The aroma of smoked meat wafting through the warm evening air is one of the great summertime pleasures. Decidedly less enjoyable is the feeling of missing out because the scent originates in your neighbor’s back yard and you don’t know how to create that unmistakable smokiness on your own grill.
Rest assured, our tips and tricks will have you smoking meat like a pro in short order. But first …
What are the Benefits of Smoking Meat?
Don’t get us wrong, standard grilling and barbecuing are great. A little seasoned or marinated meat cooked over basic charcoal or propane makes a great meal. Truth is, there’s nothing quite like the enhanced flavor only smoke from wood chips can produce. And, only smoking slowly breaks down connective fibers to create that tender, fall-off-the-bone texture that signifies quality.
If that’s your goal, here’s how to get it done next time you grill.
Rub the Right Way
If you’re using a dry rub — which you should if you want a crisp, textured exterior — apply it a couple hours before cooking if not earlier. The longer your chosen blend of salt, pepper and other spices sits, the more the flavor sinks into the meat. It also helps hold in moisture for maximum juiciness.
Cook it Low and Slow
You’ve heard it before for a reason. Because a low temperature, ideally between 225-250°F, and little patience is key to the best flavor. The more precise the temperature the better, so invest in a quality temperature probe for best results.
Keep the Wood Chips in Check
More wood doesn’t mean more flavor. You might be tempted to build a big fire, but a small fire with a steady stream of smoke goes a long way toward balanced taste.
To further perfect your flavor, find the right wood for what you’re cooking. Hickory and mesquite are beef and pork’s best friends, but they don’t go well with chicken, while fruity varieties like apple and cherry pair better with chicken and seafood.
Water Goes a Long Way
You’ve balanced your charcoal and wood but you can’t just set it and forget it. The temperature of your flames can fluctuate and overcook your food. To prevent this from happening, fill a disposable foil pan with water. It’ll help maintain the stable heat truly great smoking requires.
Shut It and Smoke
While it’s tempting to admire your handiwork, every time you open your grill you let heat out (and delay that first satisfying bite). Keep the lid shut as much as possible and if you must open it to tend to your food, water, wood and coals, do it all at once.
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