Barbecue originally involved digging a pit in the ground, building a wood fire, and letting the fire burn down to embers. Then the meat slow-cooked on a spit over the embers and got smoked in the process. The modern-day equivalent of such a setup is a steel log pit whose exclusive fuel source is wood. And even if your setup isn’t quite as fancy, the formula remains the same: smoke combined with low, indirect heat and plenty of time.

Smokers kick things up a few notches. Putting the meat in an enclosed apparatus versus cooking it in an open pit does two things: It shortens cooking time by trapping the heat, and it imparts greater flavor by trapping and circulating the smoke. The way smokers work today is pretty simple. The meat and heat source are separated, and wood is used to create smoke. In the case of wood-burning pits, wood also functions as the fuel. But generally, wood is added directly to the fuel or exposed to heat indirectly, causing it to smolder. Adjustable vents (and chimneys, depending on the design) provide a way to regulate temperature and smoke density, and they allow smoke to circulate and exit.

Barbecue: A Presidential Tradition

Lyndon B. Johnson was the first president to hold a barbecue at the White House. His meat of choice? Texas-style ribs. Others have followed in his footsteps since, including Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

The choice of protein is also important. In America’s early days, butchers and ranchers would save the large cuts of meat that were considered “less than choice” for themselves since they were difficult to sell. These cuts typically have a great deal of connective tissue and are tough and chewy when cooked using conventional methods. But early America’s enterprising entrepreneurs discovered that if the undesirable cuts cooked on low heat for a long period of time, the meat would eventually turn tender and moist. That lip-smacking consistency is created when the collagen turns into gelatin, creating a perfectly cooked beef brisket or pulled pork shoulder. While these cuts still define traditional barbecue today, there is also room for an expanded view of what you can smoke. These days meat choice isn’t just about transforming the humbler cuts of meat. It’s all about getting that delicious smoky flavor. You can smoke anything, chicken and fish included.

Part of the pleasure of barbecuing is that there is plenty of room for creativity. The technique is all about developing layers of flavor, and the first layer begins with the type of wood used to smoke the protein. Just about any type of hardwood can be used. Apple, cherry, and pear are a few popular fruitwoods, but non-fruitwood is also wonderful—hickory, oak, and cedar are solid choices. Some pitmasters like to mix and match the two types, and experimenting with different protein and wood pairings is part of the fun. Additional layers of flavor can be created through the use of dry rubs, wet rubs or pastes, brines, marinades, and finishing sauces, depending on which style of barbecue you want to make. All this will be covered in greater detail later on.

So, what are you waiting for? The big blue sky is calling, the breeze is just right, and there’s a six-pack of beer sitting in the fridge with your name on it. It’s time to go outside and make some barbecue.


Some tools and equipment, the essentials, should be on everyone’s shopping list. There are also fun toys for the barbecue master that aren’t absolutely necessary for basic barbecue but would be great to have.


Thermometers. Look for an instant-read thermometer that can withstand the heat of the smoker so you can insert it into the protein and leave it there. This way, you won’t have to keep poking at the meat to take temperature readings, letting juices leak out. You’ll also want to get an oven thermometer that you can place on the smoker grate to get a surface reading where the meat is cooking. Although this may seem unnecessary if your smoker has a built-in thermometer, a second reading will ensure that your meat cooks at the correct

Tongs. This versatile kitchen tool is great for everything from picking up proteins and moving them around to handling hot chunks of wood and charcoal. Choose sturdy, long-handled tongs that can close all the way. How long should the arms be? Choose a size you’re comfortable working with; just make sure that they’re long enough to isolate your hands from the heat of the grill. Avoid self-locking tongs; they may seem neat, but they’ll quickly become an annoyance.

Spatula. Choose a sturdy one with an insulated handle. A spatula is great for transferring smaller, delicate pieces of protein like fish fillets, and it can also be used together with tongs to move larger proteins.

Grill brush. You need one to clean the grates. Either purchase cheap ones frequently or buy pricier ones in the hope that they’ll last longer. Either way, check often to make sure bristles haven’t fallen out. They’re not fun to eat.

Timer. Get one so you don’t lose track of time and overcook your protein. Larger, fattier cuts tend to be more forgiving, but leaner, smaller cuts of fish and poultry require closer watch.

Cutting boards. Buy two: a nonporous one for raw meat that can be sanitized, and another one for slicing cooked meats.

Sharp knife. Any good chef’s knife in a comfortable size from a reputable brand like Henckels, Global, or Wüsthof will do.

Aluminum foil. This kitchen staple is handy for keeping meat warm after cooking. It’s also a must-have if you’re using the indirect method with a regular grill (see here, “Smoking on the Grill”), unless you have a smoker box.

Disposable aluminum pans. These make it easy to store and transport large cuts of protein after cooking. They can also double as drip pans that will circulate moisture and capture fat as it drips through the grates, if your smoker doesn’t have one or if you’re using a regular grill.

Small kitchen towel. A towel makes oiling up the grill a snap. Roll it up and lightly coat it with vegetable oil. Grab with a pair of tongs and swab the grates with it.

Large sealable plastic bags. Unless you’re doing a whole pork shoulder, these should serve most of your initial marinating needs.

Chimney starter. If you have a charcoal smoker, forget lighter fluid. Using this simple tool is the safest way to start a charcoal fire.

Barbecue lighter. These have longer necks, so they’re easier to use than regular lighters, especially when you’re starting a charcoal fire.

Fire extinguisher. You may need one to put out a fire.


When most people say they’re having a barbecue, they’re actually talking about grilling. True barbecue, however, involves smoking and is best done using a smoker, which separates the heat source from the food.
When you grill food, it’s placed directly over a heat source and cooked at temperatures 300°F or higher for a brief period. When you barbecue, you hot smoke food, usually between temperatures of 200°F and 250°F. Most importantly, the food is placed away from the heat source, ideally in a separate compartment.
Grilling is great for tender, well-marbled cuts of meat like rib steaks, hamburger patties, thin cuts of meat, and small cuts of fish. Smoking works best on cuts of pork and beef that require extended cooking time to break down connective tissue, like beef brisket, pork butt, and spare ribs. It can also be used on seafood and poultry, mainly as a flavoring agent.


Charcoal smokers come in various designs, but they all have a firebox (the chamber where the charcoal and wood go) that is separate from the cooking compartment


If you’re interested in smoking meat but not quite ready to invest in any new equipment, it’s still possible to enjoy real barbecue. Using your existing charcoal or gas grill, you can create an indirect heat source that allows you to smoke your protein.
On a charcoal grill, mound all of the charcoal off to one side in a single layer, light it, and let it burn down to embers. (Alternatively, you can mound the charcoal around the perimeter.) If you’re using a gas grill, it has to have at least two burners. Light one side and leave the other off. On a three-burner grill, light the burners on the outer edges. In any of these setups, place the protein over the unheated section.
To create the wood smoke, first soak hard-wood chips in water for at least half an hour, then wrap them in foil. Poke several holes in the foil for smoke to vent, and place the packet over the heat source on the grill. Close the lid to begin smoking.
There are two disadvantages to this method. First, since you cannot place the protein directly over the fuel source, there’s always going to be a portion of the cooking area you won’t be able to use. Second, some people believe that for thicker, larger cuts of meat (those requiring more than a couple of hours of smoking), the smoke flavor doesn’t penetrate very well to the center.




Popular Posts


Contact Form


Email *

Message *