Top 14 Tips for Better Barbecue at Home
Everyone loves barbecue. After all, who can resist that tender, smoky flavored meat that falls off the bone? Unfortunately, few people manage to replicate all the best offerings of their favorite barbecue restaurant in their own backyard. With these tips and a quality smoker, you can finally and forever have better barbecue at home.
1. Buy a Quality Smoker
Standard charcoal grills can help cook some decent ribs. However, if you want truly tender meat, with that distinctive smoky flavor, you’ll need a good smoker. As with everything, when it comes to smokers, you get what you pay for. So, it’s worth it to invest in a well-built smoker. The key to good barbecue is consistent temperature and for that, you need to know how to insulate a smoker. Thick steel traditional offset smokers are better at maintaining heat, giving you the right temperature to have better barbecue at home.
2. Know Your Smoker
Even the best smokers have hot and cold spots. To determine where these are on your smoker, wait for it to get hot and then check the temperature from various spots on the grate. Cooking at a higher temperature provides better results, so place your meat in the hottest parts of your smoker.
3. Learn What Better Barbecue at Home is
The best way to make sure you enjoy better barbecue at home is to know what the best barbecue tastes like. Becoming familiar with the tender meat and distinctive flavor of great barbecue is the best way to ensure that you’re feeding your guests authentic delicious barbecue instead of something that replicates shoe leather. Check out local restaurants and even enter or volunteer to judge barbecue contests, so you can become a barbecue connoisseur.
4. Don’t Use Fridge Cold Meat
One of the worst things you can do to negatively affect the taste of your barbecue is to use meat directly from the refrigerator or the freezer. Never put cold or frozen meat directly into the smoker.
5. Let Your Meat Adjust to the Room Temperature Before Cooking
Always thaw the meat before cooking. By allowing the meat to reach room temperature, you will ensure the best flavor and most tender texture. However, once meat reaches room temperature, be sure to cook it right away. Letting meat sit out at room temperature for too long increases the risk of contamination and bacteria.
6. Measure Temperature at the Grate for Better Barbecue at Home
Once again, maintaining the proper temperature is one of the most important things you can do to make sure you have tender, tasty barbecue. In order to do this, you must check the temperature of your barbecue. Many people make the mistake of placing a thermometer at the lid of the smoker to measure the temperature. For the best results, use a digital thermometer that comes with dual probe and measure the temperature of the cooking chamber at the grate.
7. Fix the Rubbery Chicken Skin Problem
Cooking chicken in a smoker will infuse it with flavor and make it tender, but the skin will be rubbery, unless you take an extra step. Prepare a grill with a hot coal bed and cook the chicken for five minutes at high heat. This will brown the chicken and make the skin crispy. With all the flavor inside, and the crunch of the skin outside, you will have amazing barbecue chicken.
8. Keep Your Lid Shut
“If you’re looking, you’re not cooking,” is a popular rule of thumb with chefs. This is particularly true when it comes to barbecue. In order to have great barbecue, you need to maintain a consistent temperature. Every time you open the lid of your smoker, you cause the temperature to fluctuate, reducing your chances of getting the results you want. So, never open your smoker out of curiosity. Keep the lid on your smoker for the best barbecue at home.
9. Use a Water Pan
You can regulate the heat and humidity in the smoking chamber by using a water pan. This ensures a moist environment, which results in tender meat. For additional flavor and tenderness, you can mix beer and water in the pan.
10. Indirect Heat
In order to properly barbecue, the smoker must be set up so that the meat can cook in indirect heat. Whatever type of grill you use, whether charcoal or gas, Weber, or another brand, the heat source should be contained to one side of the grill, while the meat is placed on the other side. Indirect heat allows the meat to cook slowly from the inside, without drying out the natural juices.
11. Proper Ventilation
One of the most important aspects of getting great barbecue at home is making sure that you have proper ventilation in the firebox. The fire should not smolder, but should burn freely. One way that you can tell if you have the proper ventilation and the fire is burning correctly is to notice the color of the smoke. It should not be billowing white, but should instead be light blue.
One way to achieve proper ventilation is to open the vents on the firebox. Also, in order to properly maintain heat in the cooking chamber, make sure that the smokestack vent is kept open.
Unfortunately, some smokers are not well designed and the firebox vents are placed above the fire chamber. This forces the air to travel down and then back up to reach the cooking chamber instead of creating more direct ventilation. Of course, the best thing to do is to purchase a smoker with properly placed vents. However, if you already own one with vents that are too high, an easy fix is to drill a hole on the side of the firebox.
