Smoking on a Gas Grill. Tips and Pointers.

I shouldn’t complain because many cities prohibit having any type of cooker on high-rise patios, but here in Chicago, those of us who live in Condos and apartments are limited to gas grills. No charcoal allowed, no pellets, no dedicated smokers, and most upsettingly, no Big Green Eggs.

Still, since many city-dwelling folk dream of becoming the next Aaron’s Franklin, we have to work with the cards we’ve been dealt; and that means woods chips and smoker boxes. The same applies for people who just don’t want to invest in anything more than their basic gas grill.


Unlike professional pitmasters, using chips and a gas grill means that you are going to be forced to watch your temperature much more closely. Chips take about 25 minutes to start smoking and burn for roughly 35 to 40 minutes. The last thing you want to do is have periods of time where you don’t have any smoke contact with your meat during the cooking process, so staying on top of your fire is extra important.

The next thing you need to accept is your limits. Sausage, turkey breasts, ribs, and chicken normally need three to five hours and make for an awesome outdoor afternoon of beer and cooking. They also typically require a cooking temperature of 265° to 275° which is manageable. However, the king of bbq meats, brisket, is just something that you may or may not want to leave out of your repertoire. I say this because of the time and temperature it takes. 10-pound plus Briskets need 15 hours or more of smoking and since you need to be replacing chips every 35 to 40 minutes, some may find it too daunting of a task. Pitmasters also cook brisket at very low temperatures so making sure your grill is not in the direct sun, or that you are not making the attempt during the hottest day of the year will be important factors.

Finally, the last thing you must accept is that smoking will not be possible on any grill with less than three burners. 2-burner grills are a popular option for people who live in condos and apartments since it is compact and does not command a significant investment, however any way you arrange the food, it will be too close to the lit burner and will dry it out over the long cook period.

The Smoker Box.

There are three types of smoker boxes that you can use on your gas grill.

  1. Built in.

7575_630x440_a.jpgBrands like Weber usually have built in smoker boxes that come by default with their highest-end grills. However, brands often also sell smoker box attachments separately that you can add to their mid-range models. These will come not only with the box, but also an additional narrower grate to allow you to maximize your cooking surface after fitting the smoker box in.

Since I have the Weber Genesis, this is the option I personally went with after a year of working with the second type of Smoker Box. This option was $125.00 but can sometimes be found online for less.

   2. Stainless Steel Smoker Box.


Smoker boxes are the most common unit that people use to smoke meats on their gas grill. They are usually rectangular in shape with perforations on the top and bottom to allow the grill fire to hit the wood, and conversely the smoke to hit your food.

Though cheaper, the downside is that you will lose 50% of your cooking surface as you are required to remove one of your grates and place the box right on top of the flavorizer bars. Also, for longer smoking times, I recommended purchasing two boxes so that you can constantly rotate filling them with new chips as to avoid periods of time without any smoke at all. Basically, as one box begins smoking, its time to fill the other with new wet chips. As the first box burns out, the second one will start going.

Smoker Boxes are generally $15.00 to $25.00.

    3. DIY Smoker Boxes

The third way you can add some smoky flavor to your meats is by creating your own makeshift Smoker Box. Basically, you put soaked wood chips into a disposable aluminum pan, cover with tin foil and poke some holes in the top.

The option is good for short cooks that don’t require much smoke as seen in this (amazing) recipe here. However, since you can’t refill the pan will more chips once they burn out, you are very limited. At the same time, this method should only cost you a buck or less.

The Wood Chips.

Avoid using mesquite altogether

At any Home Depot, you can find Mesquite, Hickory, Apple, Cherry, and Pecan wood chips for roughly $6.00 a bag. However, don’t be shy to look up an independent bbq specialty retailer in your area who sells Oak. In addition to the wood, these guys will be more than happy to give you advice on the cook and everything about bbq and grilling in general. You can also refer to Amazon as well for chips too.

In general, my personal position is to avoid using mesquite altogether. It is the heaviest of the woods and is really only appropriate for certain brisket recipes, which I already mentioned to avoid cooking on a gas grill. For good resource, try sticking to the following chart.

OAK: Everything

HICKORY: Everything

APPLE: Poultry and Fish


PECAN: Poultry and Fish

Once you get comfortable smoking food, you can also create combinations of different wood chips to bring out unique flavors. 70/30 apple and hickory is my personal preference for hot-smoking salmon.

