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How To Use A Smoker Box Explained in 5 Steps – A Simple Guide

how to use a smoker box

If you own a gas grill or smoker, you know that propane and gas grills do not produce that authentic “smoky” taste. We are going to take care of that today. Get your smoker box out of the box and ready for use. In this article, we will walk you through the process of using a smoker box in five simple steps.

Using a smoker box to transform your propane grill into a wood-burning BBQ smoker is by far the simplest method to achieve that smoky taste without buying a smoker.

The burners in your gas grill will heat up the smoking box, which will then transfer the heat to the wood chips packed inside the smoker box, cooking delicious barbecue. Heating the smoker box causes the wood chips to smolder, resulting in the release of smoke from the smoker box through its vents or air holes.

Before jumping in, get the smoker box ready.

Clean your smoker box well before putting it to use and adding wood chips. Yes, I understand the box will get hot and burn the chips, so what is the point? Well, suppose there are any contaminants left over from manufacturing. In that case, those will also burn, and the smoke that comes into contact with your foods will not only be from wood chips.

Take some dish soap and water and thoroughly clean the smoking box. Immediately after rinsing and drying the box, cover it with a thin layer of vegetable oil to “season the box” and protect it from corrosion.

How to Use a Smoker’s Box: Steps to Follow

1. Preheat the grill and clean the grates

Preheating and cleaning your grill’s grates can also help burn any filth and old grease that may be present, which will reduce the amount of foul smoke produced. Allow all of the nasty smoke to disperse before beginning to cook your food. Preheating the grill will also allow you to bring the grates to a proper temperature for subsequently heating the smoker box.

Use a decent grill brush to clean the grates as thoroughly as possible. Preheat the grill for around 15 to 20 minutes before lowering the burners.

2. Fill the box with smoking chips

Fill the smoker box with your favorite bag of wood chips. If you are cooking ribs or brisket, here are two articles to assist you in determining which wood chips to use.

Recommended smoking wood for Pork

Recommended smoking wood for brisket

Wood flavors for smoking meats

The combination of cherry wood and applewood produces a wonderful taste for chicken and pork. Mesquite has a strong taste and is particularly well suited for cooking red meat. Finally, oak is an excellent choice for a variety of beef cuts, including brisket.

Don’t overfill the smoker box! Just add enough wood chips to fill the box but the lid needs to fit tight.

Here’s a chart that shows which wood flavors go best with different types of meats.


3. Place the Smoker Box on the grill

Consider the following scenario: if your grill has two burners, turn on one of them, position the smoker box over it, and turn off the second burner.

The smoker box should not be placed too far away from the grill’s burner. Instead, set up the grill with two heat zones for indirect cooking. In this configuration, you will have a fantastic meat smoking setup. The meat will cook with indirect heat, resulting in tender and tasty meats.

The other burners can be used if you are not smoking meat but are grilling a steak or pork chops rather than smoking them on the grill. Gas grills with multiple burners are ideal for creating different heat zones throughout the cooking grates.

If your gas grill is equipped with V-shaped heat diffusers, you can utilize a V-shaped smoker box and position it directly on top of the reflectors to maximize heating effectiveness. If you do not want anything touching the burners, a universal smoker box will work perfectly, like the Weber Cast-Iron Smoker Box.

Adjust the burners once the box is smoking

Once the smoker box and wood chips have reached the proper temperature, plus smoke is flowing out of the smoker box, you can adjust the burners. Let the grill reach the correct internal temperature.

Gas grills cool down more quickly as opposed to smokers, allowing you to begin cooking relatively fast. Once the box is generating smoke, check the grill’s internal temperature and, if necessary, adjust the burners.

You may need to add extra wood chips to the smoker box during the cooking process, so you will want to maintain the smoker box as hot as possible.

If you are doing indirect cooking, be careful not to overheat the smoker box on the one burner. It is possible to damage the box if it is overheated.

Consider the following scenario: the temperature inside the grill begins to drop. In such a scenario, you can switch on a second burner for a few minutes to raise the grill’s temperature rather than turning up the burner under the smoker box to its maximum setting. Some smoker boxes are constructed of thin stainless steel that is prone to warping.

If you are looking for a good smoker box, check out our list of the top options.

Place the meat on the grill and close the lid

The movement you have been waiting for has finally arrived. Time to cook some meat! It is time to start cooking now that the smoker box is hot and there is a good amount of smoke coming from the grill.

