Let’s say you’re trying to smoke two smaller cuts of pork belly or chuck cross rib roast in the smoker. You might get the idea to place the meat on a cookie sheet and then into the smoker. But is it possible?
Yes, you can place food on a cookie sheet and into the smoker and still get good smoky results as long as you add a cooling rack into the baking pan too. The secret to using a cookie sheet for smoking is that you must facilitate maximum smoke circulation.
In fact, you can also use other metal pans and still get tons of flavor. The only difference is your meat will have a softer bark. Read on for the definitive answer and more tips and tricks for using your smoker.
Can you put a cookie sheet in a smoker?
Because smokers work by pulling hot air around the machine to create an even smoke, many people ask whether or not they can place a baking tray inside their smoker.
The short answer is yes! You can place the food directly on a cookie sheet and smoke it but it won’t have quite the same amount of crusty bark and the bottom of the meat might not be as smoky.
Also, if you don’t use parchment paper, the food can stick to the pan and ruin the texture of your smoked meat.
That’s why you need to add an oven-safe cooling rack on top of the cookie sheet to increase airflow.
Does using a tray or big pan reduce the smoke circulation & flavor?
A bit, but not significantly. The only time it would make a huge difference is if you’re smoking a very large piece of meat like beef brisket.
Then, you might want to consider using a smaller pan so that the air can circulate better.
If the smoke can’t circulate properly, the flavor from your wood chips can’t penetrate the food’s surface.
For the most flavor, it’s best to use a cooling rack inside the pan or to place your meat directly on the grates.
However, using a cookie sheet or tray is still an option and can yield good results if you’re careful to follow some important tips.
Cookie sheets, baking trays, paella pans, roasting pans, and basically all metal sheet pans don’t allow for proper air circulation at the bottom of the meat.
Since smokers rely on circulating hot air, if you place your meat directly on a sheet pan, it won’t be able to get as much smoke flavor, or crispiness at the bottom.
That’s why it’s important to add a cooling rack to the baking tray or pan and then put your food on top of that.
If you follow the cooling rack tip, you’ll get the optimal smoky flavor you’re after.
Without cooling racks, you might not get the best results since smoking is different from grilling and smoke needs to circulate freely.
How to use a cookie sheet or baking pan to smoke meat?
Using a cookie sheet or baking pan to smoke meat is quite simple.
All you need is some wood chips, a heat source, a cooling rack, and your favorite meat.
Place the meat on a cooling rack and then put that into your baking pan.
Be sure to leave a bit of space between the baking sheet and rack to ensure the smoke and hot air can circulate and maintain a consistent temperature.
Cook the meat according to your desired temperature.
Enjoy your delicious smoked meat!
Paella pan and cooling rack combo: the key to success
Another great option is to use a paella pan. Paella pans have elevated sides which is ideal for smoking meat since it allows the heat and smoke to circulate evenly.
A paella pan’s round shape gives you plenty of cooking space so you can even smoke larger meat cuts like pork butt.
Just like with cookie sheets, you’ll want to add a cooling rack to the bottom of the pan so that the air can circulate and your food doesn’t stick.
Also, clean-up will be easier if you use a pan and cooling rack combo than placing the meat on the smoker grates directly.
If you want to get a barbecue-style flavor and crispy edges, make sure you check out these tips for getting great results when smoking food on a cookie sheet or paella pan:
- Place the meat on a cooling rack before you put it in the smoker.
- Make sure that the pan is completely flat and stable so it won’t tip over or move during cooking.
- Never cover the pan with foil since this will trap moisture inside, causing your food to steam instead of smoke.
- Use a pan that’s big enough for the food you’re smoking but not too big so that there’s plenty of space for air to circulate.
- If you’re smoking a large piece of meat, cut it into smaller pieces so that it will cook evenly.
- Place the pan on the lower racks of the smoker so that it’s closer to the heat and smoke.
- Open the smoker’s door as infrequently as possible so that you get the best smoke flavor and don’t lose any of your precious cooking heat.
- Baste or spritz your food with a bit of apple juice or other liquid during smoking if you want additional moisture and tenderness.
Tips for using cookie sheets or metal pans in the smoker
Here’s what to keep in mind if you want to use a cookie sheet on the cooking grate:
Baking tray size matters
The size of the baking tray will determine how much heat it takes to bake something in the oven.
If you use a standard 9×13 inch baking tray, you’ll need to preheat the smoker to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit before putting the tray inside.
This should give you enough time to make sure everything is properly preheated before starting to bake.
Add a cooling rack to maximize airflow
If you place the food directly on the cookie sheet or baking tray and into the smoker, you won’t get a strong bark and the smoke flavor might not be as strong as you’d like.
The good news is that there is a solution to this problem.
