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How to Make Smoke on a Gas Grill

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Do you love the ease and convenience of your gas grill? But do you want to know how to make smoke on a gas grill? You want the flavor, but your grill doesn’t add much smokiness to foods. Well, there are ways your gas grill can give you that smoke flavor.

How to Make Smoke on a Gas Grill

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LizzQ Premium Pellet Smoker Tube

How to Make Smoke on a Gas Grill – Quick Answer

Buy the LizzQ 12-Inch hexagonal wood pellet smoker tube from Amazon. Then buy a bag of wood pellets from your local store. Fill the tube with wood pellets and light one end of the pellets. A stick lighter or propane torch will work fine. Let it burn for 9 minutes. Then place the burning tube in your gas grill right next to the food you want to add smoke to. Cook as normal. This tube can produce smoke reliably for several hours.

First, some gas grills have built-in smoker boxes or smoker drawers. Some even have dedicated smoker burners. If your gas grill has this, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making smoke. If you want more smoke than these features can provide, continue reading.

A gas grill works by pumping air through the cooking chamber. The burners draw in air from beneath the grill, it flows through the cooking chamber and out through a vent, typically in the back. The hotter the grill, the faster the airflow. Simply put, gas grills are not good at holding on to smoke. To make effective smoke on a gas grill, we need to control where that smoke is being made.

Smoking on a gas grill should be done at low temperatures over a long period of time. This means indirect grilling with the smoke being produced as close to the food as possible. There are a number of accessories for making smoke, but wood chips and a sheet of aluminum foil might be all you need.

The Difference Between a Gas Grill and a Smoker

Obviously, gas grills are designed for grilling. They excel at hot and fast cooking. A smoker is not only designed to cook at low and slow temperatures but to hold smoke inside the food chamber so that it has time to be absorbed by the food.

But, gas grills are also good at roasting. Most have a lid design that creates a convection airflow. Most smokers restrict airflow to hold down temperatures. A gas grill has a much wider range of cooking temperatures so we can cook indirectly at low temperatures and give the food time to catch some smoky flavor. We will use indirect heat to keep the cooking temperatures down and put higher heat on our smoke-making device.

Types of Wood for Smoking

When making smoke, use large wood chunks on charcoal or fine wood chips in electric or gas smokers. Of course, pellet grills are fueled by wood pellets that produce smoke. In a gas grill, we need a smoldering fire that provides little to no flame but a lot of smoke. That is the real secret, if the wood you are using for smoke starts burning like a real fire, it won’t produce much smoke, and it will burn away quickly.

When selecting wood for producing smoke, it needs to be a hardwood specifically prepared for food smoking. Wood scraps from the lumberyard might be treated with chemicals. Wood pellets for heating may not be hardwood and will either produce very little flavor or a bitter flavor. So only use wood labeled for smoking in either a grill or smoker.

Making Smoke with Wood Chunks

Large wood chunks are great for producing smoke. They burn for longer periods of time and can smolder for hours. These are perfect for adding smoke to a charcoal fire. On a gas grill, however, they don’t work as well. We want the wood to smolder. Burning hot, wood chunks actually produce less smoke. We need the low combustion that an oxygen-deprived environment can give us. A gas grill doesn’t limit airflow.

Some sources will tell you to place large chunks of wood under the grill grate and on top of the flame-tamers (or flavorizer bars). The idea is that the heat of the burner will cause the wood to burn slowly, producing smoke. But to be effective, the temperature has to be perfect. To keep the wood smoldering but not burning means you have to adjust the burner to accommodate the wood combustion and not the temperature you want to be cooking at. Wood chunks may work in your specific grill and under the right circumstances, but they are not a dependable source of smoke.

Making Smoke with Wood Chips

Before the popularity of pellet grills and the easy availability of wood pellets, chips were your best bet to add smoke to your gas grill. Wood chips are typically used in gas and electric smokers. In these units, a heat source causes the chips to smolder and a small amount of chips can produce smoke for several hours.

Wet vs. Dry

For years we were advised to soak our wood chips and chunks in water before adding them to the fire. It was thought to help them smolder more and produce better smoke. It isn’t true. Large chunks don’t absorb much water and wet wood chips steam until they dry out. Wood pellets need to be kept as dry as possible or they return to being sawdust. Soaking your wood only delays the start of smoke production. It does not lengthen the period that smoke is produced. So keep your wood dry at all times.

Wood chips are ideal for smoker drawers, smoker boxes, and smoke bombs (see below). They produce a fairly good amount of smoke and burned right, which can last for a long time. For longer cooks, it will be necessary to add additional wood chips periodically.

