Smokers are a great way to cook delicious meals. They are easy to use but need a bit more attention that a traditional grill. A backyard smoker is a great way to cook for a friendly gathering. They fit easily in a deck or backyard space. Place the smoker in an area where it will be isolated from visitors walking by.
Grills vs. Smokers
As opposed to grilling, smokers cook food items for much longer times with lower heat. These are the most important things to keep in mind when using a smoker. For example, a conventional gas or charcoal grill will cook at 400 degrees and above. A smoker will slow cook at a temperature range of 200 to 250 degrees. Depending on the size of the smoker, larger cuts of meat will slow cook anywhere from 1.5 hours and above.
Smoker Cooking Times
Estimates of cooking times of different cuts of meat are all approximate. They depend on the size of the smoker and the cut of meat. Another factor is how often the smoker is opened. Grilling involves frequent opening to turn the meat and check for flames. Smokers work best when not opened often. Since the meat is cooking at a much lower temperature and not right on a heat source, it can be checked less frequently. The meat needs to be turned only once or twice in a smoker. Opening the smoker can be kept to a minimum. If not, the heat escapes and it will take longer to cook the meat.
Starting and Regulating the Smoker
Light the charcoal and let the fire burn down. It is recommended not to use charcoal with pre-soaked lighter fluid. Smokers tend to pick up the lighter fluid and transfer the taste to the meat. Then add the wood. Using the vents on the smoker, regulate the temperature to the range of 225 – 250 degrees. Add hot water and spice to the water pan if the smoker is a water smoker. Place the meat in the smoker.
It is important to keep an eye on the temperature in the smoker and keep it regulated. The optimum target range is 225 – 250 degrees. Confirm this with the instructions that came with the smoker. Smaller smokers may need additional charcoal and wood to maintain these temperatures after a few hours.
Cooking the Perfect Smoked Meat
Start with a rub on the meat the day before. Marinate the meat overnight. Once in the smoker, turn the meat every two to three hours. Apply a mop when turning, which is thin liquid like apple juice and water, to keep the meat moist. Keep the door closed to the smoker as much as possible. Only open it to add wood or charcoal or to turn the meat and mop. About a half hour before the meat will be fully cooked, apply barbeque sauce directly to the meat. If the sauce is applied any earlier than 45 minutes from the end, the sauce will burn.
Once the differences and techniques between grilling and smoking are understood, using these tips for using a smoker will result in meat that is tender and juicy. It’s a treat to be savored. Smoked meat is the perfect food item for the centerpiece of a great backyard party or any other event. Enjoy!