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How to use wood chips in a gas grill?

  • j

I'm sure this is a very elementary question. I bought some chips and the metal box to house them. Unfortunately, the box contains no instructions as to where to put them. I have a 3 burner Weber grill and will be cooking ribs indirectly. So, which burner do I place it by? And, more importantly, where do I place it (i.e. over the grate, under the grate on the flavorizer bar)? Thanks for your help.

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  1. You need to place the box (stainless steel I hope) directly on the burner for maximum heat. Soak the chips for about 45 minutes before putting them on the fire otherwise they will just burn. I had a Weber and the burners ran across from left to right. I now have a Vermont Casts grill and the burners run front to back and I find this much easier to control where I want the heat and to use a smoke box for ribs or brisket.
    Danny

    1. John Ash, a cook who teaches BBQ and grilling in the Bay Area, suggests simply making a pouch out of tin foil, putting the chips in (without soaking) and placing on the grill top ahead of time to start smoking, out of the way of where the food is going to be cooked.
      Certainly works for me on my gas grill.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kevine

        I have soaked and made an aluminum packet (rectangular prism shaped, low and flatter) and poke holes in it with a fork (both sides) put on grill heat and close the lid. When smoking, add meat. I try to keep the lid closed to preserve the smoky flavour. Then, when done, I leave it on, has a good scent and keeps bugs away. When cooled, put whole packet in garbage.

        1. re: kevine

          I've got a Weber with the smoking box and a burner directly under it but I am thinking about your method and how easy the clean up and replacing a new packet with fresh chips in an already hot grill would be.

          Thanks so much!

        2. Soak some of the chips and put in the box, then add some more dry chips to the top. Put this box under the grate on the flavor bar. To cook indirectly, leave one of the burners on med/high and the rest off. Obviously put the box ontop of the lit burner. On my parents grill at home, there are three burners, front/middle/back and I always keep the back burner on and the other two off.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ESNY

            Yes, this is the official way to do it, but most evenings after work, I take the cheater way as explained above.

          2. I would like to try doing this on my gas grill. I will wrap the chips in foil before investing in a smoker box.

            Question: Where does one purchase wood chips and what type of wood is best? (I plan to grill fish mostly, but also burgers and chicken)....

            7 Replies
            1. re: erica

              Fish need less smoke than do pork and beef so the foil packet should work fine. I tries using the foil packet and put it directly on the burner and the foil burned up too so I wasn't pleased wtih the results. I put the cast iron smoker box directly on the burner with the soaked wood chips on the far left burner and put the meat off the direct heat on the right. You could do something similar but possibly put the foil on the heat deflector instead of directly on the flame. That being said, you can usually get wood chips anyplace where grills and charcoal are sold. The Home Depot definately has them. I recently bought several bags at teh .99 cent store.

              Traditionally, fish are smoked on lighter wood such as alder or fruit wood like apple and cherry, rather than hickory or mesquite, the two most prevalent varieties used for wood chips.

              1. re: John E.

                Do you mean on the bars underneath the actual grill surface? Or on the grill to itself?

                1. re: erica

                  I put the cast iron smoker box directly on the flame underneath the grill cooking surface. I started out using a foil packet on the grill cooking surface but found I did not get enough smoke that way. I was smoking pork and beef, not fish however. Fish are much more delicate and don't need as much smoke. When I attempted to get more smoke by putting the foil packet right on the flame, of course the entire foil pouch burned up, aluminum and all. (Which can't be good to eat if the burned aluminum becomes airborn and hits the food). If I was just starting this smoking on the gas grill knowing what I know now, I would just buy a small cast iron skillet from Goodwill. I don't use the lid on the smoker box anyway. It gets in the way of refilling it.

                  My suggestion is to experiment and finds out what works best for you on your grill. I'd start by putting the foil packet filled with dry wood chips (using advice from others here) on the grill cooking surface with the flame on high. Put the fish on the other side of the grill with the flame turned off and cover the fish and foil wood chip packet with a long sheet of aluminum foil to trap the smoke closer in so it does not dissipate too much. That will intensify what smoke you do get.

              2. re: erica

                i find the foil technique is better(dont have to wait so long for smoke)salmon is good with alder and i find hickory is awesome on trout and whitefish.i use apple on chicken as well.i never soak my chips ,a foil pouch with small holes in it gives nice smoke .as for where ,any hardwhere store should have some.happy smokin

                1. re: erica

                  John gave good advice. I'd just add that you have the choice of chips and chunks as well. Chips are good for food that cooks quickly. Chunks burn slower and last longer for foods that are in the grill for hours at a time.

                  Also, if you have fruit trees that need annual pruning or have access to someone who does, save the prunings and dry them out. You can cut them up with gardening shears and they will give great flavor.

                  Also, an alternative for fish is the cedar planks and wraps that are now more available for cooking. If you soak the planks you can reuse them if they're thick enough. But DON'T use any wood treated for construction. Best to pop for the extra bucks and buy the ones from a culinary source.

                  1. re: rainey

                    The only way I could get the chunks to burn to produce smoke is on a charcoal grill or my smoker. I never could get them to burnand produce enough smoke in the cast iron wood box. The only time I use bagged wood chips is for the gas grill. I use oak and maple at our place in northern MN because that's what we have for firewood.

                    1. re: John E.

                      Dunno. They've worked on my gas grill but, as I said, I have a box designed by Weber to work in the grill with a burner directly below it. I just like the simplicity of your bagged wood for adding to the already-hot box.