When it comes to smoking food, we don’t all have access to a good ol’ smoker. Instead, many of us are working with limited space and budgets, leaving our dreams of smoking our meats and vegetables just out of reach.
But what if I told you there is a way around this? Perhaps you’ve heard the rumors, too, that smoker boxes are an excellent alternative to traditional smokers but still deliver the fantastic smoky taste that we all love!
It sounds like the answer to all your prayers, doesn’t it? But now you are onto the next conundrum, how do you use a smoker box? They can seem quite confusing, especially if you have never used one before.
But have no fear! I can be of assistance! I was the same as you, unsure if a smoker box was a wise investment, so I grabbed one, dabbled, and have perfected how to use a smoker box!
Want to know more? I’ll tell you how I’ve been using mine successfully so you too can become a smoking fanatic!
What is a smoker box?
For those in the room that need a little refresher, a smoker box is a small metal container that you place on a gas grill to give your food that classic smoky flavor we all know and love!
These boxes can be quite easy to use and are generally cheaper than a separate smoker too! There are a few different types of smokers on the market, and the one you should buy usually depends on the access to a gas line you have.
It’s why smoker boxes are handy tools; simply place them on your grill for the perfect smoke! Enough about the boxes; let’s look at how to use them!
How to use a smoker box
Today I’m going to share with you the method I have perfected for using a smoker box. When following it, make sure that you are safe at all times; the last thing you want is a smoked thumb or eyebrow in the mix!
It’s best to see the instructions on your specific smoker box, too, just in case yours has specific needs that have to be met. The goal here is perfectly smoked meats; after all, some prep work will be worth it when that smoked chicken touches your tongue.
In three easy steps, you can use your smoker box; here’s how:
Step 1: Chips in the box
To start, place dry wood chips into your smoker box. Usually, people soak their smoke chips on a traditional smoker, so they don’t catch fire. But as your smoker box doesn’t have holes on the bottom, the wood shouldn’t catch fire!
You can, of course, soak the chips beforehand if you want to, but there is no need. If anything, it will take longer for the chips to smoke, which means more time with a hungry belly! Use dry chips and place in as many as your box requires.
Step 2: Add some heat
Next, you will want to place your smoker box as close to the heat as possible. Where the box goes depends on the type of heat you are using. The smoker box works best on a gas grill sitting on top of the burners, from my experience.
For best results, I have found having the burners on the highest setting is best. It makes sure that the smoker box gets hot enough to produce the smoke needed!
When using charcoal, the box should be placed directly on top of your charcoal. Putting it here will ensure the heat gets into the box and smokes the wood chips! Some smoker boxes come with specific requirements about where they should be placed.
Be sure to check these beforehand to avoid causing any damage to the box or impacting your smoker box’s performance!
So how long should it take? Depending on the method you choose and the heat, it can take up to 10 minutes for the box to heat up. Keep an eye on the box and make sure your heat is hot enough to smoke those chips!
Step 3: Time to cook?
The end is in sight! Once you see smoke coming from your smoker box, it’s time to rock! Turn the burners down to your regular cooking temperatures, and you can place your food on the grill and begin cooking!
Your smoker box will stay hot enough to continue smoking while you cook, so there’s no need to worry about adjusting the temperature further.
Be sure to let the smoker cool entirely before storing again and clear out the wood chips! Clean-up is minimal, thankfully, so you can just relax and enjoy your smoky meat!
Direct vs. Offset?
Although I am here today to talk about all things smoker boxes, I couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room. That’s right, the age-old debate, direct or offset, is back!
If you aren’t sure what I mean, direct smoking and offset smoking is two different ways of smoking your food.
Direct smoking refers to having the meat directly over the heat for a shorter period and is best used for cooking those with shorter cooking times like chicken breasts.
Offset smoking is where larger cuts of meat are cooked without direct exposure to the heat. This method is used to avoid exposure to the high heats that could burn these meats over long periods instead of cooking and smoking them.
You also see more experimentation with different woods and their flavors when it comes to offset smoking. As we have seen, when it comes to smoker boxes, they tend to have direct exposure to the heat initially before it’s lowered for smoking.
They offer you some flexibility to cook with direct or offset the heat, depending on your cut. If you are cooking ribs or briskets, then I’d give offset smoking a go! However, it can be a little tricky to get to grips with initially.
You can suspend your meat a few inches above the heat to provide an offset effect in these cases. However, you would need ample space for this.
In my opinion, it’s worth assessing your space beforehand and the meats you are likely to cook. For beginners, it might be worth starting with direct heat and seeing how you get off.
And there you have it, three simple steps to use your new smoker box! It’s not as complex as you first thought, is it?
Using a smoker box allows you access to the smoky flavors you know and love without the price tag and space of a smoker.
Go on, give one a go today; you won’t be sorry!