The smell of barbecuing adds so much to the taste, anticipation and experience of the meal I wanted to find any tricks or techniques that where I could improve so I turned to Meathead Goldwyn who’s “Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling” is one of the best selling barbecue books at Amazon.Com. Below are some areas to keep in mind when barbecuing and creating smoke.
It all starts with the fire
You can smoke whether you are using wood, charcoal, lump coal, propane or natural gas. It is hard to smoke when using a electric grill because the grill doesn’t really get hot enough for the wood to continue to smolder, causing smoke.
Adding the smoke flavor to your meat is part of what cooking low and slow is about.
When cooking burgers or steaks, use chips. These meats cook so fast the smoke flavor won’t penetrate the meat.
Restaurants and some people will have the smoke going to the side of the grill for ambiance but it doesn’t have time to penetrate the meat.
Let’s talk about building the fire
To cook low and slow means you will be using the indirect cooking method. You will be setting the fire at one end of the gill and placing the meat at the other end.
Controlling the heat is probably the biggest problem for beginner and intermediate Grillers. Often beginners use inexpensive equipment that have many design flaws which will have to be learned and overcome. The easiest and safest way to learn is going to be practice and not leaving your grill unattended for long.
The fire and amount of heat is controlled by the fuel you use and the air flow. Many elements effect the temperature, weather, moisture and fuel for example. Most charcoal grills have vents on them. The better ones will have top vents and bottom vents. By adjusting the vents you can control the heat, closing the vents some will slow the fire reducing the heat and opening the vents will increase the heat.
Until you are used to your grill you are best off leaving the top vents open to half closed, closing all the way will increase the smoke but suffocate the fire. Control the heat using the bottom vents until you become comfortable with your grill.
When setting up your fire pay attention to where the charcoal is placed. Have it on a grate of some type so that the ash will fall into a pan underneath. This way you can empty the pain when it fills and the ash won’t smother the fire.
One bad thing to have happen when grilling is to run out of FIRE. Here are some very general guidelines to how much fuel you will need for your barbecue:
Charcoal – roughly 2-3 lbs per hour
Gas – .5 to 1 lb per hour.
Wood Pellets – 1 lb per hour
What Type of Wood?
You probably won’t be using wood logs in your grill, but you will use wood chips and chunks to add flavor. Use wood chips for quick cook meats like burgers, steak and fish. The chips burn quickly to get you as much smoke in a short period of time. Use the chunks and larger pieces for the long slow cook, they are more efficient and you will use less.
Hardwoods are used when grilling don’t use soft wood like pine, fir, cyprus, spruce, redwood, or cedar they have too much sap, water and are not dense enough to create good smoke.
Hardwoods such as hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan, apple and cherry are good woods to use and add a nice flavor. Don’t make choosing the type of wood a big deal. The meat you choose, the rub and spices you use and how you cook the meat are what is going to make the meal.
Different amounts of wood and types will affect the meat in different ways, not all good. Too much wood and smoke used for too long a time period can over power the meat and too little might have no affect at all. Best to keep notes of the weight used dry or the measurement, cup or ½ cup, maybe on the wood container, box or bag.
You have chosen your wood, what now?
To smoke something you will need a container, like this kit by Mo’s Food Products I found at Amazon, to put on the grill, some wood and some heat. For a good smoke flavor soak your chips in water for an hour before you start using them. You can find containers in stores just for holding the wood chips, but you can make one yourself out of aluminum foil folded like a pouch containing the wood and poking holes in the top for the smoke to get out.
Place the container over the source of heat to get it smoking before putting the meat on. In a gas grill you may have to turn up the heat to get the wood smoldering and reduce the heat once it is going.
Once the smoke is going let it smoke for a while with the lid closed. You would like the grill to fill with smoke before you put the meat. The meat will pick up the smoke flavor much better at the beginning of the grill when the meat is more porous and does not yet have a sear to it.
If you are doing a long cook you may have to add more wood so have some ready. After two hours of smoking the meat it probably won’t take on more flavor so you can stop adding wood.
Smoke comes in different colors, which can be bluish, white, gray, yellow or even black. Blue smoke, hardly visible, is the prefect smoke, the mark of a pro. Black and gray smoke is bad, the fire is short on oxygen and is either going out or burning out of control, a flair up. You often get white smoke when starting a charcoal fire, you need to let it get going and let ashes form on the charcoal.
You Are Ready to Go
Using smoke is more of an art than a science so you will need to practice, practice, and practice. You shouldn’t labor over the type of wood you choose. For your safety, don’t use lumber scraps or processed wood which might have been chemically treated.
Barbecuing takes practice and should be fun, enjoy yourself.
This was a long post and yes barbecuing can be a lot of work. The more prepared you are for your barbecue the smoother it will go.
I hope the information on smoking your meat provided on this post helps to make your barbecue a successful one.