12. Be Aware of Grilling Dangers
Barbecue is certainly delicious, but there are some risks to eating meat cooked on a grill. You should be aware of these risks and how to lessen them. The char marks that give barbecued meat it’s distinctive look and flavor, actually pose a risk. When meat is cooked at a high enough heat to create a blackened crust, it also produces certain carcinogens. The more char that is on the meat, the greater the risk of health issues.
You can always tell a barbecue is happening by following the delicious smelling smoke. However, breathing in too much of the grill smoke can coat your lungs with toxins. The grill chef should take plenty of breaks to breath in some smoke free air.
Food cooked at very high temperatures may be very tasty, but it can be risky as well. Cooking at a high heat releases byproducts from the meat that are not easily digested and can be harmful to your cells. Most of byproducts are found in the char on the meat, so reducing the amount of char, also reduces the negative health risks.
13. Know How to Avoid the Dangers
There’s no need to be afraid of the potential health risks of grilling, if you know a few simple techniques that will help enhance the flavor of your barbecue, while protecting you from the risks.
Use marinades and rubs: Coating the meat before cooking it, not only helps to infuse it with flavor. It can also reduce the risk of creating carcinogens by up to 96%. Marinades act as a barrier, reducing drippings and preventing char, all while enhancing the flavor of the meat.
Pre-cook your meat: Partially cooking meat on a low heat before putting it on the grill can help reduce risks in a number of ways. It removes some of the fat. So, when the meat is on the grill, there’s less opportunity for drippings to produce smoke. In addition, less time at a high heat lessens the risk of byproducts. And finally less time on the grill means less exposure to various grill-related toxins.
Reduce drippings: When drippings hit the heat source, they create smoke. Therefore one of the best ways to avoid risk, is to reduce the amount of drippings that come in contact with the heat. One simple and direct way to do this is by placing the meat on foil before putting it on the grill. The foil acts as a barrier to collect the drippings. An added bonuses is that this method frequently results in the meat being more tender and juicy since it cooks in it’s own drippings. Another simple way to reduce drippings is to buy leaner cuts of meat, or to trim away any excess fat before grilling.
Grill Veggies: One very simple way of getting all of the yummy barbecue flavor with virtually none of the risks is to grill veggies instead of meat. Vegetables do not contain the same carcinogens and other byproducts that meat does, even when they are charred. Even if you still want meat, a solution may be to cook it by another method, and grill your vegetables to get all the delicious barbecue taste, along with other nutrients and health benefits that aren’t found in meat.
14. Remember These Final Tips for Better Barbecue at Home
- Give yourself plenty of time. Having better barbecue at home takes preparation and patience. Don’t try to rush it.
- Use your food thermometer to measure internal temperature. There’s nothing worse than being all ready to eat and discovering your barbecue isn’t cooked inside. Make sure your meat is completely ready by using a thermometer to check the inside of your meat.
- Don’t poke holes in the meat. Poking holes in the meat releases its juices. This can cause smoke and can dry the meat out. The only reason to penetrate the meat is when using a thermometer probe to ensure the meat maintains the proper temperature. Use tongs to lift and move meat rather than a fork so that you don’t create any unnecessary holes.
- Know the way to prevent barbecue gas fires. Fire safety is always important. Make sure to keep an extinguisher, gloves and other safety equipment nearby. Make certain to keep the grill and the surface around the cooking box clean to ensure that grease doesn’t accumulate.
- Soak your skewers. If the bamboo skewers in your kebobs are getting burnt to a crisp, there’s an easy solution. Soak them in water for thirty minutes before making your kebobs and putting them on the grill.
- Avoid lighter fluid. There’s a really easy way to make sure your barbecue doesn’t have a hint of lighter fluid seasoning. Don’t use any. Use a chimney starter instead. Plain coals, some newspaper and a match are all that’s needed to get coals hot and ready for a better barbecue at home.
- Enter a contest. This is a great way to become familiar with the taste of good barbecue. You can also share with and get tips as a beginner from other barbecue chefs.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. The best way to improve your barbecuing experience is to keep trying new things. Adjust your recipe, cooking times and other variables until you get it just right. Limit your changes to one or two at a time, so you know which ones gave you the best results.
With the right tools, the right tips, and the patience to keep trying, better barbecue at home is within your reach. So, fire up your grill, marinate your meat properly, and get started with cooking the barbecue meals that you have always dreamt of.
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