Want to know more about the great
smoked flavor? Our tips will get your fire started whether you’re
using a charcoal grill, a gas barbecue, or a traditional smoker.
Start by soaking wood chunks in
water for at least one hour. Chips (including wine barrel chips)
and aromatic twigs (grape vines or fruit wood twigs) need only 30
minutes of soaking. Shake all excess water off woods before adding
them to your fire or smoker box. (See our chart on page 12 for
wood types information.)
You can find smoking woods in
hardware stores and home centers – or if you’re lucky, in your
own backyard! Wine barrel chips are available in specialty food
stores and gift shops, and some hardware stores.
Water adds dampness to the
smoking process so meats come out tasty and tender. If you are
using a traditional smoker with a water pan, try adding barbecue
sauce, marinades, wine, beer, fruit juices, or herbs and spices to
the water pan for additional flavor. Be sure to keep the water pan
full. For large roasts and turkeys, you may have to add water to
the pan a couple of times throughout grilling. Check, the water
pan when you add charcoal – a watering can makes replenishing
easy. (Reminder: When smoking cheese, add ice to the water pan so
the cheese does not melt above it.) You can use a water pan with
charcoal and gas grills, too.
Place food in the center of the
cooking grate above the water pan (if you are using one). Remember
that smoke and heat escape every time you peek into the grill, so
add 15 minutes to cooking time for each peek (more if you are
smoking in cold weather). Boneless meats, such as beef brisket and
pork shoulder, will shrink considerably during smoke-cooking,
unless they have a heavy layering of fat. Simply cut off the fat
before serving. (Reminder: Consider cooking your menu up to two
days before serving. The smoke flavor becomes richer after a day
or two in the refrigerator. That’s why smoked foods make great
Charcoal Grill, Gas Barbecue, or Traditional Smoker
Use the Indirect method by
arranging charcoal briquets on each side of the charcoal grate.
Place a heavy aluminum foil pan between the piles of briquets and
add 2 cups water and any flavorings. Allow 30 minutes for coals to
heat up (they should have a light coating of gray ash). Place
soaked wood chunks or chips/twigs directly on prepared coals and
allow to smoke fully before beginning cooking. Place food on top
cooking grate over the water pan. Cover grill. Add 5 to 7 briquets
to each side every hour and refill water and seasonings as needed.
Most gas barbecues can be
equipped with or are sold with a smoker attachment. The smoker
attachment makes it easy to turn your barbecue grill into a hot
smoker. You can also devise with a foil pan. Before preheating
your grill, simply fill the water pan on the smoker attachment
with hot tap water. Place presoaked wood chunks or chips/twigs in
the other compartment, or in a foil pan directly on the bars over
the lit burner. (Use a separate pan for water if you are using a
foil pan for the wood pieces.) Begin cooking after preheating and
when grill is fully smoking.
Always position smoker on a
level, heatproof surface away from buildings and out of traffic
patterns. It is best to find a place away from the house, since
smoke aromas can linger for hours.
Place soaked woods on the coals
through the door on the front of the smoker. Keep all vents
partially closed for smoke-cooking. Place food on the top and/or
middle cooking grate, depending on recipe and food quantity.
Arrange food in a single layer on each grate, leaving space for
smoke to circulate around each piece. Add 12 to 14 briquets and as
many wood chunks as needed to fire, and replenish water and
Use a meat thermometer to make
sure smoke - cooked foods are done but not overcooked.
Smoke-cooked foods look different
than other grilled or oven-prepared foods. They may be pink or red
when completely cooked (apple wood especially will make chicken
look red, for example).
Use tongs and barbecue mitts.
Use them to add charcoal,
turn meats, refill the water pan, or adjust vents.
Do not use charcoal infused with
It can add an unpleasant taste to
your smoked foods.
Experiment with different woods
Do this until you find the right
combination for your tastes.
Start with a small amount of
Do this to see how you like the
flavor, and then add more for more intense smoky taste. (Just do
not overdo it; too much wood smoke over long periods can make food
Try combining woods.
Try doing this, as you get more
experienced for unique and flavorful results.
Keep a smoker’s notebook while
Write down ingredients, wood
amounts and combinations, and results so you can repeat successes.