BBQ on gas grill
Tips & Techniques

How to Smoke Meat on a Gas Grill

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There is something about a piece of meat that’s been properly smoked in a smoker that is truly succulent. The juices are overflowing, the meat falls right off the bone, and the flavors are a smokey dream come true that you’d find at the most amazing BBQ hot spots. But if you’re without a smoker, don’t think that smoked meat can’t be found on your kitchen table.

How to smoke meat on a gas grill is actually fairly simple. As long as you have wood chips, an area to put the wood chips where they will not get burned (such as a smoker box, foil wrap, or pellet tube), and a gas grill using indirect heat for the meat, you can smoke a variety of different meats right on your gas grill.

Knowing how to smoke meat on your gas grill can be a game changer, but you need to nail the basics before you try and smoke your meats. We’re going to discuss everything you need to know about smoking meat on a gas grill, from the right meats to the proper equipment, how to cook, and more.

man barbecuing on gas grill

What is Smoked Meat?

If you have never heard of smoked meat, first and foremost you are truly missing out. If you’re a fan of barbecue, smoked meat is essentially the same thing; however, it’s prepared slightly different and cooked for a ‘low and slow’ amount of time, resulting in a more exotic and intrusive texture and taste that’s out of this world.

Smoked meat is usually made in a smoker, where the meat is placed in indirect heat to the slabs of wood, wood chips, or wood pellets. Inside of the smoker, the meat will be cooked from the heat being released off of the wood.

This allows for the meat to be slowly cooked to perfection, resulting in meat that falls delicately off the bone (or shreds easily, if there is no bone present).

But smoking doesn’t only mean textured meat that’s flawless and flaky; it also means a more intense flavor you wouldn’t find elsewhere. The wood used in smokers is flavored with either cherry, apple, oak, mesquite, hickory, or another common flavor, and this hue is developed into the meat while cooking.

Smoked meat can take anywhere from 5 hours to upwards of 24 hours, depending on the meat. A tougher, thicker meat with a lot of fat may take more time than a lean cut that does not have a lot of fat present.

This means that smoking meat takes a lot of time, and this is true whether you’re using a traditional smoker or trying to smoke meat right on top of your gas grill. Patience is key with smoking meats and should be considered by the ‘chef’ before attempting.

What Do I Need to Smoke Meat on a Gas Grill?

Without the right equipment, your smoked meat on a gas grill is not likely to be a success. After all, you can’t try and throw wood chips into your gas grill, toss the meat on top, and expect to have the decadent, rich flavor and beautiful texture that goes hand-in-hand with smoked meats.

The most imperative piece of equipment you will need is something to hold your wood chips, slabs of wood, or wood pellets. Without proper shielding, wood chips are destined to burn almost immediately, resulting in a fire. Fire does not equate to smoking meat, and therefore, it needs to be resisted at all times.

How to Smoke Meat on a Gas Grill 3

So how can you make sure your wood pieces are kept safe? There are a few options:

  • Smoker box. Smoker boxes are designed to hold wood chips and wood slabs safely in place without causing any burning or flames to the wood chips. They’re relatively cheap at around $20 and can last a lifetime if handled properly. This is my preferred method and I’ve created to step-by-step article on how to use a smoker box on a gas grill to help you out.
  • Foil wrap. Don’t want to shell out the money for an actual smoker box? Take the do it yourself road and make your own foil wrap. It’s easy! You will simply wrap up your wood chips in tight foil, piercing it with a few holes to let the wood chips breathe.
  • Pellet tube. The pellet tube is a long tube that can hold plenty of wood pellets and lasts upwards of 4 hours. This means you don’t need to replace the wood chips or to worry about wood catching fire.

Of course, you will need something to put inside of your smoker box, foil wrap, or pellet tube: and that’s wood.

There’s a lot of different options available on the market. Wood chips are exactly how they sound: small chips of wood that can be easily scattered, while wood slabs are larger chunks of wood that can sometimes burn at a slower rate. There’s also the option of wood pellets, but these are small sized pellets of wood that can burn up quickly if not used with a tube.

