How to Make Electric Grill Taste Like Charcoal

  • By: Peter Allen
  • Date: 10/17/2020
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Part of what makes steak cooked on a charcoal-powered grill distinctive is the familiar smoky flavor that the hot coals impart to your food. Gas, infrared, and electric grills do support this style of grilling as well, you just need to implement one of the proven methods of grilling that involves charcoal or charcoal powder. Luckily, charcoal, which is the most essential ingredient of the process, can be sourced from close to your home instead of buying online.

To achieve that irresistible charcoal flavor you’ve been missing since abandoning the old charcoal grill for a newer and faster electric replacement, you need to add it to your new appliance through one or both of the three tested and proven ways of sticking it. They involve:

  • Using real charcoal or wood chips in your electric grill
  • Using the smoker box

You are probably wondering how the heck would anyone use charcoal on their electric grill! And what exactly is a smoker box? Some of these methods may sound new if you have never tried to “artificially” add charcoal flavor on a non-charcoal grill.

Method 1: Use Charcoal in Your Electric Grill

Did you know you can put charcoal or wood chips on your electric grill and still roast your steak just perfectly? Yes, and there are several ways of doing it. Perhaps the most convenient of them all is folding your charcoal/wood chips in a foil so that they are contained together. Other methods involve tossing pieces of charcoal right in the pit of the electric grill while others involve the use of separate wood chip pans. Whichever method you opt for, you are assured of getting the right intensity of the flavor.

What are wood chips, to begin with?

Any small pieces of dry wood qualify as wood chips. It is recommended that you use scraps and shavings that can ignite easily. When these pieces are burned in the electric burner, they become charcoal. Most grilling enthusiasts prefer those derived from cedar, cherry, maple, alder, and hickory. Stay away from cedar and pine – those are softwoods and are prone to cause thick blinding smoke. Each type of wood has its level of smokiness and aroma. Choose the right type of wood whose aroma you want to pass to your steak. There are plenty of wood chip brands out there that will supply you with an array of different types of chips to deliver a specific aroma. Such one such brand is Western, the maker of Western Perfect line of wood chips

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Western Perfect BBQ Smoking Wood Chips

Still, wondering how you’d put the chips of wood on the grill and impart the charcoal aroma to food? Proceed this way:

Put the wood chips in a sizeable can but small enough to take a tiny space of the pit. Place the can standing upright at the center of the coils. Do this when on an inactive grill. If you already turned on the grill, consider using a pair of tongs so you don’t burn your hands.

If you didn’t switch on the grill, proceed to turn it on. You don’t need a lighter or starter gels to set your chips ablaze. The grill will get them started once the coils become hot enough.

Now put the meat on the grill and let the wood chips start to produce the smoke. Because you are using hardwood chips, expect the smoke to stay minimal and abate in a few minutes. It normally takes less than 30 minutes to get red smoke-free “charcoals”. You can decide to combine different types of wood chips provided they are dry and not softwoods.

At the end of grilling, you will have steak with a slight aroma of the wood you used, and that of the charcoal as well. You’ve just killed two birds with one stone!

Method 2: Use A Smoker Box

Instead of using a can or wrapping your wood chips, you can opt for a smoker box instead. A smoker box is a specially designed container meant for holding a few wood chips or charcoal and venting the aroma and smoke to the rest of the grill from a corner. The box can be small, with a base of about 6” x 2”, with numerous holes all over it. To add the charcoal flavor to your food using a smoker box, just place it on top of the grill, throw down some vegetables or meat, shut the cover of the grill, and let the charcoal burn to dissipate the flavor to your food.

Weber is a top maker of smoker boxes and here is one of their best products:

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Char-Broil Cast Iron Smoker Box

How to Use Any of Weber’s Smoke Boxes to Add Charcoal Flavor in You Steak:

Add a few dry wood chips or charcoal in the box. You can soak your wood chips in water first to slow down the rate of combustion. This may produce a lot of smoke. A bigger part of the flavor we are looking for is actually in the smoke, so go ahead to make them moist. If you want your wood chips to start producing smoke immediately, consider moistening first. This may not be a bad idea after all because it ensures that the electric grill takes time to heat up the water and reach the threshold temperature for optimum smoke production.

Place the box as close to the source of heat as possible. Because you are using an electric grill, place it directly on top of the coils. It is recommended that you set your electric grill to the highest temperature possible so that the box can get hot faster. Depending on how moderate or high the temperature is, it may take up to 10 minutes to heat the box and start producing the smoke.

Once the box starts venting the smoke on the coils and the grill, you are free to reduce the temperatures. Good thing is, once a few chips or charcoals catch fire in the box, the rest will follow suit even at low temperatures until the whole boxful burns out. Place your steak and on the grill and let the delicious smoky and charcoal flavor stick on it.

Note that:

The more the wood chips or charcoal you use, the thicker the smoke, and the longer the box will last. It is recommended that you just fill it up to the brim because it can be difficult to keep replenishing it in the middle of the grilling session.

What kind of wood chips or charcoal and at what temperature are you assured to get intense flavor?


Just because you acquired a new electric grill doesn’t mean you forget about getting steak with charcoal flavor. It is incredibly easy to add this irresistible flavor using one of the three most recommended methods.

  • Using real charcoal or wood chips in your electric grill
  • Using the smoker box

The best part is that these methods are based on the charcoal you can easily buy locally or order it cheaply online. Take all the necessary precautions and enjoy your charcoal flavored steak.