How to Smoke on a Gas Grill the Right Way

Learn how to smoke on a gas grill “the right way” and create some delicious smoked food right on the grill you already own!

a pellet smoker tube, butane torch and pellet bucket

Did you know you can add some exotic flavors and aromas to your age-old recipes just by smoking them?

Smoking can be done in different ways, but today, we will talk about how to smoke on a gas grill.

Yes, you can get the smoky flavor in your favorite recipe, even on your gas grill.

So, if you have a gas grill sitting on your patio and you are craving the delicious flavor of smoked meat, this article is for you.

Find below a step-by-step guide on how to smoke on a gas grill the right way.


Smoker Boxes vs Pellet Tubes

Smoker Boxes with Wood Chips

No, smoker boxes aren’t the hazy glass rooms you still see at some airports filled with anxious travelers trying to get in their last puff before boarding.

In a previous article covering Everything you Need to Know about How to Use Smoker Boxes, we went in depth on what a smoker box is and how to make your own if you don’t have one.

Basically, it is a small stainless steel box with holes in the top that you fill with wood chips and place over one of the burners of your grill on a low to medium setting.

As the wood chips heat up, the box limits the amount of oxygen they can can use, thus preventing them from igniting but instead smoldering and creating smoke on your gas grill.

No need to soak the wood chips as we have covered numerous times like here and here.  The limited oxygen creates causes the wood chips to smoke, not the water.

You can also create your OWN DIY smoker box if you don’t have one handy by creating an aluminum pouch and poking holes in it with a toothpick as described here.

Make sure to buy wood CHIPS, not chunks or pellets, to use in a smoker box.


Pellet Tube Smokers

a lit pellet smoker tube making smoke on a grill

Pellet Tube Smokers work in a similar fashion to a wood chip smoker box except they are designed to hold…you guessed it…wood PELLETS.

In a pellet tube smoker, you can use the same types of pellets you would use in a pellet grill. If you are interested in how a pellet grill works you can check out this article here.

For many aspiring BBQ chefs, the eventual move from the propane grill to the pellet grill is the natural progression.

But more on that below, back to your propane grill…

Pellets, unlike wood chips are much smaller, heavier, and denser because they are made of highly compressed sawdust.  Therefore the same volume of wood pellets contain a great deal more potential energy than wood chips.

a hand holding wood pellets

We are particular fans of Bear Mountain BBQ Pellets because of their affordable price and the variety of woods and popular blends they have available.

Because wood pellets burn long and slow compared to chips, you will need fewer of them by volume than wood chips, but you will need a higher temperature in order to get them ignited.

Food grade pellets do not have binders, adhesives, or glue.

Pellets revert to sawdust as soon as they get wet, so once again, DO NOT soak them in water before use.

Unlike wood chips, which will begin to smolder in a box placed over a low propane flame, pellets are designed to smolder inside a pellet grill while making DIRECT contact with a very hot electrically powered ignition rod.

Therefore, most pellet tube smokers are shaped in a hexagonal fashion to rest right up against the burners or diffusion plates of a gas grill, UNDER the cooking grates.

How Does a Pellet Smoker Tube Work?

It’s actually pretty easy to use a pellet tube smoker

First,, fill up the pellet tube using wood pellets, not chips. 

The pellets require more oxygen to smolder than chips, and chips in the tube smoker will likely just ignite, causing an unwanted fire on or worse, IN your grill. 

For wood chips, use a smoker box like this one:

Place the pellet smoker tube upright on the grill with the open end facing up.

filling a pellet smoker tube with pellets

Next you will need to light the pellets on the top for about 15-30 seconds with a butane torch.

lighting a pellet smoker tube with a butane torch

Note again that you can’t use a standard cigarette lighter – it has to be a butane torch.

Heat one end of the pellets in the tube until they are thoroughly ignited and there is a visible flame burning.

Keep the pellet smoker tube where it is and let that flame burn for about 5-10 minutes to thoroughly ignite the pellets.

a pellet tube smoker just lit with a flame

Then you can blow out the active flame and the pellets will continue to smolder almost like charcoal.

Wearing a good pair of heat resistant BBQ gloves, because the pellet smoker tube WILL be HOT, carefully lay the smoker tube down horizontally on the grill grates.


For best results, don’t place the pellet smoker tube right over DIRECT heat while you cook your food or else it may ignite all the rest of the pellets in the tube and they will burn too quickly.

Wood Chunks

Wood chunks are the BEST option for charcoal smokers like the Weber Smokey Mountain or Kamado style smokers like the Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe.

Here they provide a long, even smoke in a low oxygen cooking chamber.

