Smoker Boxes

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?

Overview:

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.

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.

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  • Product Tested

  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    GrillPro Cast Iron Smoker Box made by Onward Manufacturing Company

    Tasters favored the smoke flavor produced by this box above all others, describing it as “good, sweet, and balanced.” Its cast iron heated slowly and let the chips smolder steadily a long while, producing chicken with a clean smoky taste. Just slightly over an inch tall, it will fit in almost any grill. It was easy to fill, empty, and clean and looked barely used by the time we were done smoking.

    $12.79

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  • Recommended

    Kingsford Wood Chip Smoking Box made by Outset

    Made of stainless steel and bearing the “Kingsford” logo, this smoker box is attractive and functional. Slightly larger than our winner, this box heated the chips a bit faster and hotter, which produced lots of smoke quickly. This resulted in more pronounced smokiness, which most tasters liked, though a minority found bitter.

    DISCONTINUED

  • Not Recommended

    Fire Magic Smoker Box

    The only model to have an adjustable vent, this pricey stainless-steel box was also the largest. Unlike the other boxes, this one didn’t fit under the grill grates and had to be perched on top of them. (More than twice the size of the other boxes, it could be useful for very long-smoked recipes if you filled it completely, but it’s unnecessarily large for most applications.) Though we only opened the vent an inch, this box bellowed smoke faster than all other boxes and burned through the chips quickly. The smoke flavor produced was so “harsh,” “acrid,” and “ashy” that one of our tasters dubbed the results “chimney chicken.”

    $82.45

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