How to Arrange Meat in a Smoker

Milton Greenaway

Careful planning can be the route to sweet smoking success, so if you want or know how to arrange the meat in a smoker, you’ve come to the right place. 

There’s an art to cooking multiple types of meat at the same time. With several combinations possible, you need to know how to get the optimal order so every meat comes out perfect and is hot at the same time for that family smoke out. 

Arranging Meat In A Smoker

Different types of smokers call for a different approach. Let’s take a look at your options:

Vertical Smokers

With 3 to 8 racks available, there are plenty of ways you can use a vertical smoker. 

Many people like to arrange their vertical smokers with pork butts on the bottom, brisket in the middle, and ribs on the top. 

The juices from the ribs are flavorsome, and they tend to go in when the other meats are wrapped in foil. If other meats drip on your ribs, they can leave dark spots so it’s best to keep them up high. Don’t forget to consider the time they need to be added…

Brisket can take up to 20 hours whereas ribs can take around 3 hours at 225 degrees F, it’s all about creative planning. 

By the time the ribs go in, brisket and pork butts should already be in foil as they reach the final stages of the smoking process. 

If you are adding chicken, it can be good to wrap it in foil. That way, the juices won’t drip onto the other meats. 

Offset Smokers

There is less to worry about in terms of where you arrange your meat in an offset smoker, as the oil-drum style layout means everything stays on the same rack. 

The big barrel-style makes it easy to cook a large amount of meat at the same time. Although it can take up to an hour before they are up to the right temperature. 

Temperatures can vary depending on which side of the offset smoker you are using. The cooking chamber can be hotter nearest the firebox so be sure to rotate your meat between the firebox side, and the chimney side. 

Although you don’t need to worry about stacking your meat in the right order, timing is still everything. Still, with an offset smoker, it will offer plenty of room to accommodate a good cookout-style feast.

Pellet Smokers

These are similar to offset smokers in that they can come in a barrel shape and can work as a smoker, grill, or oven.

They’re high-tech and take away a lot of the guesswork for reliable smoking of your meat, but arranging the meat requires a similar approach to an offset smoker, so use a thermometer to find out where the heat may vary and rotate where necessary. 

Tips For Arranging Different Meats

Control Your Cookers Temperature 

Different meats call for different temperatures.  Some require low and slow cooking such as brisket and pork shoulder, whilst others may need a quick seared approach. 

Maintaining a constant temperature is a challenge in itself. But master that, and you are halfway there.

Before adding your meat, you need to ensure the temperature has stabilized. Use an international thermometer to measure the temperature of the inside of your smoker, as well as a probe to monitor the temperature of the meat. 

Internal Temperature Is Key

You can get lost when monitoring the temperature of the smoker, but don’t lose focus on the internal temperature of the meat. 

Cook times can be unreliable but if you know the internal temperatures then you can make the whole process a lot easier, not to mention enjoyable.

Plan Ahead

We’ve said it multiple times already – timing is everything!

A little planning can take any stress on cook times away. Get to know your smoker by seeing how long it takes to cook a full brisket, a big bird, a nice slab of ribs, and anything else you intend to cook. 

Do this in advance and you get an idea of times so you can write down exactly when everything should go in your smoker and where.

Cooking Multiple Pieces Of The Same Meat

The key to keeping this simple is in the cuts. When they are a similar size and weight, it will be a lot easier to ensure they are ready at the same time. 

If you have larger pieces, start by cooking them first and add the smaller cuts a little later. When you’re selecting your meat, try to get pieces that are a similar size to make this one less task you have to worry about. 

Can You Cook More Than One Meat At The Same Time?

It’s a common question, but cooking multiple pieces of different types of meat is easy when you know-how. 

Try learning more about your smoker before you tackle multiple types of meat, cook them individually and understand how much the temperature fluctuates, and how you can get this under control.

Timing is vital, but so is keeping a consistent temperature to cook low and slow. Keep an eye on the internal temperature of the meat using a thermometer and you’ll find cooking for a crowd of hungry guests a lot easier. 


Arranging meat in a smoker takes a little planning, but also…know thy smoker!

There are different types and ways of making this process easier, but once you have it mastered, you’ll be looking for any excuse to light up the smoker and invite friends and family over to sample your smokey cuts.