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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research, he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.
Gas grills are great for several reasons. They’re easy to clean and light up and are better at slow-cooking larger chunks of meat than their charcoal and wood-burning counterparts.
However, the main issue with a gas grill is that you can’t impart a smoky, woody flavor that infuses your food and creates a subtle taste and rich bark on your meat. Various companies have overcome this problem by creating smoker boxes you can buy specifically for gas grills.
Some people don’t have the money to invest in fancy gas grills with integrated metallic smoker boxes. Fortunately, there are several inexpensive and simple ways to build your own smoker box at home.
1. What is a Smoker Box and Why is it Useful?
Some premium-grade gas grills come with a built-in smoker box with an integrated gas burner right beneath it. You can fill up this metallic unit with wood chips or pellets. When you light the burner, the chips or pellets heat up and emit smoke. This smoke flows through the small slits and holes in the container's lid, passing over the meat and vegetables on the main grill top or rack. If you're interested buying a fulyfunctional product then we recommend reading our smoker grill combo reviews.
You can also buy a smoker box as a useful and cost-effective add-on to your gas grill. These freestanding cabinets don’t come with an integrated gas burner, but you can place them under your rack or grate near your grill’s main gas burners.
When you invest in a smoker box, you can create food that’s infused with a delicious and rich, slightly bitter barbecue flavor while still using a gas grill.
However, if you don’t want to shell out money on an expensive gas grill with an integrated smoker box or spend too much on a freestanding model, you can make your own DIY smoker box at home.
2. The Smoker Pouch Option
Before looking in more depth at how to create a permanent DIY smoker box, it’s useful to mention this quick and easy smoker pouch method that allows you to create a smoky atmosphere on your grill in a matter of minutes.
Take a 6 x 8” sheet of aluminum foil and fold it up to create an envelope-style pouch for your wood chippings. Leave one side open. Add 2-3 handfuls of dry chips to the packet, then fold over the final open side to create a sealed aluminum foil pouch. Perforate the top of the packet with a sharp knife to make several holes, then put this package on your gas grill top and close the lid. Turn your grill on and let the pouch sit in there for 10-15 minutes.
When you open the lid up again, you should see tufts of smoke blowing through the holes in the aluminum packet. Move this makeshift smoker box to the side of the grill top and start cooking your burgers or veggies on the surface. Close the lid when you can to ensure that the smoke doesn’t escape.
3. How Do You Build Your Own DIY Smoker Box?
If you grill frequently and you’re looking for something more permanent and long-lasting than an aluminum foil smoker box, there are a few methods for building an inexpensive and effective unit.
Tin-coated steel container and wire rack
For this simple method, you’ll need a wire rack or some wire mesh, a tin-coated steel container or box, a few bowls of dry wood chippings, a screwdriver, and a grill.
Use an octagonal or spherical tin, but you can also opt for a square or rectangular container made of steel sheets. You can typically find this sort of box or carton in a candy shop or supermarket. Stores often sell tin-coated steel boxes filled with cookies or candy.
Once you have everything you need, use your screwdriver’s sharp end to create 2-3 holes in the container's lid. These holes allow the smoke to pass through the box and infuse with your food.
Next, grab a few handfuls of dry wood chippings and use them to fill up the bottom of your empty tin. If you’re using a gas grill, place this tin next to your grill burner or in the middle of the grill top and close the lid. After 5-10 minutes, open up the lid and add your food to the grill. This cookie tin should work as a safe and effective smoker box you can use time after time.
If you don’t have a gas grill, use some wire mesh and pliers to mold the mesh into a makeshift rack that fits neatly in your tin. Light some charcoal in a portable or disposable barbecue unit, then rest your DIY smoker box on top of this heat source. As soon as you see smoke swirling through the perforations in the tin's lid, you can open it up and add your food to the rack. This process will cook and smoke your burgers, bratwurst, and corn.
Single burner and cast iron skillet
Another simple and cost-effective way to create your own smoker box is to use a cheap, portable single burner unit and a cast-iron skillet or cooking pot. Connect the burner up to a gas or propane canister, turn on the unit, and put the iron plate or pan on top of the heating element.
Pick up a couple of handfuls of dry wood chippings, then put them into the cast-iron skillet. Next, place the burner unit, skillet, and chips into your grill. If you’re using a gas grill, you can rest these materials on top of your grill top and wait around 15-20 minutes. You should see wisps of smoke wafting up from the dry wood chippings.
Once the wood is smoking, you can put your meat and veggies on the grill top. The burner unit should infuse this food with a distinctive and delicious smoky flavor.
Final Thoughts: DIY Smoker Box
If you love your gas grill but wish that you could create ribs, chicken joints, and vegetables with a smoky and distinctive barbecue flavor, try creating your own DIY smoker box. You could try several methods, from folding aluminum foil sheets around wood chippings to adding a cast-iron plate to a single burner unit.