Smoking Accessories, Backyard BBQ Recipes, And Outdoor Cooking Tips
Who doesn't love a great Barbeque? A nice summer afternoon with family all around and bbq grills, smokers, and the smell of cooking meat can make anyone's weekend. Most people love to eat barbequed or smoked meat, but they are intimidated by smoking or have had bad grilling experiences. Don't let your past of dried out chicken, rubbery ribs, or tasteless tenderloins keep you from experiencing all that outdoor cooking has to offer.
Below I have included some tips to have some great smoked meat. I have tried to include a good spectrum of meats and have also added a couple of video that can help you understand certain principles. The person who added the two videos to Youtube has a different cooking style than my own, but definitely has some great tips of his own that anyone could learn from. Please feel free to add your own tips or tricks below in the comment section!
Backyard BBQ Recipes: Pulled Pork And Boston Butts
There are many different ways to smoke a Boston Butt to make pulled pork, and as you can see in the video here, some people like their butt to have a nice charred appearance. Whichever way you prefer to smoke your pork, and with whichever smoker type, you must always remember three important things: flavor, moisture, and time.
Many people, like in the video, prefer to use rubs to get flavor into the meat. Whether it is spiciness, sweetness or any other flavor, rubs are an excellent way to get flavor. However, in smoking your meat, you do not want to overpower the "smoke" flavor that your smoker will put in the meat. If you do, you may as well have baked the meat inside. Conversely, some people prefer a mild smoke flavor over a strong smoke taste, so you need to work out just how much smoke you expose the meat to.
Personally, I smoke my meat for 1-1.5 hours per pound. For Boston Butts, I smoke the meat for a minimum of 5 hours and usually a maximum of 10 for a large butt. I sometimes will rub them with some seasoned salt (like Lawry's) and a little brown sugar, but I have also gone without.
For the first 3 hours I smoke the meat bare and I will range my temp from 300 to 150 (f). I tend to cylce my temperatures, running it up to 300 and backing it down to 150-175, for about 3 or 4 cycles during the first 3 hours. I run the temp up to 300 initially to help harden the outer part of the butt to help keep the moisture inside, and each other time I only let the smoker get to 300 for 15 minutes or so.
After 3 hours, I take the meat off the grill and double wrap the meat with aluminum foil. I wrap it very tightly and keep the bottom sealed so that fluid will not drain out. I then place the meat back on the smoker and let it smoke at about 200 degrees for the remainder of the time. Once the meat has been cooked 1-1.5 hours per pound it will be done and usually, once unwrapped, can be slid off the bone without much effort. Often you will be able to pick up on the bone and the meat will just fall off.
Now it is time to pull, shred, or chop the meat, whichever you prefer. I usually will shred the meat with a fork in each hand. After completely shredding the meat and removing overly fatty pieces, I will place the meat in a casserole dish or a long pan, pour a moderate amount of my favorite barbecue sauce, mix, and then place in the oven for about 20 minutes on 300 degrees. This step is not necessary but the meat will actually soak up the sauce giving it a good mixture of smoke and barbecue flavoring.
Smoked Ribs, A Barbeque Favorite
Few meats are so closely identified with grilling and smoking as ribs. From outdoor summer barbecues to high priced restaurants, people love ribs and love the flavor of a good rack of ribs. One issue you have to overcome with ribs to truly master smoking them is keeping them moist and not making them too chewy. Some people will wrap their ribs and others will score the back side of the rib meat (the fatty side) to make them easier to tear apart. Boiling the ribs before smoking, or placing them in a pan filled with fluid while smoking is generally considered a "no no" among smoking and grilling enthusiasts.
There are many different rubs and sprays that you can use both before and during the smoking process to keep the meat moist and tender. Also, marinating the meat in a vinegar based sauce for at least 12 hours prior to smoking will go a long way. The most important thing to remember, however, to make the best tasting and most tender smoked ribs is maintain a steady temperature as low as possible to attain a meat temperature of around 160 degrees by the time you pull it off the smoker. For this reason, electric and gas smokers are some of the easiest smokers on which people can produce perfect ribs.
Obviously with all meat, ribs especially, it is best to turn them with a non piercing grill accessory like a good set of tongs. This is true more so with ribs due to the already low amount of moisture in the meat prior to cooking.
Chicken And Turkey: Smoked, Grilled, Or Barbequed
Chicken is one of the easiest meats to smoke or grill, but it can also be one of the easiest to overcook or dry out. Due to the chickens lighter meat that is less likely to form a crust on the outside to lock moisture in, chicken can dry out if cooked too long or too hot. One of the best ways to ensure a moist smoked chicken is to use a device that will hold fluid inside the chicken and boil out over the chicken while cooking.
