When I purchased my Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker smoker, I was out of my depth, so I asked my friend Doug Pepper to be my guide. Doug, who in his other life is chief executive officer of McClelland & Stewart, has been smoking food for years. He’s a master of the famed Minion method of barbecue cooking, which makes for exceptionally tasty results. He gave me a list of smoking tips before we even turned on the smoker. “Smoking is a long, slow process,” he said. “Keep the heat between 225 to 275 F and you will be sure of success.”
Smokers: There are many different ways of smoking. Bullet-shaped smokers like the Weber smokey mountain and the kamado-style, dome-shaped Big Green Egg are the choice of many professional smokers.
For those who don’t want to buy a smoker, charcoal barbecues are easily converted into smokers and even gas barbecues can be transformed with smoking packages.
Building the fire: Use charcoal not briquettes – the larger the chunks the better, as they burn longer. Vary your choice in smoking woods based on the type of dish you’re making. For example, alder and cherry are both good options for lighter foods and mesquite is best for a heavier smoke.
Place a chimney (available at most hardware stores) in the smoker base. Fill it halfway up with charcoal. Surround it with unlit charcoal. Light the charcoal in the chimney and as soon as it starts to turn evenly grey, pull off the chimney so that the coals will fall and light the ones beside them. You can also use crumpled paper on the base before adding the charcoal to ensure a quick light. No chimney: Use fire lighters.
Don’t soak your wood chips, you get more smoke from them unsoaked. About four ounces is perfect for most smoking. Don’t use too much as you will over-smoke. Peek as little as possible; it reduces the temperature. Keep the lid closed at all times.
Temperature control: Leave the top vent open to draw in air. Turn the bottom vents nearly closed to maintain temperature. An open vent will generate more heat and a closed one will keep the steady temperature. Ours were three-quarters closed during the whole process. If the temperature falls below 200 F, then add more charcoal.
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