What Are Racks in a Smoker? A Complete Guide to Types and Materials

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 27, 2022

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Racks are specialized accessories designed to hold food a certain way, freeing up space on the grill grates and allowing you to cook multiple items at the same time. Rib racks hold ribs in a vertical position, while jalapeno popper racks prevent them from slipping off the grill grates. Oyster racks are heavy duty and perfect for smoking oysters, while grilling baskets (here are the best ones) hold small items like vegetables and shrimp.

With racks, you can expand your cooking game and maximize the space on the grill, making them an essential tool for any BBQ enthusiast.

What is a grill rack

Grilling Racks: The Essential Tool for Maximizing Your BBQ Menu

If you’re looking to expand your outdoor cooking game, having a set of grilling racks is a must. These specialized accessories are designed to hold food in a certain way, freeing up space on your grill grates and allowing you to cook more items at once. Not only does this save time, but it also maximizes the space on your grill and allows you to experiment with new culinary creations.

The Best Types of Grilling Racks

When considering grilling racks, there are a few different types to choose from. Here are some of the best options:

  • Rib racks: These are designed to hold ribs in a vertical position, allowing them to cook evenly and freeing up space on your grill grates.
  • Jalapeno popper racks: These are thin, specialized racks designed to hold jalapeno poppers in place while they cook.
  • Oyster racks: These are heavy-duty racks designed to hold oysters in a bed of coals, allowing them to bathe in the delicious smoke and fire.
  • Grilling baskets: These are usually made of thin gauge wire and are designed to hold small items like vegetables or shrimp, preventing them from slipping through the grill grates.

How to Use Grilling Racks

Using grilling racks is simple. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Lay your food on the rack, making sure it’s spread out evenly.
  • Place the rack on the grill, either directly over the coals or on the grill grates.
  • If you’re using a rib rack, make sure the ribs are facing the right way to get those bold sear marks.
  • If you’re using an oyster rack, cover it with a lid to keep the heat and smoke in.
  • If you’re using a grilling basket, make sure to stir the food occasionally to ensure even cooking.

Exploring the Different Types of Racks in Grills and Smokers

One of the most essential types of racks in grills and smokers are grates and ridges. These types of racks hold items like beef, brisket, and other meat, allowing them to cook evenly and preserve their flavorful juices. They also allow smoke to directly penetrate the meat, giving it that intense, smoky flavor that chefs and food enthusiasts love.

Smoking Racks

Smoking racks are another type of rack that is incredibly important when smoking meat. These racks are designed to hold meat in a way that ensures uniform smoking and heat distribution. They are also ideal for smoking smaller items like fish or vegetables, making it easier to handle them and remove them from the smoker.

Double Racks

Double racks are a convenient feature for larger smokers. They allow you to smoke more meat at once, making the job faster and more efficient. They also ensure that the meat is cooked evenly, regardless of its position in the smoker.

Pan Racks

Pan racks are used to hold disposable aluminum pans that are used to catch drippings and preserve the flavor of the smoked meat. They are placed directly under the meat and are an important feature to pay attention to when selecting a smoker. Some smokers come with pan racks, while others require you to purchase them separately.

Instructions and Recommendations

Regardless of the type of rack you use, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations. This will ensure that the meat is cooked to the right temperature and that it is safe to eat. It will also lead to a more flavorful and acceptable finished product.

Height and Door Clearance

When selecting a smoker, it is important to pay attention to the height and door clearance. Some smokers have racks that are too close together, making it difficult to remove the meat without burning yourself. Others have inferior racks that lead to uneven cooking and a less flavorful finished product. Make sure to select a smoker with the right height and door clearance to ensure that you can cook your meat the right way.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, the different types of racks in grills and smokers are essential for cooking meat the right way. Grates and ridges hold the meat in place and allow smoke to penetrate it, while smoking racks ensure uniform smoking and heat distribution. Double racks are convenient for larger smokers, and pan racks are important for preserving the flavor of the smoked meat. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations, as well as the height and door clearance of the smoker, to ensure that you can cook your meat the right way and enjoy a flavorful and delicious finished product.

The Home Depot Events: Get Your Smoking Racks Ready!