No matter which wood chips you choose, be sure to soak them in a bowl of water for at least 30 minutes before putting them on the grill. If you don’t, the wood will quick flash and burn off too quickly to give your food any real smoke flavor.

The Cook.

When starting the grill, only turn on either the far left or right burner. For fear of sounding trite, when using a built-in smoker box, be sure to light the burner next to it. For separate or makeshift smoker boxes, you will want to remove one of the grates on either side of the grill, place the box directly on the flavorizer bar and ignite the burner under it. You can turn the burner up high initially to get your wood smoking quicker, but you will want to turn it down before putting any food on the cook surface. It generally takes about 25 minutes for the initial chips to begin smoking.

WATER PAN. Not all recipes require it, but it can never hurt and will help prevent your meat from drying out. You can use a stainless steel cup, or another small aluminum pan and fill it with water. try placing right against the back wall of your grill to the maximize cooking surface for your actual food.

Once the smoke is noticeably escaping the grill even with the lid closed, you can then adjust the temperature down on the burner to the 265° to 275° range depending on your recipe.

The saying, “when you’re looking, you’re not cooking” is true but unfortunately, since you will need to replace your chips roughly every 40 minutes or so, try to do it as quickly as possible each time in order to maximize the smoke contact with your food. Managing the temperature will require you to keep moving the burner knob up and down periodically. You don’t have to sit there the entire time, but just be sure to keep a watchful eye every 30 minutes or so.

Final Thoughts.

The last piece of advice I have is to cut 10 to15 minutes of time off of the recipe when smoking on a gas grill (except in the dead of winter). Although you would think to do the opposite and increase the smoke contact in this less than ideal environment, the truth is that your temperature control in nowhere near the same level of accuracy as a person with a real smoker. Because of this, I think its best to play is safe and remove the meat a bit early. You can always use a thermometer to make sure the food is cooked to the appropriate temperature too. Also, move your grill out of the sun for optimum temperature control.


  • Soak chips for 30 minutes
  • Put water pan on the grill.
  • Put smoker box full of the chips directly on the flavorizer bars and light the burner under it
  • Get the temperature to 265° or 275° before adding meat
  • Drink beer
  • Enjoy!

Canada Goose and the Paradox of Going Public


On February 15th, popular Toronto-based winter coat company Canada Goose announced its intention to file for a public offering on the Toronto and New York Stock Exchanges. Although the company dates back 57 years, the move comes after the surge of popularity it has experienced since 2005.

Canada Goose gained popularity in the mid-aughts by becoming the standard bearer for the film and television industry when producing content in cold weather climates. Since then, the company has expanded to numerous retail outlets, made a large segway into higher-end department stores in the US, and had sold off 70% of its interest to Bain Capital in 2013 on the condition that the manufacturing of its products will always remain in its home and native land.

The IPO intentions will bring Canada Goose to a new crossroad and the company will raise roughly $300 million to help expand operations internationally. However, the demand of the shareholders for endless growth can often lead to an expansion | oversaturation paradox that we have seen with large clothiers many times before.

Since quarter after quarter growth is the driving factor for investors, fashion companies that go public usually attempt to maximize all retail opportunities, which inevitably leads to discounting and sometimes factory outlet stores. The problem with this model, however, is that the core customer base becomes disillusioned with the brand once it is widely available. It may be superficial, but the allure of a brand is often predicated by its aspirational qualities and “just-out-of-reach” characteristics. Once discounting and over-availability become prevalent, the brand’s image is devalued, and the customer moves on to something else. At first, it may just be the initial fanbase, but eventually it trickles down to the mainstream buying public as well.

Canada Goose is far from the first company to potentially face this type of dilemma. In the mid-1990s, American clothier Tommy Hilfiger experienced its own surge of popularity through celebrity ad campaigns and whirlwind promotion after going public in 1992. Yet by the early 2000s, the company’s red, white and blue logo had been licensed to countless products and had transitioned its designs towards the urban, hip-hop image popular at the time. It too was sold at countless department stores and factory outlets all across the United States. By 2001, sales began to fall dramatically as the brand’s North American appeal dissipated. By the mid 2000s, the company was looking to reorganize operations. This has happened to Lacoste, to Cole Haan, to Coach and is even arguably happening right now to the mightiest giant of all when it comes to fashion; Ralph Lauren.

