How to Smoke on a Gas Grill

Published Categorized as Grills and Outdoor Cooking, Appliances, Guide

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Perhaps you’ve never thought about smoking on your gas grill, but it is entirely possible even though a little heat and smoke may escape. This is because there are gaps between the lid and the grill. However, while the food may not be quite the same as meat cooked in a dedicated smoker, the results can still be incredibly good. In this article, we will be looking at how to smoke successfully using a gas grill.

Table of Contents

How to Set up the Grill

While a gas grill is easier to manage than a charcoal one, you still have to make sure that the temperature stays the same throughout the smoking process. To smoke successfully, you need to keep the temperature between 225F and 250F. Because of this, you can’t place your meat directly above the burners. 

The answer is to create a hot and a cool zone and put your meat in the cool zone. This means not having all the burners on. It is easy if you have a 2-burner gas grill because you switch one on and leave the other off. If you have a 4-burner gas grill, you could switch one on and leave the other three off, or you could have two on and two off (it gets more complicated with a 6-burner gas grill). The best thing to do initially is to experiment until you get to the right temperature.

There are other factors to consider such as the weather. Your gas grill won’t work the same in the winter as it does in the summer. You will need to turn your burner up higher in the winter and lower in the summer. The wind can also affect the temperature of the grill, as can rain.

A good temperature regulator is an aluminum pan of water that you place between the gas burner and the food. It will absorb heat and so keep the temperature stable. It won’t steam the meat as the water doesn’t get high enough to boil. The moisture combined with the smoke and the gas creates delicious flavors that you won’t get from smoke alone. 

Monitoring the Grill Temperature

When you’re trying to keep a steady temperature in your grill, it is vital to have a good thermometer. Unfortunately, some of the thermometers fitted to the lid of gas grills can be inaccurate. They can even be as much as 100F out so that won’t help you if you want to maintain a low temperature. Going above 250F can completely ruin the whole smoking experience.

You will need to invest in a digital thermometer. All good digital thermometers will come with 2 probes so you can use one to keep a check on the temperature inside the grill and the other for measuring the internal temperature of your meat. You will want the internal temperature of your meat to reach 165F for it to be ready to eat.

What’s even better is a Bluetooth BBQ thermometer. These can have up to 6 probes that connect to your cell phone. You can sit on a comfy chair indoors and chat with guests without continually having to get up to check on the temperature of your grill and the meat.  

How to Make Smoke

Unfortunately, propane gas on its own won’t make smoke even with a low temperature. You will need to add wood (and to have a gas charcoal smoker combo grill). You can use wood chunks, pellets, or chips. Wood chunks are the easiest to use as all you have to do is place a chunk on the barrier which sits above the burner. It won’t take long before it will start smoking. Pellets and chips need oxygen to work so they can’t just be placed above the burner. You will have to get inventive and perhaps purchase accessories unless you have bought a high-end grill that comes with an offside smoker. Offside smokers are great because all you have to do is fill them with the pellets and leave them to smoke away. They are very economical as they use on average one pound of pellets per hour and they can hold around ten pounds or even more. Again, you can just leave your grill to smoke without having to continually add pellets.

However, if you don’t have one of these grills with an offside smoker, you can still produce smoke with pellets or chips. One way of doing this is to buy a pellet tube. You fill this up with pellets, light one end, and put it on the grill grate above the burner. They come in different sizes, but it’s best to get the 12-inch as it burns for up to four hours. If you are smoking something like a pork butt you may have to refill the tube, but this should just have to be done once.

If you want to use wood chips, you can buy a smoker box to put directly over the lit burner. These boxes are made from stainless steel and are very sturdy so will last you a long time, probably even longer than your grill.

If you just occasionally smoke meat on your gas grill, there are other options which means that you don’t have to buy an accessory for smoking. The first is simple. All you do is make a pouch out of aluminum foil and put in the pellets or chips. You will need to punch a few holes into the foil so that oxygen can get in and out. Then just put it above the burner and you’re ready to smoke. You could also put the chips or pellets into an aluminum dish and put it on the burner. Both work equally well.

The great thing about wood is that you can get lots of different flavors, so you can choose what you want. You can get fruity flavors like apple and cherry. Apple goes well with poultry, pork, and seafood. Hickory is good with pork ribs and mesquite with red meat. Oak goes well with all meats and is often nice mixed with other woods. You can even make up your own mix if there are certain flavors you particularly like.

You don’t need to use too much wood if you are smoking from inside the grill as there’s nothing worse than over smoked meat. If you have an offset smoker, it regulates the amount of smoke going in, so you don’t have to worry. When you are just starting out smoking on a gas grill and are using an accessory, use ½ cup of pellets or chips or just one small chunk of wood. It’ll be trial and error and you may find that you need more of a smoky flavor so add more wood the next time around.

The Process of Smoking Meat on a Gas Grill

It’s always best to get everything ready and in place before you start smoking. Put any rubs or marinades that you want to flavor your meat on the food before you bring it out. In fact, you may want to marinate your meat a few hours beforehand and put it in the fridge. This will bring out great flavors. 

Another thing to make sure about is to have a spare tank of propane (if you’re not using a natural gas grill). You don’t want to be running out of gas halfway through the smoke and having to run down to the store, interrupting the smoking process. 

So, you’ve got everything ready to go. The next thing is to turn on the burners you want to be alight, be it one or two (it’s tricky when having an odd number of burners, 3-burner gas grill for example). Put in your probe and wait until the inside temperature of the grill gets to 225F – 250F. If the temperature doesn’t rise, you will have to turn your burner up or put on additional burners. Vice versa, turn the burner down if it gets too hot. It may take a little playing around with when you have your first smoke, but you’ll soon get to know your grill.

Once you have reached the right temperature, it’s time to add the wood. If you are placing the wood onto the burner remember to use tongs or heat-proof gloves. Once the smoke appears, put your meat on the cool zone and shut the lid.

You will need to check on the temperature throughout the cooking time. When you’re first starting you may have to check more often until you get to know your grill.

Final Thoughts

As can be seen, it is possible to smoke on a gas grill (even on a tabletop gas grill) and you won’t be disappointed with the results. Just think about smoked pork butt with the scent of apple or hickory flavored ribs. The key to smoking is keeping the temperature low and slow and once you have mastered your gas grill, you shouldn’t have any problems smoking delicious meat (even with the built-in gas grill). You don’t need to have a dedicated smoker to achieve these results. A gas grill will work as well. If you are stretched for space, this is an ideal situation as you will have a grill and smoker in one. One day you can grill steaks, burgers, and sausages, and the next you can smoke a brisket. What could be better?