Smoking meats and vegetables is a great way to add new flavours to old favourites. Even if you own a gas grill, you can still smoke like a pitmaster. And it’s not as time-consuming as you’d think.
Pick Your Meat
Smoke everything from a pork butt to a salmon filet on your gas grill. We don’t really recommend a beef brisket because of the large size and time commitment, but other great candidates for smoking are fish, chicken breasts and thin-cut pork chops.
Pick Your Wood
Like fine wine, there are some woods that go better with certain meats.
- Alder wood, apple and cherry produces a delicate flavour as does pecan.
- Hickory and oak are more assertive.
- Mesquite is strong and full-bodied and is really only suitable for beef brisket.
- Aromatics, such as herbs, fruit peels or cinnamon sticks, also can be added to produce even more flavour. Aromatics with high oil content, like rosemary, will produce a stronger flavour.
Pick Your Wood Size
Wood comes in all sizes from big chunks to tiny pellets. Choose the right size for your needs.
Chunks burn more slowly than chips. Often a chunk or two, about the size of an egg or weighing two to four ounces, is all that is necessary. Chunks are a slow, steady source of smoke, and are in many ways, the most desirable for smoking. When you use chunks, you can add one or two at the start of the cooking cycle.
Chips are about the size of coins and generally easy to find. They burn quickly and you may find that you need to add them more than once during the cooking cycle. Chips are fine for short cooks. But for long cooks, chunks are better. Wood chips will begin to smoke more quickly than wood chunks so choose accordingly.
Pellets are made by compressing wet sawdust into small rods, about a half an inch long. Food-grade pellets contain no binders, glue or adhesives, and when they get wet they revert to sawdust immediately. Some smokers use pellets as the main fuel. For both flavour and heat, pellets do well, especially in competition barbecue. That’s because they can be fed into the fire in a very controlled manner, usually by an auger. Pellet cookers can be regulated with a thermostat, making them very controllable. They also burn very hot and clean.
Choose Your Delivery Method
Making a smoker packet is simple. Take a square of heavy-duty aluminium foil and put a fist full of wood chips in the centre. Completely close the foil around the chips and then poke a few holes in the top with a fork to allow the smoke to escape the packet.
If you are a big-time smoker, you may want to invest in a smoker box.
Wet or Dry Smoke?
It’s a hotly contested topic on whether or not to soak wood chips – in wine, beer or water – before using. Wet wood takes longer to smoke. If you put chips in a pan of water, you’ll see steam before you see any smoke. If you are worried about chips catching on fire when you add them directly to the grill, make a smoke packet by wrapping the wood in foil and poking holes in the foil. Or switch to chunks.
Amount of Wood
If you are smoking a pork shoulder or ribs, which will take several hours, a good rule of thumb is to add a new smoker pack with a handful of wood every 30 minutes. You can also add wood chips directly to any TRU-Infrared grill. Two to three handfuls of wood chips will smoke for about an hour.
Get Your Grill Ready
To preheat the grill, turn one side of your grill to high and leave the other off. Place the wood chips on the hot side. When they begin to smoke, turn the burners down to low. Then place the meat on the unlit side of the grill. The temperature range for smoking is 230-250 degrees. You can measure the heat of the grill surface with a digital probe thermometer.
Don’t Lift the Lid
While the meat is smoking, resist the urge to take off the cover and check it frequently because the smoke will escape. You also will extend the cooking time every time you remove the cover.
TIP – Always use a thermometer to check the internal temperature before serving smoked meats. Start with meats that are at room temperature before placing them on the smoker.