Smoking on a gas grill

Ok, before you BBQ purists come in and nail me for not using charcoal, I’m doing this because I’m not allowed to use charcoal in the apartment that I’m moving into. This was almost a deal breaker for the apartment (which almost made it a deal breaker for my wife on the marriage) and hence I need to get a gas grill.

I’ve been reading a bit, and apparently some of the gas grills now come with a dedicated burner for smoking, which makes smoking meat rather easy. However, I haven’t seen this feature on any model costing less than $1200, which is more than I’m willing to pay; I’m looking to spend $500 or less.

So, I have multi-questions:

  1. Anyone know of a gas grill with such a dedicated burner for less cash?
  2. Anyone succesfully smoking meat without this feature? Say using a regular smoker box or a smoker pouch?
  3. Anyone recommend a gas smoker?

I have done this very same research in the past few weeks and here’s what I’ve learned:
Go to the Home Depot and buy the (IIRC) “Smoker Box” which is a cast iron box approx. 8"x 4"x 2" into which you place your pre-soaked wood chips (not Included) and place this item directly on the lava rocks or burner on one side. Pre-heat the one side before the box is placed, replace the cooking grill over it, do not light the oppisite side. In my case, the left burner is on low, the box is placed on the left, the grill is placed over the top and the right burner is off.
Let the box-o-chips heat 10 to 20 minutes till it begins to smoke just a little and you can smell the Hickory. This is best done with the lid closed.
Place your meat(s) over the right side and let cook.
Seems like sausage and chicken need about 2 hrs. and a pork shoulder needs about 4 hrs. My pork shoulder was a tiny bit dry and I’ve since been told to take it out of the grill at 3 hrs. , wrap it in heavy faoil, and finish cooking in oven at 350 for last hour (buy a meat thermometer and get an inside temp of 170 on the pork)
Results were great. Set-up was inexpensive and clean-up nearly nonexistant.
Let me know how it goes.

What Nico said. You can also do the samt thing with several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Soak your chips, wrap them in foil, poke a few holes in the top of the package, and set it on the rocks. Put meat on the other side. Remember, good smoking is low and slow.

Yeah, I’ve seen that. But, if you set up for indirect grilling like that, you have to keep the one burner on high enough to keep the chips smoking. Doesn’t that cause the temperature inside of the grill to be too high to really do a cold smoke? I thought that was the point of the smoker box with the dedicated burner beneath it.

Are you guys having good successes smoking using these simple smoker box techniques? I could save a whole lot of money if that works well.

I’d still like to know about gas smokers and grilling on them.

If you’re really into long smoking have you considered just getting a dedicated smoker? They have some decent ones with an electrical element that burns pellets, for in the $300 range. My friendsds gotten great results, and even seen them used at pro smoking competetions(although I can’t swear they had the $300 version, but they look similar). I’ve never known anybody who had one of the 100-150 dollar smokers so I can’t speak to them.

I’m a huge fan of the tuna can smoking technique for steaks and kabobs and things that will take less than 15 minutes, but I wouldn’t bother trying it on a real smoking job.

Try this for a gas smoker, or for almost the same unit in electric
Or you can go with the Big Chief electric
All of these are cheap (under $200)

This has worked for us. One difference. I would suggest trying to find an aluminum or stainless steel box, instead of cast iron. The combination of wet chips and hot fire lead to the cast iron boxes rusting very quickly.

Oh Yeaaaah! Great sucess with the indirect grilling. You do not need to have the lighted burner on high. I pre-heat the left side on high for a bit (10 min. maybe) and then turn it to low and put the box with chips directy on top of the stones. It will start to smoke(with the lid closed) in 10-15 min. Like I said, it takes maybe 2 hrs. for chicken quarters and 3-4 hrs. for a pork shoulder. The true smokers with attached firebox take about twice as long.
I find this a great in-between measure between grilling (over open flame) and smoking (attached firebox/indirect heat) especially if you don’t want to spend the entire day smoking and replacing the chips every few hours.
For example: Want to eat at six o’clock? At 1:30 put your wood chips (enough to fill the little box) in enough water to cover them. At 1:45 fire the grill with the cooking grill removed and only one burner on. Come inside and prepare the meat with what ever rubs or seasonings you prefer. The topic of rubs and sauces is a different and involved discussion as friend silenus can attest.
At 2:00 turn the burner down to low and put the chip box on the burner. Close the lid and go inside for 10 min. or so till a little smoke is rising from the chip box and you can begin to smell the wood smoke. Go get the meat and put it on. If you are doing different types of meat (recommended) you need to pace them for cooking time. The pork goes on at 2:00. The chicken at 3:00. At 5:00 they probably can both come off. Take the pork, wrap it in heavy foil, and finish cooking for another hour at 400 in the oven to be certain to get the interior to 170 degrees without drying the meat out.
If you try it out, maybe a test run with the foil-pack mentioned before, let us know how it goes.

I’ve been using wood chips on the gas grill for the past couple of years. I take a slightly different route.

