Yep, just did it this past weekend! I wasn’t planning on it, of course, but the smokers were fired up, everything was ready, and the rain started. I smoked my briskets and ribs anyway, and they turned out great.
I’ve heard it said that for smokers, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad preparation. With the right preparation, you can smoke your meat in the rain.
However, even the most prepared grill master must contend with the fact that weather can have a profound effect on the smoking process. Let’s explore how rain can affect your smoked meat and what you can do to combat any negative effects.
Be prepared (to smoke your meat in the rain)
Keep your powder dry. Oh, and your fuel too. Keep that dry
A primary concern will be your fuel. If you are using stick wood for fuel, be sure to keep some covered so it doesn’t get wet.
Wet wood doesn’t smoke as cleanly as dry wood, so if at all possible, you want to be using dry wood. Also, adding wet wood to your fire will cool your fire down a good bit, so be mindful of that if your wood is wet.
If using charcoal, the same thing applies but with the added note that wet charcoal gets mushy and may not burn at all. If you are smoking on a charcoal smoker in the rain, you’ll want to take care to keep the charcoal dry.
Pellet smokers? You’re not free and clear here either, as wet pellets won’t burn like you need them to. For my pellet grill, I even go so far as to protect my pellets from humidity, even in the absence of rain or other inclement weather, as I’ve heard that pellets can be ruined by high humidity. I’m still too new to pellet smoking to have experienced this, so the whole ounce of prevention thing is my approach. I also add wood chips to a smoking tube for use on my pellet grill for some extra smoky goodness.
Regardless of the type of smoker, a good indication of how well your fire is burning is the speed and color of the smoke coming out of your smoker’s chimney – ideally, you’ll see fast-moving thin blue smoke from the chimney.
Propane smokers? Sure, fine to smoke meat in the rain. No worries at all.
What about using an electric smoker in the rain? I don’t need to remind you that electricity and water don’t mix, but I’ve left my pellet smoker plugged during downpours. As long as the electrical connections stay dry, you’re good. In my case, I have an extension cord and a waterproof cover for where the pellet grill is plugged into the extension cord (you can see it in the image below and in the video on this page). You can pick these up for a few bucks on Amazon.
How does rain affect your smoker?
Aside from the fuel, you must consider the smoker itself as well. If you are fortunate enough to have your smoker in a covered area, you are in good shape, and this entire article probably won’t apply to you. But most of us have our smokers exposed to the elements.
Your smoker is much like you, standing out there in the rain. You generate heat from within, yet when rain gets on your skin, it cools you off. Add a bit of wind (it doesn’t have to be much!), and that cooling off affects your body temperature quite a bit. Same for your smoker. The wetter and windier it gets, the colder you would get and the colder your smoker would get.
No problem, though, right? We know it’s happening so we adjust the dampers to compensate. Or, in the case of my (new) pellet grill, I sit inside drinking a beer, knowing that the pellet feed is being automatically compensated to keep the temperature where I have it set.
Another key point is to consider the airflow through your smoker when it rains and/or gets windy. Nobody will argue that airflow, and therefore the smoke flowing through your smoker, is key to getting a good cook. Mess with the airflow and all bets are off.
If it’s raining, you’ll likely also see a bit of wind, which can mess with your airflow, so you want to be sure you are continuing to see the fast blue smoke from the chimney. If you aren’t seeing that, or if the smoke turns blackish or starts billowing out the sides, it indicates a problem with the airflow, and your meat is being subjected to bad smoke. Leave it like this too long, and your food ends up tasting sooty and bitter. A quick response to get the air flowing through quickly again is to simply open the chimney and the vents and then back them back down as needed.
Many who find themselves smoking in the rain will purchase a smoker cover, really a heavy blanket that is heat resistant, and cover the smoker. This is actually not a terrible thing to do any time you are smoking but when raining, it’s even better.
Welding blankets work pretty well here, so you could purchase either a welding blanket or a smoking cover – whichever you prefer.
To get an idea of a smoking blanket for my Z-Grill pellet smoker, take a look here – some quick searches and you’ll be able to find one that fits yours. Search for either “welding blanket” or “smoking blanket for smokers”.
If you are cooking something that will take a while, like a brisket or a turkey, inclement weather may come and go during your cook time. When this happens to me, I like to work as though it’s raining the entire time so I don’t have to keep changing my approach. Seems to work well.
An ode to smoking meat in the rain
The rain may come down in torrents and sheets
But it won’t stop me from cooking up these meats.
For smoking meat is an art form, a labor of love,
And nothing can deter me when push comes to shove.— SmokeOps
If there is lightning along with the rain, then, of course, you need to stay inside and wish your smoker the very best of luck.
If it’s a pellet grill or anything else with power attached, I recommend unplugging it.
Your grill is a big metal lightning rod, and you don’t want to be standing next to it on wet ground when lightning is striking so go inside, crack open another beer, and wait for the lightning to pass.
While we’re talking lightning, it’s important to note that lightning can strike far ahead of the main part of a storm so don’t wait until the storm is right on you if there is lightning. In fact, I believe it’s a statistic that most people struck by lightning are usually at the very leading edges of a storm, so clouds are just beginning to move over them. Don’t quote me on that, but it feels like I read that somewhere. A good rule of thumb is if you hear thunder, get indoors. Don’t wait until you actually see the lightning.
Can I just use my smoker in the garage?
You were kidding, right?
But no, do not use your smoker or any grill in the garage. Inside a dedicated smoking enclosure is fine, but your garage is a bad idea for a lot of reasons.
Smoking meat is best done on days with clear skies and low humidity. However, dedicated grill masters know that bad weather doesn’t have to ruin their fun – it just requires a little extra effort (and patience!). By following the tips in this article, you’ll be able to overcome any challenges posed by Mother Nature and enjoy delicious smoked meats all year round! So can you smoke meat in the rain? Yes, of course, you can! Enjoy!