To use a smoker to cook food, first fill the smoker with charcoal. Light the charcoal in the smoker, and allow the coals to burn until white. When the coals are hot, open the smoker's vents to stabilize the temperature of the charcoal until it is about 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Add hot water to the smoker's water pan along with any herbs and the desired smoking wood. Add the food to the smoker and cook until done.
Light the coals as with any other charcoal grill, which may require lighter fluid or shaping the charcoals in a cone and lighting them from the bottom. Smoking woods are also essential to the smoking process as they add flavor to the food. Smoking wood can come in a variety of types including sticks, chunks, and chips with flavors such as hickory, cherry and apple. Never use treated wood for smoking.
The process of smoking food can take several hours so it is important to keep the coals hot over long periods of time. This often means adding charcoal or wood to the smoker. The vents also play an important role in keeping the coals warm; the influx of oxygen through the vents prevents the coals from dying.