For something like steaks or burgers I’ll heat up the grill and put dry wood chips in the box at the same time I put the steaks on. The end flavour is more like it was cooked on an open fire then smoked. Good stuff.

I guess that’s not the OP question though.

I have one of those boxes. It’s going to take 10 years to rust through the bugger. It’s pretty thick iron.

Thanks everyone.

But I guess a cold smoke (around 115 degrees) is pretty much out of the question, huh? Not that I do that terribly often anyway.

Somewhere along the line the center of the meat MUST reach 170 to ensure that any harmful micro organisims are dead.

I tried to smoke a ham once but couldn’t keep it lit.

Sorry…I’m sorry…that was just wrong.

Sometimes you want a cold smoke, say to smoke some cheese or flavor homemade bacon. It’s not always desireable to fully cook what you’re smoking.

And 170 F will make most meats too well-done.

You are right of course. I was referring to red meat mostly, and though you’re smoking the bacon I like to think it will be getting heated up alot more somewhere before it gets eaten.
The stuff I’ve read always warns of under-cooked pork and the danger caused by smoking meat because often times smoking gives meats a pinkish color, even chicken. The only way to be sure it is safe is by ensuring the center of the meat gets hot enough long enough. That is why I said earlier to cook the pork mostly done and finish it for a short time in a hotter oven. My pork shoulder never got above 155 in the grill because of the low heat method. But doing 3 hrs in the smoke for flavor and tenderness and one hour in the oven I get the best of both worlds.

Buy an electric smoker? Come on, just build one! (Fans of Altyon Brown will know this method) Buy yourself:

Hot Plate
Large, terra cotta planter (I’m talking the biggest one there is, for small trees)
The thingy that goes under the planter, also terra cotta (or another planter that will fit as the lid)
Aluminum pie pan
A rack of some sort that you can wedge into the planter
A few pieces of 2x4

Put planter on the pieces of 2x4, so it’s elevated (for airflow and for the cord to the hot plate.) Put hot plate in bottom of planter, add pie plate, add wood chips, put in grate, plop in your meat, flip the other planter over and use as a lid, plug in hot plate. Put a thermometer of some kind in the planter if you want to make sure the temp stays in the high 100’s/low 200’s. When you see the smoke die off a bit, add some more wood chips. Smoke till done (small things like chciekn, a few hours, large pork butts, 8-12 hours.)

About the cast iron wood chip boxes

Apparently YMMV. Mine was down to unusable in a couple of years. Then I found the aluminum one, and life has been good. :smiley:

Has anyone else tried smoking (not cold smoking) garlic bread or pizza? Mmmmmm.

If you want to do a long slow smoke, (like you need to get brisket tender) you can place a pan of water over the lit burner side. This will help keep the temps down, condense some creasote, and keep the meat nice and moist. A 10x10 cake pan works well for this. Wet chips add some moisture, but not enough for me.

You may want to seal up some (not all) of the various holes/vents on the grill. This will make the heat more even and save some propane. Foil is your friend.

Also, if you hang a foil “drape” between the two grills, it helps keep the meat from cooking via radiant heat.

Get hold of the episode of Good Eats entitled “Scrap Iron Chef”; he rigs up an apparatus for cold smoking from junkyard materials. In another episode, he cold-smoked a salmon in a cardboard box, generating smoke with a pie plate of sawdust on an electric hotplate. (This has an advantage over propane in that it doesn’t produce as much moisture, which you don’t want in this process.) Your best bet is probably to get a nice gas grill, then build a cold smoker separately.

As for “hot smoking”, I’ve gotten good results from my two-burner gas grill. I have a smoker box, but I’ve had better luck with the aluminum foil pouch. If you’re going to do this, I recommend picking up an oven thermometer that you can put right next to the meat; even if your grill has a thermometer, as mine does, it’s not going to be an accurate representation if you’re cooking on different zones.

I just got mine. If it lasts two years then I guess I got my moneys worth.

I will add before I got the cast iron box I just used a scrap aluminum pan. heh heh

As far as red meat goes rare for beef is somewhere between 115-125 degrees. Medium is about 145. 170 would be considered shoe leather for most cuts of beef.
For pork, trichina worms are killed at 137, most cookbook now recommend cooking lean pork to 145-155 then pulling and resting (which allows the temp to continue to rise maybe another 10 degrees or so) with a note that the government still has a recommendation of 180 for pork. For fatty tough cuts like the shoulder or Boston butt, most people that are serious about Q cook them low and slow (200-250) until they reach an internal of 190-210. This extra cooking has nothing to do about making sure the meat is done, it has everything to do about making the meat tender. As the meat heats up slowly, the fat renders out, and then the connective tissue that makes the meat tough starts to break down, and becomes gelatin. When properly cooked, a tough cut like a butt can be “pulled” with a fork. In other words using a fork like a comb, the meat can be separated into individual muscle strands. Food of the gods.
A digital thermometer is a wonderful investment. Get one, use it.

That’s exactly what we did. Sixteen hours later - perfect brisket :cool: