How to Get Charcoal Flavor on an Electric Grill (Explained!)

How to Get Charcoal Flavor on an Electric Grill

When grilling food – you can either use charcoal, gas, wood, or electricity to power the grill.

However, whenever someone thinks of BBQ food from the grill, we usually imagine that delicious taste that you can only get using charcoal.

Given the rise in popularity of electric grills, a common question I’ve heard is if you can make an electric grill taste like charcoal?

After all, electric grills are convenient and some electric grills are even rated for indoor use.

Now the real question is how do you get an electric grill to taste like charcoal?

Electric grills can taste like charcoal by using charcoal wrapped in aluminum foil or in a smoker box and placing the charcoal inside the electric grill. Another alternative is to use liquid smoke as part of the recipe when marinating the meat.

Now let’s cover how to create the charcoal flavor on an electric grill in depth.

Adding Charcoal Taste to an Electric Grill

Here are the 3 most effective methods for adding charcoal flavor to an electric grill:

  1. Using a smoker box
  2. Wrapping charcoal in aluminum foil 
  3. Using liquid smoke 

1. Using a Smoker Box

You can place wood chips and charcoal inside of a smoker box to create smoke.

A smoker box is a specially built container that is about 6 inches by 2 inches to create additional smoke where needed.

The smoker box will heat up the wood chips which is what creates additional smoke in the grill.

In order to get a smoker box to create a nice charcoal flavor on your food, place the smoker box on the grill near the food.

Fill the smoker box with charcoal and use your favorite wood flavored wood chips such as mesquite and then ignite the charcoal before closing the grill cover.

Allow the charcoal to slowly ignite the wood chips and create additional wood/charcoal flavor on the food.

2. Wrapping Charcoal in Aluminum Foil

The first thing to do is to create a container out of the foil that is going to hold the charcoal and wood chips

Make the container as large as you would like as long as the aluminum container can fit on the grill next to your food.

Next close the entire container shut and use a toothpick to create holes on the bottom and top of the foil. The holes will allow the smoke to exit from the aluminum foil container and flavor the food.

Finally, place the wrapped charcoal and wood chips on the grill and allow the aluminum foil to heat up for about 10 minutes.

If the charcoal and wood chips do not ignite using the electric grill then use a torch to ignite one side of the container.

Once ignited, the charcoal and wood chips in the aluminum foil will continue to smolder.

3. Using Liquid Smoke

Using liquid smoke is the quickest way to add a charcoal flavor to food cooked on an electric grill.

If you are using an electric grill indoors then liquid smoke may be your only option for creating a charcoal flavor on your food.

Anytime charcoal or wood smoke is used within an electric grill, the grill must be placed outside so the smoke can safely vent away.

Using liquid smoke is incredibly simple, just add liquid smoke to any marinade or recipe when you cook food on an electric grill.

The food will taste smokier from the liquid smoke. However, use a small amount since liquid smoke is very strong.

Using Charcoal in an Electric Grill

You can put charcoal in an electric grill to cook indoors in various methods. The great news is none of these methods are too messy or difficult.

Wrapping a piece of charcoal with foil is the simplest method.

You can also use a separate vessel of wood chips to place in your electric grill throughout the grilling process if your grill is constructed of ceramic.

Here are some tips to follow if you do not know how to use charcoal in an electric grill.

  • Place your wood chips or charcoal in a small (heat-resistant) container and place them in the middle of your electric grill’s coils. Use tonges when placing or removing any container onto the electric grill’s coils.
  • Heat the coils.
  • Your wood chips or charcoal briquettes will begin to ignite and smoke from the coils.
  • After a while, the wood chips will begin to produce smoke; the smoke will make your food have the desired smoky/charcoal flavor.

What Type of Charcoal can be used in an Electric Grill?

Natural lump charcoal and briquettes can be used in an electric grill to create a charcoal flavor. However, the charcoal needs to be placed in a smoker box or wrapped in aluminum foil to not damage the electric grill.

The charcoal should not be used in an electric grill to cook the food. The heat from a charcoal fire will damage the electric grill.