Weber 22-inch Smokey Mountain Cooker, Charcoal Smoker, wood chunks being loaded in
Wood Chunks being loaded into a Weber Smokey Mountain. Click image to see product on Amazon.

However, wood chunks are a little more difficult to work with effectively when smoking on a gas grill. They do not fit in most smoker boxes and aren’t designed for use in pellet tubes.

If all you have are wood chunks and want to try using one, your best bet is to wrap it in a pouch made of least two layers of aluminum foil and then poke a few holes in the top.

Place the foil wrapped wood chunk on the cooking grate above a medium-low burner like you would with the smoker box, NOT directly against a burner.

This will limit the oxygen consumption and allow it to slowly smoke inside the pouch.

Just watch it closely to make sure too much oxygen does not get to it during the cook causing it to ignite.


Here’s a great overview video from The BBQ Guys showing how they set up their gas grills for smoking.  Check it out!


Use the Right Amount of Wood

The right quantity of wood really depends on what type of wood described above you are using, and how long you are cooking.


Wood Chips

A Smoker Box filled with wood chips should smoke for about 30-40 minutes.  You can always refill it after the first batch smolders out.


Wood Pellets

a lit pellet smoker tube making smoke on a grill

Many pellet smoker tubes claim to be able to smoke for up to 4 hours when completely filled.

The tubes are larger than most smoker boxes and you are using a denser wood material, hence the longer burn time.

If you are smoking a large piece of meat like brisket that can take on a lot of smoke for many hours, go ahead and fill it up.

If, on the other hand, you are making seafood or poultry that can only take on 20-30 minutes of smoke before turning an acrid flavor, limit the amount of pellets you use until you get a feel for how long the smoke lasts.

If you’ve ever over smoked your food, and even worse, had to hear about it all night from your guests or family, you know what we are talking about!

You can always add more, but you can’t take away smoke flavor once you’ve over smoked your food.


Wood Chunks

On a conventional smoker, a wood chunk will last anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on it’s size.  In the foil pouch method it may not last quite that long.

You can always remove the chunk and place it is a fire safe bucket if you think the food has smoked long enough.


Setting Up Your Gas Grill to Smoke

Before adding any wood or food, preheat the grill to its maximum temperature and clean the grates really well with a good grill brush.

Then, you are going to determine where on the grill your smoke will go, and where your food will go.

For most smoked food, you will be setting up the grill for INDIRECT cooking, meaning the food will be cooked by the warm air created and circulated from the DIRECT heat on the other side of the grill.

Picture a barrel smoker with an offset firebox like the one pictured below.  The wood and coals are smoldering in the firebox, creating heat and smoke, which then pass over and INDIRECTLY cook the meat and escape out the exhaust.

offset barrel smoker with firebox
We are trying to mimic the behavior of a typical offset barrel smoker.

Depending on the size of your grill, turn one or two burners on one side of your gas grill to Medium while leaving the other side off.

Adjust the burners as needed and once your grill is remaining a steady temperature you desire, likely in the 225-300 degree F range depending on what you are cooking, you can add your wood.

Place the wood chips on the hot side, If using the wood chip smoker box or aluminum wrapped wood chunk, place them right on the cooking grate above these urners.

If using a pellet tube smoker, place it on the grate as well to start.  If you do not get any smoke within the next 10 minutes try placing it under the grate up against the burner diffuser plate as described above.


Begin Smoking on Your Gas Grill

Once your grill is the right temperature and smoke is being produced, do not waste any time getting you food on.  Make sure to place it on the opposite side of the Smoke and heat so that it cooks “Low and Slow” and indirectly.

Gas grills, unfortunately by design, have large exhaust windows in the back.

This is a safety feature meant to keep an accumulation of flammable gas from building up inside the grill if a burner is on but isn’t ignited.

Unfortunately, it also means a lot more of our smoke will be lost out the back to the atmosphere before reaching the food on the other side of the grill.

This is why we are big fans of pellet grills for smoking food rather than propane grills, but more on that below.

Try playing with your positioning of your smoke and your food.  You may find air naturally flows through one side of your grill and out the other when the lid is closed as so therefore want to put the smoke on the front end of that air movement.

You can also adjust how close the smoker box is to the food, or, with a pellet tube smoker try placing it more UNDER or IN FRONT of the food against the heat diffusers rather than to the side.

Try to avoid the urge to repeatedly open the lid because that is one way you will FOR SURE lose all your smoke. 

Use a good probe thermometer to monitor the inside temperature rather than relying on your grills’s included dial thermometer.  These are notoriously inaccurate.

Have fun, pay with your setup, and don’t stress, it’s just BBQ!


