Thursday, November 5, 2009

Smoking meat without a to convert your charcoal grill.

I love smoked meats. I'm talking about warm or hot smoking, not cold smoking, although I like that too. But, warm smoking is easier than what you imagine, especially if you already have a charcoal grill. The items needed are fairly simple, inexpensive and easy to get. They include:

1 large sized charcoal grill
2 or 3 regular bricks (dry)
1 bag of hickory or mesquite chips (or, if you have another smoking preference, about 2 lbs of whatever species of wood you like).
Double the amount of charcoal you normally use to grill.
Lighter fluid or denatured alcohol.
3-4 hours of time

You can use this method for beef or pork, but it also works great for poultry. I used it with cornish game hens, which I stuffed with mushrooms and onions, and it was absolutely delicious. Salmon steaks or fillets smoke equally well.

To start, find the vent in the top of your grill, if you have one. Ideally, the meat should be near the vent, so that the meat is exposed to all of the smoke that is generated by the charcoal/woodchip combination. If your vent is fixed, this needs to be the first consideration before positioning anything else.. Divide the bottom of your grill where you normally put the charcoal by placing bricks across. The idea is to only use half of the bottom of the grill. This will allow the meat to cook without overcooking, since the meat will not be exposed to the direct heat of the fire.

Pour charcoal on the opposite side of the grill where you plan to put the meat. Start it with lighter fluid. If you don't want to risk getting a lighter fluid taste in your meat, use denatured alcohol burns just as hot, but doesn't create fumes. Let it soak in for a short time, but don't wait too long because it will evaporate. Light it and let it burn down. You might not see the alcohol flames, but you'll know when it is out because the charcoal will begin to smoke.

Place a generous handful of woodchips on the charcoal, and place your meat on the opposite side.

Once you get it up and running, it should look like this:

Pardon the crude drawing.

Once the charcoal is burning, and you've added enough wood chips, you need to keep monitoring the fire. You may need to add charcoal to keep the fire going. Do so a little at a time so you don't put everything out. Add chips as they burn up. You might use several handfuls before you are finished. The meat will cook slowly, and look more and more delicious as it cooks:

After three hours or so, the meat will develop a black coating. It doesn't look appetizing, but it serves a very important purpose. It becomes impermeable and holds in the juices. When I tore the skin off of this bird, the meat juices dripped out onto the plate.

The taste is incredible. Slow cooking the meat makes it positively delicious, and as I said, when you peel back the outer layer, the juices run out. A delectable mild smoke flavor permeates the meat inside. If I were to REALLY get into smoking meats, I'd buy a dedicated meat smoker, but for occasional use, this is cheap and it works great.

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