5 BBQ Smoking Essentials
My husband is a lover of all things bbq. I am fairly sure that he would eat it for every meal if he could. The cooking methods, the flavors, the meat, even the experience appeals to him. He just loves it. A few years ago he and his dad got chatting about smokers and, as they say, the rest was history. He started with a little smoker box inside his grill and has progressively upgraded from there. I have some nightmare that one day he will come home with one of those monster trailers they use on the competitions on TV, but for now I am happy to enjoy what he cooks!
Whether you just want to put the wood chips in foil or invest in any of a number of other options from $5 to $20.000, you can enjoy all the benefits of smoked bbq from home. So, why try smoking meat? An incredible flavor that just can't be beat and tender, fantastic meat! If that isn't enough reason to give it a try then I don't know what is.
As with anything, there are certain things that will bring you the best result. These 5 essetials will shape your success.
1. Meat - Use the freshest, best meat you can. Ideally, use the best cut you can afford. It just stands to reason that the better a cut you start with, the better meat you're going to end up with! For beef, look for a cut with plenty of marbling. This will give you the amazing flavor you crave.
As far as pork and chicken go, do your best to get fresh! There are lots of good pork cuts and you can usually find them fresh. Chicken may be more difficult to track down fresh, but if you can, it is worth it! If frozen is your only option then seek out the one the was frozen most recently. A good recipe will make it taste great either way.
Turkey is not readily available to most of us in fresh form. Turkeys are generally flash frozen when they are processed. Of course there are some differences between fresh and frozen, but don't let freezing keep you from trying delicious smoked turkey. Frozen or not, this bird makes one yummy meal!
And last, but certainly not least is this little bit of advice. Never cook meat from frozen! I wish I didn't have to say it but I have been at enough family barbecues to know I better mention it. Whether you are smoking or just grilling meat will not cook evenly if you start with a frozen chunk. Get the freshest, never-frozen meat you can and this will never be as issue!
2. Flavor - When you are dry rubbing ribs, turkey, or anything else, flavor is critical and what brings the flavor to the table? Spices! Again, quality is the name of the game. There is a large difference between a high quality, fresh bottle of spice and that one that has been in the cupboard since you needed if for that one recipe, you know, back in 1997. It is fair to say that if it came from the dollar store, you could be doing a little better. Again, don't forgo smoking simply because you can't afford high end spices for everything, but get the best (and freshest) you can afford.
3. Consistent Heat - Using the right tools to ensure that you are in control and maintaining consistent heat is critical. You will want a good oven and meat thermometer in order to make sure the grill or smoker is staying at a consistent temp and to ensure your meat reaches the right temperature. The internal meat temperature is not just important for flavor, but also for safety so don't let this one slide! Most recipes will give you guidelines on how warm you want it. The pros and competition bbq-ers use this temperature more than a set cook time. This gives you the perfect balance between safe and still tender.
4. Time - Don't forget that time and temperature are a very important combination. If you increase the temperature and don't account for that with time, you will have a lackluster end result. Likewise, if you drop the temp, you need to increase the time. Understand this relationship and watch that both parts of this relationship are working together. Just remember, while timing is important, your meat temp is your ultimate guide for when you are finished so check that meat!
5. Smoke - The smoke is what really brings this to the next level and using the right wood chips will really seal the deal! There are several varieties so you will want to try them to see which you like the best. Maybe it will be the first you try, or maybe you will have to try a few to find one that is a perfect match for you. Just don't get discouraged if it takes a little trial and error. Good options include hardwood chips or chunks like hickory, oak, mesquite, cherry, maple, fruitwoods, etc. Don't ever use soft woods like fir or pine.
Nobody wants ribs or chicken that taste like air freshener. You can get wood chips at most places that sell bbq accessories or you can order them online.
Pair these 5 essentials with some great recipes, like those found in Weber's Big Book of Grilling available for Cook'n, and you will be ready to make some amazing new meals for your family. So get outside and get cookn'!