The main difference between a smoker and a charcoal grill is that a smoker keeps the fire away from the food product. A smoker contains the fire and keeps the temperature low enough to cook meats at temperatures around 225-250 degrees. A grill is designed to cook hot and fast, but your “Grill On The GoTM” can do both. If you keep the fire small and to one side of the grill (vent end) you can generate low temperatures that are the secret of real barbecue.
Barbecue requires a certain attention to detail and a significant investment of time, but it doesn’t require a big beast of a smoker. Your humble “Grill On The GoTM” will do just fine, and we’ll explain how to use it. Use the indirect method of cooking (smoking). This means the coals or wood will be on the vent end of the grill (usually 10 to 12 inches will be enough). The product will be on the grate but not over the coals or wood.
- Season your desired product with a rub or marinade the day before, because you need plenty of time for the process to do its job. As one famous Chef says season both sides of the product. If you use a rub first wash the product and pat dry with paper towels. Generously apply the rub all over the product then wrap it in a few layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you use a marinade, put the product in a watertight plastic container large enough to hold the product and plenty of marinade. Cover the product entirely with marinade and refrigerate.
- The weight of the product will determine how long to cook and when you should start the cooking process. Allow for an hour or more of cooking time for each pound of product. Example: A 12-pound brisket figures 12 to 14 hours of “low and slow” smoking. Usually we want a temperature of 200 to 225 degrees. Example: If the brisket takes 12 hours and you will serve at 6:00 pm. This means you start the product at 6:00 am. This is an example of time investment. If the product gets done before the serving time it works well to cover and place in the steam table for holding. One famous Chef says it works well to add sliced fruit on top of the product while holding. It helps with holding the moisture.
- Remove the product from the refrigerator 1 hour before smoking. This lets the product warm up a little before you put it in the smoker. This process eliminates Creosote (nasty stuff) build up on the walls of your smoker.
- Use a drip pan in the smoker with water or beer directly under your product. This process helps keep the product moist and your smoker clean. The grease has to go somewhere. You may have to add water during the smoking process.
- Start your fire while the product is warming to room temperature. Start making coals from your desired wood. Use charcoal as your base and add soaked wood chips or small cut logs to the coals. We feel you get a much better flavor if you use real woods and less processed briquettes or pellets. After all you want that true wood smoked flavor. Don’t use lighter fluid on the wood. It will soak up petrochemicals from the fluid. It will ruin the taste of your product. Try to use a natural starter for the coals such as a newspaper. If you use lighter fluid to start your coals be sure they burn down to gray before you add the wood.
- Put the product in the smoker. You’ll lose some heat when you open the lid, but that’s okay. Just add some more coals. Your main job for the next few hours is to maintain your desired temperature of 225 degrees. You will need two thermometers for this process: an instant read meat thermometer to check the temperature of the meat near the end of the cooking process; an oven thermometer next to the product for quick check when you open the lid to mop, spritz or turn the product.
- Adjust the temperature by adding a few more coals and wood, tweaking the bottom vents (if you need it hotter open more vent) or lifting the lid a few inches for a few seconds. Leave the chimney vent open at all times. This allows the smoke to flow freely over the product and out of the smoker. If you close the chimney vent the fire won’t draw correctly, bad smoke will build up and the fire will die. The temperature will vary during the cooking process but that’s okay. You should try for an average temperature of 225 degrees. If you get above 225 degrees close the bottom vent a little if you get below 200 degrees open the bottom vent a little and add some coals. Try to minimize the number of times you open the lid, this lets out the heat and adds to the cooking time.
- Mop, spritz or turn the product about every 45 minutes. We think spritzing is preferable to mopping because it’s quicker and more efficient. This is important because the longer the lid is open the more heat you lose. To spritz get yourself a spray bottle at the local hardware store, then consider all types of liquids, flavored oils, vinegars, juices or water with your favorite seasonings. Keep in mind liquor is flammable so refrain from using your favorite whiskey for spritzing. If you have to use your favorite whiskey or beer use the mop process.
- The product is finally done when the instant meat thermometer registers the appropriate reading for the type of product you’re cooking. Remove the product from the smoker and let rest on a platter or carving board for about 10-15 minutes before you start carving. When you cut into the product you will notice that there’s a nice pink ring around the edge. That’s good! It’s from all that tasty smoke. The pink is how you know its barbecue. Many think especially with fowl that it is not done but we know it is. Just think about this! How could the product be done on the inside and raw on the outside?
- Carve or slice the product against the grain. This is important with all cuts of meat especially brisket. If you prepared pork shoulder or butt, you will need to form a “pickin” party or pull it off the bone. This is just about city law in the Kansas City area.