Turn Your Grill Into a Smoker, Plus a Smoked Pork Chops Recipe
The flavor and aroma of smoked meat scream summer to me, especially after spending the last eight years in North Carolina. If you want to try your hand at smoking at home but don’t have a dedicated smoker, you can actually transform your propane grill into a makeshift smoker.
You can use this same set-up to cook any meat from chicken wings to brisket to pork roasts. Turning your grill into a smoker is fairly simple. All you need is:
- A full tank of propane
- Wood chips
- Aluminum foil
- Time – smoking takes longer than grilling, especially for large cuts of meat
In this post, I’ll walk you through transforming your gas grill into a smoker and then show you how to make simple, tasty smoked pork chops that will get you hooked on smoking meats at home. Get ready to get smoky!
How to Turn Your Propane Grill Into a Smoker
First, choose what type of wood chips to use.
Fruit tree woods like apple and cherry are great for pork or chicken. Bolder types of wood like hickory work well with large cuts of pork or beef. Mesquite has a distinctive flavor that is best for beef. For an all-purpose wood, go with pecan. It tastes great with pork, chicken, and beef.
Are wood chunks or chips best for smoking meat?
Wood chips are much smaller than chunks and therefore burn more quickly. If you’re smoking small cuts of meat like pork chops or chicken pieces, chips work nicely. If you’re going to smoke a large brisket or pork butt, use chunks instead. I recommend using about 3 handfuls of chips for every ~40 minutes you spend smoking.
Second, soak the wood chips.
Soaked wood chips take a bit longer to create nice smoke, but they will also continue smoking for a longer period of time. I recommend soaking here because it keeps the smoking environment moist and the meat is less likely to dry out. Soak wood chips for about 30 minutes.
Third, prepare the wood chips for smoking.
For less than $20, you can purchase a smoker box, which is a metal box with holes that holds wood chips in your grill. Or you can do what I did and make your own out of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Either way, drain your wood chips thoroughly. Place them in the smoker box or in the center of a large square of foil. Wrap the wood chips in the foil, then use a knife to poke some holes in the top of the foil packet. This will allow fragrant smoke to emanate from the package.
Now you’re ready to fire up the grill! As you’ll see in the recipe below, when you smoke meat in your makeshift smoker, you will only have one or two burners going. This creates a “hot zone” where the burners are firing and an indirect heat zone. Place the wood chips in the hot zone directly over the flames. Let the wood chips heat up while the grill preheats. That’s all there is to it!
Simple Smoked Pork Chops Recipe
Serves: 2-4, depending on the size of your pork chops
Time in the kitchen: 75 minutes, including 30 minutes of soaking and 40 minutes of hands-off smoking time
- 2 bone-in pork chops, about 1” thick
- drizzle of Primal Kitchen® Avocado Oil
- 1 tsp. paprika
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- optional: ¼-½ tsp. chipotle powder
- 3 handfuls of applewood chips
- optional: your favorite Primal Kitchen® BBQ Sauce
Soak your woodchips for 30 minutes. Drain them thoroughly and enclose them in a foil packet, as described above. Use a sharp knife to poke several holes in the top of the foil pack.
Once your wood chips are ready, prepare your meat. In a small bowl, mix the paprika, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and chipotle powder. Drizzle both sides of the pork chops with avocado oil, then cover the chops in the spice rub. Set aside.
Set your packet of soaked wood chips over the left- or right-most burner on your grill. Turn on only the burner(s) under the wood chips to high heat. If your grill has four heating elements, turn on two. If your grill has three heating zones, turn on one.
Close your grill’s lid and let the grill heat up. It will take around 20 to 25 minutes for the wood chips to begin smoking. Once you see a steady amount of smoke coming from the wood packet, place your pork chops on the grill over the burners that are not firing. You will be using indirect heat to cook your pork chops. Adjust the temperature so the grill stays at about 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius).
(Note: If you want grill marks on the outside of your pork chops, you can turn on all the burners while you preheat the grill so the grates are very hot. Just make sure you turn off the burners underneath the pork chops before you start cooking.)
Insert a meat thermometer with a probe through the side of the pork chop so the tip of the probe sits in the center of the chop.
Close the lid of the grill and let the smoking begin!
Try to avoid opening up the grill while the smoking is taking place, although after 15 to 20 minutes, you can flip over the chops if you choose. Continue smoking until the pork chops reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius).
These chops were about 1” thick and took around 40 minutes to smoke. If you are using a thicker chop or larger cut of meat, consider having a second packet of soaked wood to place on the grill after 45 to 60 minutes once the first packet burns out.
Let the pork chops rest for 10 minutes, then slice into strips and serve with your favorite Primal Kitchen® BBQ Sauce on the side. If you like sweet heat, the Mango Jalapeño BBQ Sauce will make you very happy.
Tips for Cooking the Best Smoked Pork Chops
Always use a meat thermometer.
A digital meat thermometer with a probe that you can leave in your meat as it cooks is a worthwhile investment. Overcooked pork quickly becomes dry and disappointing.
Try a brine for your smoked pork chops.
Brining isn’t just for chicken and turkey! Use the same basic saltwater brining technique to help your smoked pork chops stay tender and juicy. Simply soak the pork chops for 2 to 4 hours in a solution of 1/4 cup kosher salt dissolved in 4 cups filtered water before cooking. Pat them dry thoroughly before applying your dry rub. Tip: For brined pork chops, omit the salt from the dry rub.
Use a marinade to infuse your smoked pork chops with extra flavor.
Pork chops are so versatile, almost any marinade will work. Some of my favorite flavors are Balsamic, Italian, or Sesame Ginger marinades. Marinate thin pork chops for at least 1 hour and thick pork chops for at least 2 hours, up to 24 hours.
Smoked Pork Chop FAQs
Q: What type of wood chips are best for smoking meat?
Pork chops pair best with apple or other fruit woods. Maple and pecan are good all-around choices for smoking any meats, including pork. Bold woods like hickory work best for pork or beef roasts. Avoid soft woods with lots of sap.
Q: What is a safe internal temperature for cooked pork chops?
Some recipes call for pork chops to be cooked to an internal temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit (52 degrees Celcius). However, the USDA recommends cooking to a temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celcius). The temperature will rise a few degrees as the pork chops rest.
Q: Can I smoke boneless pork chops?
Yes, you can smoke boneless pork chops using the same technique described in the recipe above. Some people think bone-in pork chops have more flavor. Try both and see which you prefer. Use your meat thermometer, as boneless pork chops may cook at a different rate.
Q: What is the best grill temperature for smoking pork chops?
If you’re smoking pork chops on your grill, you want the temperature to be pretty low, around 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees C). The temperature gauge on your grill may not be reliable, so consider buying a thermometer designed to measure the internal temperature of the grill.
Q: How long does it take to cook smoked pork chops?
It depends on the thickness of your pork chops and how hot the grill is. Thinner chops may be done in as little as 30 to 40 minutes. Thicker chops cooked low and slow might take up to 90 minutes. Don’t rush the process. Longer cooking times mean more flavor.