Dani Reiss, the CEO of Canada Goose, has done a fantastic job rebranding and building the company since he took it over from his father in 2001. Still, becoming too big is a problem that many clothing companies experience when it comes to the long-term. The IPO might make Riess a much wealthier man today, but keeping the attention of the famous and pricing exclusivity up is a much better strategy if he wants the brand to stay as relevant as it has over the past decade for the next one to come.

Defending a Children’s Hospital Ad Campaign

Believe it or not, an advertising campaign that has been put out by a children’s hospital in Toronto is under attack. The SickKids Hospital “VS'” Campaign features big, bombastic pieces that are not only strikingly visual but are designed to attract new donors and help bring in millions of dollars in fundraising revenue. Yet there are people who have come out against the effort. They argue that the “battle” metaphor used in the ads to depict children overcoming their illnesses and disabilities does so in a way that is not inclusive to kids with more severe circumstances, and that the ads are not sensitive to those who will never improve from a medical standpoint either. The leading article against the campaign, titled “Why I can’t be ‘for’ the SickKids vs’ ads” points out the various issues she and a few others believe to be problematic.

I found out about this movement by my sister who is in the process of becoming an MD, and who herself spent time at SickKids hospital as a child and teen. I have to admit that at first I was enraged and could not believe that anyone would be against measures taken to bring millions of dollars and new donors into the fold. Reading the article and opinion pieces against the campaign, I tried to rationalize the arguments to the best of my ability but couldn’t get away from what only felt naturally logical: great ads = more funding = cures tomorrow and better treatment today. Originally, I planned on writing a lengthy rebuttal in the comment section of her post, and tear the critique apart point-by-point. However, just before lighting the piece up, I decided to look into the author first. When I discovered that she personally was the mother of a child with severe mental and physical disabilities, I immediately had a change of heart. An epiphany if you will. It’s was not my place to tell her or any other parent in that situation how to feel about something that I don’t live with myself and can’t even begin to imagine. If the ads had hurt her or anyone in that situation in any way, or worse, made their child feel lesser, invalid or unrepresented, then, of course, I don’t like that at all.

Yet I still do believe that the merits of the ads far outweigh the negatives, and I would like to quantify that by drawing upon a similar turn of events that happened many years ago.

In the 80s and 90s, there were a few people, also in Canada, who argued that the fanfare surrounding a man named Terry Fox and his “Marathon of Hope” was in fact, detrimental to other persons with disabilities; especially those with extreme circumstances. For those who don’t know, Fox became a national icon in Canada back in 1980 after losing his leg to cancer and then attempting to jog across the country on his prosthetic leg at the age of 22. Though his cancer eventually metastasized and took his life before he could complete the journey, the awareness the marathon created, and the millions of dollars raised pushed Terry to become forever ingrained in the Canadian national lexicon, right up there with moose, hockey, healthcare, Mounties and maple syrup. That being said, there were people out there who felt that the publicity of his run across the country created an environment where all disabled people were made to feel as if they had to achieve something extraordinary, or were expected become “Supercrips” in order to be validated by mainstream society. In the same way that many children cannot partake in the “battle” metaphor proposed by the new SKH ads, many people couldn’t achieve grandiose tasks like the one taken on by Terry Fox. Though even he ended up “losing” his battle against cancer, since that time, awareness has increased ten-fold, and over $700 million dollars has been raised as a direct result of his legacy. Many cancer treatments that didn’t exist in 1981 do today and the survival rate from Osteosarcoma, the type Fox in particular, has increased to over 80% without amputation. That is huge.

After speaking to a friend of mine who has kids with disabilities, I’ve come to believe that there was one image in the campaign of questionable nature that should be removed from future ads. It is the one of a girl standing atop a mountain of twisted wheelchairs as if she had conquered them in a match to the death. This is okay for someone who breaks a leg and will eventually walk again, but for those who will be confined to the chair for life, I can certainly understand why it may have been viewed as offensive. Besides, for the rest of the general public who don’t have a kid in a chair, leaving out that one image or using something else would have the same strong result anyways. As my friend put it, still “Lots of awareness for the hospital, and more money to thrive.”


For the rest of the “VS” ad campaign in general, nobody wants their child or loved one to be a martyr or the “loser” of a battle, but they certainly don’t want others, including those in the future to experience the same disabilities and illnesses either. The campaign may not have shed light on every circumstance or individual battle that children with major illnesses and disabilities faces, but the funds, awareness and new donors that they do bring in will no doubt help win the overall war against all of these issues in the long term; just like The Terry Fox Run did.

