The idea of smoking meat on a gas grill is still new to most people. If you have been thinking of smoking your meat but you have no smoker, then here is some good news for you! It is possible to carry out the activity on a gas grill, after modifying it to suit the task.
Basic Information About Gas-Grill Smoking
Malcolm Reeds is a leading barbecue maker and barbecue-making competition winner. He says that there’s more to gas-grill smoking than twisting the dials. He is widely traveled and has bagged many awards in competitions such as the barbecue circuit.
According to him, one can smoke using a propane or gas grill of any kind, whether old or new. He uses a Napoleon Gas Grill that has 4 burners.
There are two types of grill set-ups that one should pay attention to before embarking on smoking.
Two-Zone Indirect Setup
A two-zone indirect setup sets two distinct zones on your grill: a hot one and a cool one. This means that you’ll need to have at least one of the burners turned on, while the others are off. This helps you to control the temperature so that it doesn’t go too high or too low. The food getting smoked is then placed on the opposite side of the lit burner.
For this setup, it is advisable to have a pan made of aluminum and filled with water. This pan should be placed on the space left between the food and the gas burner.
This pan is meant to absorb the heat inside the grill hence retaining a stable temperature. Contrary to many people’s thoughts, the water in the pan does not steam the meat but rather acts as a heat regulator. It lowers the temperature fluctuations. When the steam produced by the water in the pan meets the smoke, a savory flavor is created. This gives the food in the gas-grill smoker a great taste.
The temperature should not be too high to get the water boiling. This makes the meat steamy and gets rid of the smoky flavor. When you notice the water boiling, turn down the heat and continue with the process.
The Correct Burner Configuration
If your grill has two burners, it’s easy to keep one of them on while the other one is off. As discussed earlier, this is referred to as a two-burner setup.
How do you set up a gas grill that has more than two burners? If your grill has four burners like the Napoleon Gas Grill, it might not be easy to know which burners should be left on and which ones to put off. For you to achieve the right temperature, you have to come up with a suitable burner configuration.
For example, you may decide to turn on the first burner on your left and leave the other 3 burners off. The second alternative is to turn on the two burners on each end and turn off the two burners in the middle. Alternatively, you can switch on the first two burners on your right or left side, while the last two are turned off.
The correct burner configuration controls the heat inside the gas grill. It also leaves enough room for the food to get smoked. Note down the configuration that gives an even temperature of 230 to 250 degrees F.
There are variables that can force you to change the burner configuration such as the weather. Others include the type of food and the amount of food placed on the grill at one go. The temperature required during summer is not the same as that required during winter. Hence, a change in the configurations may be needed.
Keep experimenting and testing your burners until you find a suitable configuration. You’ll need to use a different one for each occasion, weather, or type of food you want to get smoked.
How to Monitor the Grill Temperature
For most types of foods, you have to be very accurate with the temperature you set up on your burner. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the temperature by simply looking at the burner configuration. A thermometer is a necessity for monitoring the grill temperature.
However, some metal thermometers are not designed to provide the readings on a gas grill, hence may be inaccurate. For this reason, a digital thermometer is recommended. An example of a good quality digital thermometer is the Thermoworks Smoke.
Most thermometers have a clip that holds it to the grill grate. Keep the thermometer close to the food to get the amount of heat that is reaching that food. The temperature recorded on the thermometer is the actual cooking temperature.
Quality thermometers have two probes. One probe checks the meat temperature while the other one checks the temperature of the heat emitted from the burners to the grills.
How to Create Smoke Inside a Gas Grill
Smoke is created using wood pellets, wood chips, or wood chunks. The idea is to create smoke, not fire, hence the type of wood used should be highly smoky and less flammable.
On top of most grill burners, there’s a barrier that is used to hold the wood chunks in place. Put the wood chunk on it and turn the burner on. Low heat causes the chunk to combust slowly hence produce smoke. Due to the availability of oxygen, the wood chunk is likely to get flamed up. For this reason, it is advisable to use wood pellets or chips instead.
Placing pellets or wood chips directly on the burner will cause them to burst into flames instead of producing smoke. To omit the oxygen that causes the pellets and chips to burn up, place the pellets inside pellet tubes or smoker boxes. Another alternative is to wrap them in an aluminum foil that has holes on it.
How to Use a Pellet Tube Smoker
Many gas grills have no inbuilt smoker box so we are required to look for other alternatives. A pellet tube smoker creates smoke inside the gas grill when wood pellets are added inside it and lit using a lighter.
