If your grill or smoker has retreated from your use, this is the guide to get you started again.
Meats and Cuts
If you're either cooking low and slow, or hot and fast, you'll want to pick a cut that's got a good amount of marbling. Good chicken cuts include: Whole leg quarters, thighs, drumsticks, wings, and whole butterflied chickens. Breasts can be dry and flavorless. Nice beef cuts: Tender steaks, flank, inside skirt, and briskets. Pork isn't that lucky though. See, before the fitness craze came, pigs were fat. In fact, the average pig had more fat than 50 chicken leg quarters. I actually got to taste that meat before it was gone. But, people crazy about fitness turned from pigs to poultry. Undaunted, pig breeders made the once juicy hog dry. Anyways, cuts that have the right stuff include Boston butts, ribs, and chops.
The type of barbecue cooking that you choose for a cut matters almost as much as the cut you pick. Cuts that like a long cook time in the smoker are Boston butts, ribs, beef brisket, chicken thighs and legs, wings, and whole chickens. Try to do a long smoke time with things like filet mignons, and you'll get something extremely mushy, like cat food. Cuts that like it hot and fast are: Pork chops, chicken breasts, steaks like ribeyes and strips, ahi tuna, fish, and shrimp.
Some recipes that use a smoker:
Think all smoking woods are the same? Wrong! Each wood has its own flavor and character. However, if you use softwoods like cedar, pine, and spruce, you'll get toxic tars, resins, and creosote, which can kill! That's why you'll want to use hardwoods. I have a chart concerning flavor of smoke.
- Alder: Classic European smoking wood, doesn't overtake, complements meats with mild flavor and seafood such as trout.
- Applewood: Adds a cider-like flavor to meats and fish. Nicely complements items with honey, or meats such as chicken, pork, and lamb.
- Cherry: Fruity, tad bitter smoke that complements pork.
- Hickory: Classic American wood. Adds a sharp, woodsy flavor. Complements pork, chicken, seafood, and shrimp.
- Maple: Sweet maple syrup flavor. Complements almost everything.
- Mesquite: Gives a spicy Southwestern flair to beef. However, mesquite can overtake mild flavored meats like pork and chicken.
- Oak: Hot and slow burning wood, as a medium to heavy flavor without overpowering. Generally used for lamb and beef.
- Peachwood: Sweet fruity flavor. Complements pork, chicken, salmon, trout, and shrimp.
I hope we've inspired you to take your grill or smoker out of the shadows and fire it up.
Like the way that last line was written? I borrowed that from Good Eats.