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Ever wanted to try out a smoking recipe, only to realize that your gas grill wasn’t exactly built for low and slow smoking?
While it’s technically true that gas grills aren’t built for smoking, did you know that they can be easily converted to accommodate just about any smoking recipe?
It’s true, and in this article we’ll go over everything you need to know for how to convert your gas grill into a smoker. All you need is a little bit of know how and a couple of pieces of extra equipment, and you’ll be well on your way to delicious smoked BBQ.
Things You’ll Need to Convert a Gas Grill Into a Smoker
There are a few different ways you can actually convert your gas grill into a smoker. We’ll go over some other methods at the end of this post, but our favorite way to smoke in a gas grill by far is by utilizing a pellet smoker tube. For this method, here are the things you’ll need:
- A pellet smoker tube: these contraptions house wood pellets used for smoking which burn slow and provide consistent smoke. They’re also extremely portable and ideal for converting almost any cooking chamber into a smoker.
- Probe thermometers: one to measure the internal temperature of your smoked meat, and one to measure the ambient temperature of your cooking chamber. You don’t have to use a probe thermometer for the ambient temperature, but you need a way to measure how hot your smoker is running without having to open the lid.
- A water pan: if you add a water pan over the direct heat side of your grill, it can help to keep your grill’s temperature down – which can be a big help when you’re trying to dial in your temperature. Adding a little bit of humidity to the atmosphere also helps to keep your meat from drying out. If you are smoking something that finishes quickly (like chicken or chicken thighs), the water pan isn’t necessary.
- A little bit of patience: If you’re new to smoking, know that the learning process is a journey! And especially when you’re converting a gas grill into a smoker, have a little bit of patience and know it’s ok if things don’t turn out perfectly on the first try.
How to Convert a Gas Grill Into a Smoker
Understanding Two Zone Cooking
In order to smoke on a gas grill, we’ll need to set up a two zone cooking environment. What this basically means is that you’re going to create two different temperature zones inside of your grill – one side with burners on and the other side where your food cooks with indirect heat.
The two zone method is crucial and allows for you to get your temperature in the right range of around 225-275°F for smoking. On the indirect side, your food gets to cook evenly thanks to a convection style flow of air and heat that works through your cooking chamber. On the direct heat side is where your water pan and pellet smoker tube go.
How you set your burners up largely depends on how many burners you have. You’ll just have to play around with your grill and burner settings until you get it down. For example, if you have a 3 burner gas grill you might set your middle burner to low and your right burner to medium, then have the left side of your grill be the indirect heat side.
But if you have a 4 or 2 burner gas grill, the best set up might be with the right burner(s) on high and the left burner(s) off. Play around with it until you find the perfect balance to hold your temperature at smoking levels.
Add The Smoke
In my opinion, the easiest way to add smoke to a gas grill cooking chamber is with a pellet smoker tubes. Essentially, you load wood pellets for smoking into the tube, then ignite one of the ends with a butane torch. Wood pellets by nature are slow burners, so a full tube will provide about 4-12 hours of smoke, depending on which model you get.
It’s as simple as that! Depending on which meat you are smoking, you might also consider placing a water pan on your grate above your lit burners.
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If you plan to frequently smoke and don’t want to use a pellet smoker tube, you can consider installing a permanent cold smoke generator. These units will mount to the side of your cooking chamber, where you can create a fire and funnel smoke into your gas grill. Built in smoke generators essentially act how a side box on an offset smoker does.
Aluminum Trays and Foil Packages
If you’re short on time and can’t wait for a smoker tube or in built smoke generator to arrive, you can make due with either an aluminum tray or a package of foil.
For an aluminum tray, fill your tray with wood chips, then cover the top with foil. Poke holes in the top foil cover and place the tray directly on your burners (ideally in one of the corners of your grill). Turn the heat up, then when the wood chips begin to smoke, adjust your temperature down to the level you want it for smoking.
Foil packages rely on the same principle, but can be a little messier just because they lack structure. Lay out a few pieces of aluminum foil, place a pile of wood chips inside, then enclose the wood chips by folding up the edges of the foil. Poke holes in the top of your packet, then place it on one of your burners in the heated section of your two zone setup. Turn the burners to high, then turn heat down once the wood chips begin smoking.
There you have it. With the help of a pellet tube smoker, a few thermometers, and potentially a water pan, you have everything you need to convert a gas grill into a smoker.
Even if you don’t want to use a pellet tube, we went over a few other methods that utilize foil and wood chips. If you want to read a little bit more on the difference between wood pellets and chips as fuel sources, you can do that here.
Check out our guide to smoking brisket on a gas grill here for recipe ideas!
It’s also worth noting that many high end gas grills will come with built in smoke boxes, so be sure to check your grill’s features first to see if it has smoking capabilities.
In the meantime, let us know how your first smoking project went on the gas grill! We’d love to hear what you decided to smoke and what the results were. Let us know about it in the comments section below.