If you only have the budget or outdoor space for a gas grill, you’ve probably resigned yourself to the fact that you won’t be able to impact your food with the great smoky flavor a smoker or pellet grill can create.
But what if we told you that you could capture those flavors without giving up the convenience of your gas grill?
With the right tools and techniques, you can absolutely use wood pellets to smoke food on your gas grill.
We love this method because it’s incredibly simple, and the tools required are affordable. You can even make them from items you already have in your house!
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the different methods you can use to smoke food using wood pellets on your gas grill. We’ll also share advice on how to choose the best pellets for use with a non-pellet grill to ensure you’re adding the best flavor possible to your food.
So fire up your grill, grab your pellets, and let’s get to it!
- Flavor Boost: Introducing wood pellets to your gas grill infuses your BBQ with rich smoky notes, offering an array of taste profiles from woods like oak, maple, pecan, and cherry.
- Methods to Mastery: Learn four effective techniques such as smoking tubes, boxes, disposable aluminum pans, or homemade foil pouches to introduce wood pellet smoke into your gas grill.
- Efficiency and Ease: Opting for wood pellets not only helps you get a potent and varied flavor profile but also a more streamlined grilling experience and fuss-free cleanup compared to traditional wood chunks or charcoal.
Table of Contents
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What Are Food Grade Wood Pellets?
Food-grade wood pellets are specially manufactured pellets intended for use in pellet grills and smokers to cook and flavor food.
Unlike heating pellets or those made for other purposes, food-grade pellets are made from pure, untreated wood without any added fillers, binders, or chemicals.
They come in various flavors, such as hickory, mesquite, cherry, and apple, to impart different smoky tastes to the food.
To learn more about wood pellets and whether they are a healthy alternative to charcoal, check out this article: Are Pellet Grills Healthy? Debunking Myths About Pellet Grills
Why Smoke With Wood Pellets Instead of Wood Chips?
There are a few reasons why you might want to opt for using wood pellets on your gas grill instead of wood chips.
- First, pellets have become more widely available in hardware and big box stores since grills and smokers designed specifically for use with pellets have become more popular.
- Wood pellets are also sold in large bags that allow you to buy them in bulk and save money in the long run.
- Because of the pellets’ dense design, they’ll also burn longer and create smoke for longer than their wood chip counterparts. This means fewer refills during extended grill sessions.
- Wood pellets burn at a consistent rate, producing a steady smoke and maintaining a predictable temperature, crucial for long smoking sessions.
- Pellets are denser and create less ash compared to wood chips. This makes cleanup easier and ensures a cleaner burn, reducing potential flare-ups.
Finally, if you’re in the camp of outdoor cooks who like to soak their wood chips before using them, pellets can save you time as they completely eliminate the “to soak or not to soak” debate. In fact, if you do soak a pellet, it’ll get ruined, so don’t even try!
Benefits of Smoking With Pellets on Gas Grills
The biggest benefit you’ll get from smoking with pellets is flavor. Pellets allow you to create the smokey, wood-fired taste of a traditional smoker right from your gas grill.
Since they’re made from 100% hardwood, wood pellets also come in various flavor options, like cherry, hickory, mesquite, and applewood, so you can experiment with different flavors for different foods.
Wood pellets also burn longer and more efficiently than traditional charcoal or wood, so you can use less of them in your quest to create smoke on your gas grill.
Last but certainly not least, wood pellets create less ash than wood or charcoal do as they burn, so cleanup is much easier. That means more time to spend enjoying your delicious smoked creations!
4 Techniques for Using Wood Pellets on a Gas Grill
You might raise an eyebrow at the mention of using wood pellets on a gas grill, but these compact flavor boosters have quickly gained traction in the BBQ world.
Offering a variety of woodsy aromas and the promise of a consistent burn, wood pellets can help add authentic smoky notes to your barbecue.
But how do you harness their potential on a gas grill?
Here are four tried-and-true methods that will allow you to use wood pellets with your gas grill:
1. Smoking Tube Method
Just like its name implies, a smoking tube is a tube made from stainless steel or aluminum that holds the pellets and allows them to smolder, sending smoke out through small holes in the side.
You’ll find smoking tubes in a variety of sizes, but the typical tube is about 12 inches long and can hold enough pellets to burn between five and six hours.
Steps for Using a Smoker Tube With Wood Pellets
Step 1: Preheat and Prepare the Grill
Preheat the grill and then set it up for indirect cooking, with one or two burners on and the others off.
Step 2: Fill the Smoking Tube
Load your smoking tube with the wood pellets. If you want a smokier result, you can even use two tubes at once!
Step 3: Light the Pellets
Using a propane torch or a long lighter, light one end of the smoking tube for about a minute until the pellets catch fire. Allow it to burn for a few minutes, then blow out the flames. The pellets should smolder and produce smoke.