“Mad Men” is the Reason You Can Eat Well in Smalltown, Nowheresville

It’s hard to imagine the legions of plaid-wearing, beard-sporting, vinyl-listening restauranteurs with knife tattoos having anything in common with a show that re-popularized tailored suits and mid-century modern everything, but the truth is that they do.

The “democratization of food” that’s occurred over the past ten years through the chef-driven restaurant and demise of the white table cloth is unprecedented. Spawned out of the 2008 economic downturn and changing demands of the millennial market, the food industry has transformed into something that the Patrick Bateman Dorsia crowd of yesteryear could never have imagined. These changes have not been exclusive to the coasts either as towns everywhere are experiencing major developments commonly referred to as “food scenes.”

Yet as different as share plates in rustic atmospheres with Edison lights and exposed brick walls may be, there is one constant in the industry that always stays the same. The risk and cost of doing business.

Mad Men and the existentialist adventures of Donald Draper debuted in the summer of 2007 quickly giving rise to a new found interest in mid-century art, clothing and interior design. But for the sake of the food industry, Draper’s exploits often revolved around his penchant for liquor, and cocktails in particular. While Don, Roger, and the other characters were off boozing in the office, having three-martini lunches and sipping Old Fashioneds’ in countless wood-paneled enclaves, real bartenders and creative types were quick to take note. Eventually craft cocktail bars like The Summit in NYC, The Aviary in Chicago and The Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco began to pop up in all of the major cities. For a time, the term “Mixologist” replaced “bartender” as the general nomenclature, but then quickly reverted back after falling into comically pretentious territory. Super niche and often catering to an upper middle class, liberal arts hipster crowd, the popularity of the “cocktail bar” would soon make way for what food-oriented establishments now refer to as “The Cocktail Program.”

With the rise of this phenomena, new restaurants were able to adopt an extra course, and thereby an extra layer of margin, over something that the customers would come to view as a mandatory part of their overall dining experience.

Prior to the recession, restaurants could be categorized into two groups, fine dining and casual dining. Of course there have always been countless differences between takeout, fast food, ethnic cuisine and so on, but for the most part, all of these would still fall under one of the two groups. Also in 2004, you would be very hard-pressed to find a casual restaurant serving Squid Ink Ravioli in a Lemongrass Broth with Goat Cheese Profiteroles, and Roasted Partridge Breast in a Raspberry Coulis with a sorrel Timbale. Today, you can eat food like that in an off part of a small town, with no table cloth or pretension anywhere to be found. It will also be served to you by a guy covered in tattoos and facial piercings. Arguably, fine food has been liberated from its conservative, and often too-stuffy roots.

Jack and Coke, Gin and Tonic and Cranberry Vodkas set the customer back a mere $6.00, but were ordered far less than diners now who inevitably order a round of $14.00 cocktails before their meal, not instead of, but in addition to bottles of wine. While there is little argument to be made about the quality of a Jameson-Soda versus a properly made small-batch Rye Manhattan, the actual cost difference for the restaurant is marginal, yet the price modern drinks can command are virtually double their boring predecessors.

The restaurant business is a difficult proposition thanks to high labor, food costs, spoilage, overhead and fierce competition. From my limited understanding of what some successful people in the industry have told me, the goal is to keep food cost below 35% and payroll under 25%. Given overhead and all of the other expenses, that doesn’t leave much room for error. With the cocktail program, the restaurant may be using slightly more expensive liquor than what tenders in Canada call “bar rail, domestic,” and they may be forking over a bit more cost in the time it takes to make the drink, but they still see in excess of six or seven times the return on a $14 cocktail with a $1.50 to $2.00 backend cost.

Thanks to the extra $10 to $12 of per head profit for each diner who chooses to order a cocktail, and a demographic that increasingly considers it a mandatory part of the dining experience, there is a lot more money to be made; affording more restaurants the opportunity to open up serving weird and interesting food, in remote, random locations. This is partially why smaller towns like Frankenmuth Michigan, Driftwood Texas and Traverse City have what people like to call great “food scenes.”

So the next time you find yourself eating pork belly tacos with a side of miso-soy cauliflower and Shishito peppers, be sure to order a cocktail and don’t forget to toast Don Draper and the show that inspired it all in the first place.