How to Smoke Meats Without a Smoker

Discover how to get that smoky flavour in your meat — even without a smoker.

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 flavour, 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 wait … you don’t have a smoker? Good news: You’re not out of the game just yet.

You actually don’t need one of those fancy, expensive smokers to enjoy great ribs — you just need to get a little creative with your culinary skills. There are more than a few ways to get great flavour from ribs without spending big bucks, and we’ll be glad to show you some here.

Count Your Chips
First thing’s first: You’ll need wood chips. Wood chips, such as Applewood or Pecan wood, add tons of smoky flavour to your ribs. To prep them, soak the wood chips in water for at least 4 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 flavour.

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, 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.

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 under your ribs. For the actual smoking process, low and slow is the name of the game. “Low” means a cooking temperature between 100-140 C (225-275 F); you don’t want big heat. The “slow” comes in with cooking time — at least 4 hours of cooking, and many times up to 5 hours. Use a probing meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is 80 C (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 your soaked chips, topping with the grill. Place your meat on the grill, then tent a sheet of foil on top of the pan. Once again, slow and low for the cooking, at 100-140 C (225-275) F for 4-5 hours. Baste as much as possible to prevent drying out.

The Combination Method
For meats other than ribs, you can combine the grill and oven methods! This is perfect 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 a 120 (250 F) for 4-5 hours until it’s fork tender

Smoke Flavour Shortcuts
If you’re in a rush and still want to add a little smoky flavour to ribs, you can always work some spice and sauce magic. Spices like smoked paprika and cumin add that smoky flavour to ribs without all the work. Finally, feel free to cheat a little by using all-natural liquid smoke. It adds the right flavour, and you might not get smoked out of the kitchen when the fire alarm goes off!


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