Since smoke was in second place on the top ten list of flavourings mentioned on restaurant menus last year (yes, it really is someone’s job to keep track of these things!), it’s true that smoke is hot with consumers and chefs alike. While chefs can use tools such as The Smoking Gun to short cut to smoky flavour, home cooks need to put in a bit more effort. But the effort is well worth it!

Below are my tried and true tips for turning your grill into a smoke filled cradle that can infuse steaks, fish, chicken and even grilled veggies with intense, deep flavour.

Smoking box:
• You can buy a cast iron smoking box for your grill for $25 dollars or so at many department and hardware stores.
• Lift the grate off your gas grill and place the smoking box in a corner of the grill where it will be exposed to intense heat.
• Next, close the windows in your house and car.
• Fill the smoker box with wet wood chips and fill the reservoir with water; put on the lid (if it has one) and replace the grate. Turn the grill on high and heat until enormous clouds of smoke billow out of the vent holes in the lid. Reduce the heat to desired cooking temperature and proceed as usual.

Foil pan:
• No smoking box? Choose a small, disposable foil baking pan that will fit between the grate and the burners. Position as recommended above.
• Soak enough wood chips to cover the bottom of the pan completely in water for 15 minutes or so before draining and adding chips to the pan and proceeding as above.

Choosing wood chips:
• Wood chips designed for culinary smoking are usually available in the same section as smoker boxes.
• Prepackaged hickory, mesquite, fruitwood and other specialty wood varieties (such as bourbon soaked, wine wood, etc) are all great options.
• Never use pressure treated or scrap building materials for smoking food since lumber can contain toxic chemicals.
• If using wood from your own trees, make sure it is fully dried and brittle before use. Chop into cracker-sized pieces so that it burns quickly and easily.
• Moisten or soak wood chips before adding to the foil tray or smoking box to ensure that they smolder and don’t produce flames that can singe food.
• Before storing the grill, drizzle the wood chips remaining in the smoker box with additional water to ensure that the fire is completely extinguished.


11 Responses to Smokin’

  1. Beth says:

    I tried to smoke food in my bbq but I couldn’t get an intense flavor.

  2. Cheryl says:

    Jeez, you are a font of useful information. A veritable wikipedia of how-tos! Do you use these smoking methods for everything you grill, or do you only use it with certain foods? Which are your favorites?

  3. Christine says:


    You amazing me! You are so knowledgeable about food! I love smoked food especially turkey and pig. In fact we had pig this weekend and it was out of this world!

  4. danamccauley says:

    You guys are great for my ego!

    Beth, foods that cook quickly (such as hot dogs, chicken breasts) won’t get an intensely smokey flavor with just a grill box or pan. A kettle or barrel shaped smoker that operates at a lower temperature is best for getting an intense smokey flavour in those types of cuts.

    Cheryl, if i have a smoker box filled with chips under the grate, I won’t take them out unless I’m cooking something with a delicate flavour (such as fish). My favs for adding smoke to are pork chops, chicken legs and rib-eyes (the fat in the steak seems to be easily permeated by smoke).

    Christine, did you cook a whole pig on a spit?

  5. Fran Z says:

    My husband loves smoked food. We have used a barrel smoker that a friend has for the best results. We keep talking about getting our own.

  6. danamccauley says:

    Do it Fran! Do it!

  7. […] are my tried and true tips for turning your grill into a smoke filled cradle that can infuse steaks, fish, chicken and even grilled veggies with intense, deep flavour. Smoking box: • You can buy a cast iron smoking box for your … […]

  8. Hi Dana! I just LOVE your blog! I really would like to share with you a great trend in summer grilling. I don’t know if leaving it on your comment page is proper protocol so please let me know if I may email you.

  9. danamccauley says:

    Feel free to pop me an email using the “?” box at the top right hand side of each page.

    Thanks for your kind comments!

  10. […] to other grilling related posts: • Smoke Chips • Smokin’ • International Grilling Atlas • Best Rib Recipe • Instant Read Thermometers • Burger Tips […]

  11. […] Smoking and smokers • How to use cedar smoking sheets • How to use smoking briquettes • Matching meats with woods • How to turn your grill into a smoker […]

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