Have you Considered a Pellet Grill?

how to use a pellet grill
The Zgrills 450A entry level Pellet Grill. Click Image to see details.

Ready to try a popular setup to smoking food that’s a LOT easier than smoking on a propane grill?

Then you need to take a look at Pellet Grills.

Pellet grills look similar to, and can do almost everything the same as a propane gas grill, yet they use small wood pellets as their energy source.

The pellets are loaded and then fed to an electric heating element where they are ignited automatically to maintain a consistent temperature that you just set and forget!

Therefore they naturally create smoke and add flavor as they burn.

You can read our Complete Guide to Understanding Pellet Grills HERE. 

Pellet Grills are the fastest growing segment of the grill/smoker market being purchased today, because they are SO easy to use and pretty much do it all.

Our current Favorites are the Zgrills line of pellet grills due to their affordable entry price and extreme ease of use.

They are available online with free shipping and make a great gift for any aspiring Backyard BBQ chef!

Right now you can use this link to get a special discount on the entry level ZGrills 450A Pellet Grill, as well as many other models.


Gas Grill Smoking Recipes

Looking for some inspiration?

Check out some of our favorite smoker recipes below that can easily be done on a gas grill using the techniques described above.

Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours!  You’ve got to check it out!

pellet tube smoker on a grill

How to Smoke on a Gas Grill the Right Way

Learn how to smoke on a gas grill “the right way” and create some delicious smoked food right on the natural gas or propane grill you already own!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 12 Servings


  • Gas Grill - Propane or Natural Gas
  • Pellet Tube Smoker
  • Smoker Box


  • 1 Sheet Aluminum Foil
  • 1 Cup Smoking Wood Chips
  • 1 Cup Wood Pellets
  • 1 Chunk Smoking Wood Chunk
  • 1 Toothpick


Smoking with a Smoker Box

  • Clean your grill, prepare your food and setup your grill for Indirect heat, meaning the burners are only ON on one side of the grill, likely on a medium-low setting.
  • Bring your grill's internal temperature up to between 225°F and 300°F depending on what you are planning to cook. Adjust your burners to maintain your chosen temperature.
  • Fill your smoker box with your smoking wood chips of NOT soak them in water...and close the lid.
  • Place the smoker box over the lit burners until it starts to smoke. If the chips ignite, blow out the fire, add more chips to the box if necessary, and move the smoker box further away from the direct heat.
  • Place your food to be smoked on the opposite side of the grill and close the lid.
  • Add wood chips to the smoker box as necessary every 30 minutes or so depending on how much smoke flavor you wish to add.
  • After adding smoke, continue to cook your food over indirect or direct heat until it is up to a safe internal temperature and remove from the grill.
  • Using BBQ tongs, place your smoker box on the warming rack of your gas grill until it has completely cooled down before disposing of the charred wood chips.

Smoking with a Pellet Tube Smoker

  • First follow steps 1 and 2 above.
  • Fill your pellet tube smoker with wood PELLETS, not wood chips. Do NOT soak the pellets.
  • Place the pellet tube smoker either down directly against the burner guards under the grates, or resting on the grate itself over the direct heat.
  • A full pellet tube smoker should last 4-5 hours so you should NOT need to refill during the cook.
  • Once smoke is being produced, place your food on the indirect side on the opposite side of the grill.
  • After adding smoke, continue to cook your food over indirect or direct heat until it is up to a safe internal temperature and remove from the grill.
  • Using BBQ tongs, place your pellet tube smoker on the warming rack of your gas grill until it has completely cooled down before disposing of the remaining wood pellets. Wood pellets hold their heat a LONG time so be extra cautious before handling.

Smoking with Aluminum Foil

  • Follow the same instructions as for the Smoker Box above, however, if you do not own a smoker box, you can use a homemade pouch of aluminum foil.
  • Tear off a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil and shape it into a pouch or packet.
  • Fill it with DRY wood chips and then close up the pouch.
  • Use a toothpick or a fork to poke small air holes into the top of the aluminum foil pouch.
  • Use in the same way as you would a smoker box in the instructions above.
  • Rather than re-filling with wood chips if the smoke stops too soon, simply move the aluminum foil pouch to the warming rack and replace with a new one made in the same way.
  • A large wood chunk can be wrapped in the same manner instead of wood chips if you desire for a longer smoking time.



Always keep a fire extinguisher handy whenever you are placing wood anywhere in your grill.  Always handle hot objects while wearing good insulated BBQ gloves and using long handled tongs.
Video courtesy of The BBQ Guys
Keyword bbq, Gas, Grilling, Grills, pellet tube smoker, Propane, smoked, Smoker box, Smoking, Wood chips, Wood pellets
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!



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