There is grilling and then there is barbecue. They are not even close to being the same thing. Smoking meat is an art form and it takes quite a bit of practice to get right. Grilling has its challenges too and it is easy to mess up, but it is much easier to get right than smoking meats and chickens.
That said, if you love cooking outside and having people over, you should really try to master both. When you get really good at grilling, the next logical step is to go low and slow and smoke some meat. Becoming a good pitmaster is as rewarding as it is challenging.
In this article, I will go over several of the things you need to become a good pitmaster.
Get The Right Smoker
There are two kinds of smokers that you can get. One is a cold smoker which is what is used to smoke things like fish and sausages to cure. This involves having an indirect heat source so the food doesn’t get cooked. Essentially, there are two chambers with one having the smoke source separate from the other with the fish or meat.
Unless you are looking for long term ways to cure and preserve your meat or fish then this is not the type that you want. The other kind of smoker is a hot smoker that will cook the meat at a very low temperature while providing smoke that acts as a seasoning.
There are so many iterations of a smoker that you have to dig in and investigate which kind is best for your needs. If you have trouble finding the one you like, you can always make your own with lots of everyday household items. Most smokers like to use an AC tig welder and make one out of an old oil barrel since it can be customized the way that they like.
As a beginner, you are better off going for one that is ready to go off the shelf and then you can make your own later once you understand the process. Look for a smoker that is large enough to let the smoke circulate and accommodate a lot of meat at the same time. It should have a deep bottom and also have some vents to allow air to enter to keep the embers going.
It also needs to be made out of material that maintains a consistent temperature so the meat will cook evenly and you don’t have to be always adjusting the temperature.
Lots Of Time And Patience
Low and slow is the name of the game when it comes to good barbecue. This means that you need to plan ahead and be very patient. You can often find pitmasters taking 24 hours to prep and cook their BBQ creations. For instance, a large brisket can take up to 12 hours to cook on the smoker, then get wrapped up in paper and put on the smoker for a few more hours.
If you don’t have the time to dedicate to this then that means no BBQ for you that weekend. You’re often cooking your meat at 275°F so you can imagine how long it can take. When you have juicy BBQ ribs that fall off the bone, it’s because of the low temperatures and long cooking times that allow the collagen to break down in the meat and give it the juiciness that people love. And it takes time for the smoke flavor to penetrate into the meat.
You’ll also need to be patient through the learning curve period. You’re going to have a lot of times when the meat comes out dry, tough or even burnt. There’s nothing to do besides trying again and learning from your previous mistakes. Be prepared to take a few years before you feel like you’ve finally figured things out.
Personalize Your BBQ
Once you get the process down pat, you’ll be able to start experimenting with things and come up with your own system that makes your barbecue stand out from the crowd. This can be your own secret recipe for your sauce, or a certain style that you use to cook the meat. Even the type of wood you use can all contribute to some outstanding barbecue that has people begging to be invited over for the next cookout.
This is when you would consider making your own smoker according to your specifications based on how you like to cook your BBQ.