide open and chimney damper open about half way throughout but that is not to say I won’t adjust it a little if needed.

So my suggestion is to give the weedburner and the liquid firestarter a break and start practicing your technique on how to start a fire in a horizontal offset smoker.


  1. Gene Smith says:

    I found a huge chunk of “heart pine” or “pitch pine”. I have it split into small pieces, this stuff lights super easy and burns like it was soaked it gas… And before I get blasted…yes I know you don’t smoke meat with pine. It only takes one slither of this wood to get a larger pile of other hardwood kindling burning; light a match to it and it takes off.
    I keep and zip lock bag of it in my camping gear and grill and smoker “tender” box.
    Like Jeff mentioned above, I keep the fire box open until I have a good bed of coals, so that smaal match stick oeice of pitch pine is long burnt off.

  2. One trick I can remember my Dad using when we used an old dearborn heater many years ago. He would take a 1 lb. coffee can and fill 3/4 full of ashes. (cold ashes ,please) He then poured enough Kerosene into it to make a paste (just add a little at a time) When you get ready to start the fire build your starter pile, take a small stick and dab some of the ash paste on it, set it under the wood pile and light it. Worked really well as a fire starter.

  3. What I normally do is this. Using a chimney starter, I start a batch of charcoal briquets. Then when they are done, I add my wood. I’m sure that it takes longer than your method, but it works just the same.

  4. I use a chimney for a starter also. I also soak my chips for at least two hours prior to smoking a pork butt or brisket. While smoking, I spray the meat with apple/cherry frozen concentrated juice about every thirty minutes when turning or flipping the meat.

  5. terry northey says:

    Hello I have a brinkmann smoker with a offset fire box and im having a tough time getting the temp to 225 degrees and holding it I have the damper and stack open all the way. What am I doing wrong? Im using charcoal for the fuel.

  6. George Jolley says:

    The best way is use the chimmey starter, I want my fire hot fast so I use a wand that I made. Is’t attached to a propane tank light it stick it in the firbox when the wood is burning good simply remove it.

  7. Hello I also have the same smoker put hate to put any thing but wood in my box do to fumes and taste getting in my smoker. I use a electric starter (walmart $10.00) and lot of small twiggs

  8. Tried the newspaper and kindlin for a while and yes it does work with time but Harbor freight sell a very inexpensive weed burner and in 2 min or less, that’s loading the fire box with wood included, you have a roaring blaze! Jus sayin

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