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How to Smoke on a Gas Grill – Simple Setup and Technique

Craving the delicious taste of smoked meat, but only have a gas grill in your backyard?

Good news — your trusty grill can double as a smoker with the right setup.

How do you smoke on a gas grill? In short, this can be achieved by using indirect heat, paired with wood chips, chunks, or pellets to add that signature smoky flavor.

We’ve shared a lot about indirect cooking before, and why we’re huge proponents of the flexibility it provides. With a little bit of know-how (and some aluminum foil), you can use these tips to start experimenting with different types of wood and amping up your outdoor cooking game, even if you don’t have the space or resources for a dedicated smoker.

In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about using your gas grill as a smoker, from the basic setup to the tools you’ll want to have on hand.

We’ll also dive into some frequently asked questions to help solve any concerns you might have and get you on your way to creating incredible smoked foods using your gas grill.

Can You Smoke Meat on a Propane Grill?

Yes, you can smoke meat on a propane grill! Whether you have a grill with a dedicated spot for wood chips, a smoker box, or a DIY pan or pouch, you can create delicious smoked creations with your gas grill.

What Can You Smoke on a Gas Grill?

You can smoke just about anything on a gas grill with a few adjustments! That includes whole poultry, pork, lamb, beef, ribs, seafood, veggies, sides, appetizers, and — if you’re really looking to party — even smoked cocktails!

Tools to Turn Your Gas Grill Into a Smoker

Using your gas grill as a smoker takes a few simple tools. Naturally, you’ll need wood chips, chunks, or pellets to add smoke and flavor. Then you’ll need something to put them in, whether that’s a built-in or freestanding smoker box, pellet tube, disposable pan, or foil packet. More on these later.

Aside from that, you’ll need basic grilling and safety tools like a digital probe thermometer, heat-proof gloves, and an adequate propane supply.

How to Convert Your Gas Grill Into a Smoker

Create a Two-Zone Indirect Heat Setup | Gas Grill Burner Configuration

Once you have your tools assembled, turning your standard gas grill into a smoker is all a matter of creating the correct temperature zone and configuration.

Create a Two-Zone Indirect Heat Setup

To turn your gas grill into a smoker, you’ll need to set it up for indirect cooking with hot and cool zones. That indirect heat is the key to the low and slow cooking that’s essential for delicious smoked meat.

Gas Grill Burner Configuration for Low & Slow Smoking

To create a hot and cool zone, you’ll want half of your burners powered up on one side while keeping the other side off.

If you have a four-burner grill, turn on two of the burners closest to one side. If you have a three-burner grill, turn the burner closest to either side of the grill on high, set the middle burner to medium or low (depending on what temperature you’re aiming for), and leave the final burner off.

There will be some trial and error required to adjust the burners to reach your desired temperature, so be ready to do a bit of experimentation.

How Smoking on a Gas Grill Works

Smoking food on your gas grill works by slowly burning your wood chips with the burners, creating smoke and infusing your meat with that incredible flavor. The meat is then cooked slowly, at a low temperature, by the heat circulating from the burners.

How to Make Smoke on a Gas Grill

Create Smoke With a Pellet Tube | Make an Aluminum Foil Pouch | Use an Aluminum Tray | Use a Smoker Box | Place Hard Wood Chunks Directly on the Burner

You have a few different options for using your gas grill to burn wood and make that coveted smoke.

Create Smoke With a Pellet Tube

If you enjoy using wood pellets, a pellet tube smoker is a relatively inexpensive, efficient, and easy way to create smoke in a gas grill. You’ll load your tube up with your cooking wood pellets of choice until it’s about one inch from the top and light one end.

If you’re cold smoking your food, you’ll let the pellets burn in the tube for a few minutes before blowing the flame out, placing the tube on your grill grates, and shutting the lid. If you’re hot smoking, just let the flame keep going as you place the tube on the grates, close the lid, and let the smoke do its thing!

Make an Aluminum Foil Pouch

If you don’t have a tray or smoking tube, a homemade foil pouch is a great way to smoke meat on your gas grill.

