How To Smoke On A Gas Grill?

How To Smoke On A Gas Grill?

When it comes to smoking on a gas grill most people start with the assumption that you can’t, but we both know there is more than one way to skin a cat. Smoking while using a gas grill is possible, don’t let anyone tell you different!

In this article, I am going to show you the easy way that I know to smoke on a gas grill and get good results (results that you will be proud of).

How To Smoke On A Gas Grill

What is a gas grill?

A gas grill is one that uses propane or natural gas to heat up a cast-iron surface which will in turn heat the enclosure trapping the smoke produced by wood chips creating fabulous smoked food.

What are the different parts of the grill?

The Grill Grate – The cooking area is made up of a heavy metal grate that covers your burners to allow food to cook evenly at top heat. It is also where all the action happens, so it’s important that you keep this part well maintained and even replace it when needed.

The Burners – Smaller metal tubes that run along the bottom side of your grill which turns propane into heat allowing you to cook various types of meats. They usually come in sets stacked on top of each other and look something like this:

Front Controls – Often times they will have a dial control for adjusting burner output or a push-down locking lever control wherein you press down on one side to turn it on/off or both sides to adjust the temperature.

The Lid and Backsplash – The metal sheet that covers your burners sit up high enough to let smoke escape yet low enough so that it’s easy to move food in and out of the smoker. It also acts as a heat deflector causing most of the heat to stay inside around your grill grates thereby increasing cooking times by 5-10 minutes depending on what you’re smoking.

They also come with a high temp rubber splash guard (the black part) which wraps all the way around helping to prevent grease from splattering onto nearby surfaces:

The Double Door System – The double door system allows you for much greater control and access when smoking since one door is used for adding fresh charcoal, wood, or fuel whereas the other door is used for regulating the oxygen flow by sliding it open, closed, or partially ajar.

The Thermometer – While not all smokers come equipped with a built-in thermometer the best place to put it is through one of the vents on top of your smoker.

Different types of gas grills

There are 4 types of gas grills. These are the Kettle style, Tank Top grills, Ceramic or Kamado grills, and last but not least the Smoker Grill.

Kettle style is the most common type that you will find probably 75%. It is the one that you are used to seeing, it is round/cylindrical in shape and has a lid. All of these grills can smoke but there are some factors involved depending on which type of grill is being used.

Tank Top grills are very similar to kettle grills but they have an extra cooking surface under them for accessories or additional food prep. The grill top still serves the same purpose as the kettle style above by trapping heat and smoke around its surface. They both can smoke just like their cousins but with some small differences in technique that I will discuss later.

Ceramic or Kamado grills fall into 2 categories when talking about smoking on a gas grill. They are either the traditional round shape or the popular square shape. The use of ceramic as an insulation material is what makes this type of grill great at holding heat and smoke which is perfect for smoking on a gas grill.

The smoker grills that I am referring to here come in all shapes and sizes (well mostly round ones) and they were originally designed and still used today as smokers before being hooked up to natural gas/propane lines putting them into general public acceptance. One thing about these grills is that they have a water pan built right in which adds moisture to the cooking environment also making it easier to maintain temperature, remain fuel-efficient, AND smoke certain types of food if desired.

Why should you smoke on a gas grill?

There are many reasons that people choose to smoke food on a gas grill over any other type of grill or smoker and I am going to list some of them here:

There is only one heat source (gas) with no chance for hot spots or cold spots due to wind, airflow patterns, fuel types, etc. Also having an even supply of constant heat the entire time you are cooking makes it easier for beginners to learn how to smoke on a gas grill without worrying about fluctuations in temperature making their food gets ruined!

Gas grills more often than not come with side burners that can be used as direct heat sources if needed for certain types of cooking techniques.

Most importantly clean-up is a breeze! The entire cooking surface can be hosed down with no fuss or muss giving you more time to spend socializing and enjoying your company rather than cleaning the grill.

Last but not least convenience, who doesn’t like less work? Throw some wood chips on the fire about once an hour while smoking, sit back, and relax sipping that beer waiting for the magic to happen.

Now that all the fluffy stuff is out of the way it’s time to get down to business.

How to smoke on a gas grill?

Setting the grill up.

