How to Smoke Meat on a Charcoal Grill

If you are craving the taste of good smoked meat, but can't afford to purchase a smoker, don't despair. With a little set up, your charcoal grill can double as a smoker. Smoking is a method of slow cooking food that not only tenderizes tough meat but adds terrific flavor. For this reason, you want to choose the type of wood chips you use carefully. You will want to choose the type of wood based on what you are cooking. Alder chips have a light flavor good for salmon, chicken and pork. Apple or cherry chips provide a sweeter, fruity flavor excellent for pork, poultry and other birds. Hickory chips are very popular with a strong flavor used for smoking beef, pork and ham. Maple chips have a sweeter smoky flavor good for game, poultry and pork. Mesquite chips are similar to hickory but sweeter and good for lamb, beef and duck. Pecan has a rich, but subtle flavor excellent for poultry.

Things You'll Need
  • 2 Charcoal grills (1 with lid)
  • Fire tongs
  • Charcoal briquettes
  • Wood chips
  • Drip pan (aluminum cake pan)
  • Stemmed grill thermometer
  • Meat
  • Meat thermometer
  • Prepare your meat for the grill. Methods for preparation include trimming the fat, marinating and rubbing with seasoning. Keep the meat in the refrigerator until shortly before you are going to put it on the grill. You want the meat to be at room temperature when it goes on the grill, but you should not leave it sitting out for too long.

  • Soak your wood chips in water. They need to soak for at least 30 minutes before they are used.

  • Place about 25 to 50 briquettes (depending on the size of your grill) into a pyramid on one side of your grill. Add about 1/2 cup of lighter fluid. Wait until the fluid has soaked into the charcoal then light the charcoals with a long-handled lighter or match.

  • Once the flame has died down (about 10 minutes later), place your drip pan on the other side of the briquettes. Using your tongs, rearrange the coals so they cover the other side of your coals. Some sites recommend placing the drip pan in the center and dividing the coals on each side. How you set up your grill is up to you.

  • Wait 20 minutes until your charcoal is covered with a white ash. Place a handful of wood chips onto the charcoal. If more smoke is desired, wrap the chips in aluminum foil, poke a few holes in the packet and place it on the coals.

  • Fill your drip pan 2/3 full with a liquid such as apple juice, wine, beer or water. Add spices or herbs to the liquid if desired. The liquid will help keep the meat from dehydrating.

  • Spray the grate with a nonstick cooking spray and place it back on the grill.

  • Place the neat so it is directly over the drip pan.

  • Adjust the bottom and top vents so they are about halfway open. Place the lid on the grill so that the top vent holes are over the meat. You need to keep the top vent open or you risk making the food bitter by oversmoking it.

  • Place the grill or oven thermometer through one of the top vents of the grill. You want to keep the temperatue between 225 to 250-degrees Fahrenheit. Adjusting the bottom vents will help you control the temperature--close them when the temperature gets too high, open them when it gets too low. However, you never want to close them all the way.

  • After about 20 minutes, use your second grill to light about 15 charcoal briquettes. Transfer them to your main grill when they turn white and ash-covered. Add another handful of soaked wood chips. You may also mop your meat at this time but do not turn it. If you do not have a second grill, just add 5 to 6 cold briquettes to the fire.

  • Repeat Step 11 every hour until the meat is cooked. Use the meat thermometer to test if it is done. Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts, and chops should reach 145-degrees Fahrenheit. Pork, ground beef, veal and lamb should reach 160-degrees Fahrenheit. Poultry should reach a temperature of 165-degrees Fahrenheit.

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