You’ve seen all of the professional chefs doing it on TV, and now you want to take a shot at smoking meats? There’s no denying the fact that smoked meats have a delicious flavor and super-tender texture that simply can’t be achieved through traditional cooking techniques like grilling or baking. The Native Americans smoked meats centuries ago to preserve their food. But the good news is that any amateur home chef can smoke delicious meats with little effort.
Absolutely not! There are dozens of “smokers” available for sale, many of serve their intended purpose just fine. But the truth is that you can smoke meats using a traditional grill or fire pit just as easily. So, save your money and stick with your existing grill or fire pit.
Before we reveal the steps to smoking meats, let’s first discuss the differences between it and grilling. While both smoking and grilling are used to cook meats (and other food for that matter), there are a few key differences between the two. Grilling, for instance, typically involves high heat and short cook times, whereas smoking involves low heat and longer cook times. Because of this, smoking requires some type of enclosure that prevents the smoke from escaping.
There’s no single “right” way to smoke meats, so feel free to experiment with your own techniques. With that said, it’s usually a good idea to begin by stacking your charcoal off to one side of the grill or fire pit, and then placing a drip pan on the opposite side. Now go ahead and light the coals (don’t use lighter fluid, FYI). Once the coals are nice and hot, pour 1 cup of water into the pan. This reduces the heat, allowing the meats to smoke rather than grill.
Next, place your meats on the side of the grill grate covering the water-filled pan, at which point you can close the grill or use a lid for your fire pit. If there’s a vent, open is just slightly to allow air to flow through the grill/fire pit. Depending on the temperature of the fire and how much meat you are smoking, you can expect it to take several hours at minimum. A good way to tell when your meat has finished smoking, however, is to try and pull it off the bone. Good smoked meat should literally fall off the bone.
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