Image Courtesy: Henrik Lahnet
It was just a matter of time before gas grills replaced the good old traditional charcoal grills as the appliance of choice as far as BBQs are concerned. But let’s face it. Smoking on a charcoal grill is comparatively easier and nothing can replace the smoky flavor that these grills produce. The same applies to low and slow cooking on a charcoal grill.
If you intend to use a gas grill, you have to set it up for smoking and low and slow cooking. This can be a huge challenge given that gas grills sometimes don’t make very good smokers. Besides, the process of setting up the grill is not a walk in the park. No wonder so many grillers end up buying a smoker and a slow cooker separately to use with their gas grills.
Fortunately, we are here to help. You can turn your gas grill into a smoker and set it up for low and slow cooking using our useful tips as explained below.
1. Can You Smoke On a Regular Gas Grill?
You might not know this, but you can actually smoke your meaty dishes, veggies, or whatever food you want on a regular gas grill. However, there’s more to it than just turning the dials on the grill up or down. You need to understand the basics of smoking before you can use your gas grill for the same.
There are two types of smoking. These include:
- Cold smoking
- Hot smoking
Cold smoking entails using a pellet tube smoker to add smoke to your food without cooking it, for purposes of preservation. It is ideal for foods and ingredients that do not require cooking such as cheese, salmon, nuts, and hard-boiled eggs. The target temperature in your grill should be less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot smoking involves cooking your dish in heat whilst flavoring it with smoke. It works great for most foods like meat and veggies, but you have to keep the temperature of your grill between 180 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit to get the desired smoky flavor you are yearning for.
2. Turning Your Gas Grill into a Smoker
Most newer gas grill models come equipped with a smoker box on top of a dedicated burner. This means you don’t have to worry about setting up the grill for smoking. If your gas grill does not have a smoker box, then you have to buy one separately or create one on your own.
Buying a smoker box is the easiest route to turning your gas grill into a smoking appliance. However, creating your own smoker makes the whole smoking experience more fun and fulfilling. Here are the steps to follow:
- Add two cups of dry wood chips to a foil pan
- Cover the foil pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil to form a pouch
- Poke holes in the aluminum foil to perforate it and allow heat and smoke to escape
- Remove one of your grates and place the pan on the bar of the grills over one of the burners. Replace the cooking grates in place
- Fire up the grill, ensuring all the burners are on high (275F), and close the lid to help circulate smoke throughout the grill
- Begin cooking your food as soon as smoke appears, but make sure your dish is on the opposite side away from the smoking pouch
- Close the lid of the grill to give your food a nice, smoky flavor
- Monitor temperature using a dome thermometer and adjust it accordingly to range from 225-275 degrees F
- Check your food every few minutes and keep an eye on the smoke packet
- Remove the food once it reaches the desired internal temperature
3. Setting Up Your Gas Grill for Low and Slow Cooking
Low and slow cooking on a gas grill might seem like a nearly impossible feat. Many grillers believe that slow cooking is a preserve for wood fires and charcoal stoves.
Nothing is unmanageable in the culinary world. You can set up your gas grill for low and slow cooking without breaking a sweat. But first, you need to understand the concept of two-zone indirect cooking for this to work.
Two-zone indirect cooking involves setting up two zones on your grill. The first zone produces direct radiant heat while the other zone remains cool and flameless. If your grill has two burners, you need to fire up one burner and leave the other burner flameless thus creating a hot zone and a cool zone.
When cooking your food, you have to place it on the cooler side to prevent it from drying out. Your food will cook using indirect convection heat. The main advantage of a two-zone indirect setup in low and slow cooking is that it gives you maximum control over temperature.
Low and slow cooking requires stable heat and you don’t want the temperature to surpass 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This is where the two-zone indirect setup comes into play.
With this setup, you can keep the temperature low and allow for slow cooking. You may also place a pan of water between your food and the burner to act as a temperature regulator. The pan of water keeps the temperature inside the grill stable since water tends to absorb heat during grilling.
The configuration of the burner is also important as far as low and slow cooking is concerned. You need to first up the burners correctly to guarantee steady temperature throughout the cooking process.
If you have a two-burner gas grill, then simply turn off one burner and leave the other one burning. If your gas grill has four burners, you can turn off the burners on the right and light the other two on the left. Alternatively, you can fire the two burners in the middle of the grill and leave the two outside burners flameless.
Make sure you monitor the grill temperature using a standard bi-metal thermometer to ensure the heat does not get out of hand.