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Smoking Meat 101: Barbecue for Beginners

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If you can smoke some ribs, you can smoke the whole pig. There is no one trick to making an amazing smoked dish. You could be smoking anything from a Brisket to a rack of ribs to a chicken. There are a few things that always stay the same. 

That is why there is always a guide to smoking meat, as it is more than just lighting up some coals and chucking it in the grill. You need to understand more of the ins and outs of grilling.

But, don’t you worry, we have you covered.

Know Your Prep

To begin your smoking journey, you need to familiarize yourself with the prep you need to do. 

Slow & Steady Wins The Race

Barbecuing some burgers is like the hare of the race, but smoking meat is the turtle, and the turtle always wins. 

Smoking meat will take a while, in fact, you need a whole day for it. This is why it is a cooking style that is not for everyone, but if you nail it, it is truly worth it, and you will never regret the effort you put in when you finally feel the flavor! 

The Right Meat

Choosing the right meat is a challenge, but getting it right is so important. If you want to smoke up some ribs there is no difference between spare ribs and baby back ribs, but what you want is ribs that will provide plenty of moisture. 

Smoking is quite dry, and with many meats you will need to add in some moisture to keep them tender and succulent, but if your meat has plenty of fat on it, this will keep it moist for the majority of the cook. 

Also, not all meats are great for smoking, for example, a steak is not ideal to smoke, but a brisket definitely is! 

The Right Wood

Different woods will give you different flavor, and different woods pair best with different meats. Not all will work well together, some wood is best suited for poultry, others for fish, and some works best with beef cuts or ribs.

Make sure you are well acquainted with which wood types work best with which meats. Although, oak is pretty solid, and will go with most meats. 

But mesquite is a strong flavor, and while some may use it, it can be overpowering.

Get Your Coals Started

While using lighter fluid is always an easy way to go, it is usually ideal to stay away from using this technique. You want to keep the coals lit, and you should use lump charcoal or briquettes to light it up. 

Always go back to check on your coals to keep them hot and burning to prevent it going out. 

You might want another grill going full of burning coals ready to chuck some in when your smoker needs a refill. It sounds tedious but it is worth it.

Rub, Rub, Rub

Brines are okay, but rubs are best, especially for briskets, ribs, chickens, and so on. If you do not use a rub, then use pepper and kosher salt. You will cook low and slow, which lets the collagen in the cut do what it should, break down and become a gelatin. 

You do not need much to make a good rub, and you could use anything, but for an easy rub use lemon pepper, kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, and chili flakes. 

This is especially good for rib rubs.

Smoke It Up

Now to smoke it up, you still can’t just chuck your meat in there, there is more…

Grill Anatomy

You need to know how much your grill can fit in it. If you do not have a proper smoker yet, you may not be able to fit much in if you are just using a barbecue. 

You will also want a temperature gauge, so a laser heat gun can do this for you. You could also hold your hand over the grill, and if you can do so for 3 seconds, then your grill needs more coals.

The Right Temperature

Your grill should be at 250 degrees maximum. Once it reaches this heat you are as hot as you want to smoke. Each meat will have its own ideal temperature, but smoking is a slow cook, so 200 to 250 is recommended.

No Touchy! 

Do not touch it! Leave the lid closed and do whatever you need to in order to prevent yourself from needing to open the lid. It needs to stay closed to cook. If you open it, you disrupt the cook!