Take a medium-length piece of heavy-duty foil and add about a handful or two of wood chips or pellets to the middle. Fold it shut, crimp the edges, and poke holes in the foil to let air in and smoke out. Then place the pouch over direct heat, and let it go!

Note that you’ll need to replace your pouch every 30-45 minutes as the wood burns up pretty quickly this way.

Here is a good video showing how to make and use a foil pouch for adding smoke to your gas grill.

Use an Aluminum Tray

Another easy and affordable method to smoke meat on a grill is using an aluminum tray. First, fill a small disposable aluminum tray with a cup of wood chips. Then, cover the top with foil, poke some holes or slits in the top, and place the pan over the heat just like you would a foil pouch.

Here is a great video that demonstrates how to use an aluminum smoker tray, a foil smoker pouch, and a smoker box. 

Use a Smoker Box

Smoker boxes are another simple way to add a smokey flavor to your gas grill. Just load up the smoker box with wood chips and place it under the grate and on top of a burner for instant smoke.

Place Hard Wood Chunks Directly on the Burner

No tray or foil? No problem! If you have chunks of hardwood, you can place them right above the burner to create smoke.

Be careful not to let the wood touch the flame, but get it just close enough that it will burn — if you’re having issues with this, cover the bottom of your wood in a bit of foil to help it sit closer to the burner without fully catching on fire.

How to Smoke on a Gas Grill: Step-by-Step Instructions

Set Your Burners | Add Your Wood | Steady the Temp and Wait for Smoke | Add Your Food on the Indirect Side | Insert a Wireless Digital Thermometer | Get Yer Smoke On!

Once the vessel for your wood chips or pellets is ready, it’s time to fire up your grill and transform it into a smoker.

Step 1: Set Your Burners to Medium Heat

The first step will be to light the burner on the far left of your grill and set it at medium heat. If you have a digital thermometer for monitoring the internal temperature of the grill, this is the time to put it in.

Close the lid and allow your grill to preheat until it’s between 225°F and 250°F. If your grill is taking a while to heat up, consider turning on another burner if it has three or more.

Step 2: Add Your Wood

Once your grill hits the temperature you’re looking for, add in your wood. Remember to use tongs and heatproof grill gloves to lift the grill grate to place your wood right over your burner!

If you’re using a pellet tube, smoker pouch/tray, or smoker box you’ll want to light it now and place it on your grill grates.

Step 3: Steady the Temp and Wait for Smoke

Once your wood is on the grill, close the lid again and wait between 5-10 minutes, keeping an eye on your thermometer to ensure the temperature gets back where you need it to be for cooking.

Look for wisps of smoke coming from the grill — that means it’s time to add in your food.

Step 4: Add Your Food on the Indirect Side of the 2-Zone Set Up

Once the smoke is visible, lift the lid and place your food on the indirect side of your grill’s 2-zone setup — the side with no burners turned on.

Step 5: Insert a Wireless Digital Thermometer

Now is the time to insert the remote digital BBQ meat probe into the meat so you can monitor the temperature throughout the cook.

Step 6: Get Yer Smoke On!

Close the lid, and let the smoke do its thing! If you’re using wood chips, you’ll probably have to add some more before your meat is done smoking. Check your smoke levels and wood occasionally and add more as needed.

Temperature Tracking (Don’t Lift the Lid)

Opening your grill’s lid is a one-way ticket to losing the smoke and steady temperature you worked so hard to build up.

This is where the remote digital probe thermometer we mentioned earlier will come in handy — it will help you instantly know how your food is doing without having to lift the lid, let out smoke, drop the grill’s temperature, and extend the meat’s cooking time.

Hot Tips for Smoking on a Gas Grill

Don’t Over Smoke Your Meat | Plan How Much Cooking Space You’ll Need | Know How Much Wood You’ll Need | Smoke the Wood Before the Meat | Use a Water Pan | Invest in a Remote Digital Thermometer

There are a few tips to keep in mind when using your gas grill as a smoker that will help everything go smoothly and your final product turn out delicious.

Don’t Over Smoke Your Meat

If you’re new to using your gas grill as a smoker, you might be tempted to add in extra wood to make up for any smoke that escapes — but avoid that urge!

