Published May 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
For years, whenever we wanted a smoky flavor in gas-grilled food, we wrapped soaked wood chips in aluminum foil packets and placed them over the burners. Would vented metal smoker boxes filled with soaked wood chips do a better job?
To find out, we gathered four smoker boxes ranging in price from $12.79 to $82.45, three made of stainless steel and one of cast iron. Using our favorite gas grill, we smoked a chicken in each one as well as in our tried-and-true foil packet. The result? All the boxes were easy to fill and use, and all but one fit neatly under the grill grates.
The real test came when we tasted all the chickens side by side. All but one--which bellowed smoke too quickly, yielding acrid results--produced chicken that was at least as good as the chicken smoked with a foil packet. The best-tasting bird was smoked with our winner, a small unit that will fit in almost any grill. Its thick cast iron was slow to heat, letting the chips smolder a good long while, providing clean smoke flavor without bitterness or soot. It was easy to fill, empty and clean. At just under $13, it’s a worthy, reusable investment that beats fussing with foil.