A beginners guide to smoking meat!
Great news everyone! Summer is here and so is the gradual and slow reopening of the province of Quebec! Now, of course this will be a relatively slow process but one that will be completely worth it in the long run, kind of like smoking delicious back ribs or a beautiful brisket. Smoking Meat is the very best when it comes to the longtime tradition of southern style BBQ but has always been seen as equally the most difficult and while of course there is more work that goes into smoking than simply throwing something on the grill, the results are absolutely worth the work and the wait.
Picking the right Smoker
Like all things nowadays, there are plenty of different makes and models of smokers out there but sometimes a smoker has to be matched with the right person using it in order to get the best results.
- Ceramic Smokers (such as The Big Green Egg) These smokers are great for beginners because they use charcoal as the primary source of fuel which means that keeping the temperature steady is much easier to do. Getting a smoky flavour is as simple as adding your favorite wood pellets to the already burning flame.
- Pellet Smokers (such as a traeger) These smokers are the newest innovation brought into the BBQ game. Pellet Smokers are electric smokers that have built-in features such as temperature control, automatic pellet dispensing and they even connect to your phone through bluetooth so you can receive alerts and even set the temperature all from wherever you are in or around the house. While it may seem like these smokers do all the work for you, knowing the temperatures and times for different proteins is a must and knowing what types of wood go well with different proteins is also essential to amazing BBQ.
- Offset Smokers (The traditional and no safety net option) Offset Smokers are absolute beasts. Smaller offset smokers will use wood chips or smaller chunks whereas the largest of offset smokers will use full logs. Fire management and temperature control will have to be done manually and of course, with there being no safety net such as charcoal or automation, this truly is cooking without any kind of loopholes or really any help at all.
Picking the right smoker does not have to be a major life changing decision. All you need to do is look at it from what you expect to achieve. Want all the flavours of traditional BBQ but without the blood, sweat and tears? Then maybe an Offset Smoker is not for you. Planning on opening up your own traditional BBQ restaurant? Well then, it might be time to jump into smoking and learning as you go.
Choosing your protein
Now that you have decided which smoker is perfect for you, it is now time to decide which protein you want to start with? Pork is by far the best protein to start with because over cooking pork can be relatively easy to mask and well, undercooked pork is unlikely to make you sick so overall, pork is a safe training protein. My suggestion would be to either start by smoking either Ribs (such as Side Ribs or Back Ribs) or a Bone-in Pork Butt. These are the basics of smoking and a great way to learn how to manage air flow, keeping your flame alive and well, keeping your temperature within about 10 degrees of your target temperature.
Once you have mastered the basics, Briskets and monstrous Beef Ribs will be your eventual target. Working your way up to these is a slow process because not only are these more expensive cuts of meat but they are also less predictable in a way and so will have to be moved around a little more to ensure that they are fully cooked on all sides and all the way through.
Choosing the right wood
Choosing the right kind of wood is a pretty personal choice and also goes with what is available in your area. As a rule of thumb, there are two kinds of wood for smoking. Hardwoods and fruitier woods. Harder woods such as Hickory, Oak and Mesquite give your meat a much smokier flavour and therefore should be used for meats that can actually take on that level of smoke. Ribs, Bone-in butts and Briskets respond very well to hardwoods. As for the fruitier woods such as Applewood or Cherry, these are really great for lighter proteins such as smoking Fish or Poultry such as chicken or turkey breasts. In general, Ribs are a very versatile protein so Fruitier woods of hardwoods can both be used to cook them and will both yield amazing results.
Another part of picking the right wood is to really just find what flavours you like by trying them all and finding a type of wood that you enjoy cooking with and can control really well.
Smoking meat is as much a science as it is a hobby. There are all kinds of tricks out there that people have developed but in the end, making great BBQ comes down to your dedication and really just taking the time and making the mistakes that everyone makes! Do not get discouraged if it doesn’t come out the way you envisioned it. With time and with practice, you too can be a BBQ Master but remember, even the most experienced of smokers will not strike gold each and every time.
As always, let us know if you enjoyed this blog post. If you or anyone you know is learning to use a smoker or if you are already a pit master, we want to see your pictures. Send your pictures to the Bonaventure Facebook page or simply tag us in your photo! Also, don’t forget that here at Bonaventure, BBQ is our specialty! Check out our amazing restaurant quality Back Ribs which are perfect for any BBQ lover, no matter the level of experience! Happy smoking everyone!