There are a few things that you need to have to get smoking on a gas grill. Let’s take a look at them:

First, you need to decide on what type of gas grill you are using. There are different setups for each type so choosing the right one is half the battle. For example, most smokers come with a diffuser plate that can be installed under your main cooking grate to distribute heat evenly across the entire surface, some models have it built-in already giving more options when smoking on a gas grill. The diffuser plate is designed to keep hot air from coming up through the bottom vents and into the cooking chamber, this allows any wood chips placed on top of it to smolder slowly releasing smoke without burning up instantly because of direct exposure to open flame. Some people don’t use one at all but I prefer having one especially if I am going to be using the grill for other cooking techniques.

Next, you need to pick the type of wood that you want to use. Woods like mesquite, hickory, fruitwoods (apple & peach), and nut woods (hazelnut & pecan) can be very strong tasting because of their dense oils so they should only be used sparingly when smoking on a gas grill. Some people like them but I find them too overpowering especially if your food is going to be smothered in the sauce later on. The smoke from these types of wood chips can leave a bitter taste as well as impart some harsh flavors into your meat depending on how heavy you are with it during the smoke cycle.

On most smokers, you can use any type of wood that you want but with some models, there may be minimum or maximum amounts that can be used depending on if they have a side burner or not, etc. Again the only time that I would suggest using stronger flavored woods like mesquite, hickory and pecan would be in direct heat/flame contact such as cooking steaks over an open flame with no diffuser plate in place under your main grate. Some people will tell you to soak your chips in water before placing them on the fire because it supposedly makes them smolder slower and release less creosote. I don’t buy into that theory at all, personally, I think it just wastes your wood chips because most of the water will evaporate away and the last thing you want during a smoke cycle is to add more moisture to the inside of your cooking chamber.

Next, up is how much of it should you use? Just like with wood chunks you want to break your wood down into manageable sizes, measuring by weight would make this process easier but I don’t think it would be practical or necessary for most people.

The safest way to ensure that you don’t overuse your wood chips is to measure them by weight not volume, there is no standard size so they will differ from brand to brand and how well they are produced before reaching the market (nature isn’t perfect). If you do end up using more than the recommended amount then all you will need to do later on is throw some aluminum foil balls into an empty tin can and it under your food grate directly above the diffuser plate, this can be done to help soak up some of the excess creosote that you created by over smoking your food.

A place for the wood chips so they smoke and do not flame up. The best thing is a foil pan with holes in it which allows good airflow while catching the ashes. Pouring water in the pan helps keep the temperature low by evaporating into steam but just plain water works fine too!

Since we are dealing with propane/natural gas being our heat source it also means that infrared will play an important role. It was made famous by placing meat down close to the hot surface and getting fantastic results, same goes for using it as a heat shield around your wood chip pan when needing direct heat under it.

A heat source. This can be one or more burners on your grill and this is where we run into the first problem, not all gas grills come with side burners so you might want to check before spending any time reading this article.

The other issue is the number of burners and placement which directly affects how easily you will be able to maintain and hold a low temperature for smoking without too much fuss; it also determines how well your food cooks indirectly by the amount of infrared waves hitting it at different times throughout your cook.

An even distribution of heat coming off of your burners (elements) is important because that means hot spots and cold spots are minimized giving us well even cooking! Note: If using multiple elements to heat your smoker box or charcoal grill then just be aware that the less burners on, the hotter the temperature inside so adjust accordingly.

Now we get to actually setting up and placing your tools for smoking:

Place wood chips in a foil pan with holes poked in it and place near burner(s) set at medium-low. You can use a small disposable aluminum loaf pan if you do not have a smoker box, just add more than one package of chips to it to give you plenty of smoke time. If using a gas grill don’t forget to lift up the side lid/doors while adding fuel or wood during pre-heat because they will start emitting smoke which is bad if you don’t want that smell inside!

To create an indirect heat shield around your pan of wood chips, which means the burner closest to the food gets turned off or set to low while leaving the far side on high/medium-high. This creates an infrared barrier between the fire and food so it does not burn but still allows enough radiant heat for smoke to penetrate.

You can use anything metal as a “heat shield” such as bricks, grates, etc. just be sure they are clean first! The point of this set-up is twofold; it shields your food from the direct flame by creating a thermal boundary (barrier) where all the heat coming off the first burner hits before deflecting onto your pan of wood chips below, then after deflecting upwards absorbs some more heat before reaching your food. This enables you to keep the temperature low enough for smoking instead of grilling since more heat is blowing off sideways/up rather than down onto your meat.

