Smoking BBQ brisket in propane grill - will this work?

Based on info I’ve googled, I’m planning to using my ordinary 2 burner propane grill to smoke a brisket. I’m going to put a box of soaked wood chips on one of the burners and turn that on one to the lowest setting, keeping the temperature in the grill at about 250 F. The brisket, covered with dry rub and wrapped in perforated tin foil (or not?) will go on the grate over the other burner, which won’t be turned on. Maybe a pan of water or other liquid under that grate to keep things more moist. Should take about one hour per pound of meat.

This based on random websites I’ve seen, and youtube videos featuring guys with convincingly authentic southern accents. Any ideas?

I’ve done the same for a pork shoulder. Same method - chips in a cast iron box, over a low burner, other burner off. I didn’t wrap the shoulder in anything though. I taped up all the openings on the lid of the grill with aluminum tape, and changed out the chips every 1.5 - 2 hours. It worked, but took a LONG time - like 15 hours for a 9 lb shoulder (bone in). It was delicious though.

Don’t use wood chips - find some wood chunks. They won’t consume as quickly. Also, don’t soak them - all that does is produce soot, and you don’t want soot. And by “box of wood”, how much were you planning on putting in there?

It’s a pretty small box - about 6 by 9 by 2 inches. I could use more than one of them though.

Should I just use a meat thermometer then?

No water in a pan. Use a foil pan, or just a few layers of heavy duty foil with sides pulled up to put the brisket on (this should also be done in a real smoker). Rotate the brisket 90 degrees (sideways, not flipping it), a few times during the long period of smoking since the heat will be uneven. Don’t seal up the grill, the smoke has to get out. You don’t want tar collecting on your meat, and you don’t want the temperature too high. Also, get a large brisket with plenty of fat on it. If you can only find some trimmed flats, layer at least two with some bacon in between. The longer it takes, the better. It may require mopping. Spray a mist of water or beer over the top a couple of times during the process.

No, it won’t work very well. Gas grills are too open. By law, so as to not create a propane bomb if the burners cut out, there’s a huge opening at the back of the door. Smoker boxes for gas grills are made for smoke roasting – high temps, indirect grilling, with times around 1 to 1.5 hours. Don’t cook in a brisket in 1.5 hours, of course, unless you’re fond of shoe leather. Chicken is great this way for what it’s worth.

In my opinion, you don’t have the right tool for the job. While they’re not the best, you can buy a new charcoal water smoker for $50, and it will do a FAR better job than what you’re asking a gas grill to pull off.

I’ve done ribs like this a couple of time on my propane grill and they were epic!

I soaked wood chips and placed them in a tinfoil “pan” covered in tinfoil with holes poked in it. I turned 1 of my 3 burners on “lowish” so my temperature stayed around 225.

I added a pan full of water on the “warming” rack as well. I read somewhere this helps keep your meat moist. I kept this topped-up as it evaporates.

I then placed pork ribs that were dry rubbed on the unheated side of the barbecue.

Next I flipped the ribs every 30 minutes, and drizzeled a little water (a few drops out of an old soya sauce bottle) mixed with the dry rub on the meat (read this online as well).

I left the meat on for about 4.5 hours, the last half hour I put store bought BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray’s) on one side flipped it one last time after 15 minutes and put sauce on the other side.

In the end it was awesome! I also tried this with a pork tenderloin and it turned out really well as well.

So sorry drastic_quench I have to disagree with you there!


If you’re talking about those El Cheapo Brinkman’s, you will need to spend a little money modding it to hold temps at 225. I opted to buy a smoker rather than buy the ECB and modding it.

This is correct. Don’t know why people who should know better recommend smoking. All you get is thick, cloudy, white smoke, which tastes “sooty.” I guess some people think this is what “smoked” is supposed to taste like, but, ack. For a very short smoke you can get away with it, but for the long times a brisket takes, you’re just going to get a bitter, acrid flavor. When you’re smoking, you should have a wispy, bluish smoke coming out of the smoker for a clean flavor, not a billowing white smoke (which is what Liquid Smoke tastes like to me.)