Whatever type of wood style you choose, you also have to consider what flavor you’d like as well. As previously mentioned, wood comes in a variety of flavors designed to take your meat to the next level. You see, as the smoke intrudes the meat with a delightful smoky flavor, the flavor of the wood will also be present in your meat at the end.

Lastly, of course, you will need your meat selection. There’s a lot of meats that are downright delicious when being smoked, and you want to make sure you pick one of these for your smoking adventures.

What Are Some Great Meats to Smoke?

We’ve narrowed it down to the top 5 best meat for smoking. What you decide to smoke on your gas grill will all depend on the amount of time you want to spend cooking, what flavor you’re looking for, and how many people you need to feed.

If you want some more ideas for what to smoke, I’ve also created an article on the best meats to smoke.

Remember that meat, poultry, seafood, and pork will all require different smoking times due to their genetic makeup. While a brisket may take a lengthy amount of time to cook, a small lean cut of pork should only take as little as 4 hours to smoke.

The amount of time that’s needed to smoke a piece of meat depends on the size, toughness, and whether there is a presence of fat or collagen. Keep in mind that meat with plenty of fat will be able to hold in moisture without drying out, while a leaner cut may need to be brined and basted during the cooking process to avoid dryness.

Check out Is It Done yet? The Definitive Guide To BBQ Times and Temperatures for a complete list of BBQ times & temps.

Pork Chops

One of the most beloved meats to be smoked is the pork chop. These are leaner cuts of meat that don’t have a whole lot of fat on them, and if you opt for a set of pork chops that are under an inch thick you can cook them in as little as one hour.

Pork chops pair well with a variety of wood flavors, but the most favored are apple and hickory. If you like sweeter meats, you’ll want to enjoy a cherry infused flavored pork chop, while someone who prefers a richer, slightly more intense flavor will choose hickory.

Pork chops are also a great choice for beginners, or those who don’t have a whole lot of time on their hands. As mentioned before, pork chops (depending on their size) can be done in as little as one hour and taste absolutely amazing.

Salmon

Craving some seafood? You won’t believe how amazing a piece of salmon tastes when it’s properly smoked. While this may not be everyone’s top choice for smoked delicacies, it’s definitely something everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.

Salmon is another excellent option for someone who is short on time but wants to give their guests something absolutely amazing to munch on. Paired up with cherry wood, this salmon takes as little as 2 hours to smoke on a gas grill and works wonders with a variety of side dishes like mashed potatoes, green beans, asparagus, brown rice, and more.

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Brisket

If this is your first time smoking meat, you might not want to try and smoke a brisket. This is due to the fact that brisket is one of the more difficult meats to smoke on a gas grill and can require over 10 hours to cook. If you’re not adequately prepared with the time and energy, we recommend avoiding this meat.

However, if you’re up to the challenge and want something that’s going to be succulent, juicy, and downright delicious, we recommend brisket. The muscles on this meat are exercised, which results in a tougher meat. This means that the difficulty level is a bit higher and you will need to wait it out as the smoke does its magic to break down the fibers and cook the beef.

Brisket typically will have an adequate amount of fat on the outside, which means it’s not likely to dry out during the smoking process. Still, though, some will want to toss in a brine of salt water and spices to enhance the flavor during the 10 plus hour cooking time.

Chicken Breast

Who doesn’t love a good chicken breast? A properly smoked chicken will allow for flavors unlike anything you have ever seen before, and it’s perfect for the family gathering when used with baked beans, classic corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, and other ‘barbecue’ hits.

While typical chicken breasts will typically cook in just a few hours, there is a major downfall: they do not have a whole lot of fat on them, making them prone to drying out rather quickly.

To avoid dryness, you should soak the chicken breast in a marinated brine for at least an hour before smoking. It’s ideal to soak the chicken in a brine for 24 hours, though, to ensure that it’s properly marinated and hydrated prior to smoking.

