It’s not common knowledge, but the flavor of many plant-based foods—from veggies to beet burgers to tofu—can be enhanced with hot smoking. If you don’t have a hot smoker, turn your grill into an instant smoker and try some of our plant-based favorites this summer.
No Smoker? No Problem. How to Smoke Using a Gas BBQ
First, make a Smoke BOMB
- Fold a 20’” X 20” piece of aluminum foil in half and then half again. You will have a square piece of foil with one closed end. Close two of the open ends by folding over the foil two or three times tightly, creating a small package with one opening.
- Add in 1 cup of wood chips into the package.
- Close the last opening by folding over two or three times.
- Put one small hole, a little bit larger than a toothpick, in the center of the foil package.
Then prepare your BBQ. Add smoke bomb to the back corner of your gas BBQ. Alternatively, you can add it under the grates just make sure that it is not directly touching the heat source. Turn on BBQ and wait for smoke bomb to start smoking.
If you have a multi-element BBQ, turn off half your elements. You will be using in-direct heat to cook, which means cooking over the elements that are turned off and using the smoke and steam that is circulating to cook. The smoke bomb should be on the side of the BBQ that is turned on. Try to keep your BBQ between 200 and 220F which is the ideal smoking temperature.
If you have a single-element BBQ, like a small camping BBQ, it is a little harder. Since you can’t cook over indirect heat, like with a multi-element BBQ, you will need to keep a closer eye on your BBQ. Turn your BBQ to its lowest heat and try to smoke over the coolest part of the BBQ or on the upper level. If your food is cooking too quickly, turn off the grill and allow the smoke bomb to continue to smoke. Once it stops smoking turn the BBQ back on to continue cooking. Repeat as necessary. This is a bit of an art and will require some experimentation. Ideally, keep your BBQ around 200 to 250F but since this is hard for single-element BBQ it may drastically effect your cooking time.
The Rules of Smoking
No matter what kind of smoker you’re using, here are some guidelines to ensure you’re a smoking success.
- Choose Your Wood Chips Wisely
Different types of wood lends different flavors to your cooking.
- Apple and other apple woods: sweet and mild
- Maple and Oak: medium strength smoke
- Walnut and Pecan: strong and nutty
- Mesquite: pungent, sweet and strong. Use in moderation or in combination with other woods.
Don’t soak your wood! Most smokers seems to side on the air of soaking wood for at least an hour to ensure they don’t smoke too fast but smoking vegetables takes much less time than meat so we can skip this step to ensure we get enough smoke for the whole process.
- Cook for the Right Amount of Time
Cooking times vary depending on what type of finished product you want. Smokers will have a temperature gauge, but there’s a good chance that your griller doesn’t. Put an oven thermometer in the grill (if there isn’t already one on it) and adjust the temperature according to that.
Cooking between 200 to 250F will take a few hours to get a good smoky flavor. Too much smoke, too fast will lead to a bitter and over powering taste. Low and slow is the way to go. Ideal smoking temperatures are between 200 to 250F.
- Keep it Moist
For the best flavor, you’ll want to make sure there is moisture in the air. Add liquid to a small metal pan or heat-safe bowl. This creates steam in your gas grill that mimics the natural steam created in a BBQ pit. The steam helps move the smoke around the BBQ and adds moisture. The liquid can be water, beer, bourbon, apple juice or anything else you want to experiment with.
Mopping proteins or drier foods in the smoker will help create a smokier crust. Mop with sauces higher in sugar such as apple juice to help create a crust.
Start with These Foods and Recipes
When smoking, cooking times and smokiness vary depending on equipment and wood being used. Use recipes as a guide but understand they may need adjusting according to your situation. Experiment with smoking anything that piques your interest, but here are some ideas to get started with:
To Smoke Vegetables:
Top Vegetables to Smoke:
- Whole Tomatoes
- Cabbage, quartered
- Peppers (sweet or hot)
- Corn on the Cob
- Toss vegetables in oil and seasoning.
- Apply Smoke Bomb
- Add to grill and cook until desired texture.
To Smoke Proteins
Top Plant-based Proteins to Smoke:
- Tofu (make sure to use pressed tofu or extra-firm)
- Faux Meats
- Vegetable Burgers
- Dry thoroughly.
- Toss in oil and a spice rub.
- Smoke 45 minutes.
- Continue to cook for about 20-30 minutes. Baste with BBQ sauce multiple times to create a bit of a crust.
Other Fun Things to Smoke
- Nuts and olives: Set smoker to 300F and toss nuts in some oil and salt and place in a pan. Smoke as you would a plant-based protein (for 45 minutes).
- Smoked Mac n’ Cheese
Have you ever used a smoker? What are your favorite foods to smoke?