Is it possible to smoke on a gas grill? Absolutely! In fact, it’s much easier than a lot of other smoking methods. In this article I’ll break down how to set up your gas grill for indirect heat, and we’ll take a look at some helpful smoking accessories. Let’s get into it!
The basic idea behind smoking on a gas grill is to create two separate cooking areas or “zones”: one zone produces heat and smoke, while your meat cooks low-and-slow on the cooler side. This is typically achieved by lighting just a single burner and keeping your food on the opposite side. There shouldn’t be any flames directly under your meat.
Check out this quick video from Malcolm Reed for a demonstration of the process:
Target Temperature Range and Monitoring Heat
Obviously maintaining a consistent, low temperature is important, but what exact range should you shoot for? As a general rule, 225° – 250° F is ideal for barbecue, however, you will probably get great results up to 275°. The quality and fat content of your meat also matter. As an example, when cooking a prime brisket I am much more comfortable cooking closer to 275°.
I highly recommend doing a trial run without any smoke before throwing your meat on the grill. The goal is to find out exactly where you want your burner dial. Ideally you will have a smoker thermometer you can position just above your grill grates, where you will be placing your meat. Built-in thermometers on grills are notoriously inaccurate, and even if yours does work well, it won’t be specific to the “zone” that your meat will occupy.
Pellet Tubes vs Smoker Boxes (and Alternatives)
Pellet tubes and smoker boxes are both super helpful containers for your wood, but which is superior? I prefer using a tube, mainly because I’ve found that chips in a box are more likely to burn up faster. Wood pellets in a tube, on the other hand, are guaranteed to burn slowly and consistently for hours.
However, one advantage of smoker boxes is that chips are probably easier to find at your local grocery or hardware store (though I’ve come across pellets more and more recently).
If you don’t have a smoker box or pellet tube on hand, you can definitely just wrap chips in foil. This will increase the chances that your chips burn up quickly, so I recommend using a couple layers of foil.
What about putting chips or chunks in direct contact with your grill instead of inside of a container? This is possible but requires some experimentation. The heat diffuser bars above the burners can be a good spot, but sometimes they are not flat. Again, try to experiment and see if you can find a spot that works for your grill.
One of the tricky parts of smoking on a gas grill is choosing where to place your wood. If you’re using a smoker box with thick walls, you might consider placing it under the grates (on top of the heat diffuser panels), directly above the flames. If you’re using foil, however, you may not want it quite as close to the fire.
With a pellet tube, just be careful to keep it a good distance from any flames. Since you light one end before placing it in your grill, it will be good-to-go and won’t need contact with any heat for the duration of the cook.
Drawbacks of Smoking on a Gas Grill
How does smoking on a gas grill compare to other types of smokers? Frankly, the smoke will not be as intense as it would with a wood-burning offset smoker or charcoal smoker. It follows that the bark (the crusty exterior on smoked meats) will not be as dark and thick.
Additionally, the smoke ring on your meat will likely not be as pronounced. It will still be there, but more faint rather than a solid pink band around the edge. But remember: no matter how you’re making BBQ, a smoke ring is not a measure of quality.
At the end of the day, there will still be unmistakably smokey flavors in your meat, and adding that dimension to your cooking is pretty darn exciting if you’re new to BBQ.
Summing Things Up
I hope I’ve shown that smoking on a propane grill isn’t too tough at all, and it becomes much easier as you get familiar with your grill’s burners and exactly how much heat they produce. If you have any questions about the process or cooking particular meats, please leave a comment below. And if you’re looking to level up your barbecue setup, check out my guide on the best smokers for beginners!