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I have a Char-broil gas cast iron grill. This is one of the style where the flame is under cast iron pans filled with lava rocks rather than cooking the food directly. Works great for when you don't want to bother with charcoal. But I digress.

My question is: I think this type of grill would make an excellent smoker, and has anyone tried doing so before?

  • were you able to keep it at the right temperature? How?
  • how much wood chips did you use? Did you soak them?
  • did you try to seal it to keep the smoke in? again, how?
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Can you post a picture of the grill in question? –  Sean Hart May 23 '12 at 12:15
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You can use a gas grill for smoking and indirect cooking. Run the burner on one side of the grill, and place the food on the other. Wrap wood chips in foil, poke a few holes in it, and place the foil pack over the active burner. You can soak the chips if you like. I've never seen much point in that, myself. The water evaporates rather quickly, and you're back with dry chips. Better to limit the oxygen supply to the wood so it will smolder, and place the smoke pack somewhere so that it does not have too much heat applied to it.

It absolutely does matter what kind of wood you use. Avoid soft and sap-laden woods like pine. Stick with hardwoods or fruit woods. Hickory is often paired with pork. Apple and cherry are used ubiquitously. Oak is strong, but imparts an interesting flavor. Mesquite can be too powerful for some people -- I personally use it for grilling, but never for smoking.

Finally, be aware that you are going to have some limitations with your gas grill. It neither holds nor convects heat in the same manner that purpose-built smokers and some charcoal grills do. You are more likely to have hot and cold spots on your grill, so you will need to examine what you are cooking each hour and adjust accordingly if necessary. You will also not get nearly as much smoke to your food, so you will also have to adjust how much wood you use accordingly (though many people make the mistake of too much smoke in their barbecue, so a gas grill's limitation in this regard can be a benefit).

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I actually have some cherrywood around; we have cherry trees in the backyard I have to trim back every year. Hence thinking of doing some smoking. –  FuzzyChef May 25 '12 at 4:58
    
Make sure you cure the wood first. You don't want to smoke with green sticks. –  Sean Hart May 25 '12 at 14:52
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Any cooker with a lid that mostly closes the BBQ will work as a hot smoker. It doesn't have to be a perfect fit for hot smoking

Just add something that smokes with the radiant heat. Place it under the grill to the side, or on top of the grill if there is room. A crushed up bunch or tea tree or lavender twigs works fine. If the smoke runs out, add another bunch

Any wood will do, it doesn't need to be "fancy smoker chips" *. It doesn't need to be soaked or fiddled with in any way. Wood with nice smelling sap/oils seems to be better, but experience tends to indicate that any old wood will do

For temperature regulation, just concentrate on cooking correctly and safely. The smoke will do its magic regardless. You generally need more than ten minutes in smoke to make a decent impact, but for thin cuts or soft flesh fish you can do it in less

  • Referenced from Nathan Myhrvold talk promoting Modernist Cuisine
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I disagree on the paragraph about wood. Unsoaked wood is harder to keep from igniting- even with a closed lid- and soot tastes terrible. Additionally "fancy smoker chips" are just hardwood. Softwoods have very nasty oils that taste terrible. You don't want your steak to taste like pine sol or solder flux. Any hardwood will do though. I have scrub mesquite on my land that I use for smoking. –  Sobachatina May 24 '12 at 15:36
    
@Sobachatina Don't use chipped wood, just some twigs will be fine. And then it doesn't need to be soaked. Most softwoods are fine too. You generally don't burn any wood that has sticky sap in it. You need to season the wood first. Maybe some popular USA softwoods have a bad tasting smoke? –  TFD May 24 '12 at 21:08
    
@TFD- I agree with the twigs. I usually just use uneven chunks. Soaking just helps keep it from igniting it isn't required. The most common soft woods around here, pine and juniper, taste terrible although I haven't tried them seasoned. What kind of softwoods have you found to work well? –  Sobachatina May 24 '12 at 21:24
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