Guide to Smoking Food on a Charcoal Grill

Sausages on a smoking grill

Add a Smoky Flavor to Your Food

Traditional barbecuing involves cooking your meat or food through the technique of smoking. It is usually a slow process where the meat is cooked at low temperatures, over burning coals to add and create that smoky goodness.

Charcoal grills can be used as a smoker and it’s easier than you think, especially if you’re used to and are comfortable grilling with indirect heat.

Smoking is a unique style of barbecuing. It’s an indirect way of cooking and will usually take hours to do because it is always done over low temperatures for that perfect smoked taste.

Whether you’re a professional smoker, or just want to try it first hand, it’s a technique which anyone can master. However, there are certain steps you should follow when it comes to turning your charcoal grill into a smoker.

Prepare the Coals for SmokingGrill ready for cooking

Start off by filling a chimney starter about one-third of the way full with briquettes. When the briquettes are fully lit, proceed to pour all of the charcoal on the one side of the cooking grate and place a large foil pan on the opposite side.

You can also use a charcoal basket for this if you’re more comfortable using those. All the baskets will do is hold the coals closer together so that they burn more slowly.

Once you’ve decided, carefully add around 2 to 3 cups of water to the foil pan. This is important because the water in the pan helps it maintain a low cooking temperature. The water is a critical point when it comes to smoking and cannot be forgotten.

The pan creates a hot, moist environment which smoking your food requires. It will add more moisture to the food which in most cases will take hours to cook. It also helps stabilize temperatures inside the grill to avoid any fluctuations.

Wait 30 minutes to an hour for the coals to burn to the right temperature and let the water heat up.

Add Flavor to Your FoodPile of Wood chips for burning

Once the proper temperature has been achieved, drop damp wood chips or chunks of dry wood directly onto the coals. Hardwood smoke will give your barbecue that extra smoky flavor you’ve been waiting for.

Different wood will provide different flavors for your meat. Mesquite, hickory, and oak will give your meat like beef and pork a bold flavor. Whereas cherry, apple, and other fruity wood will give a more mild taste and is recommended when smoking meat such as chicken and pork.

Place your food on the cooking grate over the top of the pan full of water and cover your grill. Consistent temperature is the key to smoking, and you will need to add more coals to maintain the heat every hour so make sure to set a timer.

A simple way to track your temperature is a meat thermometer. Just place it in the top vent of your grill.

Maintain the Perfect Temperature for Smoking

The perfect temperature range for smoking meat is 225 degrees Fahrenheit to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature rises above the 250 degrees, then close the vents. This will reduce the amount of oxygen which will reduce the heat. If you need to heat it up however then you’ll need to open the vents to allow more oxygen.

One of the hardest things to do is wait. We understand this struggle, especially when you’re smoking meat because it’s always guaranteed to smell amazing.

However, you need to resist the temptation to peek at your meat. When you open the lid, you risk wild temperature swings or your coals burning out too quickly. Only lift the lid when you need to check the inside temperature of the meat or to add more coals.

If you’ve never experienced the amazing flavour of smoked meat then you’re in for a treat. Smoking your meat is a true game changer and you’ll want to do it for every meal in no time. Thankfully almost everything tastes good smoked.


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