Grilling is one of the purest forms of outdoor cooking on earth, and anyone with a yard and a smoker can do it. From the best smoking woods to airflow management, find out how to go from novice grill smoker to seasoned pitmaster.
Barbecuing is often considered to be the pinnacle of outdoor cooking. Anyone can grill, some can make a good barbecue, but few can smoke meat to melt in your mouth.
The good news is that it doesn’t take any particular skill to become a grill master, it just takes a little patience and access to the right knowledge.
You have also landed in the right place. From perfecting your smoker setup to preparing your meat, here is our beginner’s guide to smoking meat.
Choose your meat
When it comes to smoking meat, the basic rule is low and slow. Ideally, you want a cut of meat that is high in collagen and fat. These fats are broken down during the cooking process, coating the meat from the inside out and helping to keep it tender and juicy.
where to start For delicious cuts packed with fat and flavor, the best meats to smoke for beginners are :
- Boston Butt(Pulled Pork) – This is a great cut of meat to start with. Pork tenderloin has a nice, even fat content and can often be bought on the bone, adding an extra dimension of flavor. Pork is also cheaper than beef, making it a great meat to experiment with and learn how the smoker works without worrying about the cost. Discover how to smoke pork loin with our easy recipe .
- Pork Ribs – There are two types of ribs you can use for grilling: pork ribs and baby back ribs. Pork ribs are meatier and have more bone and fat content, while ribs are smaller, more tender, and take less time to cook. All ribs are best prepared using the 3-2-1 method.
- Beef Cheeks – Beef cheeks are typically a well-marbled meat(meaning they have a good fat content), which means they’re ideal for long slow-cooking.
- Brisket – The holy grail of all things smoked, if you can perfect your smoked brisket you will lose yourself in a BBQ legend.
If you don’t prepare, prepare to fail. We’ve all heard that quote, right? While not preparing your meat doesn’t end in total disaster(it’s still meat and delicious, after all!), but taking care to prepare it properly can make a world of difference in the final flavor and finish figure out texture.
Curing is a great way to add flavor to your meat. It’s a way of seasoning raw meat to keep it juicy and firm after cooking, but the right method is important. You can wet the meat in brine or dry it; Let’s take a closer look at each option:
- Wet curing is most commonly used for small, lean meats that cook quickly, such as pork tenderloin, chicken breasts, and fish. Wet curing increases the moisture content of the meat to keep it from drying out during cooking.
- Dry curing is used for tougher meats and roasts that take longer to cook. In the depicted, it is just a way of salting and resting meat before cooking. Dry brine is generally considered easier to produce; It also takes up less space than wet brine and less salt.
Using a dry marinade on meat means YOU can lock in all of the flavor while creating a delicious outer crust that helps retain the smoky flavor.
As the name suggests, a dry barbecue marinade is a combination of dry ingredients mixed together and rubbed onto the outside of the meat before smoking. Since the ingredients are dry, you really want to rub it into the meat(if you’re having trouble sticking, you can try brushing the meat with a very light coating of oil) and work it into every nook and cranny.
Perfect Your Smoker Setup: The Basics
Smoking works by requiring a constant source of constant heat for the meat from the coals while at the same time introducing smoke to give it that delicious flavor.
Start the embers
Ordinary charcoal briquettes are ideal for use in a smoker as they burn at the right temperature for smoking meat. However, YOU should not put “raw” coals directly into your smoker, as the temperature will interfere when you start firing up a stove and they will get into the ballpark where they are ready to use. Instead, it’s nice to have a separate grill just to light the coals or get a charcoal fireplace.
A charcoal fireplace creates ideal conditions for the embers to start burning quickly and evenly. First, place something you can use for firewood(rolled up newspaper works well) at the bottom of the hearth, then pile the embers around it. You must ensure that there is space between the wood and the embers for sufficient airflow; Otherwise the chimney effect will not work.
Light the wood and watch for a few minutes to make sure it doesn’t go out. Once you can see that the charcoal has ignited, thanks to the design of the chimney, it continues to function even after the wood has burned through. The heat generated by the glowing embers draws more air into the bottom of the chimney, providing more oxygen to keep the fire burning. Once the coals have a layer of white ash on the outside, they can be carefully tipped into the smoker.
When it comes to smoking meat, the main goal of the game is to bring that authentic smoky flavor to your meat. The best way to add that smoky flavor is to use wood shavings. Wood chips don’t burn quickly; instead they burn and produce smoke; They do not serve as a heat source to cook the meat in our smoker; They only add flavor.
Different types of wood can produce different smoke strengths and flavors, adding a whole different level of experimentation to the smoking process. Oak is the ideal wood for grilling; It’s great to try if you’re just starting out and don’t want to play around with too many different flavors that might not go well together.
Hickory is another popular choice, but care must be taken to balance the flavor; too much hickory smoke can make the meat taste slightly bitter.
Adding water to the mixture when attempting to smoke meat may seem counterintuitive, but using a pot of water with your smoker can make all the difference.
