How To Use A Charcoal Grill As A Smoker

When most people think of cooking on a charcoal grill they are usually are thinking about grilling burgers, dogs or steaks. However, with a few minor modifications, many charcoal grills can double as a smoker. Learning how to smoke on a charcoal grill is actually pretty easy once you understand the basics.

The difference between grilling and smoking

Grilling, by definition, is cooking directly over high heat for a relatively short period of time. Smoking is all about applying a lower temperature indirect heat to your food for a longer period of time. If you try to grill a cut of meat that should be smoked, you will up with something dry and tough.

The key to smoking is indirect heat

Most charcoal grills are designed so that the bed of hot charcoal is directly below the cooking surface. The first modification we need to make to the charcoal grill is to find away to separate the hot coals from the cooking area.

First, the larger charcoal grill you have, the better. It’s much easier to modify the grill for indirect cooking when the grill is large enough to create some space between the meat and the coals. It’s virtually impossible to try to smoke on a charcoal mini-grill designed for tailgating or a hibachi.

Mini-grills are great for direct heat grilling, but not so much for smoking.

Creating an indirect heat source inside a charcoal grill

To get an indirect heat source in a charcoal grill we need to put the coals behind some material that can act as a heat deflector.

Fire bricks that are made for stoves and pizza ovens make an ideal deflector. Pavers and bricks that you can purchase at your local hardware store appear similar to fire bricks, but they do not have the same thermal properties. These bricks/pavers can contain trapped moisture that causes them to crack and potentially explode when exposed to extreme heat. It’s not worth the risk.

If you have a classic Weber Kettle grills, there is an even more elegant solution for indirect cooking. The Smokenator line of conversion kits are designed to fit perfectly into 21 inch and 26 inch Weber Kettle grills. We have a complete review of the Smokenator conversion kit here.

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Remove Lid Residue Buildup In Smokenator Equipped Weber Kettle

Following these simple steps will help you remove the built up residue that forms on the lid of a Smokenator equipped Weber Kettle grill.

This helpful guide will tell you how to clean the lid of your Weber Kettle grill. Over time, the lid of your Weber Kettle grill will build up a sticky residue when you use the Smokenator accessory. This residue is a result of steam from the water pan combining with smoke particles and then accumulating over time on lid. The heating and cooling process can cause this buildup to begin eventually start flaking off of the lid of your Weber kettle.

Sometimes the flakes are mistaken as paint. The lid of a Weber Kettle is coated with a quality enamel that won’t flake in this way. While this flake material is not harmful, you don’t want it falling off onto the food that you are smoking.

Between smoking sessions, I usually wet down a few paper towels and give the underside of the lid a good wipe down to remove any residue flakes. However, I like to give the lid a thorough cleaning to remove all of the accumulated residue once a year.

I recommend the following method for getting the lid looking like new again:

You will need:


  1. Find a safe area to work outside, preferably where a garden hose is available.
  2. Lay the lid to grill up side down and carefully coat it with the oven cleaner. Follow the precautions outlined in the oven cleaner can. Oven cleaner contains strong chemicals and you don’t want it on your skin or in your eyes. Wear gloves and eye protection!
  3. After applying the oven cleaner, let it work for 10-15 minutes to begin breaking down the residue.
  4. Using a garden hose, carefully rinse the oven cleaner off of the Weber Kettle lid. Don’t use a spray nozzle on the hose. because the shape of the lid will cause the cause the water and oven cleaner splash back on you.
  5. Once the lid is rinsed, make sure you are wearing your gloves and begin to scrub the inside of the lid with an abrasive sponge to remove as much of the remaining residue as possible. Rinse occasionally with water so you can see where you need to focus your efforts.
  6. Repeat Steps 2 – 5 as many times as needed to get the lid thoroughly cleaned. During my annual cleaning, I like to remove all of the residue. Sometimes this takes up to three applications of oven cleaner.

I hope you found this guide to cleaning the lid of your Weber Kettle helpful. I follow this same process every spring to prepare my Weber for BBQ season.

Disclosure: BBQ Yeti is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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