A gas grill can be used for a wide range of purposes. From grilling flavorful steaks at high temperatures, to barbecuing at low and also smoking; where extremely low-temperature ranges are maintained. And this is what makes smoking challenging. But worry not, in this guide we have shared all the secrets revolving around the question – ‘how to smoke on a gas grill?’.
From grilling to smoking, you need to swing to the extreme end of the spectrum. This change is not easy to adapt to. Your grill also risks flaring up. So, to keep everything under control, you need to be extra cautious. Keep reading and we can see you becoming a pro smoker in the offing.
Cold Smoking vs Hot Smoking – What is Better for a Gas Grill?
Gas can carry out cold and hot smoking perfectly. However, it is your skills that will determine the final results.
The goal of cold smoking is just to infuse the smoky flavors in the food without cooking it. Cheese, salmon, nuts, salt etc., can be cold smoked in a gas grill. Generally, the smoking temperature is around 80-90°F.
Whereas continuous smoke generation throughout the process is a requisite which can be fulfilled efficiently using a pellet smoker. To have a memorable smoking experience, choose colder months like autumn or winter.
In contrast, hot smoking means cooking and adding the smoky flavors simultaneously. This is done commonly within a temperature range of around 180-275°F. You can smoke hams, turkey, bacon and numerous other things for hot smoking. And the good news is – there is no need to long for desirable weather conditions when it comes to hot smoking.
What Can I Smoke on a Gas Grill?
Once you get a gist of the smoking method, you can smoke almost anything on your gas grill. From meats and fish to nuts and vegetables, any food can be tossed on the grate for smoking.
The expensive smoked cheese you always wish to add to your cart can also be prepared at home. Furthermore, beverage ingredients like whiskey or beer can be smoked to prepare smoked beverages.
How to Smoke on a Gas Grill – The Basics
Setting Two-Zone Heating
Like any other grill, your main concern with a gas grill is to efficiently control the temperature. This gets more crucial when you are smoking i.e., cooking something on low heat. So, to keep the temperature under control, you will need to have a two-zone setup.
Indirect and direct heating are the two zones you will be setting. For a direct heating zone, at least a burner at one side of the grill is turned on to produce heat. While the burner/s at the other side of the grill is kept off to prevent overcooking of food, hence making an indirect heating zone.
Another hack to regulate temperature is to place water in an aluminum pan inside the grill. The water will work to absorb heat and consequently will help you in maintaining a low and consistent temperature.
While smoking, you cannot depend on visual indicators or time to check for doneness. Also, the bi-metal thermometers installed on most of the grills are notorious for having errors of up to 100°F. So, to monitor accurate temperature, you will need to buy a high-quality digital thermometer.
Some thermometers even come with a probe clip that when clipped near the food, can give you more precise readings on the cooking temperature. In case of unavailability of probe clip, make a tinfoil ball thick enough that it stays on the grate. Pass the thermometer through tinfoil and get updates on the current temperature.
Note that almost all thermometers have 2 probes. Do not mistake the other probe as useless. Use one probe for reading grill temperature while the other for detecting the meat temperature.
Here comes the prime question: what will you need the most for smoking? First of all, you will require wood chunks, chips or pellets to produce smoke.
The gas grills contain a barrier above the burner where the wood chips can be placed and smoldered. However, before lighting them, you will need to limit the oxygen supply. Here’s how you can do this:
Buy a Smoker Box
Your gas grill may have a built-in smoke box. If not, you can buy one from the market. It is a large box, generally made of stainless steel, with perforations on top. The wood chunks are filled in the smoker box, and it is placed on top of the burner. The heat from the burner smolders the wood chunks and smoke is liberated from the holes.
Buy a Pellet Tube
Using pellet tubes is a popular technique for smoking. It is a perforated tube that is filled with wood chips and lighted at one end. The tube is then placed directly on the grill grate. The pellet tube can keep on producing smoke for hours without requiring refills.
If you are already in the red after purchasing a gas grill, then spending more would be the least you will want. In such a situation, make a pouch from aluminum foil, fill the wood chunks in it and poke some holes. Place over the burner and start smoking. Or you can burn the wood pellets on an aluminum pan directly above the burner.
If you are a beginner, we suggest not to be tempted by the idea of adding extra smoke to your meat. Nothing can taste worse than over smoked meat. A good method is using around half a cup of delicate wood pellets or a chunk of hardwood. You can decide on the quantity later after tasting the food.
How to Smoke on a Gas Grill – Step-by-Step Tutorial
Step 1: Light Up the Burner(s)
A gas grill may contain two or four burners. Set the configuration of the burners such that the two-zone setup is possible. With a two-burner grill, simply turn one burner off. For a four-burner grill, you can keep only one burner on when smoking less food. Otherwise, 2 consecutive burners or one burner from each end can be lighted for generating heat.
For smoking, you need to light the grill to medium heat. Start burner(s), place the digital thermometer inside and cover with the lid. Wait until the thermometer reads the required cooking temperature, which is normally between 180°F-275°F.
Manipulating the grill dial may get a bit tricky for you. Turn the dial down if the temperature surpasses the ideal range. Similarly, turn the dial up if the grill hasn’t reached the desired temperature after 20 minutes of lighting.
Step 2: Burn the Wood Chips
As the grill reaches optimum temperature, add wood chips to it. Use tongs or heat resistant gloves to pull out grates. Fill the tin foil pouch or disposable aluminum tray with wood chunks. Place it over the burner.
If using a smoker box, fill it with wood chips. For a pellet tube, there’s no need to remove grates. Add wood chips in the tube, extinguish them at one end using a blowtorch or lighter. Place the tube directly on the grate and wait until the white wisps begin to appear.
Step 3: Start Smoking!
Now place the meat on the grate, away from the lit burner. Close the lid and get smoking. Keep an eye on the thermometer and adjust the dial as per the grill’s temperature profile.
You may need to replace the wood chips after 45 to 60 minutes of smoking. So, keep some extra wood chips and continue refilling until the internal temperature of the food reaches the desired limit.
The Way Forward
Once you have successfully carried out a smoking session, there’s a variety of food you can try out for cold or hot smoking. Plus, adding wood chips of different flavors will also work out in making your smoked items flavorful yet distinctive. If you’re a novice, give yourself some practice on learning how to smoke on a gas grill. And remember, it’s okay to make mistakes.