First, since water is good at storing and radiating heat, it can help stabilize the temperature inside the smoker. It can also act as a barrier between the meat and the charcoal to prevent potential sprouts from leaking fat and to prevent certain areas of the meat from being directly heated. More importantly, it helps keep the air in the smoker humid, which prevents the meat from drying out or burning.
We’ve already said the number one rule of grilling is “low and slow,” but how low are we talking?
The ideal temperature for smoking meat is between 220 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. We need a low and even heat as we want to give the smoke time to penetrate the meat(too high a heat will ‘seal’ the outside of the meat) and also time for the fast tissue and connective tissue to break down. juicy meat.
Use the vents on your smoker to control the temperature . If the heat is too high, you can close the vents, which will reduce the amount of oxygen and prevent the coals from burning as quickly. If the heat is too low, open the vents to reintroduce oxygen and get the coals burning faster.
A set of digital thermometers is the best way to monitor temperature. YOU WILL want one in the smoker where the meat WILL sit, as well as a thermos that WILL be placed inside the meat to control the internal temperature.
Internal meat temperature
Because of how smoking works, it’s important to remember that meat is only safe to eat when it’s reached a certain temperature, not after it’s been cooked for a certain amount of time. To accurately measure the internal temperature of your meat, you should insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and avoid bones(since bones conduct heat and can give false readings).
Meat and fish should be cooked to a core temperature of 63 degrees Celsius and poultry to 74 degrees Celsius.
To wrap or not to wrap? That is the question
Wrapping meat is pretty much what it sounds like: it’s when you wrap the meat you’re smoking in aluminum foil or butcher paper mid-cooking. Of course, there are pros and cons to wrapping meat when grilling, but the general consensus tends to be that it’s the way to go.
Benefits of packaging
- You can reduce the cooking time: wrapping the meat helps keep the internal temperature higher, which means it cooks faster. This can also help beat The Stall
- Keeps Meat Moist: When meat is wrapped, it keeps the juices trapped so you don’t have to worry about it going dry.
- Prevents Meat From Picking Up Too Much Smoke: If you don’t want your meat to taste too smoky, wrap it so it doesn’t pick up too much smoke
Disadvantages of the packaging
- It can ruin the crust: By trapping moisture around the meat, you can often lose the crispy crust that has formed around the meat.
- Risk of overcooking: Because the casing traps heat and moisture around the meat, the internal temperature can rise faster than expected, leading to overcooking.
Avoid “The Post”.
Stall is a term used to describe a smoking phenomenon in which the internal temperature of larger cuts of meat stagnates rather than increases. Grilling occurs because the evaporation of the juices on the surface of the meat cools it down, just like sweating helps us stay cool when we exercise.
The good news is that meat doesn’t get stuck in a stall forever; There’s just some excess moisture in there, and once that’s gone, the meat gets hot again. The bad news is that while there is only a certain amount of moisture to “sweat,” the meat’s temperature can be reduced to a point where cooking time can be added by hours.
By wrapping the meat halfway through cooking, you can avoid stalling. It’s a technique often referred to as the Texas Crutch that first became popular among professionals in the competitive grilling circuit and is now a standard method of cooking meats in restaurants and for home smokers alike. Wrap meat tightly in foil or butcher paper to prevent excess liquid from evaporating; This also increases the moisture in the intestines and stews the meat.
There’s also the option of ramping up your smoker’s temperature to try and hit the stall rather than wrapping your meat.
The main disadvantage of this is that YOU have to get the temperature change just right so as not to interrupt the process of melting the fats in the meat; Crank it up and you could be left with tough meat or worse, burned
You’ve spent hours keeping track of your smoker, maintaining the perfect temperature, making sure the wood chips are smoking and the meat doesn’t dry out. You’ve reached the perfect internal temperature and are ready to scoop out the meat and enjoy the smoky fruits of your laboratories, right? Night not.
Another big step to the perfect smoking process is letting the meat rest after cooking.
Why is it important to rest the meat?
When we remove the meat from the smoker, we still retain a decent amount of heat. We used to want this heat to help break down the fats, proteins and connective tissue in the meat to keep it moist, but now we’re going to refrigerate the meat and let the juices set a little. If you cut into the meat while it’s still hot, all of those runny juices will ooze out, meaning not only will you lose the delicious flavor, you’ll end up with a dry meal.
How to properly rest smoked meat
If you’re going to rest your meat, it pays to do it right; Luckily, you don’t need anything high-tech. With some aluminum foil, a few towels and a cool box you can create the perfect resting place!
YOU want to take the meat out of the smoker and wrap it in foil or butcher paper if it’s not already wrapped.
Wrap the meat in some old towels and place the package in a cooler. Close the cooler lid and let the meat sit for a few hours. How long you let the meat rest depends on its size: roast cuts like pork breast and shoulder do best when rested for 2-3 hours, while smaller cuts like ribs and cheeks need about 60 to 90 minutes of rest.