The Art to Smoking on your Weber BBQ

Posted by Ellie on 26th Mar 2023

Smoking low and slow is on the rise as it allows you to add extra flavour to your BBQ food. Whether you have a kettle, gas grill or a water smoker, you can smoke your food and master the skill.

Smoking on a Charcoal Grill

Smoking on a charcoal grill is easy to do, especially If you are prepared and/or have experience using indirect heat. You will need some accessories/tools to smoke on your charcoal grill:

  • Briquettes
  • Chimney Starter
  • Lighter Cubes
  • Soaked Smoking Chips/ Dry Wood Chunks (Chunks burn for longer than chips, when using a longer smoking recipe, chunks may be more convenient).

Ensure you have the correct amount of wood chips that is suggested in the recipe and soak the wood chips in water. It is advised that wood chips are soaked for at least 30 minutes so that they do not flame up. If using wood chunks, there is no need to soak.

Next, you are to prepare your briquettes using your chimney starter. The Chimney starter rapidly lights your briquettes without the risk of changing the flavour of the food as lighter fluid would. Take your cooking grate out from the BBQ and put this aside. Fill your Chimney Starter about one third full of briquettes. Set 2 lighter cubes on to the charcoal grate and light them. Pop the chimney starter directly on top of the lighter cubes and allow 10-15 minutes for the briquettes to light.

When setting up your kettle for smoking, it is advised that you create a two-zone fire as it proves useful. This means that the coals are arranged on one side of the charcoal grate and the other side remains free of fuel. This gives you two heat zones, one being direct (the side with the briquettes) the other indirect (the area free of briquettes). Empty your lit briquettes on to one side of the charcoal grate, do this with caution as this will be hot!

If you wish to use a charcoal basket which holds the coals close together, you can as this will prove beneficial. Using a charcoal basket will make the fuel burn more slowly. If you are not using a charcoal basket and need to arrange your coals, use long-handled tongs to do so. If the coals are piled one or two coals deep, this is fine but no more than that.

If your recipe involves more than 30 minutes of cooking, place a large drip tray liner on the side which is free of briquettes and add around 2-3 cups of water to the tray. Placing water into the pan will help maintain a low cooking temperature and adds moisture to the food which is about to cook for hours and hours.

Put your cooking grate back into the BBQ (if your cooking grate has hinged sides, place one of the hinged sides over your charcoal to make adding more fuel easier).

Once your grill is set up, allow 30 minutes – 1 hour for the coals to burn down to the optimum temperature and the water to heat up. This is to be completed with the lid on and the top vent completely open.

Once your grill is ready to go, place the damp (not wet) wood chips or dry wood chunks directly on top of your briquettes. Do not be alarmed if the temperature drops slightly, this is because the chips are damp. The heat will recover as the chips begin to smoulder. Place the lid on the grill and wait for smoke to start emerging from the BBQ.

Open the lid and place your food on top of the cooking grate over the water pan and pop the lid on. When placing the lid back on to the BBQ, position the vent on the side which is free of charcoal. This will draw the heat and smoke over to the food and then out the vent.

Please note: You may have to add more coals every hour or so which will allow you to maintain the heat. If using standard charcoal briquettes, these are to be added to your BBQ when fully lid or this may adjust the flavour of the food when it absorbs the aromas of the partially lit briquettes.

On the other hand, if using pure hardwood briquettes or charcoal, these do not produce any unwanted flavours and so you can add these to the fire when they are lit or unlit.

Whilst smoking, the vents are your best friends. Remember that these parts of the grill are vital to control the air flow and in turn the temperature. The more oxygen flowing into the BBQ, the hotter the BBQ will be and so, the more you will have to replenish the coals.

If you wish to reduce the amount of maintenance required, keep the lid closed but the vents at the bottom of the grill open. Keeping your top vent closed around three quarters of the way which will slow down the burning time of your fuel.

An important tip is to check the BBQ vents every hour or so. When using briquettes, ash will begin to accumulate at the bottom of the grill which will starve the coals of oxygen, putting them out. When checking, if you see that the vents are covering over, give them a sweep to clear them of ashes.

Smoking on a Gas Grill

If you are looking to set your gas BBQ up for smoking, you will need:

  • Wood Chips
  • Smoker Box
  • Cedar Planks (Optional)
  • T-brush (if you need to clean your cooking grates)

First, you need to soak your wood chips in water, the amount of wood chips will be listed on the recipe. When soaking the wood chips, do so for at least 30 minutes to prevent them from setting on fire.

