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How to Smoke on the Sapling

Jul 1, 2023 | Cooking with Maple, Our Company, Products and Customers

Multipurpose for multi-season fun

We love our Sapling Evaporator for making maple syrup in late winter and early spring. When we designed the Sapling, we set out to create an old-time, barrel-style evaporator to make maple syrup. Something beautiful, efficient, and easy to use. And we succeeded!

Then we thought to ourselves, “how can we make this beautiful piece of equipment useful all year round?” From there we designed the Sapling Grill Package, the Sapling Smoking Package, and the Sapling Wood-Fired Bread and Pizza Oven Package. We’ve since pushed the boundaries of what we can do on the Sapling from grilling and smoking, to making apple cider syrup, to baking bread, and even brewing beer. The possibilities are endless!

Smoking on the Sapling

Smoking on the sapling is fun and easy. The Sapling Smoking Package comes with grill grates, a grill lid, an efficiency baffle, and a damper. This is everything you need to make great smoked meats and veggies on your sapling.

You can smoke on the Sapling Everything Grill with wood or with charcoal. When smoking, make sure you leave enough time for proper setup. You need a minimum of 30 minutes to get your charcoal bed set and your chips smoking.

Grilling on the Sapling Evaporator

Sapling Smoking Setup

Setup of the smoking package on the sapling takes just a few easy steps. To learn more about how to install the damper and the grill lid, check out the Sapling Smoking Package Manual.

Once your damper and grill lid are set up on the smoker, it’s time to get started. We recommended getting set up in a few easy steps:

Step 1: Grab some wood chunks and water pans.

Wood chunks and chips can be found at hardware and agricultural stores, or even your own backyard. Trimmings from old apple trees on your own property work just as well as what you can get from the store.

It’s good to have a water pan or two in the Sapling to add moisture, especially for long, slow smokes.  Tin foil pans work great for this. We grabbed a few low-profile pans at our local supermarket.

Step 2: Soak the wood.

When starting up the Sapling, it’s a good idea to start the day by soaking wood chunks (better, in our opinion) or chips (also good) in a bucket of water.  We shoot for at least one hour, but longer is better.

Step 3: Position the Sapling for Smoking.

Set up your Sapling Everything Grill on a level, heatproof surface away from buildings. Then insert the Sapling Efficiency BaffleThe Baffle allows you to smoke food with indirect heat, thus helping you to smoke slowly, at a low temperature. Handily, it also holds the water pans. Insert your baffle into the barrel opening so that it is as far forward (toward the door) in the Sapling as you can get it.

You can also use this time to set up our ambient temperature thermometer. A critical part of smoking food is measuring the ambient temperature in the smoker, or the air temperature in your smoker. This isn’t technically necessary, but we find it’s a great way to ensure your food cooks “low and slow” for peak deliciousness!

Fire in Sapling smoker

Step 4: Prepare the Sapling for Smoke.

Place your full water pans on the baffle, and place the Sapling Grill Grates over the baffle and water pans. Heap charcoal in the front of the Sapling over a grate, fire brick, sand, or ash. Then ignite the coals, and when the coals have a light coating of grey ash, spread them out a bit in a circular pattern. Then place the soaked wood chunks on the coals through the door on the front of the Sapling. Close the front door, close the door vent, and close the damper (turn it horizontal, level with the ground). Wait 15 minutes or so for the smoke to fill the barrel and for the air in the smoker to come to the proper temperature.

Step 5: Tend to the smoke.

Every half hour or so, add some briquettes and wood chunks. Keep your eye on the ambient temperature and use the damper and front door vent to adjust for temperature.

Step 6: Finish and Enjoy!

Cook your meat or veggies until it reaches a safe temperature to eat! You can use a special grill/smoking thermometer inserted into your meat to watch the temperature, or you can use an old-fashioned meat thermometer to determine when your meal is done.

For veggies, we simply look for peak deliciousness like the onions, sweet potatoes, and peppers below!

Chicken and vegetables on the Sapling Smoker

Sapling Smoking Temperatures

A critical part of smoking food is measuring the ambient temperature in the smoker. Below we list several temperatures that we aim for when smoking some of our favorite things.

If you are curing bacon for example, you’ll want the ambient temperature to be somewhere in the range of 150°F to 160°F.

Sapling Evaporator with chicken on it

Maple Cured Bacon: Cure 8 lbs. pork belly in the refrigerator for two weeks with 6 tablespoons sea salt, 1/3 cup maple syrup, and 1 1/2 teaspoons curing salt, flipping the meat after a week. Rinse, pat dry, and smoke at 150 degrees or lower on your Sapling  Everything Grill for 2 hours. Store in the refrigerator or freezer for at least a day before slicing, cooking, and eating!

For smoking fish, you’ll want a temperature of around 170°F to 200°F. Making fish on a cedar plank, like the picture below is one of our favorite ways to smoke fish. You’ll need to soak the plank for 15-30 minutes in water so that it’s fully soaked. While smoking, the plank heats up, and moisture and some of that cedar flavor go directly into the fish. Yum!

Maple Soy Salmon on a Cedar Plank For the maple soy glaze, mix equal parts soy sauce and maple together. You can add some garlic for flavor and some hot sauce for a bit of a kick! Our favorite hot sauce to add is Siracha.

If you are smoking chicken, pork, or ribs, you’ll want the ambient temperature to be at about  225°F to 250°F.

House Maple BBQ Sauce: Mix maple syrup, ketchup, and apple cider vinegar in equal parts. Add Worcestershire sauce and red pepper flakes to taste. Brush sauce on whatever you are smoking on your Sapling Everything Grill, and serve more at the table!

We’ve been able to smoke at all 3 of the above temperatures on our own Sapling at home. It takes some practice, but it’s a favorite of ours for big parties, special date nights, and the bacon…… oh, the bacon!

Tips for Smoking on the Sapling

Recently, we were lucky enough to spend the day dry rub smoking on the Sapling Everything Grill with Mark Lawler, a specialty food maker, and founder of Vermont’s own & Maple. He enjoyed smoking on the Sapling so much, that we left it for him to practice with, and he gave us some advice for smoking on the Sapling. Mark recommends keeping the heat lower for longer by making a char log fire in the back of the unit and allowing the fire to “snake” forward by means of a curvy line of char logs running the length of the barrel.

Sapling Everything Grill with charcoal


Person eating smoked ribs



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