Making Smoke with Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are very easy to find these days. You will need to buy them in 20-pound bags, however. These can be used the same way that wood chips are, but the best method for producing smoke with wood pellets is with a smoker tube. These are metal (usually stainless steel) mesh tubes. one end is lit and the tube will burn through to the other side, producing a good quantity of smoke for up to two hours. Smoker tubes can be used as a primary source of smoke, a supplement to the smoke your cooker makes, or for cold smoking.

Smoke Flavors

IntensityWoodFood
MildApple, Cherry, Alder, Maple, PeachPork, Poultry, Fish, Lamb, Seafood, Vegetables, Cheese
MediumOak, Grape, Pecan, SassafrasBeef, Pork, Poultry, Fish, Lamb, Seafood, Vegetables,
HeavyHickory, MesquiteBeef, Lamb, Pork

These are recommendations and not rules. Smoke flavor is very much a matter of personal taste. Some people like a stronger smoke flavor than others. I always recommend starting on the mild side and working your way upwards. Not enough smoke is much better than too much. Many recipes you find will give a wood recommendation. Use these as a guide if you don’t know where to start. Also, when it comes to wood pellets, many companies offer blends that are specifically targeted at smoked items like chicken, beef brisket, or pork butts. Generally, I don’t recommend blends because they rely heavily on woods that are cost-effective, not necessarily flavorful.

Smoke Bombs

The easiest and cheapest way to get smoke into your grill is with an aluminum foil smoke bomb. Make packets out of heavy duty aluminum foil, then fill them loosely with wood chips or pellets. Do not pack it tightly. There must be airflow so that the wood can receive the oxygen it needs to smolder. With a knife, punch several holes all over the foil pouch. Doing this lets air in and the smoke out. For long cooks, it is best to make several of these and replace them as the smoke runs out.

Making Gas Grill Smoke Bombs
Making Gas Grill Smoke Bombs

A better way to make a smoke bomb is with a small disposable aluminum pan. Find one that fits your space. Add an inch or cup of wood chips to the bottom. Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil and poke holes through the foil. Now place that pan over a burner that you will be using during the cooking time. It might be necessary to turn that burner to high to get smoke production started. After that, you can lower the temperature.

The smoke bombs or packets need to be placed under the grill grate and above the lit burners. So while the grill temperature might be relatively low, the internal temperature nearest the smoke packet is much higher. This keeps the wood smoldering regardless of the cooking temperature.

Smoke Making Devices

Homemade Smoke Bombs can be unpredictable and may not give you the best results. There are, however, several accessories you can buy that will produce smoke in your gas grill. Some work and many do not. I have picked from the best to give you better smoke-making capabilities.

A-Maze-N 12-inch Pellet Tube

A-Maze-N 12 inch Pellet Tube

The A-Maze-N Pellet tube is a stainless steel mesh device, open on each end. It is filled with wood pellets. You get to choose the flavor you want. Place the tube inside the grill and light one end. You will need a long lighter to get it started, but once the pellets are burning, that’s it. The tube design keeps the pellets burning slowly. This 12-inch unit will produce smoke for an extended period. Since this doesn’t need the heat of the grill’s burners to combust the wood, you can place this tube anywhere inside the grill. The downside of this device is that it burns wood pellets, and it is hard to find them in small bags.

Buy the A-Maze-N 12-inch Pellet Tube


Char-Broil Cast Iron Smoker Box

Char-Broil Cast Iron Smoker Box

The advantage of this smoke box from Char-Broil is that it is cheap. You can get one for about $10. It is solid and will hold a lot of heat. Plus it can be fitted below the cooking grate if you prefer. Of course, if you do that, it will be hard to refill. I do suggest that if you are using cast iron, be careful around the metal components of your grill. Cast iron can scratch metal surfaces, opening them up to corrosion.

Buy the Char-Broil Cast Iron Smoker Box

Charcoal Companion Stainless Steel V-Shape Smoker Box

Charcoal Companion Stainless Steel V-Shape Smoker Box

This model fits between the flame tamers of many models of gas grills (though more specifically Weber Gas Grills). This puts it close to the fire so that smoke production is good. It has a hinged lid so you can easily add more wood, except that you have to remove a cooking grate to get to it. For shorter cooks, this is a good model. It has a stainless steel construction that you can run through your dishwasher with ease. Check the design of the flame tamers of your grill before buying this one.

Buy the Charcoal Companion Stainless Steel V-Shape Smoker Box

Want to put your gas grill smoke-making abilities to the test? Try Making Barbecue Ribs on a Gas Grill.

Derrick Riches

I began writing about Barbecue & Grilling in 1997 with one mission, to help the backyard chef have the best experience possible.

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