With Memorial Day approaching, grill masters are getting ready to smoke. That is, they’re using wood to flavor food in smokers and grills. You don’t need a water or offset smoker to add hickory, apple or mesquite flavor to meats and vegetables. A charcoal or gas grill will do the job just fine.
With Memorial Day approaching, grill masters are getting ready to smoke. That is, they’re using wood to flavor food in smokers and grills.
“Smoke cooking is really the oldest, most primitive form of cooking. It’s nothing more than cooking with wood. In it’s simplest form, it’s adding wood chips to a grill,” said Jamie Purviance, author of “Weber’s Smoke” (Oxmoor House, 2012, $21.95).
You don’t need a water or offset smoker to add hickory, apple or mesquite flavor to meats and vegetables. A charcoal or gas grill will do the job just fine.
“With gas grills, it helps to have a smoker box,” said Purviance, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, James Beard Award nominee, food writer and frequent guest on TV show grilling segments.
If your grill lacks a built-in smoker box, don’t worry. You can buy a stainless steel smoker box that sits on top of the cooking grate. Or you can go the DIY route and use a foil pan. Put soaked and drained wood chips into the pan, cover with aluminum foil, poke holes in the foil to let smoke escape and place the pan directly on the bars over an unlit burner or two.
If you use wood chips, soak them in water for 30 minutes before using so they don’t catch fire and raise the temperature of the grill. Also available are wood chunks, planks and papers. Planks are boards that hold the food being smoked. Papers are thin pieces of wood that are wrapped around food.
“If you’re using a gas grill with a smoker box, make sure you see smoke before you put the food on. Get the grill as hot as it can go and when you see smoke, lower the temperature to the food temperature. Then put the food on and keep the lid on,” said Purviance.
At home near Sacramento, Calif., the professional griller uses a kettle charcoal grill, a gas grill with a built-in smoker box and a water smoker.
“I use the smoker for long-cooking recipes. I use it with pork shoulder for pulled pork or brisket or bacon or beef jerky where you need a low temperature for several hours,” Purviance said.
For more flavor and tenderness, foods can be brined, marinated, covered with a spice rub or sauced.
“Potentially, you may have flavors that clash or muddy up one another,” he said. “The most common mistake is to overdo it with either the smoke or the sauce. Smoke food for half the cooking time. Don’t overdo it.”
Recipes are from “Weber’s Smoke.”
Slow-Smoked Mesquite Brisket
Ideal grill: smoker
Smoke intensity: strong
1 whole, untrimmed beef brisket, including both the flat and point sections, 10 to 12 pounds, preferably the Certified Angus Beef brand
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/3 cup yellow mustard
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground allspice
8 fist-sized mesquite wood chunks
The night before you smoke the brisket, trim it. Using a very sharp knife on the fat side, trim the fat so that it is about ?1/3-inch thick, but no less. On the meatier side, remove the web-like membrane that covers the meat, so that you can clearly see (and eventually season) the coarsely grained meat underneath.
Then, using a food syringe, inject the meat with the beef broth: With the fat side facing down in an extra-large foil roasting pan, imagine the brisket in 1-inch squares and inject each square with some of the broth, inserting the needle parallel to the grain of the meat and slowly pulling the needle out as you inject the broth. Some broth will seep out, but try to keep as much as possible inside the meat. Then smear the mustard over both sides of the brisket.
In a small bowl mix the rub ingredients. Massage the rub all over the brisket, creating a paste with the mustard and broth. Turn the brisket so that the fat side is facing up. Cover the pan and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. Remove the brisket from the refrigerator and let stand in the pan at room temperature for 1 hour before smoking.
Prepare the smoker for indirect cooking with very low heat (200 to 250 degrees).
Add two wood chunks to the charcoal. Smoke the brisket in the pan over indirect very low heat, with the lid closed, for 4 hours, adjusting the vents so the temperature inside the smoker stays as close to 225 degrees as possible. At the start of the second, third, and fourth hours, add two more wood chunks to the charcoal and baste the brisket with any liquid that accumulates in the pan.
After 4 hours, use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat. If it has not reached 160 degrees, continue cooking until it does. If it has reached 160, remove the brisket in the pan from the smoker. Put the lid back on the smoker to prevent heat loss. Add more lit briquettes and refill the water pan to maintain the 225 degree temperature.
On a large work surface, lay out three sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, each about 3 feet long, overlapping the sheets slightly along their longer sides. Place the brisket in the center of the foil, fat side up. Pour ½ cup of the liquid in the pan over the meat, and fold up the edges to wrap the brisket tightly to trap the steam. At this point you can discard the remaining liquid that has accumulated in the pan, though some people like to save it for adding to their barbecue sauce.
Return the brisket to the pan, fat side facing up, and return the pan to the smoker. Cook over indirect very low heat, with the lid closed, until the meat is so tender that when you insert the probe of an instant-read thermometer and push it back and forth, it easily tears the meat, at least 3 hours and as long as 5 hours.
The internal temperature should be 190 to 195 degrees, though tenderness is a more important indicator of doneness than the temperature. The amount of time required will depend on the particular breed and other characteristics of the meat. Remove from the smoker and let the brisket rest at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
Unwrap the brisket and cut across the grain into thin slices. Serve warm with your favorite barbecue sauce and side dishes.
Makes 12 to 15 servings.
Ideal grill: gas
Smoke intensity: moderate
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 whole chicken legs, each 10 to 12 ounces, cut into thighs and drumsticks
1 cup ketchup
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
2 large handfuls hickory wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
In a small bowl mix the rub ingredients. Season the chicken thighs and drumsticks all over with the rub.
Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium heat (350 to 450 degrees).
In a medium saucepan combine the sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Brush the cooking grates clean. Cook the chicken, skin side down first, over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until golden brown, 6 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Move the chicken over indirect medium heat.
Drain and add the wood chips to the smoker box of a gas grill, following manufacturer’s instructions. Close the lid and continue cooking until the juices run clear and the meat is opaque all the way to the bone, about 35 minutes, basting with the sauce and turning several times during the last 20 minutes of cooking time. Remove from the grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with any remaining sauce on the side.
Makes 4 servings.
Kathryn Rem can be reached at 788-1520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What kind of wood?
Wood smoke can be mild, moderate or strong. Match the intensity of the smoke to the intensity of the food, and match the flavor of the wood to the flavor of the food. Here’s a guide. Note: Some soft woods, such as pine, can create bitter smoke. Make sure the woods you use haven’t been treated with chemicals.
--Apple wood: Mild, sweet, fruity flavor. Pair with beef, poultry, game birds, ham.
--Cherry wood: Mild, slightly sweet, fruity flavor. Pair with poultry, game birds, pork.
--Hickory wood: Moderate, smoky, bacon-like flavor. Pair with pork, poultry, beef, wild game, cheese.
--Maple wood: Moderate, mildly smoky, somewhat sweet flavor. Pair with poultry, vegetables, ham.
--Oak wood: Moderate, assertive, sometimes acidic, blends well with sweeter woods. Pair with brisket, poultry, pork.
--Mesquite: Strong, bold flavor bordering on bitter. Pair with beef or lamb.
--Source: “Weber’s Smoke”