I get a lot of questions asking if it's possible to smoke ribs, pork butts or briskets without having a smoker. "Can I smoke these on my gas/charcoal grill"? I tell them "ABSOLUTELY"!!! I use my Weber Performer Charcoal grill all the time and it produces great smoked meats and it's really very simple.
The first thing to do is mentally separate your grill into 2 zones. Split it right down the middle. 1 side is your "Hot Zone" and the other side is your "Cool Zone". The Hot Zone is where our charcoal will live and the Cool Zone is where our meats can relax and get all juicy, tender and smokey. The purpose of the 2 zone system is to create an area where the meats can cook "Low N Slow" in the range of 225 to 275 degrees for long periods of time. You can cook meats from 45 minutes to 14 plus hours in a charcoal or gas grill if you keep a low and steady temperature.
For faster cooks, you can toss on a chimney full of lit coals in the bottom of the grill and it will burn for a few hours. By controlling the vents, you can get a 250 degree temp to hold steady for a few hours. If you are looking to go longer than a few hours for cuts like briskets, pork butts and ribs, you will need to set things up a little different. I recommend using the "Snake Method" for these longer cooks. You will want to set up the unlit coals on the outer edge of the bowl with random chunks of wood placed throughout. See pic below for the "Snake Method" set up. I was out of larger wood chunks, so I used wood chips for this cook.
I prefer the wood chunks over the wood chips as they burn longer, but did not have any on hand. :( I used them all the day prior when I had to satisfy my "SPARE RIBS" craving.
Once you have the charcoal lined up along the side of the bowl, you can light about 6 briquettes in your chimney or use a starter cube to get it going.
By controlling the vents on the bottom of the grill, you can get the temperature where you want it. I prefer the 250-275 degree range on most cooks, but can get it up to about 350 degrees if need to for some crispy chicken skin.
Once the coals are lit, you can add the grill grate and your meat. Place the meat on the opposite side of the lit charcoal, or the "Cool Zone". Put the top on the grill and relax with your favorite cigar and/or beverage. Until you get to know your grill and it's tendencies, you will need to monitor the temps every 20-30 minutes or so. Control the internal temps by opening the lower vents. The more wide open they are, the higher your temp will be.
Here is a good example of meat on the cool zone. The charcoal is hot on the other side and the Tri Tip roast is chillin' in the cool zone. Once the lid goes on, the flames will die out and the smoke will take over.
The finished product is a perfectly smoked hunk of meaty goodness. Thanks again for stopping by. Let me know how it goes.