By Jackie Plant
Grilling tends to dominate the summer months, and most people rely on charcoal or gas to cook their food, never even considering the most ancient method of outdoor cooking-smoking. But smoking is great because the low heat, slow cooking and smoldering wood tenderizes meats and adds flavor. Best of all, no fancy equipment is necessary-any home grill can easily be adapted for smoking by following a few simple tips.
Turn Your Grill into a SmokerHow Do I Smoke?
1. Preheat the grill for 30 minutes before adding any wood.
2. Soak wood chips or chunks in water for 20 minutes prior to cooking to create a larger volume of smoke once the wood is placed on the grill.
3. Heat one side of the grill to high (or stack coals to create a high-heat zone) and place the wood on the hot side. Add the meat on the cool side.
4. Maintaining a constant temperature is important. Make sure you place a grill thermometer on your grill and maintain a low temperature between 200°F and 225°F. Low temperature gives the smoke enough time to sink in and naturally tenderize the meat.
5. Place wood directly on hot charcoal or make a smoker pouch by wrapping the soaked chips in heavy-duty foil. Poke a few holes in the top with a pencil or knife tip, and place the pouch under the grate over one of the burners.
6. Subtly change the flavor of smoke imparted by varying the variety of wood. Most fruit-bearing wood (like apple) will produce a subtle flavor, while nut-bearing wood (hickory, pecan) will impart a more pronounced flavor.
7. Position the vents of the lid over the meat, so the smoke can penetrate it.
8. Keep the lid closed throughout the cooking process to retain heat.
What Should I Smoke?
1. Smoke foods that are bigger, like roasts, ham, ribs and brisket. These meats normally require longer cooking applications, so they're perfect for a slow smoke. But don't crowd the grill or the smoke won't be able to penetrate the meat thoroughly.
2. Seasoning your meat before it smokes is a good idea, but a little goes a long way. Too much seasoning can detract from the flavor of the wood, so stick to spice rubs and only add thick sauces right before serving.
3. Smoking isn't just for meat. Toss on some starchy vegetables like squash or corn and cook them alongside your meat. Smoking nuts is also great.
How Long Should I Smoke?
Times will vary from 4 to 12 hours when it comes to smoking meat, fish or poultry, but reaching a safe internal temperature is important. Use an instant thermometer and follow these recommended temperatures:
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