Smoker BBQ Basics

One of the best BBQs is a smoker BBQ. In fact a lot of people will tell you, unless you are using a smoker at your BBQ then you are not really BBQing. Here at BBQ Grilling Basics, we do not feel that way. A BBQ to us is more about having a great time with family, friend and loved ones rather than the way you cook the meat. Having said that, cooking meat on a smoker is subject all on its own. We will not be getting into any great details about smoker recipes. Instead, this article is a general overview of smokers; a little bit of history, reasons to use a smoker and some smoker BBQ basics.

A Brief History Of BBQ Smokers

Smokers are not a new thing. In fact, they date back much farther than BBQs! Long before refrigerators and chemical preservatives, cooking with smoke was used (and still is) to extend the life of meats. You may have noticed before that many foods you can buy in the grocery stores are smoked, like country ham for instance, and many of the recipes used to make those foods actually date very far back in time. Although no one seem to know for sure, many people believe that smokers were invited in China.

Reasons To Have A Smoker BBQ

If you have never been to a smoker BBQ, you may be wondering why, since they were invented to preserve meats, smokers are so popular nowadays. There are two reasons, flavor and tenderness. The smokey flavor given to meats cooked in a smoker is unmatched by anything else. There are many BBQ sauces on the market today which have a smokey flavor but these do not compare to the real thing.

The other reason to have a smoker BBQ is because smokers might well be the world's greatest tenderizer of meats. Even tough, fatty meats like briskets and pork shoulders are rendered absoutlely glorious when BBQed in a smoker. Don't limit yourself to such meats though. Steaks, hams and chicken which are BBQed in a smoker will be so tender that they practically fall apart when they are done.

Smoker BBQ Basics

Smokers are designed to cook meat slowly over a long period of time. Although some dishes can be cooked in an hour or two, if you are serious about having a smoker BBQ then you should expect to cook most dishes about six to ten hours. Some recipes even call for the meat to be cooked for up to twenty hours.

The most important thing about cookiing in a smoker is temperature control. Temperatures will vary somewhat depending on the dish you plan to cook but, meat smoking is usually best between 200 and 220 °F. You can check out our meat doneness temperatures page to determine what temperatures are best for differnet types of meat. Smokers almost always have built in thermometers to tell you how hot the smoker is but you will most likely want to invest in an ovenproof thermometer as well. You place it into the meat before you start cooking. In this way, it's easy to keep track of how done the meat is without too much hassle.

Cooking at such low temperatures may take a long time but that is exactly what gives freshly smoked meats their fall-apart tenderness and delicous flavor. When it comes to flavor, many people believe the type of wood you burn has a lot to do with how meat will taste. Hickory, Apple and Oak are probably the most common types of wood used. You can try experimenting with with other types of wood but be sure to use a hard wood, as soft wood will burn too fast.

Many people take smoking meats very seriously and it often seems much more like an art form rather than the science of cooking. The best advice is this; a little practice and a lot of pateince will make cooking with a smoker at your next BBQ a big success. Of course, cooking in a smoker takes a long time so they are most often used for large get togethers (you will usually want to cook a lot of meat at the same time since it takes so long).

You may also want to check out our BBQ Tips page for some great BBQ tips or check out our article on Gas Grills and Charcoal Grills.

A Quick BBQ Fact:

Did you know there are six different ways to spell barbecue in the english language? BBQ, Bar-BQ, Bar-B-Cue, Bar-B-Que, Barbeque and Barbecue. That's a lot of BBQs!