Grill Hack: How To Turn A Gas Grill Into a Smoker

There’s nothing quite like the rich, succulent flavor of melt-in-your-mouth smoked baby back ribs, brisket, or even burgers. If you’re tired of the same old grilled meat, we have good news—it’s easier (and cheaper) than you think to turn your existing gas grill into a savory smoker.

All you need to smoke on a gas grill is a smoker box. You can even DIY a smoker box in a pinch using tin foil. Smoking on a gas grill with a smoker box or pouch may not impart the same intensity of smoke flavor as when using a dedicated smoker or a pellet grill, but it’s a great grill hack for those who want to get that tasty smoky effect without spending a fortune on a new smoker or grill.

Keep reading to learn how to turn a gas grill into a smoker, including:

  • How to use a smoker box on a gas grill
  • What to do if you don’t have a smoker box
  • 5 tips for smoking on a gas grill

Get your grilling gear and let’s tantalize those taste buds!

How To Use a Smoker Box on a Gas Grill

Smoking on a gas grill is super easy, as long as you have one key component—a smoker box. Here’s how to use a smoker box on a gas grill:

  1. Preheat your grill using a two-zone heat setup. The best smoking is done in the 225-250? range (107-121°C). If your grill is too hot, your food will cook too fast and dry out. For succulent, melt-in-your-mouth results, smoke your meats low and slow. You can use a smart grill thermometer to monitor the ambient temperature inside the grill.
  2. Prepare your smoker box. Fill your smoker box with wood chips or chunks and place it over the direct heat zone. As long as it’s placed over direct heat, freestanding smoker boxes can be placed anywhere on the grill—on the grate, under the cooking grates, between the heat plates, or on ceramic briquettes. You’ll cook your meat over the indirect heat zone.
  3. Set up a water pan, if needed. You don’t always need a water pan, particularly for things that smoke quickly, like chicken or fish. But if you’re smoking larger cuts of meat like steaks, ribs, or brisket, we recommend using a water pan. If you do need a water pan, fill a 2-3” deep pan within half an inch of the rim with hot water, then place the pan over the direct heat source. This will help minimize temperature fluctuations and create a humid environment so your wood chips will create more smoke.
  4. Wait for smoke. It should take about 15 minutes for your wood chips or chunks to start producing smoke. Once the chips begin to smoke, you can start to adjust the temperature until it reaches the optimum cooking temp (between 225-250?).
  5. Get grilling! Once you’ve reached the right temperature, you can start grilling as usual. Your chips should last about 2 hours, but if you’re smoking something large or dense like pork butt or brisket, plan to add more chips after about 2 hours or whenever they stop producing blue smoke.

GRILL SPOT TIP: When you’re smoking anything, try to limit the number of times you open your grill lid. Opening the lid will release heat and smoke, and it can be difficult to regain the ideal temperature for smoking.

What If I Don’t Have a Smoker Box?

If you don’t have a proper box for your wood chips and you’re not sure if you want to buy one just yet, you can create your own. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Fill a foil tray with wood chips and cover with aluminum foil
  2. Poke holes in the foil and place the pan directly on the grill, the same as you would a smoker box.

You can also make a pouch using heavy-duty tin foil or multiple sheets of regular strength foil. Just wrap up the chips on all sides, poke holes in the foil, and place over direct heat. These chips tend to burn out faster so you’ll need to replace them every 30-45 mins.

Once you’ve tried smoking on a gas grill—and decide you love it—you may want to consider upgrading your DIY smoker box to a cast iron or stainless steel gas grill smoker box. They’re much sturdier and will last longer than DIY smoker boxes.

5 Tips for Smoking on a Gas Grill

  1. Grill Hack 1: Start with a smaller number of wood chips and work your way up. It may be tempting to use more chips right out of the gate, but it is possible to over smoke meat, and that’s not tasty. Start with half a cup of wood chips or a single small chunk of hardwood. Not smoky enough? Add more chips next time!
  2. Grill Hack 2: Check your temperature—if your grill is too hot, your meat will overcook and dry out; too low and it’ll take ages to cook.
  3. Grill Hack 3: Try a wet pan to help regulate temperature, but be careful not to let it get too hot. At proper smoking temps, a wet pan shouldn’t boil and inadvertently cause your meat to steam. Keep the internal temp below 225? to be safe.
  4. Grill Hack 4: For maximum accuracy, invest in a quality ambient temperature thermometer that measures the temp at the grill level.
  5. Grill Hack 5: It can be tempting to open the grill lid to check on your feast, but that lets out all the heat and smoke, and it can take up to an hour to recover that perfect temperature. We recommend using a remote thermometer to check the temp without opening the grill lid.

Get Grilling

Now that you know how to turn a gas grill into a smoker, you’ll be the cookout king of the neighborhood. If you’re not ready to invest in a smoker box, test it out with a DIY smoker box made using tin foil or foil trays, and play with different types of wood chips to figure out your favorite flavors. Once you’ve mastered your craft and you’re hooked on the savory smokiness, you’ll be ready to up your grilling game with a new smoker box!