Read through the recipe carefully before you start. Some recipes require seasoning or marinating the food in advance; other recipes suggest you brine the food or take them to room temperature before smoking.
Make sure the smoker parts are clean and dry before you start.
Sprinkle the amount and type of wood chip you have chosen over the center of the bottom of the smoker, covering an area roughly the size of your burner.
Put the drip pan in place. Always line the drip pan with a single layer of aluminum foil. This cuts cleanup time in half.
Arrange whatever item(s) you are smoking on the rack. Newer smoker models have nonstick racks; older racks should be sprayed with vegetable cooking spray to prevent sticking and make for easier clean up.
Be sure to leave space between items on the rack and between the food and the sides of the smoker.
Close the lid about two-thirds of the way and center the smoker over a burner. Turn the heat to medium.
When you see the first signs of smoking rising from under the drip pan, close the lid securely and start timing.
Check the food for doneness at the time suggested in the recipe. Wear oven mitts or protect your hands with sturdy pot holders, grasp the handles firmly with one hand and slide the lid off with the other. Test the food as quickly as possible (with an instant-read thermometer or other methods suggested in the recipe) and slide the lid closed quickly if it needs more cooking time.
When the food is ready, turn off the heat and remove the lid of the smoker, unless a recipe directs you to leave it on for a specified amount of time.
Recipe courtesy of Christopher Styler, Smokin', HarperCollins, 2004