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Steven Raichlen Gas Grill Smoker Cup & Charcoal Companion Gas Grill Smoker Box and Wood Chips - Review



Charcoal Companion Gas Grill

If we had the time, we'd love to use charcoal every time we barbecue. We'd tolerate the mess of large bags of charcoal and disposal of the ashes because of the extra-smoky flavor it imparts. But we opt for the convenience of a gas grill because we just can’t wait for coals to burn down to start cooking. For both grilling methods, using wood chips can increase the smoke. While it's simple to add wood chips to charcoal, gas grills — which truly need the smoke-enhancers — require special accessories to incorporate them safely.

We tested two different gadgets designed to add wood chips to gas grills, courtesy of The Companion Group. The easiest method is a Gas Grill Smoker Cup, which bears the name and likeness of barbecue guru Steven Raichlen. The device is a V-shaped aluminum cup filled with all-natural wood chips, sealed with a perforated top. The instructions are to place it between the grill's flame deflector bars, but the one-size-fits-all concept means you may need to experiment to get the best placement, and smaller grills may only feature one such bar. Once the flames start, though, users are best off not trying to move the device! Since each cup can only be used once, the experimentation must take place over various grilling sessions with multiple units.

We tried two different flavors on two different grills. The first attempt did not produce much smoke, and it was hard to notice any discernible mesquite flavoring in our tri-tip.

The second try must have been a better fit, as an aromatic smoke was produced, and our hamburger definitely had a hickory smokiness to it. Once the grill cooled down, clean-up was easy. We simply placed the self-contained unit in the recycling bin.

Charcoal Companion Hickory Wood Smoking Chips

The Gas Grill Smoker Box required a little more effort to use, but resulted in a noticeable improvement in output. They, too, are V-shaped, but have a hinged top dotted with holes, so it's easy to fill the boxes with wood chips and close the top. They come in short (6") and long (13.75") styles made of stainless steel or non-stick metal. Once again, positioning them in the right place is important for maximum smoke.

A major advantage of the Smoker Box over the Smoker Cup is that the chips can be soaked in liquid before putting them in the box, which makes them smoke longer and can impart an additional flavor. We bathed some Charcoal Companion Hickory Wood Chips in Pinot Noir for about an hour, then drained them and put them in a short stainless steel box. The result was the best of everything we tried: our burger was moist and juicy, had a smoky, hickory flavor, and the wine showed through on the aftertaste. The device is dishwasher-safe. If you're using your gas grill for its convenience, nothing is more convenient than the pre-filled Smoker Cup. We liked the flexibility of the Smoker Box, which allowed us to soak our chips first. But in the time it took to soak them, we could have let coals burn down on a charcoal grill!

Price: Charcoal Companion Smoker Box: $15; Steven Raichlen Smoker Cup: $5; Charcoal Companion Wood Chips: $7

For more information, visit the official Companion Group website

Reviewed by Jeff Hoyt

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