How to Use a Smoker Box for Gas Grill

Adding a smoker box to your outdoor grill is a great idea to help enhance your food’s flavor. However, to many people, smoker boxes are a new concept; hence they do not know how to use them when grilling.

If you are one of them, there’s no need to worry.  In this piece, we will explore how you can use the smoker box, on your gas grill, for the best results. First things first, it is important that you know the upsides of using smoker boxes when grilling. This way, you can get a better understanding of how you can use it on your grill.

Benefits of Using a Smoker Box

Benefits-of-Using-a-Smoker-Box
Photo credit: charbroil 

A smoker box is quite beneficial in two main ways:

1. It Gives Food an Additional Flavor

Using a smoker box helps add a smoky flavor to the food which makes it quite delicious. The wood chips have various flavor profiles to enhance the flavor of the food. The smoke from the chips infuses the meat being grilled with a unique richness that cannot be achieved by using sauces.

2. It Helps Reduce the Grill’s Heat Level.

Since gas grills’ temperature can be controlled, smoker boxes allow for the generated heat inside the grills to be contained to achieve a consistent outdoor barbecue experience. All you have to do is preheat your gas grill to a recommended temperature, turn off the burners, place your smoker box and meat, then close the lid for the magic to happen.

How to Use a Smoker Box for a Gas Grill

A smoker box is a great addition to your gas grill. To use it, though, you need to do some preparation first. Nevertheless, this is the only way to enable you to reap its maximum potential. Here is how to use it on a gas grill:

  1. Preheat the gas grill – You can do this by turning all the burners on the highest setting for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. This will help you later on when you want to use the grill for indirect cooking.
  2. Prepare the smoker box – Fill up the smoker box with wood chips of your choosing. You can either use dry or soaked chips. Some people prefer soaked ones to help prevent the chips from catching fire. The major downside of soaked chips is that they take longer to begin generating smoke. Dry chips are usually recommended since smoker boxes are not designed with holes on the bottom; hence they will not catch fire.
  3. Place the smoker box on a source of heat – On your gas grill, you will need to place the box over the burners. Since you had turned all the burners on high, your smoke grill should get hot enough soon to begin generating smoke. Depending on your grill, the smoker grill should heat up within the first 10 minutes. Again, it might take a little bit longer if you used soaked chips in the first step.
  4. Set the grill up for indirect heating – As soon as the smoker box begins generating smoke, you will need to turn down all your burners for indirect cooking under average cooking temperatures. The box is designed to retain heat long enough to keep producing smoke during the entire cooking process. You can adjust the burners to temperatures of between 225 ℉ and 250 ℉. After that, you can add your food to the grill for smoking until it reaches the desired flavor and temperature. The ideal internal temperature for perfectly cooked meat should be approx. 160 ℉. In case the cooking takes longer, and the smoker box stops smoking, you can add more wood chips.

How to Choose the Wood Chips

How-to-Choose-the-Wood-Chips-for-smoking
Photo credit: weber 

The flavor and type of wood chips you pick will entirely depend on your personal preference and the food you are preparing. For example, some meats pair well with select wood chips of a particular flavor profile.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a perfect position for the smoker box?

Depending on your gas grill, a smoker box is always placed on the designated ledge or shelf that sits below the grill. Some gas grill designs come with a space for a smoker box, even if it is not part of the package.

If your grill lacks a convenient place where you can place the smoker box, the other alternative is to just place it atop the barbeque grate next to the food you will prepare. This method also works because you will close the lid, hence containing the much-needed smoke absorbed by the food.

Is it necessary to soak the wood chips?

Well, there has been a massive debate around this topic for a while. However, from experience, it really is not that necessary to soak up your wood chips for the following reasons.

First, wood chips have their own moisture content. So, you will probably just make them a little bit wet no matter how long you soak them.

Second, wood chips will not start to burn immediately after you add them. The reason why most websites recommend that you soak up your chips is that it prevents them from burning up quickly. In theory, that is true.