However, a small amount of charcoal can be placed within a smoker box or wrapped in aluminum foil to create a charcoal flavor on the food being cooked in the electric grill.

Make sure to place the electric grill outside whenever charcoal or wood is being burned inside the grill. The fumes from charcoal and wood smoke need to be able to safely vent away.

Now let’s cover the difference between lumps of charcoal, briquettes, and wood chips so you can decide which one is best to use.

Lump Charcoal

Lump charcoal is entirely natural, made from the stems and branches of young trees.

During the production process, no chemicals are used. The stems and branches are burned in an oxygen-free kiln, producing no smoke.

The outcome is a black, flaky lump with no extra chemical additives or fillers.

As a result, it is less hazardous (no tar or soot is formed during use) and gives your food a richer charcoal flavor.

Lump charcoal also does not need to be completely gray before using since there are no chemicals additives or fillers used when creating lump charcoal.

Charcoal Briquettes

Briquettes are made by compressing coal, wax, petroleum coke, or other binding agents such as limestone into a hard block and cut into little pieces.

Liquid fuel is put into the mixture to make liquid briquettes.

The lower the final temperature of charcoal is, the more liquid is added.

This compression provides some firmness to the resulting briquette. After the square has solidified, it is chopped into little pieces. 

Wood Chips

Now wood chips are not a type of charcoal. However, wood chips are frequently used with charcoal to create a smoky flavor on food so here’s the quick rundown of what wood chips are.

Mulching wood chips are made from hardwood and fruit trees.

The wood is then divided into various sizes before chipping into the desired grades – fine, medium, or coarse wood chip.

Wood chips light faster but less hot compared to natural charcoal lumps.

Not to mention wood chips will produce much more wood smoke that will add a nice smoky flavor to any food being grilled.

15 Tips For Using Charcoal in an Electric Grill

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when using charcoal in an electric grill:

  1. Never put wires, plugs, or heating devices in water or other liquid.
  2. Before using an electric grill, visually inspect the cord, plug, and any connections for damage and wear. 
  3. Before starting the machine, make sure it’s in good working order.
  4. Turn the control knob(s) to the OFF position before plugging or unplugging an electric grill.
  5. When not in use and before cleaning, unplug the electric grill from the socket.
  6. Electrical wires should always be secured while in use to avoid product damage or personal danger.
  7. As required by local standards, the electric grill should be linked to a ground fault interrupter (GFI) outlet to avoid shock.
  8. Do not leave and or use an electric grill in the rain.
  9. Do not use a lighter to light the charcoal, as the red hot coils in the electric grill will work.
  10. Avoid overloading your electric grill with charcoal. A small number of charcoal is enough since they are needed only for the flavor.
  11. Be sure there is enough ventilation when using charcoal in your electric grill.
  12. After using charcoal in your electric grill, let the charcoal cool for about two hours before you dispose of it.
  13. Never use water to put out the charcoal flame in an electric grill; otherwise, your electric grill might start developing rust.
  14. Use the electric grill outdoors when using charcoal or wood chips inside the grill.
  15. Avoid charcoals with chemical additives.

One Last Word

When it comes to the best type of charcoal that can be used in an electric grill, natural charcoal lumps are the best since they don’t have any chemical additives. Secondly, lump charcoal will burn for long periods and at low temperatures, which makes lump charcoal the best option for electric grills since their function is to give that distinctive charcoal flavor.

Whether you use natural charcoal lumps, briquettes, or wood chips, follow the safety rules in lighting charcoal in an electric grill.

Adding wood chips to charcoal lumps will create more smoke which will give the food both a smoky and charcoal flavor. However, do not put too much charcoal or wood chips in an electric smoker.

Electric smokers are not intended to withstand the heat that a charcoal fire can produce so only use a small amount of charcoal to create a charcoal flavor.


Learn how to catch, grow, and cook your own food. Whether you're searching for food tips and recipes or growing your own plants, there's something for you here! So let's learn how to catch, grow, and cook our food together.

Recent Posts