Smoking Meat Primary Lesson: Barbecue for Beginners

barbecue for beginners

It is said that if you are able to smoke a rib slab, you might not find it very difficult to cook an entire hog. If you are someone who is just beginning with BBQ, this post is certainly for you. We’ll provide you all the knowledge you need as a beginner to make sure that your journey as a smoker will be hassle-free and rewarding. After going through this post, you will be able to smoke almost anything right in your backyard. So, let us begin!

The Preparation

Step 1: Low and Slow Throughout the Day

You might have heard it a hundred times that barbecuing is something that requires immense patience. You should wait and enjoy the entire cooking process. This is also the first thing you should know about barbecue. You will be required to spend an entire day to get the desired results. So no shortcuts, no tweaks!

Step 2: Right Ribs

Many people believe that best cuts are the baby back ribs. But the reality is that they are tasteless and are not tender than the spare ribs. Moreover, spare ribs have a lot more flavor in reality. Thus, our recommendation is to use spare ribs rather than baby back ribs. You can begin with 3-4 pounds of spare ribs.

Step 3: Right Wood

Hickory chunks are excellent as they easily smolder and the chances of them flaring up are very rare as compared to wood chips. However, if you are unable to get these chunks, chips that have been properly soaked for at least one hour will get the job done. Some other great options include cherry, apple, hickory and oak. Mesquite is not generally recommended, as it has a very strong flavor. Also, do not use pine as it is slightly toxic and can completely ruin the food.


Step 4: Start the Coals

One of the most important things you should remember as a beginner is to never use lighter fluids. Also, avoid using any charcoal that has been lit with the help of lighter fluids. Lump charcoal or good-quality briquettes are recommended for this purpose. Another important thing is to keep yourself loaded with a batch of lit coals to ensure that you will be able to easily maintain the temperature. Avoid pouring raw coals directly into the smoker or grill. An ideal solution is to have an additional grill or chimney full of lit coals to make sure that you have an easy access to them whenever required.

Step 5: Importance of Rubbing

While some people are fan of brine, we are not. In fact, rubbing is better. But if you do not want rub, you can also use black pepper and kosher salt. There is a possibility that you will make the ribs way too salty if you use brine. So, it is better to avoid it. If you allow the meat to cook slowly, the collagen in the meat will do the job. It will break and get transformed into gelatin for creating that silky texture you want. Once you are done with the rubbing task, it’s time to check out the second part of this post.


The Smoke

Step 1: Understand the Anatomy

If you do not own a smoker, an ideal alternative is to use a charcoal grill. The major difference is you will be able to place a single slab of ribs instead of two. First open the bottom damper of the grill and add lit coals on the top. Make sure that all the lit coals are on a single side. Continue adding coals until the temperature reaches 250 degrees, the maximum temperature that your smoker or grill should get. If you do not own a temperature gun, you can buy a cheap laser heat gun for monitoring the temperature. When done, add wood over the coal.

Step 2: Maintain the Temperature

Once your grill reaches 250 degrees, replace your grate and lay the slabs of ribs on the side that is opposite to the coals. Then put down the lid. Ensure that the open damper of the lid is exactly over the meat; otherwise, the heat and oxygen will escape. That’s it, the smoking has begun!

The reason why you need to start at 250 degrees is because as soon as you will place the rib slabs in the grill, the temperature will fall. This happens because the rib slabs will absorb the heat and you’ll have a temperature that is around 220 degrees. Make sure you maintain this 220 degrees temperature throughout the process.

Step 3: Do Not Touch

Once smoking has begun, there is no need to open the lid to take a look inside. You are not cooking the meat directly over the fire, but using an indirect heating method. Opening the lid will only allow the valuable heat and oxygen to escape, and this will drop the temperature. However, if you are using a grill, you will be required to open the lid for adding coals. Make sure that you use oven mitts while doing so.

Step 4: After 4 Hours

When you’ve smoked for about 4 hours, it’s time to open the lid. Wear oven mitts and lay your hands flat. Now, place a slab of ribs on the mitt. If the ends of the ribs bounce as you move your hands on it, then it certainly needs more cooking for about an hour or so. If it starts to fall apart as you are holding it, then you have overcooked it which is not a big deal if you are beginner. The ideal rib should have a bit of limp which will not break down soon. The outcome of smoking is to get that perfect silky texture on the meat which is a result of breaking down of the collagen. Its the jiggle of the meat that will tell you whether or not the collagen has done its job.

Step 5: Finish

When they are ready, don’t just serve them dry. Glaze the ribs with barbecue sauce. After glazing, you can set the ribs on the grill’s direct heat or after saucing them, smoke them again for about 15-20 minutes. Now you will surely be done!


We hope this barbecue for beginners guide made the process simpler for you. Remember each of the steps mentioned above to be a master barbecue chef in no time.

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