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How To Turn Your Gas Grill Into A Smoker Like A Pro

Owning a gas grill allows you to produce a plethora of grilled meals for you and others to enjoy. What you may not know is that your gas grill is also capable of being converted into a smoker. But how do you do it?

Turning your gas grill into a temporary smoker isn’t complicated.  It only takes a few wood chips soaked in water.  Place the wood chips in an aluminum tray or foil and put them just within reach of direct flames.  By adjusting your heat level and grate position, you can get enough smoke to boost the flavor of any grilled meat.

As you can see, it isn’t as hard as you might think. Let’s dive deeper and explore some other methods you should try based on your gas grill model and personal preferences.

Can all gas grills be used as a smoker

Generally, most gas grills are capable of being used as a smoker. However, some may work better than others. Also, you should consider what the primary purpose of your new grill will be. If you mostly intend to barbecue and only want to add a hint of smokiness on occasion, you’ll appreciate the flexibility. On the other hand, anyone needing a smoker on a regular basis will be better off using an actual smoker rather than a converted one.

The steps required to turn your gas grill into a smoker will vary depending on the number of burners that your grill has. For example, if you have a gas grill that uses 3 burners, it is best to have one of the far-sided burners set to medium, the other side off (as this will be the indirect heat source), and the middle burner set on low.

Another setup with grills that contains an even number of burners such as 2 or 4 is to turn off half of the burners on one side while leaving the other half on high or medium.

How to set up your gas grill for smoking

To setup your gas grill for smoking, you need wood chips. Smaller wood chips are excellent for producing smoke quicker when the smoking sessions are shorter (about 30-40 minutes). However, when you’re smoking something like a brisket, you need longer smoking times so larger wood chunks are a better option. Wood chunks provide hours of smoke when placed just right and they can even help stabilize temperatures and maintain a bit of moisture.

Gas grill smoking steps

Before smoking any meat in a gas grill, it is suggested to soak your wood chips in water for 30 minutes to an hour. Soaking allows for a slow smolder that releases smoke over a longer period of time. There is some debate though on whether you need to soak wood chips at all. I say experiment with both soaked and dry chips to find out for yourself.

Next, use an aluminum tray to hold the soaked wood chips. A tray gives the wood chips a place to sit on while adding a barrier between the wood and direct flame. Since we want the chips or chunks to smolder and smoke, you need to put the tray near a low flame. This is where a multi-burner grill is essential.

At a minimum, you’ll want a 2 burner gas grill to make the smoking process more effective. A 3 burner grill is even better. Try putting one burner at the lowest possible setting and placing the wood tray over it. Place your meat on the unlit portion of the grill.

The goal is to produce enough heat to cook the meat low and slow. This may mean adjusting the burner settings, grate positions, and experimenting with meat and wood chip placement.

Regardless of how you ultimately setup the grill, make sure your grill can maintain a low temperature of 195–225 degrees Fahrenheit so it cooks the meat properly.

How do you monitor the temperature in a gas grill accurately

Once you have started smoking your meat, you need to keep an eye on the temperature and adjust it when necessary. If you have a gas grill that has a built-in thermometer, use it. However, if you do not have a gas grill with this feature, there are a couple methods to ensure cooking temperatures are where they need to be.

Hand test

The first method is using the “hand” technique but it is not very accurate, as you can’t determine the exact temperature of the gill with your hand. But you can get close enough. Place your hand about 3 inches from the grill. If you can keep it there between 7-9 seconds, you may need to increase the temperature. If you can only keep it near the grill for 2-4 seconds, you will likely need to lower the temperature.

Instant-read meat probe

You can also use a probe thermometer to check the temperature of your grill but this has issues too. A probe thermometer connected via wire to a digital display can be used to measure the internal temperature of meat being smoked or the heat of the grill itself. Ultimately, you should monitor both but start with dialing in the low temperature setting on your grill first.

Instead of measuring the grill’s surface temperature, you need to measure the heat inside the closed grill. This means you don’t want the temperature probe making contact with the metal grill. You also don’t want to get the probe cable caught in a flame. I use a balled up piece of foil as a stand for the probe and place it on the indirect heat side of the grill. This gives a fairly accurate reading of the internal temperature.

Keep in mind, that once you figure out the right settings for a slow smoke on your grill, you don’t need to monitor the grill’s temperature as closely. At that point, it is more important to use the temperature probe to watch the internal temperature of the meat being cooked.