Once everything is set up it is time to get cooking.

Smoking on a gas grill: a step-by-step guide

The process is actually much easier than using a charcoal smoker but there are fewer options available because of the short smoke times involved, you also have to be careful with the amount that you use in order not to create too much creosote in your cooking chamber.

Preheat your gas grill for at least 20 minutes with all burners turned on high, this will ensure that it’s nice and hot when the chips start smoking.

Pour just enough wood chips into a foil pan (or other heatproof containers like an empty tuna can etc) and make a few small holes through it with a fork or knife (this allows better airflow). Place the pan directly over one of the burners under your grate and put them on high heat (if you can’t get a pan to fit then you can make a foil pouch and it up with some holes for airflow).

Remove your grill grate and put it in place directly over the burners. Put your food grate back on and add the wood chips, cover and allow them to start smoking (this is where I use my BBQ mitts to avoid burning myself).

After about 10 minutes or when thick smoke starts pouring out of your grates reduce the heat from High down to Medium-Low/Medium. To keep the temperature down while still allowing enough heat to create more smoke move your food grate around so that different areas are directly over the hottest burners. The longer that you do this will depend on how much smoke flavor you want in your food, anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes.

If you start seeing a lot of smoke escaping from around the lid then use some foil ducting to seal up any gaps, if your smoker is still smoking after 30 minutes then chances are that it has been set too high or you have added too much wood. If this happens then remove whatever wood chips that you can from the cooking chamber and lower the heat before putting them back on for another 5-10 minutes.

If you were using foil pouches instead of a pan or tuna can then make sure to remove them when they get full of ash otherwise they will smolder and leave black spots all over your food (both taste bad so don’t do it). If possible try and use two pans at once and remove them both about 20 minutes before your smoke cycle is done.

When the smoke stops then remove the food grate, set it aside, and turn all of your burners back on to High heat (let them preheat for 5 minutes if they need it). After another 10 minutes or so make sure that your grill grates are nice and hot and put them back in place over the burners, this way you will sear the outside of your steak or burger quickly while leaving a flavorful smoky taste inside.

Plus: with a gas smoker you can easily leave one burner off to create a cooler indirect zone which is perfect for larger cuts of meat that take longer to cook through If necessary just move whatever you are cooking to the cooler side and leave it for a while.

If you want to try out some different woods with your gas smoker then I would recommend Hickory, Cherry, or Apple as they work very well and don’t produce too much smoke so you won’t risk over smoking your food (not sure what else is available).

The most important thing about using a gas grill as a smoker is that you need to be patient and never let them get away from you, even if this means having to lower the heat down after 5 minutes. Otherwise, I’d say go for it because electric grills can also do double duty but they take longer and need more attention. Plus: make sure that you keep extra wood chips on hand in case your smoking session takes longer than expected.

Some other tips about smoking on a gas grill:

– Never place unlit wood directly over an open flame! The chunks or chips can ignite causing flare-ups which in turn can burn off some of your food’s natural juices and flavor compounds… Not good! If you do this accidentally by forgetting to light them simply close all vents and let them burn out completely before continuing with your smoke cycle.

– Be aware that lighter fluid will leave a petroleum taste behind when used to start the fire, this is just my opinion but I would suggest that if you plan on using lighter fluid to start your fire at least let the wood burn down a little bit before adding it to the coals/flames.

– If you plan on smoking food for a long period of time (more than 4 hours) make sure that all vents are closed except for one or two bottom vents and place a metal drip pan under the main cooking grate beneath where you will be placing your meat. Every 2-3 hours while maintaining a constant temperature check underneath to make sure that there isn’t any debris catching fire from accumulated drippings from previous smokes. If bad enough you can always clean it out and start over with fresh foil.

– Keep the lid closed as much as possible, I know this is a given but we sometimes miss the obvious when getting into a smoking session. This will help to retain heat inside your grill and maintain an even temperature throughout which in turn will allow you to go even longer without adding more wood chips for additional flavoring.

Plus: If your smoker doesn’t have a built-in thermometer then consider picking one up at your local hardware store or online (there are also some good ones available for gas smokers). A thermometer can range from $5 – $30 depending on how fancy they get so if you already own the smoker and don’t want to invest too much then simply set it on the top rack before you start adding wood chips.