Step 4: Position the Smoking Tube
Place the smoking tube directly on the grill grates, ideally near the heat source but not directly over it. If your grill has multiple burners, position the tube over a burner set to low or turned off, and use the other burners to regulate the grill’s temperature.
Step 5: Adjust the Grill’s Temperature:
With the smoking tube in place, adjust the temperature of your grill to your desired cooking level. The smoking tube will produce smoke even at low temperatures, perfect for slow cooking and smoking.
Step 6: Cook Your Food:
Once you see a consistent stream of smoke coming from the tube, place your food over the unlit burners for indirect cooking. As it cooks, it will absorb the smoky flavors from the pellets.
Step 7: Monitor and Refill as Needed:
A fully loaded smoking tube can produce smoke for several hours, but depending on your cooking duration, you might need to refill it. If so, use heat-resistant gloves to handle the tube.
Once you’re done cooking, turn off the grill and let the smoking tube burn out on its own.
2. Smoker Box Method
The smoker box method works similarly to the smoking tube since you’ll use a vessel to hold the pellets and create that coveted smoke.
The only real difference is that smoker boxes are shaped like, as you might have guessed, a box. They’re usually made from stainless steel and feature the same small holes across the surface that will allow smoke to escape.
With smoker boxes, there’s no need to light your pellets — the flames of your grill will be able to ignite them.
If you are interested in learning more about how to use a smoker box on your gas grill, here is a handy guide: How to Use a Smoker Box on a Gas Grill for Smoke-Infused Grilling
Steps for Using a Smoker Box With Wood Pellets
Step 1: Prep the Smoking Box
Fill your smoking box with the chosen wood pellets.
Step 2: Heat Your Grill
Turn on your gas grill and let it heat up to your desired cooking temperature. If your grill has multiple burners, you’ll want to set up a two-zone cooking area – one side with burners on (direct heat) and one side with burners off (indirect heat).
Step 3: Place the Smoking Box
Once the grill is hot, set the box between the grate and heat deflector of your lit burner if you can. If there is not enough room under the grate, you can set it directly on top of the grates above the heat source.
Step 4: Wait for the Smoke
Close the grill’s lid and allow the wood pellets in the smoking box to start smoldering and producing smoke. This might take 10-15 minutes.
Step 5: Cook Your Food
When a good amount of smoke is emanating from the box, it’s time to place your food on the grill. Position the food on the side with indirect heat, ensuring it gets enveloped by the smoke without being directly over the flames.
Step 6: Monitor the Cooking Process
Keep an eye on your food and the amount of smoke being produced. Depending on the length of your cook, you might need to add more pellets to the box. If the smoke diminishes, refill the box and allow it to get smoking again before continuing to cook.
After cooking, turn off your grill and let the smoking box cool down completely.
3. DIY Pan Method
No smoker box or tube? No problem! You can make your own smoking pan using a disposable aluminum foil pan or any other cooking pan you have.
With DIY pans, there’s no need to light your pellets — the flames of your grill will be able to ignite them.
Steps for Using an Aluminum Foil Pan With Wood Pellets
Step 1: Prepare the Aluminum Foil Pan
Take a standard disposable aluminum foil pan and fill it with your chosen wood pellets. Fill your pan up about one-third of the way with pellets — they’ll need some room at the top to “breathe” and create smoke.
Step 2: Heat Up Your Grill
Turn on your gas grill, allowing it to reach the desired cooking temperature. For smoking, a low and slow approach often works best, so aim for a temperature range of 225°F to 250°F.
Step 3: Position the Pan
Once your grill is hot, place the aluminum foil pan filled with wood pellets directly on the grill grates over one of the active burners. The pellets will heat up and begin to smolder, producing smoke.
Step 4: Wait for Smoke
Close the grill’s lid and wait for the wood pellets to start smoking. This could take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Wait for a consistent smoke flow before adding your food.
Step 5: Place Your Food
Once there’s a good amount of smoke, place your food on the grill grates, preferably away from direct heat.
Step 6: Monitor and Refill
Keep an eye on the smoke level. If it starts to wane, you might need to add more wood pellets to the pan.
After cooking, turn off your grill and let the aluminum pan cool down completely.
4. Foil Pouch Smoke Bomb Method
You can also use wood pellets on your gas grill using nothing more than aluminum foil!
With homemade foil smoker pouches, there’s no need to light your pellets — the flames of your grill will be able to ignite them.
Steps for Using a Homemade Foil Pouch With Wood Pellets
Step 1: Create the Pouch
Take a decent-sized piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and fold it in half to create a double layer. Place your desired amount of wood pellets (typically a cup or two) in the center. Fold the foil over the pellets and seal all edges by folding them tightly, forming a pouch. Make sure it’s sealed well to prevent ashes from escaping.
