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How to Turn Your Backyard Grill Into a Smoker

Have an old barbecue that you just can’t get rid of, but can’t find a use for in its current state? If you’re struggling to find uses for an old grill, you might want to consider turning it into a smoker.

With a little DIY effort and some rearranging of the grill itself, you’ll have a simple way to impart a smoky flavor into your food in no time flat.

1. Identify the Original Heat Source

First things first: Do you have a gas or propane grill? Either will work just fine when repurposing your grill as a smoker. Make sure that your grill is relatively intact, though. If your grill is broken at the bottom of the basin, or if the lid is broken or doesn’t close completely, this will not work for you.

Once you’ve confirmed that the lid seals firmly, you’ll be well underway to making a DIY meat smoker.

2. Prepare Your Woodchips

Gather a few cups of wood chips — whether it be hickory, mesquite, pecan, cherry or apple — and let them soak in water for at least 30 minutes. Use more woodchips to account for longer smoke times. A cup of chips will last about 30 minutes in hot smoking, and about 15 for cold smoking.

How to Turn Your Backyard Grill Into a Smoker

3. Get Your Grill Ready

To get your grill ready for smoking, you’ll need to rig it into two compartments so that the food will never receive direct heat. 

Start by removing the grates from your charcoal grill. Make sure the bottom vents are open to allow for airflow but that the top vent is open on the side opposite the fire to prevent the smoke from escaping. 

Then, for charcoal only, bundle up some paper — newsprint or paper bags will do just fine — and bunch it to the side where the grate is. Put a pile of charcoal right on top of the paper.

Next, you’ll need to make a wall between the two sides of the grill so the food you want to smoke stays away from the heat source. To make this wall, build up from the center with a few bricks or a flat metal sheet. Then, you can stand up a smaller rectangular baking sheet or foil tray against this foundation and keep it in place with another brick. Just make sure your lid still closes tightly!

4. Ignite the Fuel

Next: Light it up! Drop a match to the paper to light the charcoal and wait 20 minutes or so until it’s mostly hot, ashy coals.

Then, add a small handful of chips — 1/2 cup to a cup — to the charcoal, placing more unlit charcoal on top of those. Do this every 30 minutes so that your wood chips smolder and release that pungent smoke. On the side without the charcoal, place whatever you want to smoke onto the grate.

If you’re turning your old gas grill into a smoker, you can put your wood chips in a basket or wood chip box and set it directly on top of the grate on the lit side of the grill.

5. Close the Lid and Start Smoking!

Then, close the lid and start the smoking process. Double-check to make sure you have the right vents closed — that is, the ones opposite the fire side. Feed the fire with wood chips as needed, usually once every 20 to 30 minutes, and then with charcoal. Make sure the fire doesn’t die out! Smoke until the food is done as you desire.

Make Smoking Easier With Grilla Grills

It goes without saying that repurposing your old grill as a smoker has its limitations. It’s a great DIY grill project and will give you something functional, but it is still a basic form of smoker. Nothing wrong with that. We’re not here to judge.

But if you want a smoker that will stand the test of time, take a look at our Grilla Alpha pellet smoker and Silverbac grills. These bad boys are purpose-built and designed by a team of steel engineers to last for years while letting you use wood pellets of your choosing to impart the flavor you want. 

Find Your Dream Grill

They come equipped with set n’ forget digital controls so that the temperature stays uniform for an accurate cook time. Plus, the control panel will automatically feed in wood pellets from the basin so you don’t have to keep checking on it every half hour.

What are you waiting for? Pick up a Grilla Grills pellet smoker today and make smoking your foods easier than ever.

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