Instead, start out with a handful or about half a cup of wood chips or pellets or one small chunk if you’re using hardwood. If you think you’d like more smokey flavor after you’ve tried your meat, add in a bit more wood next time.

Plan How Much Cooking Space You’ll Need

Since we’re using indirect heat to smoke our food, you’ll be limited to how much of your grilling surface you can use. Take a look at your grill and see how much room you’ll have if you’re only using half (or less) of the space, then plan what you want to smoke with that size in mind.

Know How Much Wood You’ll Need

How much wood you’ll need to smoke on your gas grill will depend on how much food you’re smoking, and how long it will need to cook. For something large like a pork shoulder or ribs, which can take hours, add more wood or a fresh foil packet every half hour.

Smoke the Wood Before the Meat

Make sure your wood produces smoke before adding your meat or other food to the grill. If you add your meat too early, it won’t get as much exposure to the smoke.

Use a Water Pan

A water pan can help regulate your grill’s temperature and add some much-needed moisture to your food. Fill your pan about halfway up with water and place it over the heat source. Just make sure your grill doesn’t get too hot, or else you’ll end up with an abundance of steam.

Invest in a Remote Digital Thermometer

Monitoring the temperature of your grill and meat is essential to successfully using your gas grill as a smoker, but you shouldn’t rely on the grill’s built-in thermometer. Invest in a good remote digital thermometer so you’ll always have an accurate temperature reading without needing to open the lid to check.

How to Smoke on a Gas Grill FAQ

Can You Smoke on a Propane or Natural Gas Grill? | How Many Wood Chips Do I Need | How Long Do Wood Chips Last on a Gas Grill | Should You Soak Your Wood Chips? | Where Does the Smoker Box Go on a Gas Grill?

Still have questions about turning your gas grill into a smoker? Good, because we’ve got answers! Kee reading for answers to the most frequently asked gas grill smoking questions.

Can You Smoke on a Propane or Natural Gas Grill?

Yes, you can smoke on a propane or natural gas grill! With an indirect cooking setup, some wood, and a container to put that wood in o prevent it from burning too quickly, you’ll be smoking in no time.

How Many Wood Chips Do I Need to Smoke on a Gas Grill?

As a rule of thumb, you’ll need about one cup of woodchips for every hour of cooking time. Depending on what you’re cooking and the temperature you’re using, you may need to add fresh chips more frequently, or use a little less to start so the smokey taste doesn’t become overwhelming.

How Long Do Wood Chips Last on a Gas Grill

Soaked wood chips will last between 45 minutes to an hour on a gas grill but will produce more steam than smoke in the beginning. Un-soaked chips will go a little quicker, and likely will need to be replaced around the half-hour mark.

Should You Soak Your Wood Chips?

There’s a lot of debate on this topic, but in general, you should not soak your wood chips if you’re looking to get smoking quickly, as soaking them will result in steam before they create smoke. If you’re smoking something for a long time and want your chips to last, and aren’t concerned about a little bit of steam, you can experiment with soaking your chips beforehand.

Where Does the Smoker Box Go on a Gas Grill?

Your smoker box should be as close to your heat source as possible. On a gas grill, you’ll want to place it right over the burners, either on the grate or directly below it.

Final Thoughts on Our How to Smoke on a Gas Grill Guide

We hope this guide has helped you learn how you can accomplish smoking foods on your gas grill and get more use out of your grill investment!

Knowing how to use your gas grill as a smoker is a valuable skill to have, especially if you’re limited on space or resources to invest in a smoker of your own. And all it takes are a few simple tools and a little burner setup know-how to accomplish this goal.

With a bit of experimentation, you’re just a few steps away from creating your own delicious smoked dishes.

If you have any additional questions about how to use your gas grill as a smoker, let us know in the comments or drop us an email!

Cheers,

Pat G.

Now It’s Your Turn

I want to hear from you:

Which methods have you used to smoke on a gas grill?

Do you have any tips or tricks to share for smoking on a gas grill?

Are you going to be purchasing a smoker in the future?  Or do you plan on looking at a pellet grill, built-in or standalone gas grill, or charcoal model?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.

Cheers,

Pat G.

DisclosureAt The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs.  If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission.  This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue.  Your support is truly appreciated.