Join the smoking sophisticated crowd. For grilling connoisseurs who want to spend time crafting subtle flavors, smoking on the grill is the way to go.
Smoking meat is a growing trend for the great flavor it adds to food without fat. When the smoke — created by using wood chips on the fire — encircles mild meats like pork, fish and poultry, it produces a mouth-watering flavor and rich color that’s hard to resist.
Guidelines for Smoke-Cooking in a Kettle-Style Grill
Smoking is easy to do and can be accomplished in a kettle-style grill using indirect heat and adding wood chips to banked coals.
At least two hours before you plan to start cooking, place wood chips or chunks in water to soak. Estimate two chunks of wood or a good handful of wood chips for each hour of planned smoke-cooking time. If you have leftover soaked wood after completing smoking, it can be dried and used at another time.
Build the fire about 40 minutes before you plan to start cooking: Remove the cooking grate from the covered grill and build a pile of about 25 to 30 charcoal briquettes on one side of the fire grate; light them and let them burn down to a hot glow, covered with gray ash; leaving only one of the bottom air vents open, directly under the charcoal. Place an aluminum loaf pan filled two-thirds full of water across from the charcoal.
Spread the hot coals with a pair of long-handled tongs to make a bed for the wood chips or chunks; place a good handful or two chunks of wood directly on the hot coals. Replace the cooking grate on the grill and place the food over the pan of water, on the opposite side of the grill from the fire source. Cover the grill, with the top vents fully open and directly over the food.
If your kettle grill does not have a thermometer that reads on the outside of the grill, place an oven thermometer on the grill, close to the food (not directly over the fire). Or place a candy thermometer on top of the grill, with the probe placed through top vent. Maintain a temperature of about 225 to 250 degrees. If the temperature rises above 250, almost close the bottom vent directly under the charcoal, monitoring the heat and opening that vent again as the temperature drops.
When smoke-cooking food that takes more than an hour, like a pork shoulder, you will need to add more charcoal to the fire to maintain heat. Start a supplemental bed of charcoal burning in a small grill nearby, about 30 to 40 minutes after you have started cooking. This will ensure a steady supply of hot coals. For a very long smoke-cooking period (6 to 8 hours), add 3 to 4 new charcoal briquettes to the supplemental fire every 40 minutes or so.
Throughout the smoke-cooking process, watch for smoke escaping from the top vent. As it slows down or stops, add more wood to the fire. When adding extra wood or charcoal to the fire, work quickly with long-handled tongs: Each time you take the lid off the grill, it will add 10 to 15 minutes extra cooking time. But maybe that’s okay: Smoking is a slow, meditative art that provides satisfying rewards for those patient enough to see it through. And that’s where some good company and chilled libations can assist.
Foods for the smoker may be prepped the same way as foods for the grill — marinate or rub prior to smoking, if desired.
Boneless meats such as pork shoulder will undergo shrinkage during long, slow smoking. Ask your butcher for untrimmed cuts — a layer of fat on the meat holds shrinkage to a minimum. Simply cut off the fat before serving.
Use long-handled tongs to add wood to the fire.
Charcoal needs to be added during the smoking process to maintain heat. Keep a small pile of charcoal burning in a small supplemental grill.