Friday, July 3, 2020

Smoke is in the air

With grills, it’s either propane, natural gas (if you have a connection) or charcoal.  To me, nothing beats a real fire, so I prefer charcoal and the flavor, though I have a large gas grill.  There are lots of gas grills out there, and everyone knows the 900 pound gorilla, in a good way, is Weber, whether propane, or charcoal kettle…they do it right, since the 1950s, and they really stand behind their grills.


If you want to get involved in smoking, then there are an enormous number of smokers, both size, and type.  There’s the offset smoker, which really just burn wood, and look like barrels turned on their sides, there’s ceramic Kamado (a Japanese design) that burns natural hardwood lump and wood chunks, there are pellet grills which are really becoming popular and burned compressed wood pellets for fuel, and bullet-style smokers, that look Sputnik (Weber makes the leading version of this-the Smokey Mountain).  To get started, people should consider the Smokey Mountain…low-cost investment and short learning curve…with one of these, you’ll be smoking in no time.

Here's what a Primo Kamado (ceramic smoker) looks like

Primo Oval XL with BBQ Guru Temperature Controller


With so many different types of smokers to choose from, when you’re ready to move up from a bullet smoker, what’s next?  My choice was a ceramic Kamado.  With this, you loan natural lump charcoal and wood chunks or small logs in the bottom and light the fire.  Above the fire are deflector plates that absorb and deflect the heat and smoke, and above that are grates for the food.  Temperature can be controlled quite exactly with upper and lower dampers.  And because of the insulating properties of ceramic, you can hold a low temperature around 225F for well over 24 hours.  You can also sear at high heat on these…they are very flexible and I’ve had mine for 18 years and it still looks as good as the day I got it.  Some leading brands are Big Green Egg, Primo and Kamado Joe, though I prefer my Primo over all others.


If you really want to step up your smoker game, you can go with a traditional offset smoker…a lot of people on the competition circuit use these and the flavor cannot be duplicated other ways, but they require enormous effort, but pellet grills/smokers are really coming on strong these days.  With pellet smokers, you buy 20-40 lb bags of compressed wood pellets made from different varieties of wood, like oak, hickory, maple and cherry.  Dump the pellets into a hopper, set the temperature and an auger automatically feeds the fire with pellets to maintain temp and impart smoke.  While the smoke flavor won’t be as strong as some other methods, this type of smoker is available at mass retailers and becoming quite popular.


Easy bbq recipes:


Grilling and smoking are forgiving cooking methods, so why not experiment.  I stumbled into a recipe that is a big hit whenever I make it, and I make it fairly frequently on the smoker: Eric’s special smoked cabbage,


Take a large head of cabbage and chop it roughly.  Cut up a few onions and toss both into a large disposable baking tin.  Add some chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and toss it all with some olive oil.  Throw a few dollops of margarine or butter and toss the tin in the smoker…I like to let it go for about 6 hours.  If you’re smoking beef ribs or brisket, you’ll have plenty of time…take it out, mix it up, and serve…stand back for the accolades…this even works on a gas or charcoal grill for about an hour on medium heat.  You won’t have the smoke flavor, but it will be mighty tasty with nice caramelization.



Also, hot smoke a hunk of salmon…this will cook the salmon, not cure it like lox.  I take a piece of salmon, sprinkle a little salt, pepper, paprika and brown sugar and toss into a smoker for 45 minutes.  It will be sweet, savory, smokey and you’ll be a smoking hero…I also cook this same recipe on the grill, but putting a piece of foil under the fish to protect the fatty fish from getting burned by the flames.


In any event, this isn’t baking or rocket science…get out, have fun and  and have a smoke!

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