If you are new to smoking meat, it can be intimidating. There are many factors to consider when starting your journey as a pitmaster. I have included several key items to consider as you begin. I hope you enjoy my BBQ smoking tips and tricks and getting started on your journey to becoming the backyard pitmaster that will make your neighbors jealous!
Choose your smoker
There are many types of smokers to choose from when you are looking to purchase a new smoker. Different types include:
So which one is best for a beginner? My advice would be to start off with an electric smoker to see hwo you like it. These are fairly inexpensive, retain a consistent temperature and you never have to worry about refueling! These are a great option as you start your journey into smoking meat.
If budget is not an option and you want to get right into it, a pellet smoker may be your next best bet. They are pricey but I have used one for many years and find them to be a great vehicle to smoke with. You can even use it as a grill as a large number of them have the capability to heat up to high temps.
Select your wood
Your next step is to choose the wood you want to smoke with. Good wood will add that great smoky flavor to your meat that you are looking for. Depending on the type of smoker you are using, your wood could be in chunk form, prepackaged wood chips or pellets. If you take my advice and go electric to start, you are more than likely looking at wood chips for your smoker. Below are some of the types of meat and some suggested wood types for each.
Poultry – Apple, Cherry, Maple, Peach, Pecan
Pork – Cherry, Hickory, Mesquite, Oak, Peach, Pecan
Beef – Cherry, Hickory, Mesquite, Pecan
Seafood – Apple, Cherry, Oak
There are many other varieties of wood that works as well. These are just general guidelines to get you started and you may experiment and find that one wood is preference over another. I prefer Cherry for Beef and Apple for Pork for instance. Hickory I find very versatile and use that for a variety of meats.
Tips on choosing your meat
Some meats are trickier than others. You will get frustrated on your journey into smoking as you smoke that rack of ribs or brisket and it does not turn out the way you had planned. I have had many a rack of ribs turn out tougher than I would like and I struggled for a long time to get brisket right. Be patient! It is a marathon, not a sprint and you will get there over time. Here are some suggestions for starting out:
Chuck roast – a good introduction to smoking beef. These are very flavorful and are not difficult to get right.
Whole chicken – Poultry can be tricky, specifically white meat. I have had good success from the start with whole chicken. The meat comes out juicy and flavorful everytime. I would suggest trying the beer can chicken method to start.
Sausage – Cook them low and slow and then turn them up at the end to get that crunchy texture.
Tri Tip – another good beef option to get started. It is pretty simple to get it right.
Once you have gotten the hang of your smoker, move on to the good stuff. My favorites to smoke are pork butt/shoulder, baby back ribs and a whole brisket.
Pick your rub
Rubs allow you to get a nice flavorful crust on your meat. Some folks prefer to just use a salt/pepper mix and that works fine in a lot of cases. There are so many commercial rubs out there that are fantastic and I typically will make some of my own rubs. My pork butt rub is fantastic and better than any commercail rub on pork (in my opinion). Here are some of the commercail rubs I use a on regular basis
There are so many great rubs out there and varying opinions on them. I continue to experiment with commercial rubs and making my own rubs. I will eventually post some reviews on rubs as well as some of the recipes I use to make my own.
I hope that some of these smoking tips and tricks will help you get started on your journey. It is a great community full of supportive people all trying to help each other produce the best BBQ out there. You will get frustrated from time to time but just keep at it and eventually you will have your family asking if you can smoke something for dinner on the weekend. It is a great feeling to have them enjoy your food!