In either case, the problem with a propane grill is the ventilation, I would prop open the grill a bit to make sure the smoke has an escape route. Trapped smoke is not good. It tastes like soot/creosote. Trust me, I’ve done it, with one of those cheapie Brinkmans that did not have an exhaust vent on top. I made rib tips and it literally tasted like I had smoked a pack of Lucky Strikes. I know what to do with one of those Brinkmans now, but those first few experiences made me want to give up smoking all together. You need wispy bluish smoke, you need good airflow, and you need to hold the temps anywhere between 200-300F.

Nothing like unanimous advice to help out the OP! Oh well, that’s how the BBQ threads tend to go.

Brisket on a gas grill is doable and I think you’re on the right track, but here are my suggestions:

–put the dry rub on the night before.

–don’t start with the meat wrapped. Let it smoke for a few hours unwrapped and then you can use the Texas Crutch. I’ve used this technique with brisket and ribs with very edible results.

–as others have mentioned, bigger wood is better and don’t bother soaking. If you are stuck with chips maybe the box you have has adjustable vents and you can try to regulate the amount of smoke so you’re not getting too much. You can supplement with foil packs if you don’t want to buy another box.

–Lower your temp, especially on that small grill. I’d go for 220 and keep an eye on the side of meat closest to the lit burner. You’ll want to rotate to keep one side from getting too done, maybe even protect it with some foil. My grill has three burners and I like having the extra space between the heat and the meat. I never flip my ribs or brisket until almost done.

I don’t think the dry rub the night before is necessary, but it doesn’t hurt. I usually dry rub just before I put the meat on. It’s not like an overnight rub cures the meat or anything. For something the size of a brisket, we’re looking at many days to weeks before we get that kind of penetration. An overnight rub will not make a mite of difference in flavor or texture, I guarantee. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t make a lick of difference, at least in my estimation. For a cured meat, sure. You need time. A much longer time. For barbecue, a 12 hour dry rub vs a 2 hour dry rub is indistinguishable.

Texas crutch is fine. I try not to use it myself, but, if you will, as you say, let the meat smoke for the first few hours. It is said that it’s the first four to six hours where the meat absorbs smoke, and after that, it doesn’t matter. Not sure if it’s science or superstition, but I’ve always had better results with meat that has been smoked first, then finished later, rather than meat that has been taken up to temp, and smoked later.

I disagree about the temp. 250 is fine. I do my briskets at 275, if I can get my WSM consistently that high. I feel like the slightly higher barbecue temps leave the meat moister than the lower ones. YMMV. It’s barbecue, and everyone has their own way of doing things, but in my experience, slightly higher temps retain moisture better while preserving the gentle chew of the meat you’re going for in barbecue. Seems like the longer it takes, the prouder people are of their produce. I’ve done 18 hours briskets (at 200-225), and I’ve done 9-10 hour briskets (at 265-285). The 9 hour ones have always been better, in my opinion.

Also, barbecue is an art form. The Mona Lisa wasn’t Da Vinci’s first painting, and I’m still unimpressed with it. The best way to get excellent barbecue is to start doing it, keep doing it, and make it better each time. Then you can start telling everyone else they’re doing it wrong too. And that’s half the fun of barbecuing. And since the eating and cooking are each half the fun also, you get 150% out of the whole shebang.

I smoke on my four burner gas grill all the time. One thing I would suggest is getting the wood to smoke and the water to boil over high heat, then lower the temperature. For a brisket, I will add a second pack of wood chips, half wet half dry, after about 90 minutes, or when the first bunch has burned out. I will wrap after about 4 hours, which shortens cooking time because often the meat stalls at around 150. I generally rub my meat with a dry brine 2 days in advance.

BBQ is an art, but knowing the science helps you make better art.

Just to clarify, the main point of the water pan is to regulate heat. It’s basically a big ol’ heat sink. It does nothing for the moisture of the final product, so far as I’ve ever noticed. When I smoke in my water smoker, I’ve used water in the water pan, and I’ve used sand in the water pan. Currently, it’s all sand in my set-up, and there’s no difference except that the smoker runs about 10-15 degrees hotter than with the water pan, but it stays rock solid at temp, as there’s no water to evaporate. In fact, I’d say the sand set-up seems to yield a moister product, but I believe that’s because of the slightly higher average temps in the smoker.

ETA: And here’s a site agreeing with me. Also, don’t bother putting anything in your liquid, if you use the water pan. It’s just a waste of money to put anything but water (or sand) in there.

Of course, this being barbecue, I’m sure others will disagree.