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Smoking Food With Real Wood Chips Can Be Done on Any Grill

Updated on December 4, 2021
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I've been a cooking enthusiast my entire life. I managed/owned several restaurants, specializing in smoked foods and wild game preparation.

Fire On One Side With Water Pan On The Other Side
Fire On One Side With Water Pan On The Other Side
Smoker With Offset Fire Box For Indirect Cooking
Smoker With Offset Fire Box For Indirect Cooking
Digital Thermometer With Probe
Digital Thermometer With Probe
Charcoal Chimney Starter
Charcoal Chimney Starter

Smoking Food On Any Grill Using Real Wood

Backyard BBQ enthusiasts may want to smoke meats or other types of foods, but feel they cannot, because they have what they consider a typical barbeque grill. The grill's shape and design provides heat from the coals to a specific area. The area of course is the cooking grate mounted some inches above the coals. This cooking style by design is direct heat. In other words, the food is cooked directly over the coals.

Several models of smokers have the firebox mounted on the side of the grill. This is considered indirect heat. Normally there is a damper to control the heat and smoke between the fire and the food. The smoke and heat from the wood flows over the meat, and the slow cooking method allows the smoke to work into the food, and prevents the food from cooking to fast. Therefore, the question is then how do you smoke when your grill is designed for direct heat cooking. Offset cooking is one method. The fire is on one side of the grill while the food is on the opposite side.

You will need charcoal, wood chips or wood chunks and disposable aluminum pans that can hold water. You will be placing the two pans full of water on one side under the food-cooking surface, the food cooks directly above the water pans. The charcoal and wood chips will go on the other side. Depending on the size of your grill, you may only need one water pan. Water helps keep the food moist and it helps control the temperature, as well as, helping the smoke penetrate the food.

The wood chips or wood chunks must be soaked in water before placing them on the coals. Soak overnight if you can. You will need to add charcoal to the fire from time to time. The temperature must be maintained throughout the cooking process. The ideal temperature for slow smoking is between 220 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit or between 104 and 107 degrees Celsius respectively. If you have a charcoal chimney starter use that to start the coals that you will need to add to the fire when it cools down. Otherwise, you will have to add the charcoal directly to the fire from the bag. This will cool it down somewhat, but do not get discouraged if you do not have a starter, you can work without it.

Make sure the fire is hot, and no black is showing on the charcoal, before adding the wood chips. Once added you will see steam and smoke rise from the fire and you may think you have put the fire out. You have not put the fire out; you have simply dampened it for slower cooking. Have the pans next to the coals full of water. The water will evaporate, so you must be prepared to add more water as needed.

You can cook and/or smoke any food this way to include corn on the cob, steaks, roasts, whole or cut-up chicken and so on. Meat smoking enthusiast use dry rubs instead of wet sauces when they smoke meat. It is all about personal preference however, wet sauces may hinder the smoke's ability to penetrate, so you can add sauce at the end of the cooking process if you like.

If your cooker does not have a temperature gauge, you can insert a digital probe; placed just under the lid off the grill surface, to keep an eye on the temperature. Your concern is the temperature that surrounds the food. It needs to be at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit or about 93 degrees Celsius; any cooler and your food will not cook properly.

You will see considerable smoke leaking out from under the lid. This is normal and it means the smoke is surrounding the food. When you see the amount of smoke diminish, you can add more chips or chunks. Avoid flames, and yet do not let the fire go out. From this point, it is simply a matter of maintaining the fire and adding chips. The smoke flavor of the food is directly related to how often you add the chips or chunks. You may prefer just a hint of smoke so add less. The more the food has cooked the less smoke it will absorb so add chips during the first few hours and then less as the cooking progresses.


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