Step 2: Ventilation
With a fork or a skewer, poke a few holes on one side of the pouch. This allows the smoke to escape and infuse your food. Don’t poke too many holes or the added oxygen will cause the pellets to ignite instead of smoldering.
Step 3: Heat Up Your Grill
Turn on your gas grill and let it reach your desired cooking temperature.
Step 4: Position the Pouch
Once the grill is heated, place your foil pouch, hole-side up, directly over the burners. If your grill has a dedicated smoker box compartment, you can place the pouch there.
Step 5: Wait for the Magic
Close the grill lid and give it some time. In about 10-15 minutes, you should see smoke wafting from the pouch holes. That’s your cue to add the food to the grill.
Step 6: Grill Indirectly
To avoid flare-ups and ensure even cooking, place your food on the grill grates in an area not directly next to the foil pouch. Close the lid to keep the smoke circulating.
Step 7: Keep an Eye on Smoke Levels
Monitor the amount of smoke. If it diminishes and you’re not done grilling, you might need a fresh pouch.
Once your grilling session is complete, turn off the grill. Let the foil pouch cool down. Once cool, it can be discarded.
What Are the Best Smoking Pellets for Gas Grills?
Since we’re only using wood pellets to create smoke and flavor on our gas grills, not produce heat, you may think it doesn’t really matter which pellets you grab. But it does!
Some manufacturers sell pellets that are a blend of different woods, which helps produce a more consistent and higher heat in smokers and grills designed strictly for wood pellets.
But in our case, the gas grill is already producing the heat. We’re just after the flavor, so it’s best to stick to wood pellets made from just one species of wood, otherwise known as 100% single-species pellets. This means that the wood listed on the package is exactly the flavor you’re going to get, without much added heat output.
To learn more about the flavor profiles of different smoking woods and what each pair up with best, check out my guide: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Wood for Smoking Meat
Wood Pellets on a Gas Grill FAQs
Still have questions about using wood pellets on a gas grill?
You’re just a few FAQs away from cooking up some smokey deliciousness of your own!
Below you’ll get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about using wood pellets on gas grills.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for, leave your question in the comments below or send me an email and I will get back to you.
Who knows, I might even add your question to this guide.
For a more in-depth frequently asked question guide, check out this article: The Ultimate Gas Grill FAQ.
Can You Use Wood Pellets With Any Type of Grill?
Yes, you can use wood pellets with any type of grill, not just those designed to use pellets for fuel. Wood pellets are primarily designed for pellet grills, but they can be used with other grill types using devices like smoking tubes or boxes. However, they shouldn’t replace the primary fuel source in non-pellet grills.
Do Wood Pellets Make Your Food Taste Different?
Yes, wood pellets will make your food taste different if used correctly. Wood pellets add a ton of great flavor to your food and will have a different taste depending on the type of wood they’re made from and, determine the specific flavor profile imparted to the food.
Do Wood Pellets Smoke Longer Than Chips?
Yes, wood pellets generally burn and produce smoke longer than wood chips. Pellets are more compressed and denser, allowing for a steadier and longer-lasting smoke compared to chips. Wood pellets can create smoke for up to four times longer than wood chips can.
Can I Use Wood Pellets as a Primary Fuel Source for My Gas Grill?
No, wood pellets are not designed to be the primary fuel for gas grills. Gas grills rely on propane or natural gas. Wood pellets are used mainly for smoking and flavor enhancement, not as the main heat source. Always use the designated fuel for your grill’s design.
How Do I Prevent Wood Pellets From Catching Fire When Smoking on a Gas Grill?
To prevent wood pellets from igniting on a gas grill, ensure they are placed in a smoker box, tube, or foil pouch, away from direct flames. Maintain a low to medium heat, and monitor regularly. Overheating, too much oxygen, or direct exposure to flames increases the risk of pellets catching fire.
Final Thoughts on Our How to Use Wood Pellets on a Gas Grill Guide
Having a gas grill doesn’t mean you have to forgo the delicious, smokey flavor that wood pellets can create. You can have the best of both worlds, with the unmistakable flavor of hardwood and the convenience of gas grilling!
With the right tools or DIY know-how, wood pellets allow you to add an extra smokey kick to everything from pork and poultry to beef and fish.
No matter which method you choose, remember to utilize indirect cooking and keep your grill’s lid shut as much as possible to capture that delicious smoke you’re creating.
Before you know it, you’ll be serving up your creations to your guests and have them wondering if you’re hiding a smoker somewhere!
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A backyard warrior, certified carnivore, lover of good whiskey, self-proclaimed grill master and I’m Living The Grilling Life!
I have a passion for cooking with live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I’m a real person just like you, who loves outdoor cooking and BBQ. Food, fun, and time spent with family and friends are what it’s all about! It is my mission to take my passion and knowledge for outdoor cooking and all things BBQ and share this expertise in techniques and grilling equipment with you. In other words, Living The Grilling Life!