Once your wood chips are soaked and ready, keep them aside for later. Start up your grill and preheat for 10-15 minutes on high. If you need to clean your cooking grates, do so using a T-brush at this stage.

Take your soaked wood chip sand add them to your smoker box. Please be cautious as the smoker box will be very hot. When adding the wood chips to the smoker box, allow the excess water to drain off. Spread out the wood chips so the bottom of the smoker box is covered.

Close your BBQ lid and wait for the smoke to start pouring out of the grill. Then lower the heat of the burner which is sat beneath the smoker box to medium/low.

Maintaining and controlling the temperature on a gas grill is very easy as it is just a matter of turning the control knobs. In many cases, you may only have to adjust one or two of the main burners and use the burner which has been dedicated to the smoker box for the heat.

Please remember the positioning of your food is also very vital. Food sat closer to the smoker box will absorb more smoke than the food further away.

If your BBQ does not have a built-in smoker box, please do not worry. Weber have made a stainless-steel smoker box which sits directly on top of the cooking grate. This does not mean a limited performance; the metal will conduct the heat to the soaked wood chips and the holes in the lid of the box will direct the smoke over your food.

If you wish to make your own smoker box for the cook, you can place damp wood chips into a foil pan and cover with foil. Ensure you make holes into the foil lid which allows the smoke to escape. This pan can then be placed on top of your flavourizer bars over an unlit burner. The disadvantage of using this method is that you are unable to add more chips to the pan.

If you would prefer using a wood plank, this is to be soaked for at least 1 hour in water. The plank can then be placed into a preheated grill over direct medium heat. After around 5-10 minutes, the plank will begin to char and smoke, at this stage, flip the plank. Place the item of food you wish to grill directly on to the charred side of the plank and close your BBQ lid.

Smoking on a Smokey Mountain/ Water Smoker

A Smokey Mountain is a water smoker which means you can smoke meat at extremely low temperatures for many hours. The Weber Smokey Mountain consists of three sections. The bottom section houses the burning charcoal and hardwood (for a more Smokey flavour). The water sits in a pan located in the middle section. This catches the fat and prevents this from dripping into the coals. Your water pan will keep the temperature very low. Finally, the top section consists of two levels of cooking grates where you can place your food.

Vents are positioned at the top and bottom of the Smokey Mountain. Your vents play an important role in smoking as they are the primary way of regulating temperatures. The less oxygen you let into the smoker, the lower the temperature will fall. Keeping your top vent open will ensure that the smoke can escape.

Weber suggest that if your Charcoal ring is filled with lit charcoal and the water pan is nearly filled, the temperature will remain at 107 -120 degrees Celsius (225 – 250 degrees Fahrenheit) for around 4-6 hours.

Smoke is your biggest indicator during this process. If you find that a very small amount of smoke is leaving the top of the Smokey Mountain, add more wood chunks to the coal. This can be accessed by opening the door. Wood chunks will burn slowly and evenly and so when using a grill of this size for longer periods of time, they are preferred over chips.

Please remember that you may need to add more charcoal during the smoking process. The timing will be dependent on the brand of charcoal you are using and how fast it burns. If you are using charcoal which has been made with unnatural fillers, light this before adding to the lit fuel as it may cause some nasty flavours to absorb into the food.

Your water pan will also need to be monitored during the smoke. If it is running low, top it up with warm water. Try to refrain from lifting your lid often as this will help maintain an event heat distribution.

The Minion Method

If you are looking to smoke for longer periods of time on your charcoal BBQ or Smokey Mountain, but without the hassle of topping up your briquettes halfway through your cook, the minion method will be a technique that you will find helpful.

Simply create a circle of unlit briquettes onto your charcoal grates (this will use around 2kg of Weber Briquettes) and then use your chimney starter to add around 1-2 kg of lit briquettes into the center of your circle. As the hot briquettes burn, the wall around the outside will eventually start to burn. Using the Minion Method will allow you to smoke for approximately 8-12 hours and can make the process more enjoyable.

Wood Flavour Chart

When using wood to flavour your food, there are many combinations to try. It is important to not overuse more pungent woods such as hickory or mesquite or you may end up making the food taste bitter. Here is a chart which shows the best pairings: