Summer and grilling just go together. How about this summer, you step up your grilling game and add some smoke to the mix? By lowering the temperature of the grill and adding some wood chunks to any charcoal grill, you can make your own homemade delicious smoked meats. It's actually very easy to do, it just takes some time. Low and slow is the name of the game!
The first step is buying all the tools you will need to upgrade your kettle grill. You will need a fire basket, a large foil pan for drippings, a chimney starter, four fire bricks, an oven thermometer, a meat thermometer, hardwood lump charcoal, some wood chips or chunks of a wood such as applewood, hickory, or oak, and plenty of foil. Once you have all these things, it's time to set up the grill!
The first thing you'll do is divide the grill in half, grill grate off, with two of the fire bricks. On one side of the bricks, place your fire basket. On the other side, cover the bottom with foil and place your foil pan half filled with water. Creating a humid environment is key to smoke flavor sticking to the meat. Put the grill grate back on, and stack two more fire bricks on top of the other two. Put your oven thermometer on the grate. The bottom vents should be open. Here is a photo of the configuration to reference.
Next, you'll light the grill. Fill your chimney starter with lump charcoal, and light from the bottom using paper or fire starter cubes. Once you see several glowing coals, pour all the charcoal into the fire basket and close the lid. The vents on the lid should be fully open and above the meat side. Wait for the grill to reach 275-300 degrees. Don't check too often or you will release all the heat!
Now it's time for the meat. Let's start first with a pork shoulder. Bring home a good quality pork shoulder and give it a thorough rub with your favorite seasoning blend. I mix together kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne. This is where you can get creative! Be sure to do this at least an hour before you are ready to put the meat on the grill. You want the meat to get to room temperature first for more even cooking. Remember when picking out your meat that it will take about an hour per pound to cook. So don't buy an eight pound shoulder if you don't have the time!
Once your grill hits that sweet spot of 275-300 degrees, it's time to start smoking! Put the meat on the grill, and add some wood. Now close your lid, grab a drink (usually it's coffee because I am starting this early in the morning!) and relax! Be sure to check the gril every 30-45 minutes to make sure the temperature isn't to high or low and to add more wood.
Fast forward to six hours later... your eight pound shoulder has formed a great "bark" and is ready for a foil wrap. Take it off and wrap the whole thing in foil, and put it back on the grill.
Let it continue to go for another 2-3 hours, depending on the temperature of the meat and how hot your grill has been running. Remember, 275 to 300 is ideal. The meat should be around 190-200 degrees at this point. Take the meat off, unwrap it, and let it rest for at least one hour before slicing or pulling it.
Knowing how much time and work goes into your smoked meats will make them taste that much better. It's a lot of work, but for me, it's actually relaxing and fun. I hope you enjoy some home smoked delicious smoked meats (perhaps smoked chicken salad) this summer!
Most of these products you need can be purchased at The Chopping Block at Lincoln Square, even Big Green Eggs! As for the fire bricks and wood, those can be purchased at any hardware or home improvement store.
For a hands-on lesson in smoking, don't miss our grilling class American BBQ: The Real Deal on Thursday, August 24 at Lincoln Square. You'll learn how to smoke ribs, pulled pork and brisket!