barque bbq
Image: Barque’s website
barque bbq
Image: Barque’s website

How to Smoke Your Own Meat

With the increase in Southern barbecue restaurants in the city, and the summer months ahead, many people are questioning how they can smoke meat at home on their barbecue and whether they can smoke meat on the grill themselves and what kind of grill is best for this.

The first answer comes down to one thing: indirect heat. The second is yes, you can and the third would be any grill at all will do. After all, it’s not the car, it’s the driver ;).

I could end it all here and you’d know nearly all you need to know, but here’s some more advice that will help you prepare a good meal, impress your friends and make you feel like a king on the grill.

Start with quality meat

What you’re smoking is what you will be eating so quality does matter. If you have a butcher, ask them about cuts that are good for smoking. Try to get organic meats if possible because they are  healthier, taste better and I find they even cook better.

Marinate your meat

This seems quite obvious, right? This will add flavour and help tenderize. Use simple spice combos or inject your meats with a marinade using a quality meat injector. The trick to a good marinade is  simplicity. Use two to three blends of natural spices and you should be good to go. Too many spices might be overkill and if you can let marinade overnight, even better!

how to smoke meat

Use the right wood

Use logs for charcoal grills and chips for gas so be aware of the difference as well as how different woods transmit their flavours. Canadian hickory often imparts a bitter, campfire type flavour. Fruit woods – such as apple and cherry – work well. Do some research to find out which woods work with which type of meat, such as oak for beef or lamb, apple for pork or poultry, cherry with anything.

If you have a charcoal grill, charcoal quality matters

I like Basques Hardwood Charcoal, which is all-natural hardwood (sugar maple) charcoal made in Quebec from fallen trees. No live trees are destroyed for this charcoal. The charcoal lights quickly and reaches grilling temperatures within 15 minutes, burning longer than regular briquettes. I’ve used both and the results with other charcoals are never as good. Oh! And never use lighter fluid to light your fire, otherwise you’ll taste the chemicals.

If you have a gas grill, it’s all about the chips

If you have a gas grill, keep a bag of mesquite wood chips and a bag of fruit wood chips around. Soak chips for an hour or more before use, otherwise you risk having the chips burn up quickly instead of smoldering. It’s the smoldering that creates smoke.

You’ll need a “smoker box” to contain the wood chips, available at a hardware store or a place such as Ontario Gas Barbeque. Invest in cast iron or stainless steel. Alternately, you can make your own. The simplest DIY method is a foil pouch filled with one to two cups of soaked wood chips with eight to ten holes poked in the top of the packet. Lay the packet under the cooking grate, over the burner. Don’t place it directly under where the food will be – you want indirect heat.

Summer BBQ Smoked Meat

Whichever your type of grill, here are some universal tips to note:

Low n’ slow

As any experienced BBQ restaurant chef will tell you, Cook low and slow and make sure that the meat is surrounded by smoke. There are two reasons to keep the temperature low. The first is to give the smoke enough time to penetrate, and the second is to naturally tenderize the meat.

Mercury levels

Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. The temperature for doneness varies. There are many charts available online, but the USDA advises cooking all beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145F, ground meat to an internal temperature of 160F, and all poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165F. Use a meat thermometer. I recommend a Thermapen, which is a good all-purpose cooking thermometer.

Take charge of temperatures

Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. The temperature for doneness varies and here we share a temperature and time chart from BroBBQ to help you determine the right standard for your food according to the USDA.

Another Important note – do not rely on the grill or smoker’s inbuilt thermometer, invest in a meat thermometer to show you accurate results. Happy Smokin’ !

Smoking Times and Temperatures Chart