If you’re serious about smoking, you need a serious smoker. The Masterbuilt Smoker is the perfect tool for smoking your favorite meats to perfection. With its digital controls and built-in meat thermometer, you can easily monitor the temperature and cooking time of your meat. Plus, it comes with multiple racks so you can smoke multiple items at once.

Ridges and Grates: The Secret to Perfectly Smoked Meats

The key to perfectly smoked meats is even heat distribution. That’s where the ridges and grates on your smoking racks come in. These features help to hold your items in place and allow for better airflow, resulting in more evenly cooked meats. Whether you’re smoking a tenderloin or a rack of ribs, make sure to use the right rack with the right ridges and grates.

Hold Your Items with Ease

Smoking can be a messy business, but with the right racks, you can hold your items with ease. Whether you’re smoking fish, vegetables, or fruits, there’s a rack that can hold it all. And if you’ve previously smoked something that left a sticky residue, don’t worry. Just give your rack a good scrub with a wire brush and it’ll be good as new.

Jefflearn’s Tips for Smoking Success

If you’re new to smoking, don’t worry. Jefflearn has got you covered. Here are some of his top tips for smoking success:

  • Always preheat your smoker before adding your meat.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure your meat is cooked to the right temperature.
  • Don’t peek! Every time you open the smoker, you let out heat and smoke.
  • Let your meat rest after smoking to allow the juices to redistribute.

With these tips and the right smoking racks, you’ll be smoking like a pro in no time. So head to The Home Depot Events and get your smoking game on!

What’s in a Rack? The Materials Used in Smoker Racks

Wooden racks are less common than metal racks, but they can be a great option for smoking certain types of food. Cedar and hickory are popular choices for wooden smoker racks because they add a unique flavor to the food being smoked.

Wooden racks are typically custom-made to fit the size of your smoker. They are not as durable as metal racks and require more maintenance to keep them in good condition. Wooden racks should be soaked in water before use to prevent them from catching fire during the smoking process.

Combination Racks

Combination racks are made from both metal and wood. They offer the best of both worlds, with the durability and heat resistance of metal and the flavor-enhancing properties of wood.

Combination racks can be custom-made to fit the size of your smoker and are available in a range of sizes. They are a great option for those who want to experiment with different flavors while still having a durable rack that can withstand high temperatures.

Choosing the Right Rack for Your Smoker: A Culinary Art

When it comes to smoking meat, having the right tools can make all the difference. And one tool that can make or break your smoking game is the rack. So, does it matter which rack you use in a smoker? The short answer is yes. Here’s why:

  • Different types of racks can allow for more even heat distribution, which is essential for proper cooking.
  • Some racks feature ridges or grates that can be used to hold smaller items such as fish, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Using the wrong rack can result in bad cooking results, such as unevenly cooked meat or burnt food.
  • Certain types of racks are better suited for certain types of meat. For example, a rib rack is great for smoking ribs, while a brisket rack is best for smoking beef brisket.
  • Having the right rack can also make adding sauce or seasoning to your food easier, as it can spread evenly across the meat while it’s smoking.

Types of Racks and Accessories

Now that we know that the right rack is essential for proper smoking, let’s take a look at the different types of racks and accessories available:

  • Grilling Racks: These are usually thin and can be used for grilling or smoking. They are great for holding smaller items such as jalapeno poppers or oysters.
  • Rib Racks: These are specialized racks designed to hold ribs vertically, allowing for more even cooking and better smoke penetration.
  • Brisket Racks: These are designed to hold large pieces of meat such as beef brisket, allowing for more even heat distribution and better smoke penetration.
  • Smoker Racks: These are usually included with your smoker and are designed to fit perfectly inside the smoker. They come in different sizes and can be used to hold different types of meat.
  • Accessories (here are the best ones for your smoker): There are also specialized accessories such as expandable racks, which can be used to hold more items, and grates, which can be used to create bold sear marks on your meat.

Choosing the Best Rack for You

Now that we know the different types of racks and accessories available, how do we choose the best one for us? Here are some things to consider:

  • Space: How much space do you have in your smoker? Make sure to choose a rack that fits inside your smoker.
  • Meat: What type of meat are you smoking? Choose a rack that is best suited for that type of meat.
  • Time: How much time do you have? Some racks can help speed up the cooking process, while others require more time.
  • Budget: How much are you willing to spend? Some racks are worth the investment, while others are simply not necessary.
  • New or Used: Are you looking for a new rack or a used one? Used racks can be a great way to save money, but make sure to inspect them carefully before buying.

