Courtesy of BBQ Guys, bbqguys.com
Grills are meant for grilling — high temperatures, quick cook times, and the telltale caramelization of a good sear. But did you know many gas grills can also create the conditions needed for low-and-slow smoking?
BBQ smoking is the preferred method for huge cuts of meat like whole turkeys, briskets, or pork butts that require hours of low, indirect heat to cook all the way through without a burned exterior. It’s everything grilling isn’t, which is why it’s best to have a few BBQ smoking techniques in your back pocket if you want to turn your gas grill into a smoker.
Knowing how to use wood chips in a gas grill will really help you achieve smoky flavors — there’s a reason many traditional smokers use wood as fuel — and it’s also a good idea to have a water pan on hand. The humidity from water or any other kind of liquid placed in a water pan can go a long way toward keeping your smoked food moist and maintaining stable temperatures.
How to Set up a Gas Grill for Smoking
Before you preheat your gas grill, remove heat zone separators (if your grill has them) so convection heat can freely circulate through the entire cooking chamber. Now is also the time to insert your filled water pan below the grill grates on whichever side will remain unlit, be it the far left or of the far right. The last thing to do before turning on the grill is place your smoker box or pouch of wood chips in a position straddling the lit and unlit burners, whether it’s on the grates or the flame tamers. Wood chips placed directly atop a lit burner will quickly burn out, so it’s better to let them smolder so your food can pick up smoke for a longer period of time.
Once your wood chips and/or water pan are in the grill, preheat all burners to medium-high heat for about 15 minutes. You’re looking for a temperature readout of about 250–275°F on the hood thermometer, along with a bit of smoke coming from the grill to let you know the wood chips have ignited. Leave your dedicated “on” burner on medium-high heat and turn the rest of your burners off.
If you’re having trouble maintaining smoking temperatures with just 1 burner, try adjusting the heat setting or turning on an adjacent burner. Feel free to play around with which burners are left on and which remain off if your grill has more than 2 but be sure your food is always sitting above unlit burners.
Smoking Food on a Gas Grill
The actual BBQ smoking technique is the same in a gas grill as it is in a wood or charcoal smoker. No matter how badly you want to sneak a peek at your food, keep the lid down for the majority of the cook so temperatures remain stable and precious smoke doesn’t needlessly escape the grill. The only time you should open the lid is to baste or spritz your food every 45 minutes–1 hour.
We recommend you place a surface thermometer near your food inside the grill to ensure the cooking grates maintain appropriate temperatures. Speaking of BBQ thermometers, remember to stick your food with one a few times toward the end of your cook — internal temperature is the only sure way to tell when meat is done.