How to turn your grill into a smoker

Summer is on its way, and ’tis the season for backyard barbecues with family and friends. Having a smoker would take your average ingredients like ribs, chicken and even salmon to the next level by creating distinct, powerful flavor and a fall-apart texture. (Like with this applewood-smoked chicken. So good!) But when you’ve already got a gas or charcoal grill, who wants to invest in another backyard appliance?

We’ve got you covered–here’s a step-by-step guide on how to turn a grill into a smoker. Let’s get started:

1. Soak the Wood Chips

You’ll want to soak the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Flavors range from hickory to pecan to spicy apple, so be sure to choose a flavor that complements the dish you’re cooking. (For example, this Smoked Honey Peppercorn Salmon calls for hickory chips.) The wood chips can be strong and pungent and will add great flavor; soaking helps increase the amount of smoke.

2. Fire Up the Grill

While you soak the wood chips, take a moment to preheat your grill. Whether you’re using a charcoal grill or gas grill, the temperature should hit around 225 degrees for most barbecue recipes. If you’re using a charcoal grill, start by filling a chimney starter about 1/3 of the way full with charcoal. Once the coals are hot, pour the charcoal off to one side of the grill, and let them burn down until the optimal temperature is reached. Preheating the coals could take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour, so be patient and have a thermometer ready.

3. Dump the Chips

Once the temperature you’re looking for has been reached, go ahead and strain the wood chips. If you’re using a charcoal grill, dump the damp chips directly on to the coals. If you’re using a gas grill, wrap the coals in foil, and poke tiny holes to allow steam to escape. Lay the package of wood chips directly on the unlit cooking grate, and then fire it up again. You’re ready to get started once you see smoke!

4. Start Smokin’

Just add your meat to the grill and relax! (We recommend the Louisiana-style barbecue brisketsmoked shrimp or Santa Maria roast beef.) Smoking could take anywhere from 1 to 6 hours, so be patient and have some yard games ready. If you’re using a charcoal grill, be ready to add more coals every hour or so to maintain the desired temperature.

Turning your grill into a smoker is a pretty easy, hands-off process. All you really need are wood chips, some killer recipes and a beautiful day to spend outside with family and friends!

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