When it comes to smoking foods, the impatient, antsy and restless need not apply.
Because according to Ted Reader, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Smoking Foods, smoking is an art form that requires patience and, above all, time, a commodity that comes at a premium for most people these days.
"You can't rush smoking," Reader said in an interview with Relaxnews. "There's a real art to learning how to control fire, wind, humidity and heat so make sure you have time."
For instance, want to smoke a pork shoulder? Figure in at least 24 hours. A brisket? To get the full impact, that will require 18 to 24 hours.
But it's also precisely this return to slow, rustic cooking that appeals to many grill masters who are re-discovering this ancient cooking method, Reader says.
Here are a few smoking hot tips and insider trade secrets from the man known as the barbecue kingpin:
- Before applying a dry rub, consider brining the meat, an extra step that ensures a melt-in-your-mouth experience.
- Do your research before embarking on a smoking project. If you're a first timer, resist the urge to go ‘whole hog' and start off with smaller projects. For instance, Reader suggests making your first foray into the world of smoking with a pork shoulder or ribs -- easier cuts of meat. Brisket, on the other hand, can be trickier, he says.
- Know your wood chips and their regional differences.
Along the northwest of the continent of North America: cedar
Texas: Known for oak, mesquite
Southern states: hickory
Europe: Best for maple and other hardwoods
Eastern European countries like Latvia are known for oak
Reader's favorite is a blend of hickory for punch, applewood for sweetness, and maple, which he soaks beforehand, for smokiness.
- Barbecue and smoking flavors differ by regions. Kansas barbecue, for instance is sweeter, while barbecue from North Carolina is punchier with more vinegar.
-Never leave smoke unattended. For best results, you need to check the smoke, stoke the fire, baste the meat, turn if necessary.
-Take notes so you can keep track of what worked and what didn't. For example, record the spice rub, the temperatures and the mix of wood chips used.
-To make it a family affair, get the kids involved in the process, and keep a cold can of beer on hand for the pitmaster, Reader says.