February 9

Charcoal Grill Makes a Fine Smoker


You already know that your charcoal barbecue grill is great for cooking steaks and brats, or even turning out a wicked rack of ribs. But did you know that your grill can also double as a fine charcoal smoker? 

 The key to using your grill as a smoker is proper coal placement and temperature control. With a little practice you will be turning out great smoked foods with the grill on your patio now. So what are you waiting for?

The big difference between a smoker and a charcoal grill is that a smoker keeps the fire away from the food. Smoker contain the cooking fire and keeps the temperature low enough to cook meats at temperatures around 200-250 degrees

 If you already have a grill we assume you know how to use it, so we are going to only briefly cover the basics. There are two methods of cooking on your grill, those are direct and indirect.

 Both have their advantages and disadvantages, however using your charcoal barbecue grill to smoke will involve indirect cooking.

Direct Heat:

This is the most common method of grilling. It involves relatively quick cooking directly over hot coals. It is a great way to seal in flavor and juices of foods. You won’t be using direct heat when using your grill as a smoker.

You will be using Indirect heat.

Indirect Heat:

With indirect cooking the food is not cooked directly over the charcoal. This method is slower than direct cooking and is suited for barbecuing and roasting foods. It also requires a little attention as coals may need to be added during the cooking process.

Setting up for Indirect Smoking

Follow these easy set up steps and your charcoal barbecue grill is well on its way to becoming a smoker.

  • Light the charcoal as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Divide the burning coals into two piles, opposite each other on the outer edge of the grill.
  • About 25 coals on each side is about right.
  • Set a heavy gauge aluminum pan between the charcoal piles.
  • Fill the pan half full of water.
  • Place the food on the grate directly over the water pan, cover the grill.
  • About once an hour add about 5 more charcoal briquettes to the piles.

Smoking in Your Barbecue Grill

Once you have the grill set up as described above you are ready to start smoking with indirect heat. Now you need smoke. It’s as simple as picking up a few bags of smoker wood chips. Wrap a small amount of the chips in aluminum foil and set them right on the hot coals. I use a small amount divided between two foil packs, one placed on each coal pile. Getting a nice smoky flavor is that easy.

Start by closing the lower air vents about one third of the way. This helps regulate both air flow and cooking temperature. You will need to experiment here, each grill is a little different. This is where a good thermometer is crucial.

Through the top vent of the grill use your thermometer to monitor grill temperature. Use a vent hole over the food and not the charcoal. Do your best to maintain a temperature of 225-250 degrees. This is best accomplished by adjusting the lower vents. It’s also important to leave the top vent open for proper circulation.

When cooking the food you need to keep the lid closed as much as possible. On the other hand you need to monitor the coals, you have to add more burning coals to the fire occasionally.

Well, those are the basics. Find some good recipes and try using charcoal barbecue grill as a smoker, you may be pleasantly surprised.

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