There is an art to using a BBQ smoker. It's a combination of savory components that combine to create the soul satisfying flavors that will make you top chef of the family. Here we're going to take a look at some of the basics of BBQ smoking.
Different wood is going to give you different flavor. Oak, Apple, Cherry, and Adler are favorites, and each unique species will add a unique flavor to your food. Seasoning of the wood, that is, how long it has been drying, will make a big difference. Unlike a fireplace fire, you want your smoking wood to be a little bit wet. Typically, wood seasoned for about 6 to 10 months is best. You can use the really dry stuff to start the fire, but to really release the wood flavor, you want some smokey wood. That means it should not be completely seasoned. Wood seasoning is something to think about if you're buying commercially available wood chips.
Next to the smoke, there's nothing like the rub to bring full flavor to any meat prepared in BBQ smokers. Your rub can be your secret that keeps your friends and family clamoring for more, and keeps you on the list of favorite cooks. A good rub starts with a base of salt and sugar. Flake sea salt, crystalline sea salt, kosher salt, brown sugar, turbinado sugar are some suggestions to get your creativity flowing. From there, your spice rack is going to set the limit to your rub. It's a private art that you will develop, and experimentation is the key. What's great about BBQ smokers is the amount of creativity you can use to get just that perfect flavor.
Using a BBQ smoker isn't like using a regular grill. You want the heat to be low, and you want to prevent flare ups from occurring. The idea is to let the slow heat and smoke work their way into the meat. Typically, you should expect your heat to range around 275 degrees F. You're not looking for that charcoal sear, but instead, a slow roast sear over time. Smokers are designed to keep the meat farther away from the heat sources. So one thing you can monitor for control is how high above the wood you are letting the meat work. Another thing you can do to control too hot a fire is to spray the embers lightly with a mist of water. This will cool it down as well as give you more smoke. Bonus.
You might be able to skimp on the cut of meat if you want, the smoking process will flavor up anything. It's your taste and your budget that will drive the decision. But keep this in mind; you probably don't want a really lean cut of anything. The fat renders down into the fire and builds into the smoke adding even more flavor. If you get the chance, talk to a good butcher about the cuts of meat that are best for smoking. They are the guys that know meat.
Time is not of the essence in smoking. It's a slow process, and you should expect about an hour to an hour and a half for each pound of meat.