One of the most widely used and most well known ways to do that is to simply place a can, usually a beer can, inside the whole chicken and stand it up. The fluid inside will boil over and run down the outside of the chicken. I prefer to do this with a can of sprite which gives the meat a sweet and citrus like flavor. You can also purchase special stands for this to make sure the chicken does not fall over. Some of these stands allow you to poor your own mix of spices and fluids in them, so go wild!
Another thing to remember with chicken and all meats that you smoke is that you will have what is referred to as the "smoke ring" inside. That means that their will be a ring of color change inside the meat that will change from a grayish color to a pink which will sometimes cause people to think the meat is not fully cooked. If you are unsure of when your meat is actually thoroughly cooked, be sure to use a meat thermometer and to know the temperatures to which each meat should be cooked.
Other Meats: Throw It All On The Grill!
One of the great things about cooking on a smoker is that you can cook several days worth of meats for your family all at the same time. You can let them all get just a smoke flavor or you can put specific rubs on each type of meat. I often will put a couple extra pieces of meat on the smoker and will wrap them up to reheat in the oven a day or two later.
One of my favorite add-ons to the smoker is link sausage. I almost always will have some sausage on the smoker while cooking Boston Butts, pork tenderloins, or even ribs. Sausage takes only a couple of hours to get a nice dark red look and it is filled with rich smoked flavor.
Another meat that is great for the smoker is fish. Most types of fish are great to smoke, but remember that if you are going to place the fish on a plank of hickory or any other wood to always pre-soak the wood plank and do not allow the smoker temperature above 200-220 degrees.
Finally, be sure to try out some vegetables on your smoker. You may have to raise the temperature a little to get good flavor in a timely manor. Grilled zucchini, sliced or speared, is excellent. Simply coat the zucchini with a little butter and some seasoning salt or spices like Zatarain's.
Must Have Smoker And Grill Accessories
Although there are not too many things you need to help you with your smoker besides smoker, meat, and wood, there are a few items that can make your job a little easier. The first accessory I would recommend is a good tool to clean your grill surface. If you have an expanded metal surface, you will need a good wire brush and a hose. Due to the nature of the expanded metal you cannot use specific tools to easily clean all the holes. If you have a tubular grill surface, you can also use a good wire brush, but there are special grill cleaners that fit the actual rods on the grill and can easily scrape off any excess waste.
You should not completely wash all grease off of your grill surface, perhaps with an exception for stainless steel surfaces. The reason for this is that if there is no grease on the unprotected metal it will easily corrode and rust, causing you more trouble down the road.
Another must have is a good set of two or three sizes of tongs. Tongs are the best tool to use on your grill or smoker to ensure that you do not break the surface of the meat and drain it of needed moisture. You will want to have multiple tongs and a couple different sizes due to different types of meats and such.
Finally, to help get the best taste, you will want a good meat thermometer. You can choose from the most basic thermometer all the way up to an elaborate digital thermometer with an alarm. Just make sure it is one that works and that you understand. Some people go wild with electronic meat thermometers and multiple air temperature thermometers, but that is a bit much for most outdoor cooks. Start with one thermometer and work your way up!
Wood Choices And Spice Choices
Wood. It is the primary way that most people smoke their food and no matter whether you prefer gas, electric or charcoal, wood is most definitely where it all began. Some outdoor cooks use Oak and nothing else. Other cooks will throw in an occaisional Hickory or Pecan. A few outdoor cooks, however, will use specific woods for specific meats and flavors. Although Oak, Hickory, and Pecan all produce good smoke, their smoke flavors are best for specific meats, and other woods can give great flavor as well.
Type Of Meat
Beef (Ribs, Brisket, Or Steak)
Oak, Pecan, Cherry
Pork (Butts, Ribs, Chops)
Hickory, Pecan, Alder, Maple, Cherry
Oak, Alder, Apple
Light Oak Smoke, Any Fruit Wood
Although some outdoor cooks use woods like Mesquite to get a specific flavor in their meats, some of these woods are best used with other wood due to their combustion properties or their potential to overpower the flavor of the meat. For most of the meats which you can use fruit woods, some cooks recommend trying to soak wood chips in your favorite wine to create the fruity flavor.
The most important thing to remember is to have fun and do not be afraid to try new flavors, meats, and techniques.
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