A Variety of Cookers

A Smoking Primer

Jackson Ortega-Scheiner General Leave a Comment

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Using a Vertical Smoker
Vertical smokers have a heat source (usually charcoal, but gas and electric models are available) at the bottom, a water pan above the heat and usually two cooking grates. One of the more popular is the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker (about $250). Jim Minion, a champion barbecuer from Washington, developed a method to keep the smoker cooking for a long time without a lot of attention. On the BBQ circuit, it’s known as the “Minion method.” In a vertical smoker, fill the fire ring with charcoal. Fill a charcoal chimney about 1/3 full of charcoal and light. When the coals are ash-covered, pour the lit coals into the fire ring. Add a couple of fist-size chunks of your choice of wood for smoke. Leave the exhaust vent completely open and use the bottom vents to control the pit temperature. Using the Minion method, the smoker should keep cooking for about 12 hours without refueling, depending on ambient temperature and the wind.

Both kettle-style and vertical smokers can use a popular accessory, a power draft unit that controls the amount of air going onto the charcoal. The unit uses a fan to blow air into the charcoal chamber depending on whether or not the temperature is where the cook wants it to be. If the temperature at the cooking grate is below the target, the fan comes on; if it’s above, the fan stays off, effectively starving the fuel and reducing the temperature.
BBQ Guru
BBQ Guru
The Stoker
The Stoker
Another probe can be placed in the food to monitor the cooking. Two of the most popular units are the BBQ Guru Competitor and the Stoker. The BBQ Guru Competitor can only control one smoker while the Stoker can regulate up to four different smokers at the same time. Both units cost around $200.

Smoking with a Gas Grill
To smoke on a gas-fired grill, the grill must have at least two burners, ideally side-by-side, to allow for indirect cooking. Since most gas grills don’t have smoker trays for wood chips, either use a commercially-prepared tray such as Sam’s Smoker Pro or an aluminum foil pouch made from two sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil with some holes poked in it. For gas-smoking, use either soaked and drained wood chips or special smoking pellets like those from BBQr’s Delight.

Smoking with a Gas Grill
For gas grill smoking, preheat the grill with both burners on high for about 15 minutes. Carefully remove the cooking grate, place the smoking tray or foil packet over one of the burners and place a drip tray over the other burner. Turn off the burner under the drip tray and close the cover. Once smoke begins to come from the tray or foil packet, reduce the heat to medium or low depending on the burner’s output. Place the food over the drip pan, close the cover and smoke-cook until the food is cooked. As with a charcoal grill, the temperature should be maintained at 225 degrees F. and the wood chips or pellets should be replenished as needed.

Stovetop Smoking
Indoor smoking is not complicated but it does require a good exhaust fan to keep the smoke from permeating throughout the house. Several companies manufacture stovetop smokers, but one of the more well-liked models is sold by Camerons Professional Cookware. The company offers three smoker models, including one that can be heated by Sterno. They also offer a smoker tray for grills.
While the specialty units are convenient, indoor smoking can also be done by fabricating a smoker using a wok with a rack or steamer basket.

Wood Shavings
To use a stovetop smoker, place 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of wood shavings or pellets in the bottom of the smoker base. Put the drip tray and wire rack on top of the chips. Put the food on the rack and close the sliding cover almost, but not quite completely. Then place the smoker on a burner over medium heat. Once smoke starts to wisp from the smoker, close the smoker and start timing.

Fish can be smoke-cooked in about 25 minutes; chicken in about 30 minutes and vegetables in 8 to 18 minutes. The unit can also be used to smoke-cook larger items by fashioning a foil tent over the smoker and combining stovetop smoking with oven smoking for whole chicken, turkey or leg of lamb.

Smoker with Shavings

Where to Buy On-line:
Smoking pellets: bbqrsdelight.com
Stoker: rocksbarbque.com
BBQ Guru: thebbqguru.com
Weber grills and smoker: weber.com
Wood chips: barbecuewoods.com
Stovetop smoker: cameronscookware.com
Smoking tray: samssmoker.com
Remote thermometers: polderproducts.net
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