Another way to avoid drying of your chicken breasts is to apply a brine or butter to the chicken throughout the cooking process. Although you don’t want to keep lifting the lift on your gas grill, it’s okay to periodically toss a coat on the chicken breast and replenish your wood chips about every hour or two. Other than that,keep the lid closed.

Lamb Shoulder

Want to create a piece of lamb that’s extraordinary? If you have a little extra money and a little extra time, lamb shoulder should be your go-to option.

This particular cut of a lamb is rather delicate to begin with, and thanks to the high levels of fat found on this meat, there’s plenty of extra flavor drawn into the meat. This also means that the lamb shoulder won’t dry out during the cooking process, which is rather long.

With a lamb shoulder, you need to give yourself at least 7 hours of cooking time. It’s well worth the wait, however, as lamb is said to be far more tender and delicious than beef and pairs well with oak wood magnificently.

bbq smoked salmon on foil
seasoned salmon fillet cooking on over grill

How to Smoke Meat on a Gas Grill

If you are ready to try your hand at smoking meat on a gas grill, here’s the breakdown:

  1. Begin by choosing the type of meat you would like to smoke. At this point, you may also want to choose a marinade or dry rub to enhance the overall flavor of your choice of meat, poultry, salmon, etc.
  2. Prepare the meat by cutting off excess membrane, toughness, and fat. Leave enough fat so that the meat does not dry out while being smoked. Run the product under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel, then add your dry rub or douse in a marinade or a brine for up to 24 hours.
  3. Next, ensure your wood chips, wood slabs, or pellets are being properly covered. This can be done by using a smoker box for around $20 at a store or online, using a pellet tube designed for smoking wood pellets or choosing the DIY option of a foil wrap.
  4. Spray a little bit of water on the wood. This will help the wood to avoid burning up and sparking into a flame. You do not want to over saturate the wood, however, as this will cause the wood to not warm up at all and cause smoke that’s necessary for smoking the meat.
  5. When your wood is ready, place it on top of one of the burners and turn it on to high heat. Wait until you begin to see smoke pouring out the side of the gas grill before proceeding to the next step. (Remember not to continuously open the lid to check for smoke, as this will slow down the process).
  6. Once you begin to see smoke, turn the heat down to low-medium.
  7. Place your meat onto the burner that is not in use; the burner should not be turned on at all, as we want the smoke from the wood to do all of the cooking. This is called indirect heat and gives the meat that smokey, rich flavor you’re after.
  8. About an hour after placing your meat on the gas grill, check to make sure it’s being cooked properly. You may start to notice a change in color, or if you’re using a leaner cut, that it’s almost done. At this point, you will most likely need to add more wood (lightly sprayed with water).
  9. Depending on your cut of meat, you will then leave the meat to cook for several more hours. If you’ve chosen a leaner cut, such as pork chops, you can check on your meat again in an hour. A thicker meat like beef brisket shouldn’t be checked until at least three hours after the original check.
  10. Remember to be patient. You do not want to keep opening the lid to check on your meat, as this will slow the smoking process down quite significantly and may even lead to a lesser flavor in the end.
  11. If your meat is going on the 5th hour of cooking, it will be up to you whether you add additional wood chips or not. Adding more wood to the gas grill, at this point, will intensify the woody, smokey flavor. If you’re seeking a more mild smoke flavor for your meat, you do not need to add more wood. Simply let the smoke do its magic and cook your meat to perfection.
  12. When your meat, fish, poultry, etc. is finished cooking, it should be flaky and fall apart easily. At this point, you may want to add some other flavors, like a barbecue sauce. Take the meat off the grill and place in foil with your desired sauce and let it sit for 25 minutes to soak in all of the flavors before serving.
smoked turkey legs on bbq grill

Conclusion

Smoking meat on a gas grill is fairly simple once you get the hang of it. As long as you know how to handle the wood without causing a flame and are patient enough to let the smoke cook your meat, you should easily be able to smoke meat, poultry, fish, and more, right on your gas grill.

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