All About Smoking
Just like grills, smokers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and cost. Since smoking require cooking at lower temperatures and the heat needs to be contantly watched and adjusted, we suggest you stick with a charcoal or wood smoker. Hardcore grill masters know that you can't get that great smoke flavor on a gas grill.
We have a Char-Griller Pro with the added side firebox. This is an afforable smoker that with a few modification will give you excellent smoking results. You can find more information about the grill/smoker in our Char-Grillers Story where we chronicle our experience with this grill.
To get started smoking we want a hot clean burning fire without the lighter fluid smell. Inorder to get this you want to light your charcoal using a charcoal chimney. We use the Weber model and always have great results. You wad up 3 or 4 pieces of newspaper and stuff them into the bottom chamber of the chimney. Then fill the chimney with charcoal. If you're a pyromanic and just have to add a fire excellerant, you can dribble a small amount of vegatable oil onto the newspaper, but this is not necessary. By all means tho, DO NOT use lighter fluid. Place the chimney on the charcoal grate of your grill and light the paper from the bottom in several location along the perimeter. The chimney will begin to smoke and after about 20-25 minutes you will have flames shooting out the top and the charcoal will have begun to ash over. Check out our video to see the chimney starter in action.
Now you're ready to load the firebox. Make sure you have a grate or basket to hold the charcoal. You will need a inch or two between the botton of your firebox and the bottom of the grate this allows for airflow which is the key to getting the best cooking from your smoker. The smoker must draw air in, heat it and slowly exhaust it as it cook the food. As you're bringing the smoker up to temperature you will need an accurate thermometer to monitor the temp of the smoker. You should calibrate your temp gauge by compareing it to another thermometer or yo can place your gage in boiling water to see how close to 212 degrees it is.
You will need a couple of chimneys of charcoal to get you're smoker up to temperature. Down South smoking is done with low and slow heat for an extended period of time. You want to maintain your smokiing temperature between 250 to 275 degrees for the best results. Cooking a pork shoulder can take up to eight hours with a beef brisket taking even longer. Once you have you smoker up to temp you will want to add a small amount of wood to the fire to give your food that great smoked flavor. You can add a packet of chips or a chunk of wood to you're ember to get the desired amount of smoke. You want a very light blue colored exhaust if your smoke is white you have to much wood. You want to keep adding charcoal to keep a hot fire. Add new charcoal to the side of your firebox to keep from smothering your fire. You will control the burn heat using your side draft regulator. You can also crack the firebox door a little if you need extra airflow to get the smoker up to temp.
Once you have the smoker up to temp you can start burning wood if you choose. Small logs 2" to 4" in diameter about 6" to 8" long will do the trick. Just remember to keep the fire hot adding fuel slowely to avoid the white smoke.