How to Smoke Meats Without a Smoker

Learn how to smoke meats without a smoker and impress all of your guests.

How to Smoke Meats Without a Smoker

Learn how to smoke meats without a smoker and impress all of your guests.


By Adam Easterling

No smoker? No problem!

It’s summer, and that means fixing a big plate of delicious barbecue ribs for friends and family. You know, the kind of ribs with a mouth-watering smoky flavor, tender enough to fall right off the bone. Nothing can stop you from smoking that big rack of meat and serving it up backyard-style, right?

But what if you don't have a smoker? Good news: You actually don’t need a fancy smoker to enjoy great ribs – you just need to get a little creative with your culinary skills.

Count Your Chips
First thing’s first: You’ll need wood chips. Wood chips, made from Applewood or Pecan wood, add tons of smoky flavor to your ribs. To prep them, soak the wood chips in water for at least four hours. Save some of that liquid for later to baste the meat while cooking. No matter what heat source you use, the chips bring the smoke, which brings the flavor.

Cooking on the Grill
When using a grill to cook ribs, you’ll need to handcraft an aluminum foil bag for your chips. Simply place the chips on a sheet of foil, and then place another sheet on top and twist the ends into a bag shape. You’ll need to poke a few holes for venting so the smoke escapes. If you’re using a charcoal grill, make sure to place the coals on one side and the ribs on the other.

Tip: Got a grimy grill? Learn how to deep clean your charcoal grill and prep it for smoking with Dawn Ultra Dish Soap.

Cook over indirect heat so as not to overcook the meat. The same principle applies for gas grills – only use the burners that are not directly under your ribs. For the actual smoking process, low and slow is the name of the game. “Low” means a cooking temperature between 225 and 275 F; you don’t want big heat. “Slow” refers to cooking time – at least four, and sometimes five, hours of cooking. Use a probing meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is 175 F on beef ribs before finishing up.

In the Oven
For the oven, you’ll need a roasting pan that has a raised grill to keep the ribs out of their juices. Line the bottom of the pan with foil and then add your soaked chips, topping with the grill. Place your meat on the grill, and then tent a sheet of foil on top of the pan. Once again, think low and slow while cooking: 225 to 275 F for four to five hours. Baste as much as possible to prevent the meat from drying out. This is very important when you smoke meats without a smoker.

The Combination Method
For meats other than ribs, you can combine the grill and oven methods! This is ideal for tough cuts of meat like brisket and pork shoulder. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Season the cuts of meat with a good coating of salt, pepper, paprika and cumin
  2. Place the meat on the grill over high heat until the outside is nice and charred
  3. Transfer the meat to a roasting pan and bake at 250 F for four to five hours until it’s fork tender

Smoke Flavor Shortcuts
If you’re in a rush and still want to add a little smoky flavor to ribs, you can always conjure some spice and sauce magic. Spices like smoked paprika and cumin add that smoky flavor to ribs without all the work. Finally, feel free to cheat a little by using all-natural liquid smoke. We won't tell!