You love to barbeque. There’s something about that hot grill, the flame on the coals, or the propane, that warms your very soul. In fact, you’ve become somewhat of a neighborhood hero when it comes to holiday cookouts. People travel from across the county to eat your genius BBQ delicacies.
But, there’s still a hole in your outdoor cooking heart. There’s a spot on the to-do list that just never seems to eek past that position: smoking meat. You’ve smoked plenty of great cigars, and had your fill of wonderfully prepared smoked mullet. But somewhere along the line, you never learned how to do it yourself. Not to worry, you can learn now!
Prepping for the Adventure
Understand that like good barbeque, good smoked meat is an all-day endeavor. Set aside the whole of the day to get the smoke, heat and flavors just right. Then pick the right meat. Baby back ribs are not the end all be all too good BBQ. In fact, they might not have much flavor at all. Try using spare ribs instead. Here are some other great meats to smoke.
Next, you’ve got to get wood that will smolder rather than flare up. We recommend finding chunks instead of chips. There are several types of wood to consider: hickory, cherry, oak and apple. And whatever you do, don’t use any sap woods like pine because their smoke can be slightly toxic and will definitely ruin your food.
Once you’ve picked the wood (and you can learn more about that here) you will need to ensure that you have a whole heap of lit coals to keep your smoker at an even temperature. Don’t use lighter fluid to keep it going, or get it started. That imparts a highly undesirable flavor to all your smoked items. You might want to invest in a chimney starter to keep the coals going for the day long meat smoking process.
You can make your rub in the house. As long as you’ve invested in the best air purifier for your home then you’ll at least be breathing clean air for the time you spend away from the smoker. A great recipe for your rub includes: brown sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, lemon pepper, and chile flakes.
Since you’re relatively new to the smoking side of barbeque, we recommend you go with an inexpensive smoker, a homemade one (click this for plans), or a charcoal grill. Put your coals in the bottom damper on one side (if you are using the charcoal grill).
Buy a temperature gauge because you should ensure that your smoker never exceeds 250 degrees. There are $15 laser heat guns available to help you keep track of the temperature.
If you’re using the charcoal grill, once you’ve reached the required temperature, replace the grate and put the meat on the opposite side of the charcoal. The opposite position helps create a vacuum for oxygen cycling through the coals and smoke hitting the meat.
While you’ll probably have to add coals every 30-40 minutes, don’t open that lid for any other purpose. When four hours have passed you can check the meat. If your ribs bounce when you wave them up and down they need more time. If they start to split apart in the middle you’ve cooked them too long. No one will complain but you’d rather them be limp not breaking apart. Glaze ‘em and serve. Your guests will love you for it.