Can You Smoke Meat On A Gas Grill

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Have you ever stood in front of your gas grill in your backyard wishing you had a smoker? Maybe you don’t have the physical space or the budget to add a smoker. So you flip burgers or hot dogs all the while pining for smoky barbecue. What the real question is “Can you smoke meat on a gas grill?”  Surprisingly,…

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Smoking On A Gas Grill

Have you ever stood in front of your gas grill in your backyard wishing you had a smoker? Maybe you don’t have the physical space or the budget to add a smoker. So you flip burgers or hot dogs all the while pining for smoky barbecue. What the real question is “Can you smoke meat on a gas grill?” 

Surprisingly, the answer is yes. You aren’t going to get the same results as you would on an offset smoker or a pellet grill, of course. That doesn’t mean you can’t deliver some delicious wood-smoke-flavored food cooked on a gas grill, though. You just need to understand the limitations of this type of grill, a few options for tools, wood chips, and some know-how.

So what do we need to know to learn how to smoke in a gas grill?

Why We Don’t Typically Think About Smoking On A Gas Grill

Well, there are a few reasons why smoking and gas grills aren’t typically associated. When we’re talking about this type of grill, we typically associate them with cooking smaller cuts of meat hot and fast over direct heat. We want grill marks, right? You might sear a steak in a matter of minutes.

That’s the exact opposite of smoking barbecue. We think about big cuts of meat like pork butts and briskets  (or ribs) and low and slow with indirect heat. The short smoking sessions still take hours.

While smoking barbecue and grilling meat are all about cooking food with flame, how the two cooking styles accomplish that is completely different. So if you’ve never thought about smoking meat on your propane grill, there are some pretty good reasons why you wouldn’t.

However, just because you haven’t really thought about it doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

How To Smoke On A Gas Grill

Now there are four major keys to smoking: temperature control, indirect heat, wood smoke, and monitoring the internal temperature of the meat. The first three aren’t things we normally associate with gas grills, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it happen. The fourth is commonplace even when grilling. No one wants under or over-cooked chicken, right?

The idea of creating indirect heat, or two-zone cooking, is fairly simple on a propane grill. Depending on the number of burners and the cooking area, you can use one (or two) burners as the heat source and leave off the rest of the burners that are under the area where you’ll be putting your meat. Nice and simple. 

The rest of those keys may not be so simple. So you’re going to need some tools. We’ve got you covered, though. Check through this list so you can be prepared to turn your gas grill into a smoker.

Probe Thermometers For Temperature Control

Signals Multi Probe Thermometer

So how do we manage temperature control on this type of grill? Do we just keep an eye on that thermometer in the lid? No. They aren’t all that precise, plus we’re concerned about the temperature at the level of the food we’re cooking. So if you want to put your meat on the warming rack, you might get better results with the lid thermometer, but that could limit what you’re smoking.

No, you want something much more precise that can keep an eye on the temperature at the main cooking surface. Our recommendation? The ThermoWorks Signals wireless meat thermometer. It comes with an ambient temperature probe designed to help keep an eye on the air temperature and a handy clip for keeping it in place on your grill grates. Just clip this right next to where you’re going to put your meat and you’ll be able to make any adjustments you need.

Also, the Signals unit comes with three additional meat probes so you can keep an eye on whatever you’re smoking in one handy unit. It also pairs with the ThermoWorks app you can get on your Apple or Android phone so you don’t have to sit right next to your grill for the entire cooking session. App pictured below. CH1 lists the grill temp probe and CH2 lists the meat temp probe.

Water Pan To Help Regulate Temperature

Water Tray for Smoking
Pan With Water While Smoking Meat

Now this is not as much of a necessity as the thermometer. However, there are two important reasons to consider adding a water pan below your meat while smoking on a gas grill. First, the cooking chamber is typically drier than an offset smoker. Burning wood introduces some level of moisture to the air while gas flames do not. 

Secondly, that water pan can act as a heat sink to help you regulate the temperature. It can work in concert with your thermometer and minute adjustments to your gas burner controls to get a consistent temperature ideal for low and slow cooking.

As I said, it’s not required. You can manage your temperature well without it, and you can just make sure you spritz your cut of meat regularly with apple juice or a 50/50 blend of apple cider vinegar and water. It’s going to be more important to do this than on an offset smoker or a pellet grill. 

If you do choose to go the water pan route, place a disposable aluminum foil pan and place it over the unlit burners where you will put the meat. Then add an inch or two of hot water, but be careful that the pan doesn’t start to fold or collapse and spill the water everywhere. You can always add water during your smoking session.

How Do You Create Wood Smoke On A Natural Gas Or Propane Grill? (Also Known As How To Use Wood Chips For Smoking On A Gas Grill)

Cooking meat low and slow isn’t enough to be true barbecue. If it was, we could just use an oven or a slow cooker. Yes, I know people do, but that isn’t really barbecue, right? Sauce and dry rubs are great, but if it doesn’t have some level of wood smoke flavor, we’re just kidding ourselves.

So how do you create wood smoke on a gas grill? What kind of wood should you use? Well, there are a few different options for each of these questions. As for what type of wood to use, you’ll want to use wood pellets or wood chips, depending on the delivery device. As for that device, you can use a smoke tube, a smoker box (or a homemade makeshift one,) or just a simple foil packet. 

Smoke Or Pellet Tube

This is a metal tube with exhaust holes around the entire circumference of the tube. You can use either wood chips or wood pellets. Once you’ve filled the tube, put it over a burner set to low or medium heat until it starts to produce smoke. Then you’re ready to smoke.

