Use Your Grill's Upper Shelf To Give Food A Smokier Taste

When some people look at their grill, they see the upper shelf as a holding area, a handy spot to keep food warm while the rest of the meal cooks below. But there's more to this part of the grill than meets the eye. The upper shelf can be a crucial tool in infusing your food with a rich, smoky flavor, transforming the way you grill. It's all about indirect heat and, of course, the smoke.

Grilling usually means cooking food directly over a flame. This method is great for searing and quickly cooking meats, but it doesn't always allow for the full impact of smokiness to be absorbed. Using the upper shelf takes advantage of indirect heat. This is the gentle, ambient heat that circulates inside the grill, perfect for slow cooking. And it's in this slow cooking process that the smoky flavor really sets in. Smoke from the burning fuel at the bottom drifts upwards, enveloping the food on the upper shelf. Since this area isn't as hot as the grill's lower shelf, the food cooks slower, allowing more time for the smoke to penetrate and impart its flavor.

How to achieve that smoky flavor on the upper shelf

Getting that delicious taste using your grill's upper shelf is simple. If you're using a charcoal grill, arrange the coals to one side, creating the 2-zone grill setup, i.e. a hot and cool zone. After lighting your charcoal, let the grill heat up. Once hot, use the direct heat side to sear your food, then move your food to the upper shelf, away from the direct heat, and cover the lid. This is where the smoking magic happens. Consider adding wood chips to the charcoal to enhance the aroma.

To achieve the same flavors on a gas grill, begin by soaking some wood chips in water for about 15 to 30 minutes. Turn on your burners to preheat the grill, then drain and add the soaked wood to the built-in smoker box. If your gas grill doesn't come with a smoker box, you can buy one or make a DIY version using aluminum foil. Once sufficient smoke wafts from the box, dial down the burner under it. Place your food on the lower grates and sear briefly, then move it to the upper shelf and close the lid to capture and impart that deep, smoldering aroma.