Expert Tips from the Masters

Finally, let’s hear from the masters. Here are some expert tips on using racks in your smoker:

  • Lay your meat on a bed of coals for a bold sear.
  • Use a gas smoker for more control over the heat.
  • Use ridges or grates to create sear marks on your meat.
  • Stay away from thin racks that can slip and cause your food to fall.
  • When smoking tenderloin, stop the cooking process by covering it with foil and letting it rest for a few minutes.
  • When on a shopping spree for smoker accessories, always listen to your culinary muse whispering in your ear about the new menu items you want to try.
  • When smoking, don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of racks and accessories to find the right set up for you.

Our Guide to Choosing the Best Smoker Rack for Your Barbecue Needs

When looking for a smoker rack, there are a few key features to keep in mind:

  • Quality construction: Look for racks made from strong, durable materials like stainless steel or wire.
  • Ability to hold meat: Make sure the rack is large enough to hold the amount of meat you want to smoke.
  • Even cooking: Check that the rack allows for proper air flow and even cooking.
  • Easy to clean: Look for racks that are dishwasher safe or easy to clean by hand.

Different Types of Smoker Racks

There are a few different types of smoker racks to choose from:

  • Grilling racks: These are designed for use on a grill and are great for smaller dishes like wings or jerky.
  • Vertical racks: These allow for multiple levels of cooking space and are great for larger groups or dishes like chicken or roasts.
  • Drip pan racks: These include a pan to catch juices and make it easier to save them for sauce or gravy.
  • Unifit replacement racks: These are designed to fit specific smoker models and offer a solid replacement option for damaged or worn-out parts.

The Benefits of Using a Smoker Rack

Using a smoker rack offers a lot of benefits for your barbecue:

  • More space: Racks allow you to create more space in your smoker, so you can smoke more meat at once.
  • Even cooking: Racks help to evenly distribute heat and smoke, so your meat cooks more evenly.
  • Better airflow: Racks allow for better air flow, which means your meat will be smoked more thoroughly.
  • Safe and easy: Racks make it easier to handle your meat and keep it safe from contamination.

Top Smoker Rack Models on the Market

Here are some of the best smoker rack models available:

  • Pit Boss Series 3 Vertical Pellet Smoker: This smoker offers a lot of space and includes multiple racks for smoking different dishes at once.
  • Unifit Replacement Stainless Steel Smoker Rack: This rack is designed to fit a variety of different smoker models and is made from high-quality stainless steel.
  • Weber 22-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker: This smoker includes multiple racks and a drip pan, and is designed to hold a lot of meat at once.
  • Char-Broil Big Easy Smoker Roaster Grill: This versatile tool allows you to smoke, grill, and roast all in one, and includes multiple racks for smoking larger dishes like beef brisket or pork shoulder.

What’s the Deal with Rib Racks?

A rib rack is a cooking accessory that allows you to cook ribs vertically in your smoker or grill. It’s a metal frame with slots that hold the ribs in place, allowing you to cook more ribs at once by utilizing the vertical space in your smoker or grill.

Types of Rib Racks

There are several types of rib racks available on the market, including:

  • V-Shaped Rib Racks: These racks hold the ribs in a V-shape, which allows for more smoke exposure and even cooking.
  • L-Shaped Rib Racks: These racks hold the ribs in an L-shape, which is useful for larger cuts of meat like brisket or pork shoulder.
  • Adjustable Rib Racks: These racks can be adjusted to hold different sizes of ribs or meat.

Recipes for Using a Rib Rack

If you’re looking to try out your new rib rack, here are some recipes to get you started:

  • Steven Raichlen’s Beer-Can Chicken with Rib Rack: This recipe combines two classic BBQ dishes into one delicious meal.
  • Smoked Spareribs with Rib Rack: This recipe uses a rib rack to smoke spareribs to perfection.
  • Ribeye Roast with Rib Rack: This recipe uses an L-shaped rib rack to cook a ribeye roast to perfection.

Positioning Your Ribs: Top or Bottom Rack?