What are the safety concerns?

If not done right gas grills can pose a serious safety concern simply because they run on high temperatures and produce gas and propane fumes that if exposed to an open flame or spark could ignite causing damage inside your home or even worse: an explosion. Some of the most common causes for this type of accident include:

– Leaving the lid open while cooking (this one is obvious) also exposes vents to direct flames from lit burners which can cause flare-ups or overheating of the interior metal parts.

– Poor ventilation around your smoker by allowing too much buildup of natural juices, propane, and gas fumes.

– A gas smoker runs on high temperatures and causes extreme heat buildup inside the grill which could warp or even melt parts that are too close to exposed flames/burners. This is why it’s important to always remove these types of grills from your home when in use.

– Propane fumes can be extremely dangerous if exposed to an open flame, pilot light, etc.

– Grill fires caused by dripping grease down into burners causing flareups are also quite common although there are some precautions you can take such as allowing sufficient space between food and burner areas. Plus: make sure to keep a metal drip pan underneath where ever you are smoking meat in order to catch any excess grease/juices.

FAQs:

How much does a gas grill cost?

Grills can range in price from $50 – $1500 depending on the brand, size, available features, and material type. The most common grills are manufactured using steel plating with a porcelain enamel coating for both the exterior and interior cast iron grill grates. Most gas models will cost an average of around $300 while some may go upwards of even 5x that amount.

How much does it cost to maintain a gas grill?

The cost of maintaining a gas grill is going to depend on the hours you plan on using it, how much meat you intend to smoke, and how frequently you use it. Some people will say that yearly maintenance costs can range between $100 – $200 depending on if there are any burners/parts that need to be replaced etc. It’s important to remember that these types of grills run at high temperatures which in turn cause excessive heat buildup inside metal parts over time which leads to warping or melting different parts. In order to fix this all you would have to do is replace whatever part needs replacing but if your smoker isn’t covered under warranty then expect at least $50 for an average replacement part plus labor if applicable (the main burner is usually the most expensive part to repair).

How often do I need to replace parts?

Gas grills use high temperatures to cook which can cause excessive heat buildup inside metal parts over time. This excess heat over a long period of time combined with the general wear and tear from cooking will warp or melt different parts so it’s important to check and replace certain parts if needed (main burner, thermometer, valves, etc). The more you use your gas grill the more often you’re going to need to check for these types of problems.

Is there any alternative fuel I can use?

Natural gas has been used as the preferred fuel source for many years due to many benefits such as its clean-burning properties, high heat output, and availability. However, propane is a viable alternative that has come about in recent years which can be obtained from the same pipelines like natural gas so it is also commonly used instead of propane when using a smoker or grill.

What is the main difference between propane and natural gas?

Propane is a byproduct that occurs during the production of natural gas through refining processes such as ethylene cracking (the process of breaking down molecules of petroleum into smaller ones). Since propane is basically free for manufacturers selling it ends up costing less to buy and use as a fuel source.

What size should I buy?

This depends entirely on how often you plan on using it, how much meat you intend to smoke, and how big your family/friends are, etc. You could get away with buying smaller smokers if you would only be using it on occasion or for short periods of time whereas if you plan on using your smoker often then investing in a larger one will probably be more cost-effective.

What can you smoke on a gas grill?

The answer: pretty much anything you want. This includes fish, poultry, beef, pork, and even vegetables if you really wanted to although the main thing to consider is time. In other words, everything will take less time to cook because gas grills run on high heat as opposed to offset smokers which typically run around 200 – 250 degrees which can take a while if not done right.

Also, keep in mind that gas grills running on natural gas produce propane fumes that over time will eat away at internal metal parts causing them to rust or malfunction before their time. Not only that but it’s important that your smoker is always kept 1 ft. away from any flammable materials such as wooden fences, patio furniture, etc… Also be sure to check all exposed gas lines for any damage, rust, or leaks before using.

Can I add wood during the smoking process?

The best way to find out how long you should smoke your meat is by monitoring its internal temperature using a good set of grilling tools which should have one that goes up to at least 700°F. For this reason, it is important to understand the difference between cold smoking where you’re typically not supposed to eat your food but rather just smoke it for flavor, and hot smoking where you actually cook the meat, albeit slowly. As such if you’re cold smoking then it’s often advisable to continue adding smoke throughout the process even after the smoker has been turned off whereas if you’re truly hot smoking then there should be very few visible signs of smoke coming out of your smoker.

