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When it comes to grilling, there are as many types of grills to invest in as there are styles and ways to cook. But, is it possible to add that signature smoke flavor on a classic gas grill? Yes, and this is the ultimate guide to Smoking on a Gas Grill.
This post was sponsored by Western Wood; Thoughts and opinions are my own.
A common question friends always ask me, is what type of grill they should buy next. They are inspired and excited to get outside and try a new recipe or lured in by the spring displays at the local hardware store with a showroom full of new and shiny models of all the newest grill tech. Smokers with Bluetooth connections, pellet grills that you can manually program, griddles, electric smokers and a slew of new charcoal options. And I get it, I love good barbecue as much as the next guy.
But, it’s the mighty propane-fueled gas grill that can be your one and done tool that most people overlook as they dive from the casual griller to wanting to learn more of a barbecue mastery. Yep, you can indeed smoke food on a gas grill. With it’s controlled and even heat and steady fuel source, a propane/gas grill is a great way to add a variety of wood barbecue flavor to anything you can grill.
You just need a few tools, a trick or two, and some great wood chips to impress your friends with your new skills.
What you need to Smoke on a Gas Grill:
Converting your grill into a smoker is incredibly simple, but don’t tell anyone I told you that. All you need are a few basic tools – mainly because splashing wood chips through the grates would just result in a mess and some basic safety.
Tools to Turn your Gas Grill into a Smoker
- Squirt bottle of water
- Heat resistant gloves
- Digital Thermometer with grill safe probe
- Full propane tank
- Wood Chips
- Smoker box or homemade foil packet
What wood to use?
What wood to use isn’t a one size fits all answer. You want to pair the food you are cooking to the subtle flavor of the wood chips you use but with so many varieties out there its fun and a little overwhelming to pick. Here are some basic guides (but in no way a set in stone set of rules – playing with flavors is half of the fun).
- For a base all-purpose cooking wood, I love oak or hickory.
- Pair fish with cedar or alder. Occasionally I will play with cherry or pecan for fish as well.
- Pork and chicken go amazingly with pecan, maple, peach, cherry or apple.
- Beef goes wonderfully with hickory, mesquite, and even specialty chips like Jack Daniels Whiskey Barrel chips.
Should you soak your chips?
This is a question I see a ton! The classic debate, to soak or not soak. Welp, here’s the thing, soaked chips produce steam before smoke. I do not soak my chips. I do add a water pan to my grill to keep things humid, but I burn my chips dry.
How to Smoke on a Gas Grill:
Once you have gathered your supplies and stocked up on wood chips you want to prep your recipe and get the grates cleaned and the grill prepped for smoking. I pop a probe thermometer into the grill to read the ambient heat as often the metal on metal thermometers that come with the grill are not accurate and for longer smoked meats, we need to be sure we are hitting that low and slow point. We’re ready to convert that gas grill into a proper barbecue!
Pro Tip: Make sure you check your gas tank before grilling. Nothing is worse than losing your fuel source in the middle of a cook!
Set Up for Indirect Heat on a Gas Grill
Most propane grills have 3 to 4 burners that you can turn on and off with a knob. For barbecue, and particularly nailing that ideal smoked flavor, you want to create a radiant heat that circulates around the food allowing the food to cook slowly and absorb flavor by placing the heat source opposite the food.
In most cases, this will mean to turn 1 of 3 or 2 of 4 burners to your regulated temperate while the food sits over the other burner which is off.
Often for longer cooks, I will also set up a small aluminum pan with water, beer, or even apple cider vinegar in it to keep the environment moist while cooking.
Adding the Wood Chips:
With a Built-in Smoker Box:
If your grill has a built-in smoker box, place the chips in the box and, if the smoker box has a lid, secure it. Close the grill and allow the chips to preheat 5 to 10 minutes. When they are smoking, it’s go time.
With a Smoker Box:
Place the chips in the smoker box and place the box over the heat in the back corner of the grill, to give yourself the most useable cooking space. Close the grill and allow the chips to preheat 5 to 10 minutes.
With Aluminum Foil
My favorite method for gas grills is the foil packet, because it’s easy and can be done on any grill without any additional needs – except woodchips, we still need those.
Make the foil packet by placing ½ cup to 1 cup of wood chips in the center of a 9×12 sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Fold the long edges up, one at a time.
Fold the shorter edges in on themselves, like a burrito to secure the packet. I pinch the top shut but leave a 1 to 2” opening for smoke to escape.
You will have to add new wood chips every 30 minutes or so in a new packet as they do burn up. However, after 3 to 4 hours most meats have absorbed enough flavor that you can just let it continue to cook through.
With an Aluminium Tray
Start with a small 3×5” aluminum tray and add a cup of wood chips.
Tightly seal with aluminum foil and poke several slits into the foil to allow smoke to escape.
What can you smoke on a gas grill?
Now that you’ve converted that grill, what can you toss on the grates to infuse that signature flavor? Just about everything.
- Big cuts like turkeys and chickens take on a beautiful flavor and stay moist.
- Pork shoulder shreds into savory bite-sized bits for sandwiches, tacos, and quesadillas.
- Lamb makes amazing barbacoa.
- Beef roasts and tenderloin are even elevated when barbecued
- You can even make pastrami at home by smoking corned beef.
- Salmon, halibut, and other seafood cook up quick but taste amazing off the grill.
And of course, ribs are hard to beat any way but smoked.
Think outside the main recipes and try smoking the side dishes like
Now that you have the knowledge, go out and make some magic! Make sure you click through the recipe archives for even more inspiration and let me know in the comments below what you have made! I always love your feedback.
Hey, I’m Kita, the Meat Maven, outdoor junkie, campfire connoisseur, adventure-seeking and world traveled recipe developer and photographer behind GirlCarnivore.com. My mission is to break down savory eats and inspire you to get a little grit under your nails while having fun with your food. READ MORE