How to catch dripping in a smoker?

Catching drippings in a smoker from nice cuts of meat for several reasons. Some you may not have even contemplated. This article was put together to convince you, that you should consider it and ultimately how to catch drippings in a smoker the right way.

Before we go much further not every smoker is designed in a way that you catch dripping easily without them just burning away. For example in a kettle-style BBQ like a Weber master touch, it can be done. But the close proximity of the lit charcoal to the meat can result in no drippings left at the end of smoke.

I’ve got some tips for that but firstly, why go through the extra effort.

Why should you catch drippings from a smoker?

There are 2 very good reasons why you catch drippings in a smoker if you haven’t done it before. One is probably the reason you’re here in the first place. The drippings are fat being released from the meat which will continuously drip as the fat content within the meat slowly breaks down during smoking.

Kept for cooking

Catching the drippings from the smoker to use in sauces, gravies, cooking oil and basting liquid are just a few of the main uses for dripping when caught. Imagine some nice beef dripping with the smoky taste from the BBQ in a gravy.

Cleanliness

Catching drippings in a smoker, keeps the smoker cleaner resulting in less hands on work cleaning the BBQ later on. Hard baked meat fat drippings require some effort to remove and catching them in a foil tray can save a lot of time later on. Regardless of if you will consider eating them or not catching them saves cleaning time.

How to catch drippings in a smoker?

There are a few different ways to catch drippings in a smoker but depending on the style of smoker you have will depend on how you do it.

Offset smoker

Offset smokers have a seperate food cooking area to the fire chamber so place a foil tray or even a roasting dish below the rack with the meat on. Just because of the nature of how an offset smoker works the drippings tend not to burn into the foil tray and actually result in more left at the end of a smoke session.

Bullet smokers/Ugly drum smokers

Both of these style smokers are typically the same in that there multiple racks with charcoal kept right at the bottom in a basket. Next is usually a diffuser or water pan and then several racks on top. Placing the meat on the very top rack and a dripping tray on the next rack down is the best way to do it.

Kettle style BBQ

There is more than one way catch drippings in a kettle style BBQ but mostly used is to place a dripping tray next to the charcoal on the same level as the charcoal, with the meat placed over the tray so that you are smoking in an indirect method.

However the downfall with this is that because the tray is so close to the charcoal the drippings burn away quite quickly when smoking at higher temperatures. Especially if smoking a cut of meat that doesn’t release as much fat.

Another method that helps to overcome the issue of the drippings burning away so quickly is to still arrange the grill in an indirect method. Place a deep roasting dish with either a raised rack inside to keep the meat elevated from the bottom of the dish or balance a grill rack on top of the roasting dish and place the meat on top. Check that the BBQ lid clears the meat when closed. Placing the roasting dish on the top grate so that the charcoal is as far away from the tray as possible.

Which meat should you catch the drippings?

You should consider catching dripping from pretty much all meats in the smoker. There are a lot of uses for beef, pork, and poultry drippings. The drippings are a by-product of the meat which contains a lot of flavor that can and should be used.

What do you do with smoker drippings?

Depending on which meat, each meat smoker drippings has its unique uses. Just straight using the liquid dripping to baste the meat while it’s in the smoker is a simple great use of all drippings caught in the smoker.

Drippings-for-roast-potatos

Beef drippings

Beef drippings from very large cuts such as chuck or brisket can yield a lot of fatty juices. Once cooled there will be white a fat layer on the top which can be used as cooking oil great for roast potatoes as substitutes for lard or oil. The brown liquid underneath can be used in gravy, and sauces and added with other ingredients to make beef stock or a beef broth.

Pork drippings

Pork cuts such as butt or shoulder will give a considerable amount of fatty fluid. The best use for these fluids is to keep them aside, it will freeze in an air-tight container or bag. Use this dripping to re-heat pulled pork the next day to inject a bit of lost moisture when reheating pork.

Alternatively, pork drippings can be cooled and used as the fat content when home-making sausages.

Poultry drippings

Poultry such as chicken or turkey gives off quite a lot of drippings which can be used to make stunning gravies/jus or even used in soups or used for stock. Smoked Turkey drippings are great for basting turkey in the smoker, and the added woody smoke flavor is a tasty benefit.

Final thoughts

The last point to raise is smoker drippings such as fat should not be disposed of down the sink, the fat will solidify and block the drain systems. If you are choosing not to use the fat drippings for consumption they should be disposed of correctly in the same way as you dispose of cooking oil.

Now you know how to catch drippings in a smoker and experiment with its uses. A small amount can add an extra smoky meat punch to sauces. Smoker drippings from all of the meats above freeze and last for a very long time so there is no reason to throw it out.