Herbs for Smoking and Grilling

Herbs for Smoking and Grilling: Infusing Flavor into Your BBQ

Using herbs in smoking and grilling can impart delightful, aromatic flavors to your BBQ dishes. These herbs can be used directly on the grill or in the smoker to enhance the natural taste of meats, vegetables, and even seafood. Let’s explore some essential herbs commonly used for smoking and grilling, along with tips and recipes to get you started.

Key Herbs for Smoking and Grilling

  1. Bay Leaves:
    • Flavor Profile: Subtle, slightly bitter with hints of mint and spice.
    • Uses: Ideal for smoking meats like pork, beef, and chicken. Bay leaves add a unique depth of flavor when placed directly on hot coals or wood chips in the smoker.
  2. Fennel Fronds:
    • Flavor Profile: Sweet, slightly licorice-like, and aromatic.
    • Uses: Excellent for smoking fish and pork. The fronds can be placed directly on the grill or smoker to infuse a sweet, anise-like aroma into the food.
  3. Sage Leaves:
    • Flavor Profile: Earthy, slightly peppery, and aromatic.
    • Uses: Great for grilling poultry and pork. Fresh sage leaves can be tossed onto hot coals or used to wrap around meats for an earthy, savory flavor.
  4. Thyme:
    • Flavor Profile: Earthy with minty and lemony notes.
    • Uses: Versatile for all types of meats and vegetables. Thyme sprigs can be placed directly on the grill or smoker, adding a subtle yet complex taste.
  5. Rosemary:
    • Flavor Profile: Piney, slightly peppery, and woody.
    • Uses: Perfect for smoking beef, lamb, and poultry. Rosemary sprigs can be placed on the coals or soaked in water and used to brush the meat while grilling.

Sample Smoking and Grilling Recipes

Bay Leaf Smoked Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 4-6 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Prepare the Chicken:
    • Rub the whole chicken with olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
  2. Prepare the Smoker:
    • Preheat your smoker to 250°F (120°C). Place the bay leaves directly on the hot coals or wood chips.
  3. Smoke the Chicken:
    • Place the chicken in the smoker and cook for 3-4 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). The bay leaves will infuse the chicken with a subtle, aromatic flavor.

Fennel Frond Grilled Fish

  • 2 whole fish (such as trout or snapper)
  • 1 bunch fennel fronds
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Prepare the Fish:
    • Clean the fish and season the inside and outside with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stuff the cavity with fennel fronds and lemon slices.
  2. Grill the Fish:
    • Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Place additional fennel fronds directly on the grill grates. Place the fish on top of the fennel fronds and grill for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until the fish is cooked through and flaky.


Incorporating herbs like bay leaves, fennel fronds, sage, thyme, and rosemary into your smoking and grilling techniques can elevate your BBQ dishes with aromatic and complex flavors. Experiment with these herbs to discover new and delightful tastes.