Archive for the ‘BBQ’ Category
Smoking is a method of processing food that has been around for a long time. In the good old days it was used to help preserve meats for longer periods of time. This method is still used to this days. But there is also another type of smoking that is a very different process with a different end result in mind: the BBQ smoking. This type of smoking is all about cooking, tenderizing and adding flavor to pork, ribs, or whatever else you fancy eating including cheese or vegetables.
The process is relatively simple, in that there is not that much science to it. However there are a lot of little things you have to keep an eye out for and one of the most important ones is the temperature. Smoking works by burning some material (hardwood preferably, although some say that even corn cobs will do), and letting the smoke fill up a container that holds the meat. This is a slow process, but it is slow for a very good reason. The low temperature gives the meat time to break down into sugars, becoming tender and sweet at the same time.
One of the most important tools to be used is the thermometer. The only way to get the best out of your BBQ is temperature control. You need to know the temperature of both the inside of the smoker and the inside of the meat. The smoker should be kept at about 220F, while various meats have different temperatures which they have to reach before they are done. Usually it is somewhere in the range of 160-190F.
There are several ways you can go about this, but a good rule of thumb is to go for quality. This way you avoid overcooking or undercooking meat, and more importantly, food borne diseases. For the thermometer inside the smoker, go for the best (or something in the vicinity of the best). That’s about it. And the great thing about it is, that it will work for your indoor oven too, which is in most cases a worst thermometer than the quality in-grill one you are going to get.
For the food thermometer you have two choices (or at least two choices that matter): a leave-in and an instant thermometer. It might be a good idea to get both, but if you can only go with one, go with the instant thermometer. Get an electronic one, and all you will have to do is open the grill, stick the probe of the thermometer into the meat and wait three seconds for the temperature. Again, try to go for quality. This does not mean that expensive is better, not in this case or in the case of the in-grill thermometer. Accuracy is the most important thing to look for, but also keep an eye out for the speed to read and the temperature range. For an instant thermometer, find one that has a long, thinner probe to make sure you can get to the middle of bigger meats, while leaving in as much of the juice as possible.
You know how they say: a handyman is only as good as his tools. Or maybe nobody says that. Either way, good thermometers are what makes the difference between a good steak and a bad steak.
So you’ve managed to get your hands on the smoker of your dreams, and now you’re wondering what to do with it. Well, before you start grilling, you should have several essential tools at your disposal. These accessories are indispensable if you ever want to use that bad boy, and once you get them, they will be handy to you for the whole span of your career as a BBQ chef.
Let’s start off with some of the basics. You’ll need a spatula. This is good for anything and everything that can go in your smoker. You can use it for veggies or meat, it’s up to you. But make sure you have one, and please make sure it’s metal. Then a pair of thongs is always a good thing to have. You can use it to flip meat or corn, and depending on the size of your smoker you might want to get longer or shorter ones.
Now, you also need tools to clean your grill. You will need to get a grill brush. This is essential, because your food will suffer if your grill is dirty. Make sure to use it after every cooking session while the grill is still hot for maximum efficiency. You can find brushes like this that have a replaceable head so keep an eye out.
A very different type of brush is the sauce brush. This one is not used for scrubbing, it’s used for painting the meat with sauce. This brush is great for applying an even coat on your meats and ensuring the highest quality for your BBQ.
Make sure you also have a good pair of grill gloves, to handle big chunks of meat (if you plan on doing that), and a good set of knives, for obvious reasons. From trimming to slicing, a good set of knives will make your life way easier.
And finally, make sure that you get your hands on good thermometers. There are two types: one that tells the temperature inside of your smoker, and one that tells the internal temperature of the meat. Getting both is a pretty good idea, but if you can’t do that for whatever reason, go for the thermometer that tells you the temperature inside the meat. And go for thermometers that have very low response times. The best can take the temperature in three seconds. This way you ensure that you do not lose too much heat when checking on your meat.
These are the most essential tools any BBQ chef will need. Without them nothing would ever get done. And even if someone would risk using their fingers to handle the really hot meat and would rip the meat with their bare hands, it doesn’t mean it would get done very well. We all know that grilling is manly, but, come on, it’s not that manly.
