How to Use a Smoker Box on a Gas Grill

A smoker box adds a smoky flavor to your meat while using a gas (propane) grill. To get a perfect smoky flavor, you must know how to use a smoker box correctly. Many people own …

How to Use a Smoker Box on a Gas Grill

A smoker box adds a smoky flavor to your meat while using a gas (propane) grill. To get a perfect smoky flavor, you must know how to use a smoker box correctly. Many people own a smoker box but don’t know how to use it in the right way.

In this article, we will discuss how you can use a smoker box on a gas grill. We will also share some tips about the right wood chips and DIY smoker boxes.

Let’s add a tasty and delicious smoky flavor to your meat.

How to Use a Smoker Box on a Gas Grill

Setting up a smoker box on a propane gas grill is a pretty straightforward task. You need to take care of a couple of things, and you are good to go. If properly executed, the final taste of meat grilled using a smoker box will have all the flavor, deliciousness, and aroma you are looking for. Go through the following steps to get a perfect smoky taste.

Step 1: Preparing the Propane Grill

The first step is to preheat your gas grill. To do this, set all the burners at high heat for 15-30 minutes. A high heat setting will reduce the time needed to heat the grill. You can set the temperature at medium as well, but it will take more time for the wood chips to start smoking. Keeping the burners at high heat will save time when you start cooking, and the smoky aroma will come out faster. The goal of preheating the grill is to make the grill’s temperature even for cooking and ensure a better cook.

Another thing to take care of is cleaning the metal grill grate. It is not compulsory. If your grill is not dirty, skip the cleaning step. You can use a stainless steel grill brush for cleaning purposes.

Step 2: Preparing and Placing the Smoker Box

smoker box

The next step is to prepare the smoker box. You can either buy a box or make one for yourself. It is better to go for a ready-made smoker box with cast iron as it can withstand high temperatures and won’t fall apart or break. Commercial smoker boxes can be reused many times until they warp or de-shape. You must also check the smoker box’s size and ensure that it will fit in your grill or not. It must also not rust after coming in contact with fluids in meat.

Now fill the smoker box with your favorite wood chips and place the smoker box as close to a heat source as possible. On a gas grill, it will be on the top of the burners. Adjust the heat to the maximum setting so that the smoker box gets heated quickly and the smoke starts coming out. It will take 10-20 minutes on a full heat setting for the smoker box to start giving out smoke.

The next important thing in this step is adding the wood chips. A lot of people ask how many wood chips or chunks they need to add. We suggest you fill-up the smoker box to its maximum capacity. It is better to load more at the start than reload during grilling. Wood chips start producing smoke quickly. Wood chunks take more time to get started but last longer and produce smoke consistently.

If you are using a charcoal grill, place the smoker box on top of fully lit coals. It is best to avoid piling too many burning charcoals near the smoker box as wood chips inside can catch fire from flying embers. If you have an electric grill, cover your smoker box with aluminum foil and poke few holes in it.

Once you notice the smoke being produced from the smoker box, reduce the heat and adjust the burners to regular cooking temperature (220-260) or according to the type of meat being grilled. Lowering the heat will set up your grill for indirect cooking. Don’t worry about the smoke. The smoker box will stay heated for a long time and keep on producing smoke till the chips last. You can always turn the heat back on when you feel the smoke is getting invisible.

Step 3: Let’s Grill

ready for grilling

The last but not least step is to place the meat on the grill. Place the marinated meat on the grill grate over an unlit burner and close the lid. To get a perfect smoky flavor, you must cook the food slowly and on slow-mild heat. The cooking time will vary from one type of meat to another, and so will the temperature. The usual time poultry will take is 20-30 minutes and about 1.5 (80-100 minutes) hours per pound of red meat. Please note that this estimate is according to the meat’s weight and not the total amount of meat you are planning to cook. The best temperature to smoke chicken is 240-300; for pork butt/shoulder, it is 220-280, pork ribs: 220-280; turkey: 250-290; and for fish, it is 220-240. Before picking the meat from the grill, you must check the internal temperature of the meat. The recommended internal cooking temperature is 200 degrees for pork, 155 for pork tenderloin, 230-260 for pork ribs, 200 for beef brisket, 160-170 for turkey and chicken, and 140-150 for fish. You must check the internal temperature of the meat. Don’t go with methods like testing the outlook of the meat or the tenderness and color. All these temperatures are Fahrenheit. Once the food is ready, serve with your favorite sides and enjoy a perfectly smoky grilled meal.

Which Wood Chips are best?

The selection of wood chips depends on your taste and preferences. Selecting the best wood chips is more of a try and chose strategy. You will be trying different wood chips over time and then settle for one or two. To give you a head start, we have highlighted some of the commonly available wood chips. We have also listed some of their characteristics which will help you make a well-informed decision.