Smoker Box (And A Makeshift One, Too)

A smoker box is usually a hinged stainless steel box with vent holes throughout the construction. It’s easy to use and you can even open the lid to refill it during the course of your smoking session. 

If you don’t want to go out and get one, you can create a makeshift one using a small disposable aluminum pan and aluminum foil. Just put a layer of wood chips in the base of the pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Poke some holes in the foil with a knife and you’re ready to smoke.

Aluminum Foil Pouch

This requires nothing besides wood chips, aluminum foil, and a knife. Nice and easy. You want to unroll a section of foil large enough to tightly wrap around two handfuls of chips twice. You can either use one big section or two sections. 

For more on using wood chips on a grill, check out our article on how to use wood chips to smoke. As for what flavors of wood chips, that gets into what exactly you’re smoking. 

What Can I Smoke On A Gas Grill?

Now that we know how to smoke on a natural gas or propane grill, it’s time to answer the question “What can you smoke on a gas grill?” The answer is simple: Whatever you want, provided you have the patience. 

Now you need to remember that gas grills aren’t designed to smoke large cuts of meat perfectly. That’s why we have to go through this process to make it possible. However, once you’ve got all those steps taken care of, the sky is the limit. Or rather, the cooking space is the limit.

Smoking Ribs On A Gas Grill

Ribs are a great option for smoking on a gas grill. They’re delicious and they are quicker than a lot of other iconic cuts of barbecue. So how do you smoke ribs on a grill? 

Once you’ve got your grill prepped as discussed before and your wood chips smoking, you’ll place your ribs bone-side down on the indirect heat side of the grill. Close the lid and let them start smoking. You’ll want to check every 45 minutes or so on the amount of wood chips you’ve been using and replenish as needed. You’ll also want to spritz as noted above, especially if you aren’t using a water pan.

You may be tempted to use the standard 3-2-1 method for smoking your ribs, and if you like fall-off-the-bone ribs, that’s fine. However, Michael Haas will argue that those ribs are overdone. So follow his method for ribs that you can bite into while still being tender. Those times will work just the same as on a pellet smoker or gas grill. 

As for what flavor of wood chips to use, you’ve got options! I like a pairing of a hardwood with a fruitwood. I’d look at hickory and cherry as a great combination, but oak is another fantastic hardwood and you could go with apple, pecan, maple, or even peach for the fruitwood. Check out our handy smoking wood chart below for more information no matter the cut of meat!

Smoking Wood Chart

Can You Smoke Pulled Pork On A Gas Grill?

If you’re a fan of juicy, tender, and smoky pulled pork, you’ll want to make it at home. Pork butts are generally one of the more inexpensive cuts of meat for smoking you can find at local grocery stores. You can even smoke them on a gas grill, too.

You’ll want to set your grill up as above and get your wood chips smoking. You’ll want to have your grill set to somewhere around 250°-275°F as verified by your thermometer. Once the chips are smoking and your temperature is stabilized, put your seasoned pork butt on the indirect heat side of the grill and get to smoking. Make sure you’re watching the internal temperature of the pork butt so you can wrap it when the bark is set and the temp is stalled. Then just take it until probe-tender, somewhere between 195°-205°F. 

You will definitely be reloading wood chips throughout this smoking process, so have plenty on hand. However, once you’ve wrapped your pork butt, you don’t need any more wood. Just let the heat of the burners do the job. As for what flavor of wood, I like oak or hickory along with apple. You can use just about any fruitwood, though cherry isn’t the most recommended.

Smoking A Brisket On A Gas Grill

Now this might be seen as sacrilege, especially to our friends in Texas. Regardless, you can smoke a brisket on a gas grill. However, if you intend to tackle one of the hardest meats to smoke, a whole packer brisket, you’ll need a big grill. After all, a whole packer brisket can be two feet in length. If you’ve got a grill big enough to accommodate that much meat while still keeping the brisket in indirect heat, you’ll want to make sure that the point is oriented towards the hotter end of the grill. The marbling will help it handle the elevated heat much better than the leaner flat. 

You could also separate the point from the flat so you can lay them side by side rather than end to end. Or you could simply smoke the point.

As for what wood chips to use, I’m largely a purist when it comes to brisket so I’m Team Oak all the way. You can always mix and match! Just make sure that you replenish those wood chips as needed while keeping the surface of the brisket moist. Wrap it once the bark is set and the meat has stalled, then remove once it’s probe tender, usually somewhere between 203°-205°F.

Can You Cold Smoke On A Natural Gas Or Propane Grill?

This may not be the best type of grill for cold smoking, but you can cold smoke on a propane grill. It requires patience and the right tools like a smoke tube or pellet tube. That means you can cold smoke some cheese or salmon for smoky flavor without needing to get another big piece of equipment. Check out our article on how to cold smoke cheese for more information.

Wrapping It Up

So there you have it: you can smoke on a gas grill. No, it won’t have the same results as using an offset smoker, but with time and effort, you can still make some mouth-watering barbecue. Make sure you’ve got plenty of propane and wood chips, especially if you’re smoking pork butts or brisket. 

Have you ever tried smoking on a gas grill? How did it go? Got any tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments!


Question: Do I Need To Add Water On Wood Chips When Smoking On A Gas Grill?

Answer: A lot of people soak their wood chips, but in reality, all it’s doing is delaying the release of actual wood smoke. All that moisture has to cook off and evaporate before the wood truly starts to burn. You can use this to your advantage by having dry wood chips in one packet and soaked wood chips in a second packet. The dry chips will smoke first and then you’ll have more chips that will start smoking later. However, you don’t need to add water to your wood chips in any type of grill or smoker.

Jeremy Pike

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