How to Get Smokehouse Flavor from Any Grill

Wood chunks, chips, or pellets can make your meals taste like something straight from a barbecue master's fire pit

traeger hickory
Adding wood to your grill can give meats a unique flavor.Traeger

Nothing says outdoor cooking like smoky flavor, and you don’t have to have a full-blown barbecue pit to achieve it. With just a little preparation and the right technique, any gas, wood, or briquette grill can infuse your steaks, chops, ribs, and loins with the hardwood flavor of your choice.

Smoking Chips

Western hickory and smoke chips
You don’t need a barbeque pit to infuse your meal with a smoky flavor.Western

The most common form of grill-top smoking is with hardwoods chips. They come in about every species of wood you could conceivably want to smoke with, from pecan to apple, mesquite, hickory, and more. When in doubt, you can never go wrong with hickory. Use the chips dry to impart just a tinge of smokiness as a finishing touch. Or for deeper flavor, soak the chips for a half hour and spread them directly on well-lit briquettes or arranged in a smoking box, or create a little boat of tinfoil to rest above the flames of a gas grill. Soaked chips will simmer for a half hour or more, plenty long enough to dress up burgers, steaks, or chops.

Hardwood Chunks

Weber smoking wood chunks
You can use wood chunks instead of chips if you’re grilling something that takes a considerable amount of time.Weber

If you want longer smoking time, such as for a rack of ribs or even a pork shoulder, you're going to need something that will light and stay lit. Hardwood chunks are the same as chips, just longer lasting. Use them dry or soaked the same way as chips and monitor the cook every half hour or so to determine whether you need to create some airflow for the chunks to keep smoking or possibly add more chunks.

Pellets and Bisquettes

Traeger hickory smoking wood
Wood pellets and pellet grills take some of the guesswork out of barbecuing.Traeger

When it comes to home barbecuing, commercial hardwood pellets and bisquettes are the state of the smoking arts. Yes, they are prefab and maybe cheating a little, but they take the guesswork out of smoke infusion and allow you to focus on recipes, cook time, and presentation. Pellets and bisquettes are usually meant to work with specific brands of smokers, such as Traeger and Bradley.