Practically, even when you use dry wood chips, they will release their good flavor first until all their moisture content is used up before they burn. So essentially, the perceived smoke is actually steam being produced by the wood chips.

How to Set Your Grill up for Smoking

With the loaded smoker and a preheated grill, the mission is a go! You can now begin setting your grill up to start smoking. It is time to turn off the burners to allow the food to cook with the retained temperature, as opposed to direct flame or heat.

Setting your grill for smoking depends a lot on the type of grill you have. However, every grill’s owner’s manual has instructions that can guide you on how to set it up for smoking.

With the burners set up and the smoker box placed correctly, you can close your grill’s lid and let it settle down to its new temperature. You want the grill to maintain a temperature of 225 ℉ and 250 ℉ before adding the food you want to smoke.

Changes in heat are usually instantaneous depending on several surrounding factors, which is why you have to ensure that you allow enough time for the temperature to stabilize.

By the time you get it to the desired range, the smoker box should have started producing smoke, hopefully. If that does not happen, do not panic. Just give it some more minutes to allow it to do so before adding the meat.

When you finally start seeing some smoke, you are all set to start adding your food.

Related: Cold Smoke Generators – Models That Really Work

It’s Cooking Time!

Different types of meat cook at varying temperatures. For example, poultry cooks at temperatures between 250 ℉ and 300 ℉, while red meat needs between 225 ℉ and 250 ℉. When the grill reaches the desired temperature range, you can place the food atop the unlit sections of the burners then close the grill’s lid.

With the lid closed, you can expect that the food will cook for approx. 20 minutes/lb. for poultry or 1½ hours/lb. for red meat. Just make sure to maintain the recommended temperature ranges. Remember that several factors at play can alter these time estimates. The estimates are also for the weight of every cut of meat you place to cook and not for all the food you want to cook. Nobody likes a lump of undercooked meat, even if it is full of flavor from the wood chips.

When all is set, you can sit back and watch the magic unfold. The result will definitely blow your mind. Just do not forget from time to time to check on the food you are smoking.

Here are the best meats to smoke at home

Adding More Wood Chips

Cooking can take hours to complete, depending on the amount of meat to be prepared. This will prompt you to add wood chips from time to time whenever your smoker box stops smoking. But even if the smoker box is still producing smoke, you will have to check it up and add more chips just to keep it going till your food is ready.

Even though you do not need to keep adding the chips during the entire session, you must make sure that you do not add any more when the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 ℉. It has been proven that meat can no longer absorb more smoke when it reaches this temperature internally.

How to Tell if the Barbecue is Done

Essentially, it is usually ready when the internal temperature of the meat is slightly above the recommended safe cooking range. However, there is more to having a perfect BBQ experience.

Red meat, like pork and beef, usually requires that you continue cooking until the meat’s internal temperature gets to 200 ℉. This is to allow for the breakdown and rendering of all the collagens and fats, which results in a juicy and tender piece of meat.

Poultry meat, on the other hand, will require an internal temperature of 175 ℉ for thighs and 160 ℉ for breast, before you remove it from the grill. This allows the meat some more 10℉ for carry-over cooking that happens when it is resting.

Avoid all the cooking methods that do not involve internal temperature confirmation. Several methods out there require you to touch if the meat feels a certain way. Others require you to check if the meat bends a certain manner. Unfortunately, both these methods are not quite reliable since you can neither tell if it is well done nor safe for consumption.

To ensure that your meat is done and safe for consumption, you have to check its internal temperature.

Are there Alternatives to the Smoker Box?

A smoker box on either gas or charcoal grills can get really hot. It is crucial that you take precautions when handling it. That said, aside from using a smoker box, any ad hoc alternative or an aluminum tray can also help produce the required smoke. Nonetheless, since they do not have covers with holes, to allow the smoke to rise to the grill like smoker boxes, they can be less effective.

In Conclusion

Smoker boxes are designed with tiny holes on the topside to allow the smoke/steam to escape to the food on the grill. Basically, they are not difficult to use. Provided you follow all the steps discussed here, you will not have to worry about the success of your barbecue.

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