A smoker is a great backyard addition – it adds more flavor to your grilling, keeps the cooking heat outside, adds to your backyard entertainment, and once you learn how, they’re easy to use. When you’re trying to decide if this is an addition you want to make, one thing you might want to know is can you use a smoker on a screened-in porch?
Much of the advice available says that with proper precautions, using an electric smoker on your porch is fine. You do need to make sure there is a good cross-ventilation situation, and that you always keep fire safety in mind.
Smokers vary widely when it comes to smoke output and fire risk. Electric smokers have a lower risk both of fire and of smoke stains. They are well-sealed and -insulated, so they keep most of the smoke and heat on the inside. This makes them a good choice for a screened-in porch.
Gas and charcoal smokers have higher smoke output and, like any open-flame cooking, greater fire risks, as well. These drawbacks don’t necessarily mean that porch grilling is out, but they do mean that more preparations need to be made and precautions taken before your first smoke.
Is it Safe to Use a Smoker on a Screened Porch
Regardless of where you choose to put your smoker, it’s important to keep fire safety in mind. In addition to making sure the smoker is well-insulated and -ventilated, any flammable objects should be kept well away from the smoker.
Make sure to keep a close eye on your smoker and be aware of the temperature. There are wireless thermometers and various apps that can help you monitor when you are not watching directly.
Also be sure to keep a properly working fire extinguisher nearby. Grease fires can quickly get out of control, so to avoid a scary emergency make sure you’re prepared with tested fire suppression equipment.
Is Smoking Food on a Porch Legal
In many places there are laws about where you can have a grill or smoker, how close to your house or to permanent structures like fences. Particularly with gas and charcoal smokers it’s important to check with the local authorities to make sure that you are placing it legally. Often single family homes are exempt from some of the more limiting restrictions, but it’s a good idea to check those that affect your area.
Apartment complexes, condos, and homeowners associations may also have additional regulations regarding whether you can have smokers and where you can put them. These will often be to ensure both safety and community living, since the smoke can bother your neighbors.
Where Should You Put Your Smoker
The size of your porch is one of the first factors you will need to take into account when deciding whether you can use a smoker on a screened-in porch. Depending on the smoker, the recommended placement distances are 3 to 5 feet from house walls and surfaces and 10 feet from flammable objects like wood piles or nylon screens or ignition points like pilot lights or water heaters. This will mean that you need to have enough space on your porch to safely place the smoker.
That ten feet also likely includes the ceiling, depending on what it’s made out of. If it’s a flammable material, you should have ceilings that are pretty high. Heat rises and grills and smokers put out an incredible amount of radiant heat. Soot and fat can also build up on the ceiling and create a fire risk.
Your porch flooring material is also something to consider when you’re finding a place for your smoker. If the floor of your porch is cement you should be fine, but if the flooring is wood or composite, you should get a fire-safe pad to put under your smoker. There are several that are designed especially for grills and smokers.
Another consideration is what is on the other side of your porch walls. Even with open screened sides, some smoke will still collect on the porch, especially around the ceiling and walls. If the house walls are not well insulated, that smoke may also make its way inside through the siding and create a smelly situation inside the house.
Can The Smoke Damage The Porch Screens
When considering your screened-in porch for a smoker location, the kind of screens you have is another critical consideration. Nylon screens have a pretty low melting point, at around 200℃/390℉, so if your smoker is going to be close to the screen of your porch, fiberglass or aluminum are better choices for fire safety, even if you don’t plan on running it that hot.
For a good cross-ventilation system, you are going to want screens on more than one side. In reality, fire-safe screens on at least three sides is the best situation for a smoker on your porch.
Even with screens for ventilation, if your smoker is one that is going to be producing a lot of smoke, it’s a good idea to have an external vent or fan set up to make sure the smoke is being moved outside the porch. Without ventilation moving the smoke out, it can pool on the ceiling of your porch and cause staining, and may even cause carbon monoxide buildup.
Staining can still be a problem even if your smoker is well-ventilated. You will likely need to clean the nearby screens, ceiling, and supports with a power washer at least once a year, and structural elements will probably also need to be repainted regularly.
Smoking meat often attracts some unwelcome guests to the barbeque. Flies and mosquitos are often found swarming around smoking meat, making screens a big plus when you’ve got that smoker going. In some places health regulations actually require meat smokers to be enclosed by screens, due to the presence of flies.
Electric, Gas, or Charcoal Smoker
While precautions should be taken with all smokers, there are differences between the available types of smoker.
Electric smokers are easiest to use, so they are great for beginners. They are also the safest for porch use, and since they need a power source and should in fact be kept out of the rain and damp, a porch situation is often ideal for these smokers.
When it comes to porch use, the issues that gas and charcoal smokers bring are very similar. Both cook at higher temperatures than electric models, and both put out more smoke, though gas is not as bad a charcoal in that regard. Due to the higher heat and the open flames, both require more safety precautions in general, and particularly in regard to positioning.
Fuel is another factor to keep in mind. With a charcoal smoker, you not only need space for the smoker, but also for the fuel. Propane and charcoal can also quickly add to your expenses, depending on how often you are using your smoker.
A smoker is a great addition to delicious backyard cooking. We’ve had a look at the factors that go into answering the important question of can you use a smoker on a screened-in porch. The various situations we’ve outlined here will hopefully help you make the choice that’s right for you.