How to Use a Smoker Box: Smoke Food without a Smoker!

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Do you love smoked meat? If you have an abundance of fresh meat, smoking them is a good method for storing and preserving it. Many people shy away from smoking because they do not own a complete smoker.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t smoke things at home. If you have a gas grill and a little ingenuity, you can smoke herbs, meat, veggies, spices, and even cheese! Many people own a smoker box for gas grills, but few know how to use it properly.

This article aims to change that. If you own a gas grill smoker box, you can smoke anything without much trouble. We’ll show you how easy it is to use them, and give you all the tips you need to smoke meat like a professional. If that sounds like an interesting deal, keep on reading!

What is a Smoker Box?

bbq smoker box

A smoker box is a small metal container that can be used on grills to infuse a smoky flavor into grilled or food cooked on indirect heat. Just fill it with pellets or soaked wood chips then place it under your grill grates. 

Smoker boxes are an inexpensive add-on to your grill, allowing you to easily smoke food without investing in a separate smoker.

Getting a cast-iron smoker box for gas grill will ensure that you can smoke meat for years to come. However, a Weber stainless steel smoker box can also get the job done. If you are out of options, you can even make a homemade smoker box for gas grills.

When grilling over charcoal briquettes, the smoker box is positioned right on the briquettes. Similarly, when used on gas or electric grills, the smoker box is placed directly on the heat source, under the grate on the grill.

Simply put, smoker boxes are used for providing a smoky flavor to grilled foods as they cook. They hold the soaked wood chips that are to be placed over a charcoal or gas fire for this flavor. Besides water, liquids like beer, soda, or juice can be used to infuse the wood chips with unique flavors.

Smoker boxes generally range in size from 8-12 inches long and 4-6 inches wide. If you don’t smoke large quantities frequently, we suggest getting a small smoker box. This is also a good option if you want to experiment with using a smoker box.

What are the Different Kinds of Smoker Boxes?

Before we get into using a smoker box, let’s have a quick peek at the kinds of smoker boxes out there. Whether you have a stainless-steel smoking box, a Weber grill smoking box, or a cast-iron one, knowing the sort of tool you have will help with your smoker setup.

Smoker Box Under-Grate:

This kind of smoker can be made from disposable aluminum foil or from stainless steel or cast iron that can be reused. They are meant for directly mounting between the flame diffusers under the gas grill grate.

Smoker boxes under-grate available nowadays come in a range of shapes and sizes: they may be flat, round, V-shaped, or tube-shaped. Because the smoker box is right under the grate, the result is a richer flavor and more intense smokiness.

Smoker Box Over-Grate:

Smoker boxes over-grate are typically rectangular; others may have flatter designs. This kind of box is mainly made from stainless steel like smoker boxes under-grate. They may also be found in the form of pouches, grids, and trays.

Disposable Smoker Box:

A disposable smoker box can only be used once because it is made of aluminum foil. You can make these yourself at home in the easiest way ever- make foil pans and aluminum foil lids and poke holes in them. 

You can also just use aluminum foil to create a box-like container and cover it with a foil lid if you don’t have foil pans at home.

Make sure that the holes in the lid are roughly the same shape and size so that the smoke is dispersed evenly. You can also use wood chips in these boxes so the smoke can pass directly through the burners.

Free-Standing Smoker Box:

The free-standing smoker box is very versatile and can be used on charcoal in a coal oven, burned directly on a furnace, or even used on a griddle. 

They are often made from stainless steel and sometimes cast iron. This kind of box can be much larger in size and uses up more pellets or wood chips per smoking session.

Most traditional rectangular smoker boxes can be pretty forgiving and you can use them both on the burner of the grill and under an actual grill. 

However, some models are specially designed for use under the grill. As a result, you can use some smoker boxes in different grill settings, which is super convenient.

How to Use a Smoker Box

how to use a smoker box

With the introductions out of the way let’s look at how to use a gas or propane grill with a smoker box. Whether you have a Weber Genesis smoker or a Napoleon smoker box, or anything else in between, this guide will work for you.

