Water, smoke & fire together
You might not think, or even believe, water, smoke and heat or fire work very well together. Well, you would be wrong. Actually they are very synergetic.
The use of water in your smoker is primarily used in longer term cooking situations where the meat will be in the smoker for hours…not minutes.
The water provides 3 primary functions in your smoker:
Adds moisture, through water vapor, to the cooking chamber as it begins to heat up (assuming you are not actually boiling the water which would be steam). This moisture prevents the meat from drying out in the dry, hot heat of the fire alone.
This moisture, or water vapor, picks up small partials of smoke while traveling in and around the inside of your smoker. When this water vapor touches the meat inside the smoker, it imparts a little moisture to the meat as well as adds the smoke that it picked up on the way from the water pan to the meat, thus adding additional smoke flavours to the meat.
Thirdly, the water tends to act as a ballast on the temperature if properly set up. Say your fire is fairly well contained below the water pan and not much additional heat can get around it. Water can only go to 212°F and thus your cooking chamber will not climb much higher. Sure there could be some radiant heat, but the water acts as a limit on how hot the smoker will reach.
How hot is hot?
Want to determine the temperature of the fire in your barbecue pit or grill and don’t have a thermometer around? There is a general way to test the approximate temperature of the fire using your hands. Yep, your hands.
Ok, we don’t want to stick our hands in the fire, but they are useful in determining the temperature. First of all, let’s determine the temperature ranges we are talking about:
Hot fire – Over 400°
Medium-hot fire – About 375° to 400°
Medium fire – About 375° to 375°
Low fire – About 300° to 350°
Ok, not all folks have the same tolerance to pain as others. So, that is why we are using the “About” language. When testing the temperatures, you will need to hold your open palm at the cooking level of your grates (you might move the grates to another location to perform this procedure).
Hot fire – You will only be able to hold the palm of your hand over the fire for about 2 seconds.
Medium-hot fire – You should be able to hold the palm of your hand over the fire for about 3 seconds.
Medium fire – You should be able to hold the palm of your hand over the fire for about 4 seconds.
Low fire – You should be able to hold the palm of your hand over the fire for about 5 seconds.
So, if you can count up to 5 and can stand the heat….you should have a fairly good idea of the temperature of your fire.
Most sauces contain sugars and/or tomatoes products
Our dads were often not all that sophisticated when it came to outdoor cooking. They would take the meat that their wives had purchased at the butcher shop/grocery store and throw it on the grill without seasoning it very much. That was followed in short order with a thick coat of barbecue sauce.
We’ve all cooked something on the stove with a sugar base and found we had a black mess when we turned our heads for just a second. Sugar moves real quickly from done to caramelised to burned.
The same is true for tomatoes. They burn easily and then you have a mess.
What is the remedy? Simple. For the flavour, season with some dry rubs that don’t contain sugar in the mix (remember, sugar burns). Look at your labels and verify there is no sugar added. Then, after the meat has been cooked or almost cooked, move it to a cooler spot on the grill, add the sauce, and then allow it to finish cooking when it is not directly over the heat/fire.
Don’t over sauce or you won’t taste the meat!
Learn how sugars will affect your results
Sugars: White sugar, brown sugar, honey, syrups, jellies and many more. Sugars have a very low burning point and cooking over an open fire simply spells trouble for sugars. Some people will use sugar very sparingly with their dry rubs when barbecuing – not over direct heat – to help caramelise the outer crust of the meat for appearance. It is not enough to give it a burned taste. If you really love some sweetness with the meat, use your sugars to make a glaze and add that AFTER you have removed the meat from the grill. All the wonderful flavours will be present without the burned taste.
A barbecue, or BBQ, is the best way to enjoy meals – especially during the holidays when the kids and adults are all gathering for some fun. Usually, summer would be the best time of year to have a barbecue. Imagine a nice sunny day with barbecue grills, charcoal and a lot of fresh seafood or steak to be cooked. Don’t forget those chicken wings, as no one can resist a juicy chicken wing on a summer holiday.
Now, as much as we love barbecues, unfortunately there are certain things you need to avoid in order that you can enjoy a nice barbecue. These are like the ‘rules’ of a barbecue, but actually it helps to enhance the whole barbecue experience and helps to avoid little mistakes whilst barbecuing. It seems easy to organise a barbecue but without the knowledge, you won’t be able to have a successful one.
First of all, you need to realise that the barbecue is going to take some time. For instance, when you grill the meat on the barbecue, it can take about an hour to be totally cooked (depending on the type of BBQ you’re using) so it is best to be patient and have a lot of time to spare when you have a barbecue. Usually a barbecue will take the whole day, so if you are going to invite families and friends, be sure you pick the right day.
Secondly, I know that it is tempting to open up the lid and check on the food, but opening the lid too often will cause the food to cook even slower. This is because as you open the lid, the heat is released and the temperature will drop. So, be sure to keep the lid closed for a long time before you check on the food. Besides, the food isn’t going anywhere, so only check it once in a while to turn the food over.
When you are lighting the charcoal for your barbecue, be sure not to use lighter fluid to start the fire. The fluid is going to impart an awful smell and taste to your food. If you need to start a fire using lighter fluid, then allow the charcoal to burn for at least 30 minutes to eliminate the fluid’s odour. After that, you can lay your food on the grill.
For best results, always go for seasoned wood. A mix of green wood and seasoned wood is acceptable, especially if you know how to control the fire to make sure that the meat doesn’t taste bitter. Otherwise, just stick to the seasoned wood and go from there. You wouldn’t want to ruin the meat in a nice barbecue would you?
Don’t invite guests for your barbecue session when you’ve just lit your smoker or griller for the first time. Test the smoker to see how things work, and to familiarise yourself with your new smoker. This is best to avoid embarrassment, should there be any mistakes or if the smoker if not functioning properly. If you follow these rules, you are going to have a fantastic time barbecuing!