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Last Updated on May 1, 2021
A smoker box is a simple tool for turning your gas grill into a smoker. Smokers are undoubtedly fun and valuable pieces of equipment to have, but they can be costly and take up a lot of space.
A smoker box is a cheap and convenient alternative to a smoker. It’s a great way of upgrading your grill, allowing you to grill on high heat and then smoke food on the same grates.
Setting up a smoker box is easy, and it only takes a few simple steps. There are a few types of smoker boxes and wood chips to consider.
How to Set Up Your Smoker Box
Using a smoker box is very straightforward, but it’s essential to get the small details right for optimum results. Follow this step-by-step guide for smoking foods on your gas grill with a small smoker box.
Step 1: Soak Your Wood Chips
Before turning on the gas grill, soak your wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. You can use a large bowl or an aluminum foil tray. Check the number of wood chips you need for the specific recipe.
Another reason to soak wood chips is that dry wood chips burn quickly. Instead, they should slowly smolder inside the grill, providing low, constant heat. Soaking also improves the amount of flavor you get out of the chips.
Step 2: Prepare Your Grill
To prepare your grill, open the lid to prevent gas fumes from accumulating in the cooking box. Open the valve of your propane tank all the way, so the gas starts flowing through the gas line into the grill. Close the lid of your grill and preheat it for about 15 minutes.
When the temperature reaches 500°F, use a grill brush to clean the grill grates. You can also oil them using a bit of vegetable oil and some paper towels. This will prevent food from sticking to the grates. Put some oil in a cup and dip the paper towels in the oil using some tongs.
Step 3: Set Up Two Heat Zones
The best method for smoking food on a grill uses direct and indirect heat zones. The process of setting up two heat zones depends on how many burners your grill has and the type of recipe.
For low-and-slow smoking, use a side burner on high heat for the smoker box, and leave all other burners turned off. If the recipe needs more heat, add an extra burner on the smoker box’s opposite side. Another option for a gas grill with 4 burners is to put 2 burners on one side on high and leave the other 2 turned off.
In any case, you need a burner on high for placing the smoker box, and some burners completely turned off for the food. The idea is to place the food on the switched-off burners so that it cooks through indirect heat.
Step 4: Fill Up the Smoker Box
Once you set up the two heat zones, you can place the smoker box on the grill. Some gas grills have a designated spot on one side for a smoker box. If your grill doesn’t have one, simply place the smoker box on the grates on top of the burner designated burner. With some tongs, start filling up the smoker box with wood chips. You can also fill the smoker box first and then place it on the grill.
Step 6: Arrange the Food
Once the smoke starts coming out of the smoker box, place the food in the indirect heat zone. The food should be close enough to the smoker box to absorb the smoke’s aroma, but not so close that it cooks by direct heat. You’ll need to close the lid to prevent the smoke from escaping.
Types of Smoker Boxes
A smoker box is a small metal vented box in which to place your wood chips. The most common material for smoker boxes is stainless steel, although some cast iron products are on the market. Both materials are very durable, with the slight difference being that cast iron takes longer to heat but is better at retaining heat.
Before you buy, consider the shape of the smoker box. There are boxes of different sizes, and you should choose one that fits your gas grill. Most models have a rectangular or square shape, but there are also triangular smoker boxes. The latter style works well between flavorizer bars.
A convenient alternative to smoker boxes is disposable smoker trays. These are ready-made aluminum smoker trays, which most grill manufacturers sell.
How to Make Your Own Smoker Box
If you want to experiment a bit before buying a smoker box, you can easily make one at home. Place some already soaked wood chips in an aluminum pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and make some holes with a knife to allow smoke to escape.
Once the pan is ready, place it over the flavorizer bars. Leave all burners on and close the lid. When smoke starts to appear, adjust the burners’ temperature according to your recipe. You can also place the pan over the grates.
Types of Wood Chips
An essential part of smoking meats is getting to know the different kinds of wood chips. Usually, specific grilling recipes need a particular type of wood chip, but you can also experiment by mixing different varieties and coming up with exciting flavors.
Woods chips have varying degrees of flavor, going from mild to intense. Fruit-flavored wood chips, such as apple, peach, or cherry, are pretty subtle, and they are excellent for smoking fish or poultry. For red meats, you’ll need more strongly-flavored wood chips such as hickory, pecan, oak, or, the strongest of all, mesquite.
Get Started Smoking Food On Your Gas Grill
A smoker box can work either on a gas or charcoal grill. You can convert any kind of grill into a smoker for a very affordable price, giving you two outdoor cooking styles for the price of one. Make sure to follow specific recipes for different types of foods. Always soak your wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes before cooking since this prevents burning them too quickly and maximizes flavor.