Let's learn how to set up your gas grill for great low and slow cooking with smoking. A useful technique you need to master your gas grill.
Introduction and My Rating
This is an excerpt from my How to Grill Baby Back Ribs, but I broke it out so I could refer to is for other recipes. While I use a Weber Summit that is very hot and versatile, I have generalized the instructions.
Let's talk about your grill. You must know your grill. If you can get or have the instructions for your grill from the manufacturer, follow those instructions.
You are going to need to experiment a little with your grill set up. You need to know how to get a steady low grill surface temperature in an area reserved for indirect heat.
If you are a beginner please check A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill where I give a more complete discussion of grill temperature which is basic for any success grilling.
Also, be sure you have enough gas. I have natural gas, so I'm good. If you are not so lucky, have a second tank.
I used grill surface thermometers for years. They only cost about $10 and will last most of the grilling season until you can't read it anymore. Amazon, Home Depot, or Lowes will have them. I have one I have bought over the years linked below. I now use a fancy Thermoworks remote monitor, also linked below.
For me, I have four main burners that run front to back. If I only turn one burner on high, the grill surface temperature in the indirect (not over the burner that is turned on) is right at 225.
With the two outside burners at medium, I have a steady 250. Turning on the smoker side burner kicks the temperature up about 50 degrees while on.
So how do I know these things? I played with it. If you have 2 or 3 burners, start with one burner on high and see what you get in the indirect area. Some grills will have vents, and you can experiment with them too.
If you have one burner, you're going to set a large pan on top of your grates and cover it with a rack of some type. Do not put any weight on top of your burners directly with the rack and meat. Ever....
So now you have played with your grill enough to know it. Doesn't it feel good already?
Things you cook indirectly usually are full of fat and can make a mess of your grill.
Usually, you will just place a thin disposable aluminum pan under the grates on the indirect side.
If there is no room between the grill grates and the burners for a thin aluminum pan, then you will put the pan on top of the grates in the indirect area with a rack or grate on top of that.
I needed to notch the pan a little to get it to fit. Do NOT allow the pan to support the grill rack and put pressure on the things below. This would be dangerous.
Mine is on top of burner guards called flavor bars. You may have lava rocks or something similar. Usually, you should add water to the drip pan for added moisture in the grill.
Again, if you can get the instructions for your grill from the manufacturer, follow those instructions. Let's be careful and safe here.
You want to smoke, right? If you're lucky, your grill has built-in a smoke box like I do. If not, you have a couple of choices.
If you just want to try it once, you can make a pouch of heavy-duty aluminum foil with some holes and place it on a burner on high until it starts to smoke and then turn it back down.
If you are going to do this more than once or twice, pick up a cast-iron smoker box (again Home Depot, Lowe's or Amazon) for about $15. I had the same one for 20 years.
Everybody has a favorite wood for smoking. I almost always use hickory and occasionally apple.
Traditionally, many suggest soaking wood chips. Most experts have now stopped this as an unnecessary step.
Some will still argue that soaked wood chips will smoke longer and, if not soaked, may catch on fire. I have not had a problem with this unless I'm smoking at a high temperature.
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Thermapen from Thermoworks
Gates BBQ Sauce
Smoking Wood Chips
Cast Iron Smoker Box
ThermaQ Blue Kit
CDN Grill Surface Thermometer
Editors Note: Originally published July 28, 2014, and updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.