During the smoking process meat will start to lose moisture the longer the product is on the smoker. One way to help keep the moisture in the meat is to wrap your product in foil or butcher paper for the final few hours of smoking. This helps keep the moisture from escaping, will protect the meat from getting too much smoke, and keeps that great bark you’ve created from burning.
Any wood that bears a fruit or a nut is good to cook with. Pecan wood, mesquite wood, and hickory are top favorites.
Apple wood has a mild, sweet, fruity flavor. Use this wood for smoking poultry, beef, pork (especially ham), game birds, lamb, and some seafood. Because of it’s light character, it will take more time to get the flavor you want.
Cherry wood has a sweet, mild, fruity flavor that is a good match for all meats. And it’s one of the most popular woods for smoking. It makes great smoke rings and can be used in combination with other woods to produce more complex flavors.
Hickory smoking wood creates a sweet, yet strong flavor much like bacon. The smoke can be pungent, but it adds a nice, strong flavor to just about all cuts of meat. However, it’s especially popular with pork and ribs.
Mesquite wood has a strong and earthy flavor that is ideal for most red and dark meats. Mesquite burns hot and fast and easily complements the flavor of many meats.
The bark of your barbecue can be rich and sweet, chewy and crusty. In fact, it’s one of the things that makes the meat great. The chemical reactions that take place between the compounds found in your smoke, the fat, and the rub, make for a nice dark bark on the outside of your meat. To get great smoke for the cook, wait until the smoke turns from a thick white smoke to a pale smoke.
When you’re smoking larger cuts of meat it’s always a good idea to let your product rest after pulling it off the smoker. This will help reabsorb the moisture back into the meat, and allows some time for the product to come down a few degrees to aid in slicing. A good rule of thumb is to wait about an hour on pork and brisket before slicing, and you can always hold the meat in a dry cooler to help maintain a good internal temperature.
Oklahoma Joe’s smokers are constructed of high carbon steel and need to be seasoned—much like a cast-iron skillet. Spray a light coat of vegetable oil, Pam®, or peanut oil on the inside of the smoker’s horizontal cooking chamber. Then, burn a very low smoldering fire in the firebox using wood logs or wood chunks for a few hours. The inside of your cooking chamber will begin to have a shiny black coating on the inside, indicating your smoker is well seasoned. Now you’re ready to start smoking!
Be sure to build a big enough fire. Start with 10 lbs. of charcoal and add small logs or wood chunks once the charcoal has begun to ash over. You will need to add additional charcoal and wood to the fire box approximately every two hours.
The biggest mistake most outdoor cookers make is cooking too cool. If the meat you are cooking is tender before you start cooking you will want to cook it as fast as possible to sear the outside and retain moisture. Tougher cuts of meat like Brisket and Pork Shoulder need longer cook time and lower cooking temperature (250º to 275º).
As if there isn’t enough to do when smoking your favorite cut of meat, it pays to take a few notes of your process so you can go back and remember what you did. It can take 12+ hours sometimes when smoking low and slow, and you don’t want to forget your steps so you can repeat your process in the future. Remembering the good steps, and the bad ones, can help you improve your chances for recreating that great product and making your BBQ the most coveted of the neighborhood.
Smoking is both an art, and a science. It’s not something you’re going to master the first time out and takes a lot of practice to get a great consistent product. Whatever you do, don’t give up if something doesn’t turn out like you thought it would - practice makes perfect. So stick with it, make small changes for your next cook, and enjoy the process of smoking.
It’s important to have full control over the heat and smoke that moves through the cooking chamber in order to maintain a temperature between 200º and 250º. Your offset firebox is essential for being able to control the temperature without opening the cooking chamber as often. Smoking for long durations of time requires continuous attention. If the heat is too high, you risk over-cooking your meat and losing the flavor that comes with slow rendering of the fats. If you cook too cool, you may not render the fat enough. Utilizing indirect heat and smoke from a wood based fire will truly give your guests something to rave about.
Dry Rubs eliminate the time it takes to marinade meats. They infuse a desirable and powerful flavor immediately, so you can start cooking when you’re ready. Remember that the four key ingredients to great barbecue are (1) starting with the best cut of meat possible, (2) a good balanced dry rub, (3) the perfect time and (4) the perfect cooking temperature.
Rubs add flavor to your meat before and during cooking. To use, these blended spices are rubbed into the surface of the meat.
Marinades tenderize and add flavor to your favorite cut of meat. They are used prior to cooking either by injecting with a marinade injector, or by basting in a bag or shallow pan.
Sauces are the final step in the flavoring process, and are applied to the meat in the last few minutes of cooking, or after the cooking is complete. Use care when cooking with sauces containing tomato or sugar, as they can burn quickly and ruin an otherwise wonderful piece of meat. A safer way is to warm a pot of sauce on the warming plate of your smoker for use at the table.