How to use wood chips on a grill

When it comes to using wood chips, timing is important. Primarily, understand that the wood chips/chunks should be put on the grill before the meat. You need the wood to heat up and start producing smoke. Make sure to lower the heat immediately when you see signs of smoke to avoid flare up. Now add your meat to the grill and dial in the cooking temperature. Adding your meat before the chips makes it challenging to control the cook time and temperature inside the grill.

Place the wood chips/chunks in an aluminum tray or a smoker box. If you do not have a tray for the wood chips, layer aluminum sheets on the bottom of the grill. A smoker box greatly enhances the smoking process since that is what it’s designed to do.

Other than that, any method of placing your wood chips/chunks will get the job done. Also, for larger meat products, wood chunks are favored over chips to extend smoking time. You can also punch a few holes in the aluminum encasing the wood chips to help exhaust smoke gradually.

Finally, a pellet smoker tube is a fantastic option for simplifying the gas grill smoking process. It’s similar to the smoker box, but instead of chips, you can use pellets. You don’t soak the pellets and they produce a more even smoke.

Do I need to soak wood chips for a gas grill

You absolutely can soak the wood chips you will be using in a gas grill, but it is not required. According to a friend who helped me gain more insight about using wood chips in gas grills, soaking the wood chips will make the wood chips last longer but it can also add unwanted moisture to the grill. It is technically better to skip the soaking process if you just want a quick blast of smoke for a touch of smokey flavor as opposed to doing low-and-slow cooking.

Also, water soaked chips prolong the heating process. I also think that the quality of the finished smoked meat is less than ideal. In the end, using unsoaked wood is better for the meat’s quality in taste and appearance. If you care about the wood’s longevity, you may consider soaking it and then proceed with the same process.

Do smoker boxes work on a grill

Smoker boxes are excellent at producing even smoke from wood chips or chunks, and they can be used on almost any gas grill. Though not required, they are a great option if you have or want to use one. As with a regular aluminum foil, treat the smoker box with care and make sure any flare-ups are avoided when you see the first sign of smoke. Smoker boxes are simple, easy to use and convenient.

There are two types of smoker boxes: stick-burner and embedded. The stick-burner smoker box is the traditional smoker box that is separate from the gas grill. It therefore allows you to choose where to place it in the grill and what wood to place in it.

Embedded smoker boxes are built into your grill, so you don’t have a choice as to where it goes. Since it is built-in, minimal cleaning is required and you won’t have to purchase one separately. But I would prefer having the ability to dial in my smoking setup with a moveable smoker box.

Will a gas grill smoke all types of meats

You can smoke any type of meat in your gas grill smoker as long as it can fit into the grill and still be a reasonable distance from the heat and allows for the proper use of wood chips. The type of meat you smoke will depend on your personal preferences and what you think will taste good when smoked. Meat types such as beef, wild game, pork, and poultry are commonly smoked.

Always make sure that smoked meat is fully cooked before eating. Undercooked pork or poultry can make you extremely sick. When checking the temperature of the grill, also check the temperature of the meat. Larger chunks of meat will take longer than smaller chunks, so keep that in mind.

Best wood chips to use on a gas grill

It goes without saying that the type of wood chips you use when smoking meat has a huge influence on the flavor of the meat.

Perhaps one of the most popular types of wood to use for smoking meat is oak. Most will agree that oak is a perfect type of wood for a base flavor that doesn’t over power the natural flavors of meat and seasonings. Because of oak’s mild smoke and subtle flavor profile, it pairs well with virtually every king of meat.

Mesquite wood is another popular smoke flavor but it has a sharper and more powerful taste. It also burns and smokes quickly, making it convenient for short cook times.

Hickory is a staple wood for every backyard pit master. It is the classic smoke flavor for ribs, brisket and poultry. However, be careful with hickory. It is a powerful smoke and quickly leads to a bitter taste if the smoke is overdone. Especially, on poultry.

These wood types are the most common, however, other wood chips such as apple or maple are worthy contenders as well. If you want, you can even mix two types of wood chips together when smoking meat on your gas grill.

Just be sure use the right wood chips for your meat. Not sure? Then definitely checkout this guide explaining the best type of wood chips for any kind of meat.

Parting words

Hopefully, I have shown you that there is an affordable and easy method of converting your gas grill into a perfectly capable smoker. Just be sure to follow all of the proper steps and be patient when you are first trying it out. It may take a couple tries to dial in the smoke to meet your needs.