Adding Flavor To Grilled Food Without A Smoker

Here are a few tips and tricks for adding a flavor to grilled foods (without the expense of a smoker)…

ExampleMethod #1:

  • Soak wood chips in water for 30 to 60 minutes then drain (suggested woods to try: apple, cherry, pecan, hickory, maple, mesquite, oak, alder).
  • Layer chips around the bottom of a disposable aluminum pan and place on burner or directly on top of coals (underneath the grate). Turn heat on high until chips begin to smoke.

Method #2:

  • Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil to make a pouch (by folding sheet in half and sealing sides), fill with wood chips and seal open end closed. Poke holes around the top of the pouch (when laid flat) and place directly on burner or coals.
  • Heat on high until chips begin to smoke.

More Tips

  • Shells from pecans, peanuts, walnuts (first soaked in water) will give a hint of nutty flavor, just mix them with the wood chips and proceed as above.
  • Save the branches from pruning your fruit trees and cut into chunks to use for grilling (only use if they are pesticide free).
  • Flavored Wood Chips: Try soaking them in beer, wine or fruit juices before using.
  • Cedar Planks: Try cooking chicken, salmon, fish and other cuts of meat directly on a cedar plank, this will give a light smokiness to the meat. Soak plank in water for at least one hour before using.
  • Herbs: Soak fresh herbs in water for about 5 minutes then lay across coals (or lay directly underneath food items). A few herbs you can try: thyme, lavender, rosemary, oregano.
  • Citrus infusion: Soak lemon or orange rinds in water for several minutes then toss on top of coals (or directly underneath food). This will add a light fruity flavor.
  • Did you know you can make your own smoker with flower pots? See for project details.
  • For chicken, rub seasonings under the skin then pull the skin off after chicken has cooked (if you prefer skinless chicken). This keeps the meat moist and allows the seasonings to infuse.
  • For a yummy treat, brush steak after it’s cooked with some garlic parsley butter–yum! (substitute dill in the recipe for parsley).
  • Brush meats and veggies lightly with olive oil before cooking, sprinkle generously with kosher salt. The oil helps keep the meat from sticking while it cooks, the salt tenderizes the meat.
  • Help your meats retain their juices by not jabbing them with forks when turning, use tongs or a metal spatula instead. Dried out steak is not tasty!
  • Before marinating meat, set aside a small portion in a covered dish & refrigerate. Use this bit of marinade to baste the meats while cooking (rather than the batch you used to marinate the meat in–prevents contamination).
  • Allow the cooked meat to rest for about 5 minutes before cutting or serving, this helps the juices get reabsorbed back into the meat.
  • Don’t brush with BBQ sauce or sugar based sauces until shortly before meat is done, this helps prevent the sauce from burning and keep the sauce lip smacking good.
  • Wrap fish, steaks, burgers with strips of bacon for a delicious twist and to keep meat moist.
  • If you like tender, juicy ribs where the meat just falls off the bone, slowly boil ribs for a couple hours before adding to the grill, toss several cloves of garlic in the water. Brush with BBQ sauce while cooking.
  • Try stuffing hot dogs and sausages with peppers and onions, simply split the meat lengthwise (not all the way through) and fill, then wrap & tie closed with water soaked heavy string.

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    • Kate

    Regarding Boiling Ribs: not a good idea. You lose a lot of flavor in the water; better idea is to steam them at 225 degrees for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Put ribs (with or without a dry rub) on a rack, with about 1/2 water in pan, not touching the ribs. Cover pan with foil and let steam/cook. Once done, finish in oven or BBQ with favorite sauce, again at low temp for about 30 minutes. Delish and will fall off the bone with full flavor.

    • Kate

    Meant to say 1/2 INCH water in pan. Sorry!

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