So Your Grill Has a Smoker Box – Now What?

Congratulations! Your grill has an offset heat source available, which makes it an extremely versatile outdoor cooking tool. The smoker box allows you to slow cook using the offset heat source, but you should still be able to grill with direct heat using the main grilling space.

The first thing you should do is assemble the grill according to the manufacturer’s instructions, if it is not pre-assembled. If your grill is new, it still has a patina of machine oils that will add off flavors to any meats you cook. The best way to get rid of these is to build a fire in the smoker box just as if you were about to start cooking and let the temperature get up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, open the vents to drop the temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and let it smoke for a few hours. This removes any oil coatings and supplies a new patina of burnt sap or creole.

There should be a pan below the main part of the grill. This helps protect the bottom of the grill from damage due to direct heat. When you’re cooking with direct heat, put your charcoal in the pan and use the grill much like any ordinary backyard charcoal grill.

Because the smoker box is for slow cooking, a whole new variety of grilling meats have just become available for you. Turkey, beef brisket, beef and pork ribs are just some of the meats that come out much better when slow cooked using a smoker box.

Good smoking wood is key to cooking with an offset heat source. You can smoke with charcoal, but the charcoal flavor is much more suited to thinner meats cooked on a hotter fire. Short logs are best for smoking. Wood chips are really meant for a different kind of smoking application, not an offset heat smoker. Most good smoking woods burn for a long time and produce a lot of smoke during the burn. Hickory, mesquite and fruit woods like apple or orange lend a nice flavor to meat. Check local firewood adds if smoking wood is hard to find. Many woods that are suitable for the fire place are perfect for the grill. Large logs will need to be split and possibly cut to fit the smoker box.

If a particular wood seems too strong, try mixing woods for a different flavor. Mesquite works particularly well with citrus woods, but try other types too. Avoid mixing strong flavors like hickory and mesquite. Mixing wood gives a complexity to the flavor that can take the place of many grilling spices.

Stack the wood loosely in the firebox to make sure that air circulates around the wood. If you have a blow torch you can use to start the fire, those work best, otherwise plan to start the fire with a small pile of charcoal and lighter fluid in the middle of the wood. Let the fire burn for about 20 to 30 minutes with the vents open. The temperature should reach around 400 degrees Fahrenheit. When it does, close the vents for a few minutes to dampen the flames. Reopen to create smoldering coals. The cooking temperature should be between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slow smoked meats are a hit at most cookouts. When smoking is done right, the meat is more tender and flavorful than anything that comes from barbecue restaurants. Although a grill with a smoker box can be used like a normal grill, the smoker box gives you the option to cook with meats that are inappropriate for direct heat grilling.

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