Smoked meat cooked outdoors has a flavor that is simply unmatched, and the good news is that with a little practice and a few basic tools, anyone can do it. Read on for some tips on how to smoke meat for the best barbecue around.
Preparing the Grill
You don't need a fancy smoker to smoke some meat. All you need is a charcoal grill. Put your briquettes in a chimney starter, light them, and then pour them all on one side of the grill. If you don't have a chimney starter, layer the briquettes at the bottom of the grill, light them, and then push them all over to one side of the grill. On the other side of the grill should be a pan holding a few cups of water. The water will add moisture to the meat as it cooks and lower the temperature of the grill. Let the coals and water heat for about an hour before you add the smoking wood.
Size of Smoking Wood
You can purchase or cut smoking wood into either chips or chunks. Chunks of wood are best for long smoking sessions, while chips are ideal if the meat will only be smoked for about 20 minutes. If you want a longer smoke and all you have on hand are chips, you can still get the wood chunk effect. Simply soak the wood chips in water before adding them to the grill. The water will make the wood smoke rather than burn up quickly. No matter which size wood you use, its proper location is the same. Put the wood directly on top of the hot coals.
Adding the Meat
After you've added the smoking wood to your hot coals, place the meat you plan to cook on the grill directly over the water pan. Cover the grill and keep an eye on your meat until it reaches your preferred temperature. If the grill starts to cool off over the course of a long smoking session, continue to add more hot charcoal to keep it cooking.
Types of Smoking Wood
Different types of wood add different flavors to the meat you're cooking. Cooking on cherry wood imparts a mild and fruity flavor that works with virtually all meat. But cooking on cherry wood isn't your only option. Hickory is a popular wood for cooking pork and ribs that can add a bacon flavor. Mesquite is a hot burning wood that's delicious when paired with red meats. If you want to smoke fish, consider using alder, which has a subtly sweet flavor, or red cedar. Even vegetarians can get in on the smoking fun. Try smoking veggies or cheese over maple wood. Be sure to avoid woods with high resin and oil content, such as cedar, fir, eucalyptus and pine. The resin and oils create a thick smoke that doesn't work well for smoking food.