What equipment do you need?

You will also want to have a good set of grill tools such as a large spatula/tongs, an extra-long fork for piercing larger cuts of meat without losing precious juices, and a solid pair of kitchen shears (if your smoker doesn’t come with a built-in meat thermometer then these are a must). You might also want to consider investing in a quality cover if yours didn’t come with one. Now that we’ve gone over the safety concerns it’s time to step inside.

Can I use my gas grill indoor?

This is a no-no. It’s not that you can’t use it indoors, but rather what happens when the gas tank malfunctions due to humidity or moisture in the air. The best place for your grill is outside on your porch, patio, or driveway surrounded by fresh air and water – basically, something that won’t explode if faulty.

How long should I smoke my meat?

The best way to find out how long you should smoke your meat is by monitoring its internal temperature using a good set of grilling tools which should have one that goes up to at least 700°F. For example, if you’re smoking ribs then it would be wise to put the thermometer through the top vent on the lid away from the actual grill grates since this will give you a more accurate reading. That being said spare ribs often require anywhere between 3-4 hours whereas pulled pork shoulder is often done in somewhere between 8-10 hours.

What type of effect is smoking supposed to have on meat?

As for what kind of effect you’re trying to achieve, that depends entirely on your personal preference and style of cooking. Smoking is normally used as a means to an end either for adding flavor, tenderizing the meat, or creating a glaze by injecting various types of sauces and liquids. As such anything from chicken and beef to ribs and pork shoulder can be smoked depending on how long you want it to take as well as what’s desired at the end.

How do I know when my food is done?

For the most part, this entire process revolves around monitoring your meat’s internal temperature using a good set of grilling tools which should have one that goes up to at least 700°F. For this reason, it is important to understand the difference between cold smoking where you’re typically not supposed to eat your food but rather just smoke it for flavor, and hot smoking where you actually cook the meat, albeit slowly. As such if you’re cold smoking then it’s often advisable to continue adding smoke throughout the process even after the smoker has been turned off whereas if you’re truly hot smoking then there should be very few visible signs of smoke coming out of your smoker.

Can a gas grill leak?

Although they’re designed with safety in mind, some people have reported natural leaks from propane or gas tanks so it may be a good idea to check your connections every now and then just to make sure that everything is secure. Also: try not to handle the tank too roughly as this can cause leaks as well.

How to clean a gas grill?

The best way to keep any grill looking and working as it should is by giving it a good clean after every use. There are plenty of different ways this can be done depending on the type of grill you own so if you’re unsure about what’s available then see your owner’s manual for specific instructions. As for general cleaning tips, there are a few things that will go a long way such as using the right tools (never use wire brushes) and keeping grates free from rust and debris.

Why do gas grills underheat?

If you’ve done everything right with regards to setting your temperature and starting your grill but it’s simply not heating up enough then there are a few things that could be going on. For one, if you have an older grill then its igniter might just be broken making it impossible to start the flames without using a lighter. Additionally, poor venting can cause heat buildup which is another reason why it’s important to check your vents.

How do I keep food from sticking?

There are three simple rules for keeping food from sticking: 

Make sure your grill grates are clean

Grease them before use

Once the grate is hot, don’t touch it (you’ll burn yourself).

That being said some techniques are better suited for certain types of foods so if you’re cooking something delicate then it’s important to be gentle. Use tongs, not a fork. Also, make sure you don’t leave it unattended for too long since raw meats will stick even more.

Do grills need to be seasoned?

Some people swear by seasoning their grill but in most cases, this is nothing more than a short-term solution for preventing rust and corrosion on new grills that aren’t properly cared for before use. In other words, if you’ve chosen the right type of metal then your grill should come pre-seasoned meaning that all you have to do is clean it thoroughly before your first use to remove any excess residue from the manufacturing process.

Conclusion

Smoking is one of the best ways to prepare food in our humble opinion. Not only does it impart a wonderful smoky flavor but it also makes everything so tender and delicious you’ll want to try it in every way possible. 

This review has shown you how to smoke on a gas grill so now it’s time for you to go out there and have fun with your newfound cooking abilities. Just remember that practice makes perfect so if at first, you don’t succeed, then try again until the results are what you were looking for!

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