What, exactly, is barbecue? This is the source of debate among backyard chefs around the country. To some, preparing food on a conventional gas or charcoal grill, cooked for a short time over high heat qualifies. To others, this is merely grilling. BBQ must be cooked low and slow and over indirect heat. There should be wood smoke involved, which adds flavor to the food. To others, the slow and low method is only smoking. These sticklers insist that it’s not BBQ until sauce is added. In this article, barbecue will be the second of these methods; slow and low, indirect heat and smoke with sauce optional.
Types of Smokers for Cooking Barbecue
- It is possible to smoke food with a conventional charcoal grill. Simply pile the heat source to one side of the grill and place the food on the opposite side. Add wood chips to the coals as needed and have a lid covering the whole thing. Presto! You’ve got a low tech, low cost way to smoke food over indirect heat.
- Another type of smoker is the upright barrel smoker. This device resembles a small barrel with the heating element in the bottom, a water pan directly above the heat (optional) and a metal rack above the water pan to hold the food. The heat can be provided by charcoal and wood, or by an electric heating coil, which is topped with a metal container that holds the wood for flavoring the food.
- A third popular way to cook your ‘Q’ is the offset smoker. This consists of a horizontal barrel or metal box that serves as the cooking chamber, and a separate metal firebox which is mounted to one end of the cooking chamber. The heat and smoke move from the firebox to the cooking chamber and exits through a top mounted vent. This turns the cooking chamber into a smoke filled oven.
These three types of smokers are commercially available and modestly priced. It is possible for handymen to build their own from an old refrigerator or freezer. Huge smokers, some with their own axle and wheels are also available. These monsters can hold enough food to feed hundreds and are priced accordingly.
Regardless of the smoker that you chose, some modestly priced accessories can help insure your success:
BBQ Accessories for Cooking Great Food
- Platter – A wood or metal platter with raised sides helps transport food to and from the smoker.
- Instant read thermometer – These battery operated devices commonly have a digital readout and a metal probe which is inserted into thicker cuts of meat, such as brisket or turkey.
- Metal cooking pan – Handy when smoking beans, stew, etc. Aluminum works, but the smoke will turn it black. Cast iron dutch ovens are a durable option.
- Aluminum foil – Many uses, including wrapping long cooking meats like pork shoulder.
- Tongs – Useful for removing hot food or turning racks of ribs
- Wire brush – Helps with cleaning the cooking grates.
- Paint brush – Food safe brushes are tough to beat when slathering ribs with sauce.
- Injector – Used to inject large cuts of meat with various liquid concoctions to keep them moist.
- Fuel – Charcoal briquet’s, various kinds of wood and wood pellets.
- Sharp knives – A must have. You’ll also need something to sharpen them with.
Finally, pick up a few cookbooks that deal specifically with smoking of barbecuing. They’ll give you plenty of ideas and help eliminate mistakes.
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