It’s hard to beat the convenience of a pellet grill for low and slow barbecue. But sometimes the smoke flavor isn’t as deep as you get from burning wood or charcoal, especially in larger pieces of meat like pork butt and brisket.
That’s where a smoke tube comes in. In this guide, you’ll learn how to use this cheap accessory in your pellet grill to add extra smoke flavor to your BBQ.
What is a smoke tube?
A smoke tube is a perforated metal cylinder that holds wood pellets or chips for smoke generation.
Similar to a smoker box or foil packet filled with chips, a smoke tube is designed for long-lasting smoke output so you don’t have to keep refueling.
How to use a smoke tube on a pellet grill
Pellet grills work by burning wood pellets already, but they have a reputation for giving food a mild, subtle smoky flavor. Using a smoke tube is a cheap and easy way to get a flavor boost.
Getting a smoke tube ready to go is simple and can be done in the time it takes to preheat your grill.
You can add a smoke tube at any point during a cook, but for best results, you should aim to add it near the start of the cook.
1. Make sure the tube is clean and dry.
2. Fill the tube with wood pellets of your choice
3. Place the tube on the grill grates and light one end of the tube until a good flame is rolling. You can fan the flame to make sure it gets hot and ensures good combustion.
4. Let the flame burn for 15 minutes to make sure the pellets stay lit.
5. Blow out the flame after 15 minutes. Billowy smoke will start to form and fill the cooking chamber.
6. Put your food on the grill and smoke away.
Make sure there’s adequate airflow in the cooking chamber or the pellets will smolder out. If you’re not getting smoke generation, try moving the tube close to the air gaps in the grill lid and make sure the pellets are burning on their own after 15 minutes of being lit.
How does a smoke tube work?
To start generating smoke, fill the smoke tube with the pellets of your choice and light them up. You can use the same pellets you are using in the pellet hopper, or you can mix it up. Apple and cherry is always a winning combination.
Once you get a nice flame with clean burn, blow out the flame and the pellets will start to smolder producing a good amount of smoke.
They continue to smoke until all pellets have run their course – generally about 5 to 6 hours in a 12” smoke tube.
This will fill your cooking chamber with a steady flow of clean smoke, infusing your food with deeper flavor than you would get from the grill alone.
When to use a smoke tube?
You can use a smoke tube whenever you want to add smoky flavor to your food. Though it’s great on a pellet grill for low-and-slow BBQ, it’s also great for shorter cooks and even cold smoking.
If you’re doing hot and fast steaks to medium rare but still want some woody flavor, add a smoke tube to your grill and let it smoke while the steaks are on.
If you want to cold smoke cheese but don’t want it to melt over higher heat, use a smoke tube to generate smoke while the temperature stays low.
It’s very convenient if you don’t have a designated smoker or want to add more smoke flavor to your food.
Pros and cons of a smoke tube
The smoke tube is a simple and handy piece of equipment, but not without its flaws. Let’s look at some pros and cons.
- Cheap way to add smoke flavor to your foods
- Portable for camping or road trips
- Can mix and match wood types and flavors
- Burns slowly for longer cooking sessions
- Easy to clean
- Thin metal wears easily with repeated use
- Needs to be refilled with cooks over 5 – 6 hours
Smoke tube vs. smoke box. vs. foil packet
All three options are good at adding smoke to your grill when desired, but a smoke tube has some advantages over the other two.
A smoke tube burns much slower than both a smoke box or foil packet, whether filled with pellets or wood chips. The tube is designed much like the snake method and will burn linearly for 5 – 6 hours in a 12” long tube.
A box is great when you need massive smoke in short bursts, like those hot-and-fast steaks we mentioned above. Check out our guide on smoking on a gas grill to see which method passed the flavor test.
Wood pellets vs. wood chips
Smoke tubes are designed to be used with wood pellets but use wood chips just fine. The benefit of using pellets is that they last longer with steady smoke, while wood chips tend to burn faster and need replenishing.
Check with the manufacturer to ensure any warranties remain intact if used with wood chips instead of pellets.
Using a smoke tube is an easy and convenient method to add deeper smoke flavor on a pellet grill – or any grill for that matter.
You don’t have to buy a stand-alone smoker if you want smoke flavor and already have a grill. Throw a smoke tube on the grates and let it add that smoke flavor you want.
Have you used a smoke tube before? Let us know how it worked for you in the comments.