After lighting it, put it on one end of the grate. It has the capability of smoking for around 4 hours before a replacement for the pellets is needed.
Pellet tube smokers are available in different sizes to match the size of your gas grill. A bigger tube smoker emits smoke for a longer period compared to a small-sized one. LIZZQ Premium Pellet Smoker measures up to 12’’ and it’s designed to give you a long-lasting smoky experience.
A smoker box is another option to choose from. It is a box made of stainless steel. It has holes made on all sides. To create smoke using a smoker box, place wood chips or pellets inside it. It is advisable to dampen the wood chips to prevent them from bursting into flames for being too dry.
If the two former options are not available for you, there is a DIY smoke-creation option. Take an aluminum foil and make holes on it. Place wood pellets or chips on the aluminum foil and place it on the burner. As the foil burns, the pellets or chips get hot and start emitting smoke. An aluminum pan can also be used in the same way.
Types of Smoking
There are two ways to smoke meat: hot smoking and cold smoking. Depending on how you prefer your meat smoked, you can choose either method to make a mouth-watering delicacy for you and your family.
Cold smoking requires a temperature that is below 80° Fahrenheit. To get the best results, the temperature should be kept constant. It is recommended for salmon among other types of meat.
This type of smoking requires the use of a pellet tube smoker. There are a few basic steps on cold smoking, as outlined below.
Steps followed while cold smoking:
Put wood chips or pellets inside the tube smoke
Filling the pellets in the tube smoker is the first thing to do during cold smoking. Make sure to put the pellets in the tube till it’s one inch away from being full to the brim. While buying the pellets, insist on the cooking pellets, not the wood heating ones. The latter is prone to burning, instead of producing smoke which is our aim here.
Burn one end of the pellet tube smoker
Using a lighter, light the wood pellets from one of the pellet tube’s ends. Leave the flame ablaze for up to 5 minutes. At first, the flame may burn slowly but it’ll grow gradually.
Put the flame out
When the fire grows inside the pellet tube smoker, blow it out. This way, smoke will form from the glowing pellets.
After you’ve gathered enough smoke in the grill, it’s time to put in the meat or whatever else you want smoked. Close the grill’s lid after putting your ingredients inside it and wait for them to get smoked.
Hot smoking is achieved when a temperature ranging from 180° F to 275° F is used. Smoking on a gas grill can be done to a variety of meat types. The smoke adds a different flavor and texture to your meat. When using a gas grill as the smoking equipment of choice, a few modifications and adjustments are required for it to carry out the task.
Using damp wood chips is one way to modify your gas grill into a smoker. The other option is to wrap dry wood chips using foil that has holes on them.
Setting up a Gas Grill
Gas grills are not originally designed to smoke meat. As pointed out earlier, some improvisation can be done to a normal gas grill to turn it into a smoker. There are different dials on a gas grill that are used to carry out different tasks, such as turning the heat up or down.
The easiest way to master the art of smoking on any type of grill is by knowing how to control the temperature. This should be observed over the entire smoking period. We seek to have our meat smoked and not burnt or roasted. It is advisable to avoid temperatures above 300 degrees F. It is also a bad idea to expose the meat directly to the flame.
Some gas grills come with a smoker-box but others have no such thing. If yours is among the latter, you’ll be required to buy one and fix it on the cooking grate. It should be made of stainless steel and preferably heavy-gauge.
Follow the following steps to set up the gas grill:
1. Find wood chips and soak them
Damp wood chips have the same smoky effect when placed inside the smoker box, as charcoal does inside a charcoal burner. Turn the knobs up to turn the burner on. Keep placing your soaked wood chips inside the smoker box. Keep increasing the temperature to make the chips smoke heavier. If you want to create less smoke, turn the temperature down.
2. Close the top of the gas grill
This helps to regulate the heat and spread the smoke throughout the grill. Keep the temperature stable at this point. After a while, open the grill and check if the smoke is well spread.
3. Start smoking your meat
After the successful setup, place the meat on the grill and give it time to get smoked. Keep turning it to the other side occasionally. Make sure you have enough gas to last you throughout the process.
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Smoking meat is not a new concept to many people. Some have been doing this for a long time while others are doing it for the first time. Remember to follow the correct instructions. This is important especially when it comes to the temperature and burner configuration.
Be careful not to over smoke your meat. Using too many wood chips, pellets or wood chunks leads to the emission of too much smoke. When overdone, the meat ends up losing the targeted flavor. When under-smoked, the flavor required will not be achieved