Burning wood chunks provide the heat and smoke necessary in smoking meat.

How to Convert a Charcoal Weber to a Smoker

by Ruth de Jauregui

Hot smoke wafts from the grill as beef sizzles slowly into a flavorful, smoked roast that pulls the family and neighbors from their weekend activities into your backyard. Waving them out of the way as you remove the melt-in-your-mouth meat from the grill, your reputation as the best cook in the neighborhood is again proven by your skill in smoking enough meat for a crowd in your charcoal Weber grill.

1. Indirect Heat

Smoking in a Weber grill is a form of indirect grilling. By placing the hot charcoal and burning wood chunks to one side of the grill and a pan of liquid under the roast or turkey, you can slowly cook the meat into a tender, juicy, succulent dish fit for a king -- or a queen -- and the family. While accessories such as a charcoal basket and a hinged cooking grate are available, they're not absolutely necessary to the smoking process. A disposable foil pan under the meat catches drippings and holds water, fruit juice, beer or wine to flavor the smoke.

2. The Wood

While hickory or apple wood chips are readily available, wood chunks are easier to handle and don't require soaking in water. Mesquite, hickory or fruitwoods are available in fist-sized chunks, ready to place on the hot charcoal. Mesquite burns fast and hot, while fruitwoods and hickory take longer to burn, but all produce plenty of hot smoke to bathe the meat as it slowly cooks. Start the charcoal briquettes first; once they're hot and covered with ashes, slowly and carefully add several chunks of wood to the fire. When cutting your own wood for the smoked meat, "green" or unseasoned wood produces the best smoke.

3. Time and Temperature

Depending on the type of meat and recipe, smoking done on a Weber charcoal grill may take an hour or all day. While you should keep the lid on the grill to hold in the heat and smoke, when smoke stops coming out of the top vent, add two or three more wood chunks to the fire. Check the liquid level in the drip pan and add more, as needed, to prevent it from burning dry. Maintaining a temperature of 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit in the grill ensures that the meat will slowly cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

4. Keep It Safe

Your hot grill and tools should be kept in a safe area, away from the house, children and pets. Ovenproof mitts and long-handled tongs keep your hands protected from the hot charcoal as you add more wood to the fire. A hinged cooking grate allows you to add more wood without removing the grate from the grill. Once you're finished cooking, allow the coals to burn out, then carefully place them in a water-filled metal container. Keep your head away from the container as you empty the grill so you don't get a face full of hot steam. In addition, never put hot briquettes in a garbage can; you risk burning down your house.

About the Author

With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui also worked in the Napa Valley as a high-end catering assistant. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement, pet rescue and social issues.

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