When it comes to smoking ribs, the positioning of the rack in the smoker can make all the difference in achieving the desired result. The way the meat is positioned can affect the way the smoke and heat penetrate the meat, resulting in a tender and flavorful cut of meat. It’s important to consider the type of smoker you’re using, the temperature, and the specific cut of meat you’re cooking.

What is the Recommended Method for Smoking Ribs?

Generally, it is recommended to place the ribs on the top rack of the smoker. This allows the ribs to receive more direct heat, which can help them cook more quickly and evenly. Placing the ribs on the top rack also gives them a chance to get crispier and browner, which can add to the flavor. Additionally, the top rack allows the smoke to circulate around the meat, resulting in a smoky flavor that permeates the meat.

What are the Downsides of Placing Ribs on the Top Rack?

While placing ribs on the top rack has its benefits, there are also downsides to consider. The top rack is usually positioned closer to the heat source, which can cause the outside of the meat to cook too quickly, resulting in tough and dry meat. Additionally, the top rack is usually oriented in a way that the meat is facing downward, which can cause the fat to render and drip onto the lower rack, potentially exposing the meat to too much heat and limiting the protection provided by the rack.

What’s the Best Way to Position Ribs in a Smoker?

The decision of whether to place ribs on the top or bottom rack of a smoker will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of smoker, the temperature, and the specific cut of meat being cooked. Here are some tips to help you make the best decision:

  • Consider the type of smoker you’re using and how it maintains temperature.
  • Check the temperature of the smoker regularly to ensure that it stays within the desired range.
  • Let the ribs rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute.
  • Use a rib rack to allow for multiple cuts of meat to be smoked at once.
  • Flip the ribs halfway through the smoking process to ensure even cooking.
  • Point the bones of the ribs downward to provide protection for the meat.
  • Adjust the rack downward if the meat is cooking too quickly.
  • Use wood chips to increase the smoky flavor of the meat.
  • Make sure the meat is oriented in a way that allows the smoke to penetrate evenly.
  • Ensure that the fat is facing upward to allow it to render and baste the meat.
  • Use a lower temperature to allow the meat to cook more slowly and become more tender.
  • Provide support for the meat to prevent it from falling apart.
  • Limit the amount of exposure to the heat source to prevent the meat from becoming tough.

In the end, the decision of whether to place ribs on the top or bottom rack of a smoker will depend on your specific needs and preferences. By considering the factors listed above and experimenting with different methods, you can achieve the maximum results and enjoy a nice, smoky flavor in your cooked meat.

Where to Smoke Your Brisket: Top or Bottom Rack?

When it comes to smoking brisket, the top rack is your friend. The heat distribution in a smoker is always more intense at the bottom, so placing your brisket on the top rack helps to improve the quality of the brisket because it allows for more even cooking. This is thanks to the even heat distribution throughout the oven. Here are some benefits of using the top rack for your brisket:

  • Even heat distribution: The top rack ensures that your brisket is cooked evenly, which is essential for a perfect result.
  • Better bark (here’s how to get it on your BBQ): The top rack allows the brisket to develop a better bark, which is the crispy outer layer that forms during smoking. This is because the heat is less intense on the top rack, allowing the bark to form without burning.
  • More smoke: The top rack is closer to the smoke source, which means that your brisket will absorb more smoke flavor.

Bottom Rack: Intense Heat for Faster Cooking

While the top rack is ideal for even cooking, the bottom rack is perfect if you’re short on time. The intense heat at the bottom of the smoker means that your brisket will cook faster. Here are some benefits of using the bottom rack for your brisket:

  • Faster cooking: The intense heat at the bottom of the smoker means that your brisket will cook faster, which is ideal if you’re short on time.
  • More intense smoke: The bottom rack is closer to the smoke source, which means that your brisket will absorb more intense smoke flavor.
  • Aluminum foil protection: If you’re worried about the bottom of your brisket burning, you can wrap it in aluminum foil to protect it from the intense heat.


So, that’s what racks are for in a smoker. They help you cook your food better and faster, and they make your life a lot easier. 

Racks are an essential tool for maximizing your BBQ menu and looking expand your outdoor cooking game. So, don’t be afraid to explore the world of grilling racks and discover new culinary possibilities!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.