Maintaining temperature is something that I was fearful of at first even before buying a propane smoker. Since its very windy here in Nebraska I thought it might end up being a struggle.
Luckily I was mostly wrong and worried for no reason.
While I have had one bad cook where the temperature was very hard to control. Ever since figuring out the problem it hasn’t happened again.
Here’s what you can do to maintain temperature on a propane smoker.
Wild Swings In Temperatures
Here’s a quick story about the time I couldn’t control the smoker temperature.
It happened when I was smoking a pork butt and the temperature suddenly was climbing about 250 degrees.
I think it reached 300+°F at some point and it was hard to reach any stable temperature after this point.
In a panic I quickly cranked the dial down to lower the cooking temperature.
Well the temperature dropped alright. It was went below 200°F and seemed to keep dropping.
So I adjusted the dial again but the temperature just shot way back up.
This kept happening and the Bluetooth probe wasn’t helping. I was watching the temperature swings on a line graph and it looked like mountain peaks.
I was able to finally maintain temperature but the pork butt didn’t turn out that great.
How To Control the Temperature on a Propane Smoker
So there are several things you can do to help stabilize your cooking temperature. Some of these do work with other types of smokers.
The trick to maintaining a propane smokers temperature is The Water Pan
Yes, the often overlooked and sometimes neglected water pan.
I should be clear that its not just the pan itself that helps.
Filling the water pan and keeping it filled will go a long way in helping stabilize temperature.
How this works is due to waters boiling point.
Water can’t go about 212°F (100°C) degrees without boiling away.
So while the rest of your cooking chamber is heating above 212°F. The water acts like a heat sink and keeps the temperatures from getting too hot.
After your water boils away the temperature of the smoker can begin to build higher and higher.
Other Tricks for Controlling Temperature (Propane Smokers)
I tried to keep these tricks as specific to propane smokers as possible. But they may work for other types of smokers.
Avoid opening the smoker too often.
You will be surprised how much heat loss occurs just from opening the door to your smoker. The smaller bottom door not so much.
Even opening the door once can cause enough heat to escape that it can significantly slow down the rate your meat is cooking. You can add an extra hour of cooking or more.
Keep wood chips away from direct heat as best as possible.
When your wood chips ignite and start a fire then the temperature inside your smoker raises. Its best to keep them away from any flames.
Make very minor adjustments in temperature if needed.
Moving your temperature dial up or down even slightly can make a huge difference. So make subtle changes and see what happens.
Adjust the vents as needed
I think its best to have your vents at least 50% open during any cooks. But if the wind is getting in the smoker too much then you might experience temperature swings.
Opening the vents lets heat out but does increase air flow. Unlike charcoal or wood smokers this doesn’t increase temperature. Close the vents to increase heat buildup.