Get Real Wood Smoke Flavor From Your Gas Grill

by Jeff Berkowitz on June 1, 2010 · 5 comments

in Tips & Tricks

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Gas grills are very popular because they light quickly, easily, and heat up quickly. That is the the good part, but they just don’t measure up when it comes to flavor. I have a clean, quick and easy solution for that. Get some wood chips designed for use in a smoker. They are very easy to find in almost any BBQ section of any hardware store or online and are inexpensive. They come in a variety of flavors (different types of wood). My personal favorite is…well, i like a blend of different chips…so forget about my favorite…my recommendation is start with Hickory. Hickory is a familiar flavor for anyone that eats bacon and it compliments any food, even vegetables.

Buy a bag of wood chips, soak about a cup and a half to two cups of the chips in water for about 15 minutes. Drain them and wrap them in tin foil the way you would wrap a deli sandwich. Poke small holes in the top and the bottom of the foil. When the grill has reached temperature, brush the grates to remove any carbonized food from any previous cooking events, carefully lift the grates and put the foil pack underneath so they are closer to the fire. Give them a few minutes to start to smoke, then start grilling. The smoke will add a great flavor to the food. They should not burn quickly because they are soaked and inside the aluminum foil packet and when you are done any ash should be securely inside the aluminum; just throw it away the next day or once you are positive that the wood inside is not still burning (it could cause a fire otherwise). I usually just remove it before I light the grill the next time I use it.
I do have a few more tips for successful grilling on a gas grill…one thing I notice is that most people tend to just let the grill get dirty year after year and then wonder why the grill does not work after a few years. The burners usually get clogged or the lava rocks get completely sealed in carbonized food and grease. These things do need to be cleaned once in a while and should be checked at least once a season (more in reality especially if the grill gets heavy use). The burners can rust out or warp, the stones or ceramic briquettes can get clogged or disintegrate and the grates can rust away. All of that can be replaced depending on the model grill you have and how old it is. Paying attention to these things will give you the best results when you are cooking.
I have also noticed that a lot of people clean the grates with soap and water or worse yet oven cleaner. This is OK if they are stainless steel but unnecessary and not good at all if they are cast iron. It is sufficient to “burn off” the grates while the grill is heating up and brush it with a good wire brush to remove any carbon from earlier cooking. In fact, this is similar to the way one would use a cast iron skillet in that you don’t want to remove the thin layer of oil that builds up (the “seasoning”) that makes the grill more nonstick. Another trick the pros use is to put a small amount of oil on a clean rag and wipe the oil on the hot grates holding it with tongs (not your bare hands) right before you put the food on it (be advised gentlemen: if you use a good kitchen towel your wife will kill you, this will ruin the towel so use something that you don’t mind being ruined). The food you are cooking should be relatively dry so the grates don’t cool down and cause the food to stick. The food should also not be dripping with oil which will drip on the flames, flare up and cause the food to get a black film which tastes bad and is carcinogenic.
My last word of advice is for those of you that are cooking hamburgers…DON’T SQUEEZE THE JUICES OUT. I have seen a lot of professional cooks squeeze burgers as though they were ironing shirt… well you get the picture. Pressing the juices out only causes flare-ups and dry burgers. Keep the burgers juicy and you will be the envy of the neighborhood…Enjoy!
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Helena Spensatelli March 19, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Great article with lots of valuable tips. We do a lot of grilling and I’ve used tea leaves for smoking. Have you tried that? Would love to hear your input.


2 Jeff Berkowitz March 19, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I have used tea and spices to smoke chicken and duck with great success. I have a couple of posts planned that feature this terrific method of obtaining a great smoked flavor.


3 Caroline June 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Thanks for this idea!!! I will absolutely get some chips and give this a shot the next time I fire up the grill!!! You guys are the best!


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