Smoking BBQ is a process of cooking meat using smoke. It is an old process, and in the olden days logs were burned until they turned into embers, and the smoke they emanated was what used to cook the meat, and give it flavor. But when using logs to smoke, temperature control is a very delicate art, so it was a method of cooking reserved only for the masters of the craft. Today, smokers come with a two part mechanism: the heating, which can be electric, gas or charcoal, and the smoking, which usually comes from hardwood.
Hardwood is the most commonly used type of wood in this process. Nut woods and fruit woods are included in this category, while softwoods, like fir, pine or redwood tend to be avoided, because they burn fast and leave an unpleasant flavor. Hardwood, on the other hand, or more specifically dried hardwood, has more minerals than softwood, and it burns slower, while giving the meat a much better flavoring.
Hardwood comes in many different forms. One of them is the log, which we’ve already covered, but in case you want to use logs, just remember that they have to be turned to ember before they are any good to you. Then you have chunks. Chunks can be anywhere from the size of an egg to the size of your fist. They burn slowly and two medium sized chunks can provide smoke for a whole lot of food. They are easy to find and they are one of the most popular form of wood used for smoking. Chips are like the cousin of the chunks, or better yet their sidekick if you’d prefer. They are also very easy to get a hold of, but they are good for short cooks, because they burn pretty fast. For longer cooks it is better to just go with chunks.
Pellets are also a main contender, especially since there are cookers using pellets both as a heat source and as a smoke source. Pellets are rods made of compressed sawdust, without any adhesive or glues (if they are food grade pellets, avoid any other). Cookers that use pellets are very versatile because you can control the temperature and the environment that the meat is cooked in by feeding the pellets as you deem appropriate. You can also find specific flavors straight from manufacturers. You can find Jack Daniel’s flavored pellets made from the charcoal and oak from the barrels that held the whiskey.
Pellet chunks are chunks of sawdust compressed until they are shaped like a brick. These also come in a variety of flavors and they are not a bad choice at all. On the same note, you have bisquettes, small puck-shaped chunks of compressed sawdust. And while we’re at it, sawdust itself can be used for smoking, but it is rarely done so, because it burns very fast. There are some smaller smokers out there however that do use it.
When smoking you have a choice between a lot of different styles of materials to turn to smoke. Actually ‘materials’ might be the wrong word, because they are all hardwood. But it comes in many different forms. You have chunks, chips, pellets, sawdust, pucks and pellet chunks amongst others. Finding which one is best for you to use depends on the type of smoker you have.
Most people use chunks, because they burn slow and they don’t have to be fed constantly throughout the duration of a cook. But, this means that you need a big cooker and a lot of meat to smoke to make the most out of chunks. So for smaller cooks and cookers you have the choice between chips and pellets.
So which one should you use? It depends on what you are looking to do and what type of cooker you have. Most people go with chips, because they are cheap, easy to find and easy to use. You just grab a handful feed it into the machine every now and again and you let the delicious meat smoke. They can also come in various flavors, depending on the tree they come from, or they can even come with coats of flavoring.
Pellets on the other hand have specialized cookers made specifically with them in mind. Pellets are pencil shaped rods of compressed sawdust that can be used for smoking. You don’t need to necessarily have a cooker specifically designed for pellets to use them, but that is one place where you won’t find chips. The main advantage that pellets have is the large variety of flavors that they come in, being available online or in stores. You will find flavors of pretty much anything from cherry to Jack Daniel’s.
As for the question of which to use for your grill, there is no right answer. This depends on your grill most of all. You will have to find out what works best for you, and how each cook goes when using what. For example, a lot of people prefer to use a combination of chunks and chips. Others swear by pellets. In most cases it is simply a matter of taste, or more exactly a combination of smoker and personal preference.
So the best advice in this case is try them out for yourself. Use chips one time, pellets the next, and then compare. If you have an electric smoker, just throw them in the tray. If not, use some aluminum tin foil, wrap it around either the chips or pellets, prick some hole into it, and let it smoke. You can go even further and experiment with pellet chunks, bisquettes or pucks if you like, but as far as the top 3 contenders for best smoking materials go, it’s a fight between chips, chunks and pellets, because they are cheap, good and readily available. Other than that, have a nice cook and never quit smoking.