How to Use Smoker Boxes on a Gas Grill:

  1. Preheat your gas grill.
  2. Set up a smoker box or make a disposable one from aluminum foil.
  3. Then load your smoker box with soaked wood chips. We’ll talk about the best kinds of pellets to smoke wood chips on gas grills later.
  4. Set the smoker box over the burner you will leave on during indirect cooking. You can place it over or under the cooking grates.
  5. After the box starts smoking, set up the grill for indirect cooking by turning off all extra burners.
  6. Adjust the remaining lit burners until the internal temperature reaches anywhere from 220F-250F.
  7. Add the food to the grill and smoke the meat until it registers an internal temperature of 160F.

You might need to keep adding extra wood chips to the smoker box, whenever they stop producing smoke.

How to Use a BBQ Smoker Box:

You don’t have to be an expert at barbecuing to know how to use a smoker box for BBQs.

  1. Put your dry wood chips or pellets in the smoker box.
  2. Shut the lid properly. Don’t overload the box with wood chips, as this can prevent you from closing the lid properly.
  3. Set the smoker box above the grill, inside the smoking compartment. When using charcoal as fuel, place the smoker box right above the charcoal, under the open grill grate.
  4. Preheat your grill by turning it to a high temperature until the wood starts smoking; this takes around 10-15 minutes.
  5. Then, reduce the temperature to medium heat.
  6. Put in the meat you want to smoke above the grill in the smoking compartment, next to your smoker box.
  7. After the food has been sufficiently smoked and reaches 160F, kill the heat and open the smoking compartment.
  8. Put out the smoldering wood chips inside the smoker box.
  9. Remove the food and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

Setting Up Your Smoker Box

​Place the wood chips in your smoker box. When using wood chips on gas grills, people soak their wood chips first to prevent them from catching fire.

If your smoker box doesn’t have holes on the bottom, the wood pellets won’t generally catch on fire, so you can use dry wood chips. Using dry chips can produce smoke much faster.

​Set the smoker box as close to the heat source as possible. When using a gas grill, this means placing it on top of the burners. If using charcoal, place it right on top of the charcoal.

We suggest turning your burners on the highest setting at first to get the smoker box hot enough to start producing smoke. It can take up to 10 minutes for the box depending on your grill.

​After the smoker box starts producing smoke, you can decrease your burners back to regular cooking temperatures. It will stay hot enough at that point to keep producing smoke for the rest of the cooking process.

Best Wood Chips for Your Smoker Box

Confused about the right wood chips on the gas grill? Here’s everything you need to know!

Almond: This wood adds a sweet hint to your meat, and works well for poultry, pork, and fish. It also creates less ash!

Apple:  It is pretty mild and has a subtle fruity flavor, and is slightly sweet. It is great with poultry and pork.

Cherry: Cherry wood adds a fruity sweet-and-tart flavor. It works well no matter what you are smoking and is considered the best wood for smoking.

Hickory: This is the ideal wood for a heavy smoky flavor. It is a great choice when smoking red meat, bacon, and ham.

Orange/Lemon/Grapefruit: The citrus notes work well with fish and white meat.

Oak: It is best for heavy-duty smoking like ribs, pork, and heavy game. It has a particularly intense smoke flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you’ll find answers to questions we get asked the most about smoker boxes.

01. What are the Steps on How to Use a Smoker Box on a Charcoal Grill?

Place your smoker box with wood pellets/chips above the charcoal, then light the charcoal on high until the wood starts smoking. Then, lower the heat to medium, add the food, and smoke until it reaches 160F.

02. What is a Smoker Attachment for Grill?

Some gas grills come with a smoker box as an accessory or attachment. This is convenient as you know that the smoker box is perfectly compatible with your grill.

03. What is the Best Method for Using a Gas Grill as a Smoker?

Place the smoker directly over the burner that will be lit throughout the smoking process. Put the cooking grates in place.

Turn on the grill, and set all the burners to high, and close the lid. When smoke appears, set your food on the grates, lower the temperature of the grill, or turn off the extra burners as needed.

04. What is the Best Wood for Smoking Meat?

A combination of pecan, oak, or hickory with cherry or applewood will give you the best results when smoking meat. The best wood to use also depends on the kind of meat you are smoking.

Final Say

Smoking meat at home can take your culinary exploits to the next level. Whether you have a dedicated smoker, a smoker box attachment, or even a DIY box made from foil, you can make beautifully smoked meat with complex flavor right at home. Now that you know how to use a smoker box, you can experiment with various meats, wood chips, and smoking methods. To learn more about smoking meat on gas grills, check this out.

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