You need to get an oven-proof cooling rack that’s safe to use inside the smoker. It also has to be a bit smaller than your cookie sheet so it can fit inside.
So, keep an eye out for the size of the trays to ensure they can be used together.
Then, place the food on the cooling rack and then into the baking sheet. This step maximizes the airflow and gives that delicious smoky flavor to the meat.
You’ll end up with a softer bark but if you don’t mind, you can smoke using a cookie sheet.
If you want to skip the cooling rack you totally can just expect a less-than-perfect bark.
Don’t overfill your baking tray
If you overfill your baking tray, the smoke won’t be able to circulate properly.
You also run the risk of the meat pieces touching each other, not leaving room for smoke to pass between.
To avoid this problem, always leave a little room between the pieces of meat as well as the top edge of the tray and the lid of the smoker.
Keep it clean
If you plan on using your baking tray for more than one batch of food, it’s best to clean it after each use.
This will help reduce the amount of grease and grime that builds upon the surface of the tray.
You might want to watch this pro video on how to clean your cookie sheet afterwards:
Make sure the food is ready for cooking
When you place a baking tray inside a smoker, you’re essentially placing it in a high-temperature environment.
Because of this, you’ll want to make sure that any foods you plan to cook inside the tray are already fully prepared.
This includes making sure that all ingredients are mixed together and that the meat has been seasoned and marinated (if that’s the case).
Always check with the manufacturer first
Some manufacturers recommend against placing a baking tray inside a smoking device because it could cause damage to the unit.
We suggest checking with the manufacturer before attempting this yourself.
Remember that you can’t open the door while smoking
Another thing to remember when cooking with a baking tray inside a barbecue is that you can’t open the door while the smoker is running either.
Doing so could result in hot air and smoke escaping out of the front of the smoker.
What type of food can you smoke on a cookie sheet?
Sure, you can use a cookie sheet to smoke food but the best foods to smoke are meats and other foods such as:
- fish or seafood
Notice how I skipped the poultry. If you want to cook a smoked turkey or smoked chicken, it’s best not to use a baking pan for the task.
Chicken and rib racks
Instead, use special grilling racks for chicken, turkey, and other game fowl.
These grilling racks allow you to place the meat without it touching the aluminum pan or cookie sheet directly.
Doing so will prevent the skin from sticking and tearing when you remove it.
It also helps the heat to circulate better which leads to more even cooking. And, it allows the fat to render out better for crispier skin.
If you want to try smoking food on a cookie sheet, go ahead and give it a shot.
One of the best grilling racks includes the 3 in 1 Rib Rack Chicken Leg Rack for Smoking & Grilling which has plenty of space for chicken drumsticks, a whole chicken, and rib racks.
You can place the racks on the smoker’s cooking grates or on larger baking sheets.
Another multifunctional rack is the Cave Tools Chicken Wing & Leg Rack for Barbecue Grill Smoker. This one has a large rack for all chicken cuts but it also includes a large pan that doubles as a drip tray.
Therefore all the greasy drippings are collected in the pan. It’s just like a foil pan or drip pan but much better and more practical.
I’d even go as far as to say it’s better than the cookie sheet because you get a rack and the pan.
Can you bake In a smoker?
You can indeed bake in a smoker if you use the right type of pan or tray.
But, it’s important to note that baking in a smoker won’t give you the same crispy results as using an oven.
One of the best ways to do this is by preheating the smoker first. Once it reaches a certain temperature, remove the food from the smoker and finish it off in the oven.
What sort of things can you bake in a smoker?
Check out my recipe for delicious smoked chocolate chip cookies here!
Helpful tools to have for a smoker
When preparing food in a smoker, you’ll want to make sure you have all of these tools handy. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
- Tongs – Great for getting your food out quickly and turning over your meat.
- Knife – This is essential for cutting up large pieces of meat.
- Cutting Board – Place this under the meat to catch drips and spills.
- Spatula – Use this to flip your meat over during cooking.
- Scissors – These are useful for snipping herbs and other small ingredients.
- Food scale – Make sure you weigh everything before adding it to the smoker.
- BBQ Thermometer – Keep track of the internal temperatures of your meats throughout the entire process.
For product recommendations, see my top 22 of the best BBQ smoker accessories
Yes, you can definitely use a baking tray or cookie sheet in a smoker, as long as it is not too big that it infringes on the airflow, and that it’s made out of the right sort of material that can handle high temperatures.
Also, if you add cooling racks, there’s no difference between the smoke flavors compared to placing the meat directly on the grates.
Wash and look after your grilling and smoking equipment and it’ll last you a lifetime if you invest in good quality products!
A great way to keep your grill racks clean and still get a good singe on your meat if by using grill mats