If I had written the song that mentions brown paper packages tied up with strings, one of the verses would have included something about smoke and a campfire. The smell of burning wood is most certainly one of my favorite things.  And I would add that the fragrance of mesquite smoldering in a smoker would be my favorite of favorites. Wonderful memories come to mind whenever I catch a whiff of that sacred aroma, like camping with friends and sharing stories around the glowing embers, or savoring a cognac by the fireplace.

During my time in the high country of Summit County, across the small meadow behind my house lived a BBQ legend named Charlie. I had met him and his wife Kathy when I first moved to the area in the early 80’s, and over the years had become friends working with both of them various jobs at a nearby ski resort. I was delighted when they purchased the house behind me. Now Charlie seemed to always be smoking something. Whether it was the brown trout he had caught fly fishing in the Blue, or a pheasant brought home from a recent hunting trip, I would see the white smoke rise up from his yard as if to make a papal announcement. Thus began my interest in the process.

BBQ legend and friend Charlie – photo courtesy daughter Claire


To convert your Gas Grill into a Smoker:

Cooks Note: Using your gas grill as a smoker will deliver a very desirable result, however it does not work as effectively or replace a true smoker. I find I get the best results with smaller cuts of meat such as chicken quarters or ribs.

Begin by soaking the wood chips in water for several hours. Drain the chips and pack them into a smoker box, or a foil pan covered with tin foil with holes poked in the top. Pour about an inch of water in a shallow pan and place cooling racks on top. Position the pan on one side of the grill, and the smoker box on the other.

Basic set up with smoker box and pan with water.

Close the lid and heat the gill on high using all burners. When you see smoke begin to appear, open the lid and quickly place your food on the racks over the pan of water. Close the lid. Turn off the heat under the side with the pan of food, and reduce the heat under the smoker box to low. The ideal temperature for smoking is around 200°F to 220°F. Low and slow is the way to go.

Using a foil pan for a smoker box.

 Mesquite Smoked Chicken:

  • chicken quarters, completely thawed and at room temperature
  • oil
  • mesquite chips


  • 1 teaspoon fine ground salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

Rub oil on all sides of the chicken to coat. Sprinkle with seasoning mixture. Smoke with lid closed for about 1½ hours or until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. (Keep the lid of your grill closed!  Only open the grill briefly after recommended time to test)  Allow chicken to rest for 5 – 7 minutes before serving.

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