How to Make a Charcoal Grill Smoker | Outdoor Cooking

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You can smoke meat at home with a homemade charcoal grill smoker. Cooking low and slow on a smoker yields tender meat and deliciously smoky flavor. Dedicated smokers can be pricy so follow these instructions for how to turn your charcoal grill into a smoker.

What is a smoker?

Barbecue smokers are designed to cook foods at low temperatures in a smokey environment. There are electric, propane and even charcoal smokers. They may use wood chips, pellets or wood chunks and may even be heated by wood. You can purchase smokers like this unit from Pit Boss Grills or this upright electric smoker from Masterbuilt or you can use your exhisting charcoal grill to create a smoker like environment.

charcoal lighting in a charcoal chimney

What are the advantages of a commercial smoker?

Commercial smokers are fabulous. They are designed for indirect cooking and have drip pans, wood chip and liquid trays built right in so they are easy to use. Traditional BBQ grills are usually lacking these features and they are really designed to cook hot and fast. Commercial smokers are fantastic but if you have a medium to large charcoal grill you can create a smoker at home with just a few easy hacks.

Tools Needed to Turn a Charcoal Grill Into a Smoker

Charcoal Grill
Charcoal Briquettes
Chimney Starter
Wood Chips or Chunks
1 Medium to large aluminum pan
2 Small to medium aluminum pans

How to Make a Charcoal Grill Smoker

  1. Light your charcoal briquettes in a chimney starter and remove the top grate from the grill.
  2. Arrange your hot charcoal on one side of your grill for indirect heat. Place an aluminum pan on the side of the grill where you will cook the meat and fill it 1/2 – 2/3 full with water.
  3. Place soaked wood chips into the smaller aluminum pan and place it directly on top of the hot coals. Note: If you are using larger chunks of wood you do not need to use an aluminum pan.
  4. Return the grill grate to its proper position.
  5. Add the meat and close the lid.
  6. Adjust the vents on your grill so you see wisps of smoke.
  7. Cook according to your recipe instructions.

wood chunks on charcoal

What Can I Cook on a Charcoal Grill Smoker?

A traditional smoker will give you a lot more flexibility for cooking. Charcoal grills can be difficult to regulate temperature and it can also be difficult to remove the rack to add additional charcoal or wood chips during the cooking process. For this reason, I prefer to cook recipes that have shorter cooking times rather than trying to smoke ribs or a pork butt for hours on end. Some charcoal grills do have a small door that allows you to access the kettle without removing the grate. If your grill is designed like that, feel free to experiment to your heart’s desire!

Looking to buy a smoker? We recommend these products:

Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

Pit Boss Sportsman 500 Wood Pellet Grill

Recipes to Cook on a Homemade Charcoal Grill Smoker

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charcoal grill smoker DIY

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