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How to Smoke Meat

Bacon wrapped chicken cooking on charcoal grill

Memorial Day in our company is always bittersweet. The majority of our team members are veterans, married to military, or close family of military. Remembering the loss of our compatriots is always a sorrowful time. The gratefulness we have for our fallen brothers and sisters reminds us to celebrate the freedom and life they’ve given us while remembering to cherish the people we have around us, including the families of those that have fallen.

I suppose that’s where the tradition of Memorial Day barbecues started. What better way to share quality time and appreciation with those you love while spending hours in the sun, by a body of water, and grilling American cuisine.

For this year’s Memorial Day blog, we’ll help you maximize your grill game by introducing the art of smoke to your meats. You can thank us later 😉

What you Need to Know

Smoking is quite a bit different than typical grilling because you’re introducing indirect heat instead of direct heat. It’s quite a simple process once you get a handle on it. Keeping consistent, low heat over time is the best way to make this work. Here is what you need to know:

  • Wood chips – these will need to be moist as a high moisture content is what promotes the kind of smoke you need in your grill
  • Shy away from smoking with a propane grill. If possible, try using cowboy charcoal or real hardwood for your grill’s fuel
  • You don’t need a full smoker to make this work. If you pick up a cheap smoke box at Walmart, it’ll work just fine (and it’s our preferred method)
  • Always take your time with smoking meats. If things are getting hot and heavy in the grill, you will need to vent it to control the amount of heat you’re putting toward the meat. Ideal smoking temperature is between 225-240F.

Prep the Wood Chips

The first thing you need to do is soak your wood chips in preparation for smoking. I alternate between different varieties of chips to change how my food tastes and what type of meat I am cooking. If you’re unsure of what type of wood chips to use for smoking, I would suggest starting with oak or a similar wood. The burn on oak chips are fairly consistent and the flavoring on the smoke is pretty mild.

Take a bowl and fill it with water. Next, take a handful or two of chips and place them in the water, allowing them to soak for as long as possible. Generally you’ll want them to soak for a minimum of 20 minutes, but try to maximize this time to 4 hours if possible. I like to get those bad boys soaking in the morning for an afternoon grill session.

Light the Grill

Next, if you’re using a normal charcoal grill to do your smoking, you’re going to need to get your wood or charcoal started. I tend to use a charcoal chimney starter for this as it lights easily and heats up quickly.

Prep your charcoal grill

While the charcoal is heating up, prep your charcoal grill next. Take the lid off of your smoke box and place it on the side of your charcoal grill, offset from the side your meat will be on. If you plan on using the left side of the grill to cook, place the box on the right and keep your heat on that side. This will minimize direct heat to the meat. Often, I will use the smoker box on my grill to house this heat and smoke. This keeps the heat from becoming too intense on the meat.

Smoking

Once your box is in the grill, surround that box with unlit charcoal and wood. This will give your hot charcoal something to spread to and will get your temperature up to the level you desire with very little effort. When the charcoal in the chimney is a good piping red, grab your wet chips from inside, drain out the water, and fill the smoke box with them. Put on the lid and dump the hot charcoal over top. Open the vents in your grill to allow airflow and wait for your grill to come up to temperature. When it reaches 225-240F, put your meat on the grill, place the cover back on, and closely monitor the temperature.

Seal in the flavor

I prefer my meat a nice medium rare. Many people will momentarily place their meat on the hot side of the grill to seal in flavor and keep the juices inside before moving over to smoke. It’s totally up to you. Just be sure to get the meat up to temp and you’ll be alright.

The Marinade

A good steak never needs a marinade. But if you’re up for trying a little something, I suggest our world famous whiskey marinade (when I say world, I don’t really mean it. But it IS that good.). Place some olive oil, Irish whiskey, and seasoning of your choice in a ziplock bag. Place your meat inside the ziplock, squeeze out the air, and let it sit overnight.

The alcohol in the whiskey breaks down the tough muscle fibers and pairs REALLY well against smoke. Be sure not to overly season. If you’re looking for a good rub to put in with the rest of the juice, this is one of our faves and it is very simple.

Summary

That’s it gents and ladies! You have learned how to smoke meat. Your smoked meat will be juicy, cooked well, and have your family coming back every weekend to replicate. Be sure to experiment with different wood chips, adding cowboy lump charcoal and real pieces of wood to try and perfect your game. In the meantime, experiment with the grill this Memorial Day and take a moment to remember the sacrifice your fellow Americans made on your behalf for the freedom you enjoy.

In the meantime, check out our other posts here and pickup a new project to do together this weekend as a family.