If there's anything better than smoky homemade barbecue, we certainly haven't found it yet. The smell alone makes us all nostalgic, taking us back to childhood when we were spending summer evenings out in the sunshine, getting our hands hopelessly sticky from roasting s'mores and falling asleep with that smoke smell deeply woven into our hair.
But charcoal grillers shouldn't get to have all the fun — it's plenty easy to do the same thing on a gas grill, and the reward is a deep, clean, smoky flavor you'll be craving all summer long.
Selecting Your Wood
You'll need to start with wood chips. The type of chips is up to you and depends on what you're smoking, but most people go for apple, cherry, oak, mesquite or hickory. Apple and cherry woods tend to have a lighter, sweeter flavor that's great for chicken, fish or vegetables. Mesquite and hickory have a more bold smoky flavor that's a good match for beef and pork. Oak is a fine middle ground for everything else.
Soak the wood chips in water for at least one hour, two if you're able. This is essential — without the soak your chips will immediately burn up when added to the grill.
From there, fill a disposable aluminum tray with the soaked chips. You can also fashion a tray using a few layers of aluminum foil.
If you're smoking for more than an hour, create an aluminum pouch with the foil and then poke holes in the top so that the smoke can slowly release while grilling. If you're using a tray, cover the top with foil and poke some holes.
Ready to Smoke
Remove the grill grate from the left side of your grill. Place the aluminum foil tray or pouch right over the burner.
Preheat the grill by turning all the burners on high. Close the lid and let it heat up for 15 to 20 minutes. You'll start to see smoke coming from the grill, along with that unmistakable smoke smell. Open the lid and turn off all the burners except the one below the wood chips.
On the other side of the grill, away from the heat and smoke, place the meat or veggies you'll be grilling. We love smoky, but placing them right over the wood chips won't taste good, and using indirect heat gives the smoke enough time to really infuse into your food.
For steaks, chicken and some vegetables, it's nice to smoke the meats initially and then turn the heat on high and give 'em a quick sear. Then you'll have a nice contrast in texture along with that deep, smoky flavor.
See, not much to it! And you won't even have to wait for briquettes to light.