How to Use a Charcoal Smoker – Hearing the term ‘Charcoal Smoker’ for the first time? If yes then, the following article shall take you on an informative drive. Let us first begin with understanding what is a charcoal smoker.
Charcoal Smoker: What is it?
A charcoal smoker is a cooking device that smokes food for a long period of time at a low temperature, generating indirect heat by burning charcoal. This gives a chance to the collagen in the muscle fibers of meat to break down and thus, turning it mouth-wateringly delicious. You can also add a little hardwood such as hickory or cherry. This shall give a completely different and fabulous taste to your meal.
People often get confused between a best charcoal smoker and a Smoker grill but you should know that these are two individual cooking devices and are not the same. Having said that, it is also important to tell you that there are a few brands in the market that feature both the components i.e. grilling and smoking in a single device. Most often you will find a charcoal smoker being referred to as a smoker grill or a water smoker. So, now you know what exactly a charcoal smoker is. Let us further dive deep into knowing how to use a charcoal smoker.
Working of a Charcoal Smoker
In a charcoal smoker your food gets cooked well but it takes time since a charcoal smoker works by heating your meal consistently at low temperature and for a longer duration. As time passes by, the internal temperature of the food being cooked becomes exactly the same as the air surrounding it inside the cooker. If your meat is getting cooked very gradually, there is a chance for you to get a BBQ smoker flavor. Also, it makes the cooking process different from the standard barbeque grill one.
Kinds of Meat that is Best for Smoking
Before jumping on to the question – how to use a charcoal smoker, let us understand what all can be cooked in a smoker. Although it is your personal preference, the best meats and food that can be cooked in a smoker are as follows:-
- Pork Shoulder
- Leg of lamb
- Lamb shoulder
- Whole turkey and chicken
- Chicken wings
- Smoked Cheese
Learn How to Using a Charcoal Smoker
For centuries, smoking was done to preserve food for a longer period of time so that it could be eaten up later but nowadays this fashion of barbeque has come up just to get the large chunks of meat get cooked evenly and properly so as to get the right, delicious, and mouth-watering taste especially for tough cuts of meat that is not done well when cooked quickly such as brisket.
I met a friend recently who was keen to know – how to use a Charcoal Smoker and it is then, when I decided to pass this information on to as many people as possible and see here you are. Using a charcoal smoker is pretty simple but it shall take a bit of practice to get the rightly cooked meal. Take your first attempt as an experiment wherein you might commit some mistakes or if you have all the luck then, you may also get that delicious meat right on your dinner table. Here is all about – how to use a charcoal smoker.
- Exposing the Charcoal Grate : First you need to remove the cylindrical part of the smoker and expose the rounded bottom of the smoker along with the lower charcoal grate and the fire ring that is also, known as the coal chamber. Before beginning the cooking process, you need to make sure that these areas mentioned above are properly clean and are free of ashes (which might be the case if you had used the charcoal smoker earlier and forgot to clean it).
- Preparing the Fuel : It is advisable for you to use an ordinary charcoal and not boutique lump charcoal as the former burns at the proper and right temperature required for cooking in a charcoal smoker while the latter burns too hot for smoking. The standard-issue stuff is the best charcoal that you can use while cooking your meal in a charcoal smoker. Also, you can add some wood chips to get a different flavor. Among many, hickory, mesquite, cherry, apple, and alder wood are the most famous wood chips types that people prefer. For preparing the wood chips, you can soak them in water for about 30 minutes to give you the best results. So this is how to use wood chips on a charcoal grill.
- Dumping the Charcoal Briquettes: You need to pour the charcoal briquettes into the fire ring and make a deep hole in the center of briquettes using your hands or a big piece of wood. Then, distribute some paraffin cubes inside the coals known as the Minion method.
- Filling the Water Pan with Cold Water: Add three-quarters of full cold water to the water pan. It is advisable to fill the pan with cold water because hot water shall defeat the main purpose of the water pan which is to control the temperature.
- Lighting the Coal: You can light the coal by a charcoal chimney but if you do not have a charcoal chimney, you can make a pyramid kind of a structure from coals inside the smoker. Doing this shall produce a similar effect of that of a charcoal chimney. Apart from this, you can also use a little lighter fluid. You need to sit back and let the coal burn until you start seeing the coal coated in a thin layer of white ash. If you are using a charcoal chimney then, this is the stage when you can add the lit coals to your charcoal smoker.
- Adding Your Meal to the Cooking Area: What best cooks in a charcoal smoker is meat. So, now you can add the meat directly onto the barbeque grill grates that are present inside the smoker. There are a few smokers that have a single grate while others have two grates- the upper and the lower one. If you have a smoker with two grates, it is better as it will provide you greater room for cooking because in it you can cook multiple meats in a single round. At this stage of cooking, many people prefer to prepare a special rub out of salt or spices and add these to the meat before actually cooking it to give it a delicious taste but it entirely depends on you if you wish to do this or not.
- Controlling the Temperature: It will be better to cook meat between 220 degrees Fahrenheit and 250 degrees Fahrenheit as it is the ideal temperature. In order to maintain this temperature, there is a need for two vents to let the extra heat pass. The lower vent shall allow the air to come inside the smoker while the upper vent shall let the air escape outside the smoker. If in case you feel the temperature is getting too hot what you can do is just open the upper vent and close the lower one. Most smokers do have built-in thermometers that help you to keep track of the temperature and also lets you decide as to when you need to open the vents and when you need to close them.
- Adding the Wood Chunks: When a quarter of your cooking is done, you will have to add the wood chunks that you selected. For adding them what you need to do is just place them in the firebox among the coals. You want them to burn slowly and this is where if you had already soaked them in water beforehand would help.
- Letting the Meal Cook: By now you know how to use a charcoal smoker and that it takes time long enough to cook your food properly. It might take about six to seven hours to cook a rack of ribs whereas if you are cooking a large turkey it might take up to even 18 hours to finish cooking it properly. To know if your food is done or not you can use a meat thermometer because after going through such a long process of cooking you would not want a partially cooked or unevenly cooked meal served at your dining table.
Maintaining Your Charcoal Smoker
Along with knowing How to use a charcoal smoker, you should also know how to maintain and keep it clean. You need to keep the Clean charcoal grill because if there is too much grease of ash, you would not get the right taste. So, cleaning it before every use and after every use is a good technique that you can follow. Though it is better to follow the instructions for cleaning your charcoal smoker written in the manufacturer’s manual, there are some steps you can take to keep the device neat and clean:-
- You can clean the cooking grates by using a wire brush, a lava brick, or crumpled foil. These will help in scraping-off the grease and excess carbon.
- Check the interiors of the cooking chamber. You might find a build-up of smoke, soot, creosote, etc. you can scrape them off with the help of a knife so that they do not fall on your food while cooking.
- If you have a charcoal smoker with a built-in thermometer, you need to wipe off the thermometer probe. Do not pour water anywhere around the dial area while cleaning as it can hinder its ability to give the right temperature.