Whether you prefer gas or charcoal, cooking on a grill is an incredible way to infuse flavor into your favorite meats and vegetables. But if you’re ready to take your grill mastery up a notch, try using a long, slow burn in a process known as smoking. In the US, smoking finds its roots in American Indian cooking, where it was used as a means of preserving food. As the technique proliferated among other cultures, it became a proven way to turn normally tough cuts of meat into culinary delights. These days, any reputable joint in the barbecue belt uses smoking as a way to make ribs, shoulder, brisket, and more fall-off-the-bone tender.
Ready for the tutorial? Read on for smoking basics.
While many stores specializing in outdoor grilling are more than happy to sell you a smoker, the truth is that you can create delicious smoked barbecue in a charcoal or gas grill. This technique is also known as cooking over indirect heat, and the keys are maintaining a low temperature (200ºF to 220ºF) and long cook times. If you’re using fragrant wood chips, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes before cooking.
To smoke on a charcoal grill, pile your charcoal to one side of the grill and place a drip pan on the other. Light your coals, and when all of the coals are hot, pour about a cup of liquid (water or even apple juice) into the pan. If you’re using wood chips, sprinkle a generous handful over the hot coals. Place your meat on the grate on the side away from the heat (over the drip pan), cover the grill, and close the vent slightly, allowing some air to escape but holding in most of that luscious smoke.
To smoke on a gas grill, place your soaked and drained wood chips in a disposable aluminum pan. Before you light the grill, remove the grate and place the pan of wood chips in the upper left corner of the grill, directly on the heat source, and replace the grate. Preheat the grill, covered, with all the burners on high for about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off your middle burners, then quickly place your meat on the middle grate, away from the heat, and close the lid.
Expect meat to cook for a few to several hours, depending on the weight of the cut. You’ll know it’s ready when the meat pulls apart easily and pulls away from the bone.
by Sara Yoo