Alder: It has a mild flavor and gives a sweet and scented smoke. It is highly recommended for fish and suggested for chicken and turkey.

Almond: Almond chips have a medium flavor and give a nutty scent. Almond chips also are suggested for all types of meat, including pork, ribs, beef, chicken, fish, and turkey.

Apple: Apple chips give a sweet and fruity taste and can be used with all meats except fish.

Mesquite: It is perfect to be used with red meats and gives a strong and intense flavor. It is not recommended to be used with white meat such as fish and chicken.

Hickory: It is recommended to be used with all types of red meat and especially pork. It is also a strong and intense wood and imparts a strong flavor to the meat.

Cherry: It is suitable for pork, red meat, beef, and wild game. It gives a sweet and mild flavor; cherry chips can be mixed with other woods as well.

Pecan: If you are looking for an all-purpose wood, pecan is the right choice. It comes with a mild flavor and is highly recommended for pork, ribs, beef, chicken, turkey, and it works well with fish.

If you want to use some other wood chips, make sure they are safe. Always check online or consult grilling experts before using a not recommended wood type for smoking food.

Do I need to wet the wood chips?

In the world of grilling, there is an ongoing debate about soaking the wood chips before using them in a smoker box. Let’s look at the arguments against and in favor of soaking the wood chips.

In Favor: If you don’t soak your wood chips in water, they may catch fire and start burning instead of producing smoke. Soaking also makes the smoke last longer than dry chips.

Against: Even if you soak the wood chips, it makes no difference; the chips will not start giving out smoke until all the water has been burnt. You will need a lot of time to make the wood chips wet. You will need at least 24-48 hours to let the water penetrate the chips.

One of the reasons people wet the chips is to prevent them from catching fire. A smoker box doesn’t have holes at the bottom, and it acts like a big hurdle in the way of chips catching fire.

If we consider the basic science here, we find that water boils at 212 Fahrenheit, and wood burns at over 400-500 Fahrenheit. It is ample to say that unless all the water has been evaporated, wood will not start to burn, and you will not get the smoke out. Another way to ensure that the woods will not catch fire is to deprive them of oxygen. The oxygen content in the smoker box will be very low. If you are using a DIY method instead of a smoker box, you will have to pack the wood chips tightly together in the aluminum pan or aluminum ball. Hence, wet chips will not make any difference and will not increase the smoke’s amount and duration. In fact, soaking the chips will only delay the smoking process. Therefore, we recommend dry chips for the best results.

How can I Add more Wood Chips to a Smoker Box in a Gas Grill?

It may happen that the wood chips will finish during a grilling session. To add more chips:

  • Open the lid of the smoker box with long-handled tongs.
  • Make sure you are wearing grilling gloves while doing this; we don’t want you to burn your hands or finger.
  • Grab the wood chips and spread them evenly in the smoker box. You can vary the amount according to the amount of meat left for grilling.
  • The recently added chips may take a couple of minutes before they begin producing smoke.

DIY Smoker Box

You can also make a DIY smoker box with a small aluminum pan and some aluminum foil. All you need to do is place some wood chips in the pan, cover it with aluminum foil and make holes in the foil lid. The holes will allow the smoke to escape, and it will give the classic smoky flavor to your meat. You will need to place the pan in the back corner over the unlit burner.

Another easy and quick way is to make a ball out of aluminum foil and load some wood chunks or chips in it. Make some holes in it and place this ball at the backside of your grill over an unlit burner.

You must be surprised that we suggested placing the smoker box on a lit burner and aluminum foil DIY boxes on an unlit burner. The reason is that metal smoker boxes can withstand more heat than aluminum foil. The DIY options are cheap, work quickly, and are excellent for occasional or one-time use. If you don’t have a smoker box, try one of the DIY methods, and be amazed by the results.

How to Avoid Warping/De-shaping of Smoker Boxes?

All smoker boxes warp and twist after some time. This is inevitable. The best way to deal with this problem is to delay its occurrence. You can buy high-quality smoker boxes made with thick and heavy-duty stainless steel or cast iron. Heavy-duty boxes take some more time (2-3 minutes) than thin boxes while producing smoke, but they last for a long time. They are costly as well but are durable.

Final Words: The Smoky Flavor

We have explained everything about using a smoker box on a propane grill. The final taste of using a smoker box will depend on two things; the type of wood used and maintaining the right temperature. If you take care of little things, you and your guests are in for delicious, juicy, and scrumptious food. We suggest you follow all the safety precautions while grilling and enjoy to the max.

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