BBQ Smoking

Why Smoke Meat?
* Adds huge flavor.
* Tenderizes tough cuts.
* Process of preserving.
* Extend the shelf life of meat.

Smoke Process
The cooking and smoking of meat are two important functions that are intertwined. During the cooking process and at the same time the fat in the meat is liquefying and the connective tissue is breaking down, the hardwood that is slowly burning in the smoker to produce heat is also throwing off smoke vapors called aromatic hydrocarbons. A hardwood fire is nothing more that the combination of oxygen with the organic compounds of wood, the main by-products being carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Because real BBQ is done at low heat the wood is not fully combusted, resulting in the microscopic particles we call smoke, along with invisible, but crucial, aromatics. Interestingly a smoker that is working and managed properly does not produce much smoke. Rather, the temperature is high enough that the wood burns with a controlled flame, rather than smoldering, which produces more smoke vapor.

Meats cooked with too smoky a fire will blacken quickly and have a bitter, acrid crust. Meats cooked in an ideal, vapor filled environment develop a mahogany-brown exterior crust over time, and the interior of the meat becomes infused with the hardwood fumes, taking on the essential aroma and flavor of the wood itself.

Smoke Woods
The source of the Smoke is typically hardwood, traditionally Hickory, Oak and Apple. (See list) Burn fruit woods like cherry, apple or peach and the meat takes on a wonderful smoky sweetness. Use Hickory for the classic taste of barbecue. Burn mesquite for the dark, sharp, tangy flavor of traditional Texas barbecue. Use a custom mix or combination of hardwoods to add to the richness and complexity of the meat your cooking.

What to Smoke?
What to smoke is purely a matter of taste. The most popular items smoked by BBQ enthusiasts are pork ribs, beef brisket, pork shoulder and chicken. But don't limit yourself to these. You can smoke just about anything, from nuts to cheese to fish steaks. However, the process of smoking has grown around cuts of meat that traditionally don't come out well in any other cooking method. A good example of this is beef brisket, which is very tough and not very easy to eat if you bake it in the oven over 2-3 hours.

Smoke Time
Traditional barbecue takes anywhere from 1-2 hours for fish and vegetables to 12-20 hours for beef brisket or pork shoulder. Smoke penetration into the meat and bark usually takes place at various stages of the cooking cycle, a general rule is 1 hour of smoke time for every 4 hours of cooking time. According to most pit masters the smoke flavour penetrates the meat within the first few hours of cooking time. To properly smoke foods for longer than 6 hours, you will require the right kind of equipment.

To smoke something you need a container to hold in the smoke, a source of the smoke, and something to smoke. A personal smoker can be anything from a hole in the ground to a $2000 smoker. Some commercial smokers can be more than $20,000.

You need to practice good temperature control. Meat smoking is best done in the range of 200-240 degrees. You need to bring the internal temperature of most meats to at least 165-170 degrees F to be safe for consumption, but you don't want to go too far above this.
Safe Cooking Temperatures.
Use two accurate thermometers for smoking. One inside the smoker in the area where the meat sits to tell you the smoker temperature and one meat thermometer in the meat to tell you the internal temperature of what you are smoking.

Reasons to keep the temperature low.

* To give the smoke enough time to sink in and the other is to naturally tenderize the meat.
* Slow cooking gives the natural fibers in meat time to break down and become tender.

Smoke Control
Another basic rule of smoking is to place the meat inside the smoker so that it is surrounded by smoke. You want a good thick stream of smoke around the meat at all times to give it the kind of exposure you need to enhance the flavor. The smoke needs to be always moving to maximize exposure and prevent the smoke from making the meat bitter because of a build up of creosote.

Smoke Tips:
· BBQ is about balance – meat, fat, flavour and smoke.
· Smoking is far more an art than it is a science. Practice and patience are the keys to success.
· Smoke from different woods will effect the taste of certain spices.
· Don’t over smoke meats – meats should have mild smoke flavour.
· Remove bark from hardwoods – bark creates excess smoke and off flavours.
· No need to soak wood in water when slow smoking – soaking creates more smoke.

Smoke Woods List

BBQ Links - links to more information on the history & business of BBQ.

The 10 Secrets of Championship BBQ

How-To-BBQ - Watch videos on how to prepare meat & BBQ recipes.
BBQ Restaurant Tour - Watch video tours of BBQ Restaurants across North America.

Secrets of Great BBQ

1. Meat
2. Rub
3. Equipment
4. Cooking
5. Smoke Smoke Woods List