Turning a gas grill into a smoker is easier than most people think. A smoker is almost like a grill, except it cooks food by dispersing heat and smoke throughout the cooking chamber.
The easiest way to turn a gas grill into a smoker is to use a small smoker box. This box is placed on one side of the grill with some wood chips, while the other side’s burners are turned off.
Using this method, you can grill or smoke, depending on your preference. You’ll be able to give ribs that unique smoky flavor while also grilling hotdogs and burgers on high heat.
The Difference Between Grilling and Smoking
The primary difference between grilling and smoking has to do with how the foods cook. Grilling uses extremely hot burners and grates to directly or indirectly cook food. Smokers work differently. They slowly cook food by dispersing heat and smoke inside the cooking chamber. This method gives the meat a unique smoky flavor.
The difference between grilling and smoking also has to do with heat intensity and time. When grilling, the temperature is high, and foods cook for a short period. A direct heat grilling method uses temperatures of around 400ºF to 550°F and cooks food for just a few minutes.
When smoking foods on a grill using indirect heat, the temperature is lower, around 200ºF to 300°F. There are cold smoking and hot smoking methods, but foods cook for a much longer time when smoking than with grilling.
What Types of Smokers are There?
There are various types of smokers, including charcoal smokers, traditional offset smokers, modern pellet grills, or fully electric smokers. An offset smoker runs on charcoal and wood, giving food a unique smoky flavor. The charcoal or wood burns in a firebox connected to the side of the cooking chamber.
Pellet grills or smokers have become very popular in recent years for their convenience. They are a modern upgrade from offset smokers. Pellet grills have easy-to-use digital controls to set the temperature so you can relax while you wait for food to cook. Many models work with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, allowing you to monitor the temperature from your phone.
Pellet grills use wood pellets as fuel, which doesn’t provide flavor as strong as charcoal or natural wood, but still offers a unique taste. Wood pellets are natural, non-toxic, and they come in a wide variety of flavors. They are also an efficient and affordable source of energy.
How Does a Smoker Work?
All smokers have a smoker box attached to the side where they store or burn fuel. You place charcoal or wood logs inside the firebox with offset smokers, and that’s where the smoke is created. The smoke then disperses through the cooking chamber and slowly starts heating food.
Pellet grills are a bit more modern, and the smoker box attached to the side isn’t a firebox. It’s usually called a hopper, and nothing burns in it. When you open a brand new bag of pellets and get ready for smoking your favorite foods, you toss the pellets into the hopper.
The hopper stores the wood pellets and feeds them with a small electric engine into the cooking chamber’s bottom. An ignition rod ignites them inside a small fire pit. The hopper has a fan that creates airflow and simultaneously disperses heat and smoke throughout the unit.
The heat and smoke circulate inside the smoker and leave the cooking chamber through a small vent built into the top. Slowly, the smoke and heat cook the food on the smoker’s grates.
How to Turn Your Grill into a Smoker
The diversity of a gas grill means you don’t have to choose between a grill and a smoker. You can simply convert your gas grill into a smoker. It’s also possible to turn a charcoal grill into a smoker, if that’s the type of grill you’re working with.
There’s a straightforward way of turning a gas grill into a smoker, simply using a small smoker box inside the grill. You can also build your own smoker box, but they are affordable and easy to find online. Choose a smoker box made of a durable material such as stainless steel.
Step 1: Prepare the Grill and Smoker Box
Preheat your grill at a high temperature for about 10 or 15 minutes. You can fill the smoker box with your favorite wood chips during this time. There’s a wide variety of wood chip flavors you can experiment with, such as hickory, apple, alder, or mesquite.
Step 2: Create Your Two Heat Zones
What you need to do now is create a direct and indirect heat zone. Leave the two burners underneath the smoker box turned on and turn off the other two burners on the opposite side. You should place the meat in the indirect heat zone, where the burners are switched off.
If your grill has three burners, you can leave one side burner on high for the smoker box, put the middle burner on medium or low, depending on how much heat you want, and turn the last burner off.
Step 3: Place the Smoker Box
Now that you have set up the two heat zones, place the smoker box on top of the hot burners in the direct heating zone.
Step 4: Start Cooking
Before placing the food on the grill, adjust the temperature somewhere between 225ºF to 250°F. Once you have the right temperature, put your food in the indirect heating zone and close the lid.
Enjoy Cooking on Your New Smoker
Using a small smoker box is an affordable and straightforward way to turn your gas grill into a smoker. You’ll have two outdoor cooking options for the price of one, and you won’t need to take up additional patio space either.
While it’s not as versatile as a proper smoker, it will work effectively for smoking ribs and other meats, saving you tons of money and broadening your outdoor dining options for the summer.