Whether it’s BBQ, vegetables or a Thanksgiving turkey, there’s nothing like smoked food. Moist and tender and infused with just the right amount of smoke, it has a unique flavor that’s hard to replicate. But just because you have a gas grill doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy smoked food. All you need is to set up an indirect cooking zone on your grill—and, of course, smoke.
Indirect Cooking on Your Gas Grill
Temperature control is key for low-and-slow BBQing. You need to get your grill from
225F°–275F°, where smoking is traditionally done. To do that, set up direct and indirect cooking zones on your gas grill. The direct cooking zone, the area over the flame, will supply the heat. The indirect cooking zone, the area next to the flame, will be where the food is cooked.
Indirect cooking on gas grills works best with three or more burners. However, it’s possible to do it with just two burners. To set up cooking zones that will provide ideal smoking temperatures, you’ll need to experiment with your grill to figure out which burners to use and how hot they should be. This will require you to monitor its temperature. Although your grill’s mounted thermometer will provide a general reading, it doesn’t give the temperature on the cooking grate, where the food will be. Consider investing in the Maverick ET-735 Bluetooth Thermometer . Not only will you get a precise temperature for the cooking grate, but the Maverick ET-735 comes with a second probe for monitoring your food’s temperature…from your phone.
Grills With Three or More burners – Turn the outside burners on low, leaving the middle one(s) off. Give it a few minutes to warm up then take note of the grill’s temperature. Next, gradually increase the heat and measure how each adjustment changes the grill temperature. From these readings, you should be able to determine how to get your desired temperature. In this setup, the indirect cooking zone is the middle of the grill, with heat coming evenly from both sides.
If you have more than three burners, you have more control, so experiment with the extra burners to dial-in the temperature.
Grills With Two-burners – Although having two burners limits your ability to fine-tune the temperature, it’s still possible set up two cooking zones and use your gas grill as a smoker. Simply turn one burner on high and keep the other off. Adjust the burner to get as close to your desired temperature as possible. If it’s too hot, try placing a pan filled with water over the direct cooking area to diffuse the heat.
It goes without saying, but smoke is what gives smoked food its flavor. And to make smoke you need wood. On a gas grill, there are a few options:
Wood Chips – Wood chips come in a variety of hardwood flavors. The easiest way to use them is with a smoker box. Made of stainless steel or iron, smoker boxes not only hold the wood chips, they catch any ash and restrict airflow, keeping the chips from burning too quickly. Although some smoker boxes sit on top of the grill grate, the ones that sit right on the diffuser panels are better at maintaining constant smoke. Some, like the Charcoal Companion® Stainless Steel V-Shaped Smoker Chip Box, are designed to nestle snugly between the diffusers that cover the burners.
If you’re a DIY person, you can use foil to make your own smoker box. Just tear off a 12-18 inch length of foil. Place a handful of wood chips in the center and fold the four sides of foil over, enclosing the wood chips. Poke several holes in the foil to let oxygen in and smoke out then place the packet right on the diffuser panel.
To get the wood chips going, place the smoker box (or foil packet) on the diffuser panel and turn the flame to high. Once the chips start smoking, turn it back down. While many BBQers soak the wood chips to keep them from burning up, just as many insist it makes no difference.
Wood Pellets – Like wood chips, wood pellets come in a variety of hardwood flavors. However, because they burn easier than wood chips, wood pellets don’t need to sit right over the fire. A-Maze-N makes a pellet smoker box and pellet smoker tubes that can be lit at one end then put on the grill grate, where they will smoke for hours.
Although there’s no replacing the authentic charcoal and wood flavor produced by a traditional smoker, you can get pretty close with your gas grill. With just a little bit of effort, you can cook everything from BBQ brisket to smoked peppers.