A barbecue smoker is a two part chamber system. One container is the firebox where the smoke is created through the burning of a hardwood. There is a small vent for air intake on the side. The second larger chamber is the grill for smoking the food. Smoke flows from the firebox chamber into the cooking chamber. There is a smokestack with a cap on top for heat regulation.
If you are new to smoking, you can buy a Brinkmann smoker for about $50. or use a barbecue grill with a few modifications. There are custom commercial smokers available that cost upwards of $15,000. and are built on a trailer frame.
The flow of smoke from the firebox across the meat on the grill in the second chamber must be strong and continuous. To regulate smoking, the air intake and smokestack cap are opened or closed for optimal flow. Heat should remain as consistent as possible.
Today’s current method of smoking meat has its origins in food preservation. Smoking was the only way to preserve food. Today, smoking is primarily used to add flavor and tenderize meat (especially a tough cut of brisket, ribs, pulled pork, turkey, pork shoulder and salmon) although it can be used to smoke nuts or cheese. Smoking barbecue is a slow process that can take anywhere from 2 hours to 20 hours. Smoking requires time to reach the connective fibers in the interior of the meat and tenderize as well as give it flavor.
For years, there have been arguments over which type of fuel is best to smoke meat. Charcoal or a hardwood are the two options. The top choices of hardwood are hickory, apple and oak.
Carefully controlling the heat of your smoker to within 205-225 degrees F is one of the secrets of successful smoking. The interior of the meat should reach 145 degrees and poultrty165 degrees. Raising the interior temperature an additional 15-30 degrees in the final cooking stages will tenderize the barbecue. Use two thermometers. Monitor the temperature of the inside of the smoker and monitor the inside of the meat with a meat thermometer.
In addition to careful temperature control, the meat should remain constantly exposed to the smoke stream for optimal flavor and tenderizing. A good smoker will keep the smoke constantly moving over the meat. If the smoke is prevented from flowing, it may leave a bitter taste in the meat by the buildup of creosote, a black oily substance created through the incomplete burning of fuel.
Smoking requires an experienced cook to monitor the process. Get a few barbecues under your apron, learn how to make your own rubs and barbecue sauces and you can be making your own YouTube videos.