Previously, we published an excellent post on how to smoke ribs and at what temperature to assist you in eliminating the guesswork associated with rib smoking. Furthermore, we have an excellent article on smoking briskets.

Fill the smoker box with more wood chips as needed

One disadvantage of smoker boxes is that they are small, and as the wood chips burn, you will need to add more wood chips to the box throughout the cooking process. To refill the smoker box, use a sturdy set of tongs and a pair of cooking gloves, remove the smoker box lid, and add more wood.

During the smoking process, you can also experiment and mix other wood flavors.

Advantages of utilizing a smoker box

Simply throwing it all over your grill will not work well. If you throw wood chips directly on charcoal, they will burn fast. 

In a gas grill, the wood chips might not come in contact with the burners effectively, and you will waste more wood to generate a proper amount of smoke. Plus, you will make a mess.

Most grills do not come with a smoker box, so you must purchase one to use wood chips. You can add a smoker box to almost any outdoor cooking appliance, including charcoal grills, gas grills, smokers, and offset smokers.

The main benefit of using a smoker box is that these boxes provide a perfect holding place for the wood and an efficient way to combust the wood.

What is the best way to utilize a smoker box on a gas grill?

You can use a smoker box on a gas grill or a propane smoker to cook your meats and vegetables. As soon as the box begins to smoke, it is important to adjust the burners.

Not all of the burners should be used; one burner under the box should be sufficient. Once smoke begins to form, turn the heat down to avoid causing damage to the smoker box.

The best way to use a smoker box in a gas grill is to place it directly above a burner. Not all of the burners should be used; one burner under the box should be sufficient.

How to use a smoker box on a charcoal grill

Using a smoker box in a charcoal grill is not much different from using one in a propane grill, but there are several techniques that will help you.

A propane grill, for example, allows you to easily adjust the burners individually with the turn of a knob. When using a charcoal smoker, it is necessary to manage the charcoal. When I am smoking on my charcoal grill, one technique I like to use is to pile the charcoal on one side of the grill, below the smoker box.

Setting up your gas grill for smoking

To transform your grill into a smoker, you will need to create two heat zones. The heat from one end is used to heat the smoker box, while the other side will be used to cook the food.

Fundamentally, the concept is that if the meat does not come into direct contact with the burner, indirect heat will cook it low and slowly without burning or drying it out.

If you are having difficulty raising the temperature, you can use a second burner.

When should you add more wood?

If the smoke flow appears to be weak or has been completely extinguished, you will need to add wood chips to the smoker box.

What is the best way to keep wood chips from catching fire?

If you see any dark smoke or flames emerging from the smoker box, close the box’s vents immediately.

If your box does not have an adjustable vent system, carefully remove it and place it in a higher location away from heat, such as in the grill’s warming rack.  Because the box will be extremely hot, use tongs and grilling gloves to handle it. 

Avoid blasting the smoker box with fire to avoid letting the wood chips catch on fire. If you need to increase the temperature inside your grill, turn on other burners.

Tips for using smoker boxes

Keep your smoker box coated with a thin layer of oil. This will keep the box from corroding. Smoker boxes are exposed to direct fire which can start corrosion.

I like to use dry wood chips but some like to use soaked wood chips. wet wood chips might lose some flavor and take way longer to ignite.

Do not use wood chunks in smoker boxes. Wood chunks are too large to properly ignite in a smoker box. You can read more about the differences between wood chips and wood chunks in this article.

Always use good quality wood chips. A simple smoker box combined with the best wood chips will work better than a top-of-the-line box with low-quality chips.

To smoke meat use low temperatures, try not to go above 275 degrees.

How to maintain Smoker boxes

Never clean the smoker box hot. If you apply water to a hot stainless steel box it can warp. Use a set of heat resistant tongs, remove the smoke box from the grill grates and let it cool before cleaning it.

Once you are done cooking and using the box, dump any ashes and wood chips inside. Clean the box with soap water and apply a light coat of vegetable oil.

One last word.

This article is a perfect guide to learn how to use a smoker box and turn any grill into an amazing smoker. The basic idea here is that smoker boxes will perform best when placed above the fire. Still is important to not overheat the box to avoid damaging it. Once the box starts smoking adjust or turn off any remaining lit burners and set the grill to regular cooking temperatures.

If you want to use your gas grill as a smoker, create different heating zones and place the food on the cooler away from the heat source to create an indirect cooking setup.



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