How to Turn Your Kettle Grill into a Smoker (In Just 6 Simple Steps)

It seems everyone has a kettle grill in their backyard or shed!

We do! and we love using it! It’s a classic!

So, would you believe it if we told you that your outdoor grill could double up as a smoker as well?

Well, it’s true!

While it’s totally fine if you want to own a barbecue grill and a separate smoker, you don’t need to!

You might not have the space in your yard or shed for more than one outdoor cooker!

Or maybe you can’t afford to have both. Plus, these items aren’t cheap.

So, if you already have a charcoal grill but want to be able to smoke your food with it too, then let get started!

What You’ll Need in Addition to Your Grill

You’ll need to gather up a few other extra items to convert your charcoal grill into a smoker.

However, it’s very likely that you already have these things in your backyard or tool shed.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Kettle grill
  • Wood chips
  • Chimney starter
  • A lighter — preferably a kitchen or BBQ gas lighter
  • Unlit charcoal briquettes or unlit hardwood charcoal
  • Disposable aluminum pans
  • Meat thermometer

You should already have all of these items at your disposal if you use your grill regularly.

Make sure you have disposable aluminum pans. We find that they’re really useful for catching all of those tasty juices when smoking meat. Plus they help maintain the temperature.

The Indirect Grilling Method

It’s very important to use the indirect grilling method when you’re trying to smoke meat in your kettle grill. 

This method is also commonly known as the ‘two-zone grilling method. Essentially, you’ll want to place make sure that you’re charcoal briquettes are only covering half of the grill’s base. It should resemble a sort of semi-circle.

Once your grill is up to temperature then you place the meat on the grill grates on the opposite side from the briquettes. Your food shouldn’t be sitting directly over the flames. Instead, it should just catch the smoke.

6 Steps to Smoking on a Grill

To use your weber grill as a smoker follow the 6 steps below.

1. Prep the Wood Chips — Soak Them

If you simply place the wood chips amongst the charcoal, they’ll burn up very quickly and they won’t give your food that nice flavor that you’re looking for.     

What you want to do instead is soak the chips in water for approximately 30 minutes. This will ensure that they don’t burn up too quickly, and it’ll also improve the amount and quality of your smoke.  

2. Get Some Charcoal Up to Temperature

Of course, you don’t just want to stand around for half an hour while you wait for the wood chips to soak up all that water. During this time, you should use your charcoal chimney starter to light up your unlit briquettes. 

While you don’t need to go out and buy a chimney starter just to get your unlit coals burning, it does help.

Seriously, a chimney starter can step up your barbeque game. You’ll have your backyard charcoal grill cooking in no time at all. Plus, they’re cheap.

3. Create Your Charcoal Snake

Begin by making a semi-circle of briquettes along the inner wall of the grill.

Then create another semi-circle of lump charcoal on top of that

Place your water pan, which will also act as a drip pan in the middle.

These water pans will also make it easier to clean up your grill after the cook. Why? Well, the tin pan will also catch any drippings from the meat.  Once your coals are hot in the charcoal chimney dump then at one end of the snake

4. Add-In The Prepped Wood Chips

When you’ve got your grill up and running, then it’s time to add in the chips in before you put your grill grate on. We find that two to three handfuls work best. 

And if they burn off faster than anticipated, don’t worry. You can and should add more during your cook.

5. Begin Smoking Your Food

Now that you’ve fully converted your grill into a smoker, all that remains is to smoke the meat! If you’re looking for some meat smoking recipes, I have plenty of delicious ones!  

You want to place meat over the water pan on the opposing side from the lit charcoal briquettes. 

Then place the lid on the grill and open the vents. If you find the temperature rises too quickly you can close the vents a little.

6. Keep A Constant Watch and Monitor Internal Temps

Even though everything’s fully set up, you cannot leave your grill unattended while it’s smoking the food.

Now’s the time when you should talk to your guests and fulfill your entertainment duties while keeping a close watch on the food at all times. This is to ensure that your makeshift smoker maintains a steady temperature at all times. 

The grill temperature should read somewhere between 300°F to 325°F. Any higher would be too hot and the smoke being produced might end up looking black.

Black smoke will add an unpleasant bitter taste to your foods.

If you smoking a brisket on your kettle grill, it should reach an internal temperature of 204°F before you remove it and rest it.

Do You Need Wood Chips?

Can you smoke meat without the use of wood chips? 

If you’re looking to truly smoke food that has that unique smoky flavor to it, then you simply have to use wood chips. 

Another thing is that there’s a whole variety of different wood chips out there too! And each kind will add different kinds of delicious flavor to your food. For example, mesquite is a good wood to use for smoking brisket, whereas it’s too strong for pork, you should use applewood for that.

Certain types will also complement the taste and work well with some of your meats and not so well with others.

And with that, you should be all set to begin your first backyard smoke with your charcoal grill.

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve got any of your nifty BBQ tips for when using a grill to smoke meat. 

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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