A beginner’s guide to delicious barbecue smoking

The incredible Engel Fire allows you to do so much with your food it’s hard to know where to start. With such options available like regular barbecue, char-grill, rotisserie, or wood-fired oven, what you make almost takes a back seat as to how you make it!

But there is one option the Engel Fire gives that brings with it its own unique, delicious flavour; smoking.

Barbecue smoking is perhaps the most challenging way to cook, but with greater effort comes greater reward. We’ve put together this beginner’s guide to barbecue smoking, explaining what it is, how it works, and why you should do it.

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What is barbecue smoking and why is it different?

Normally when barbecue cooking, you put the food directly over the heat and cook it while you stand guard, keeping an eye on it and turning occasionally. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, smoking the meat instead takes it to a whole other level.

With barbecue smoking, the meat isn’t placed directly over the heat. Instead it is placed to the side, where the hot smoke from the fire passes through it, slowly cooking it.

And we mean slowly. Smoking food should take at least 2 hours, depending of course on the size and cut of the meat, but having food cook overnight isn’t uncommon. Smoking is an all-day endeavour, which is part of its appeal.

And trust us, in the end it’s worth it. Food cooked slowly retains its moisture, with the meat practically falling off the bone, and the smoke adds a unique flavour which can actually be influenced by the type of wood chips you burn.

Finding the right temperature

Barbecue smoking is also known as ‘low and slow’, meaning you cook at a low temperature slowly over time. Now of course we’re not talking about room temperature here, but compared to a traditional oven or grill, smoking temperature is quite cool.

Traditional cooking happens somewhere between 175 - 250 degrees Celsius, but smoking has a temperature of around 100 degrees. This allows the meat to become infused with the unmistakable smoky flavour, and also retain its moisture, keeping it nice and juicy.

Maintaining a constant temperature during the process is the hardest part, but with the Engel Fire’s unique design, you can choose how hot or cold you want the smoker to be.

Different types of wood give different flavours

Which wood you use also effects the final flavour of the meat.

Smoking wood chips can be bought in stores, but these are usually kiln dried, which means they will burn hot and fast. You want natural wood which is still a bit damp – this makes it smoke. Ideally, the wood will have been left to dry naturally for about 6 months, giving it enough moisture to give off smoke, but not enough to be sappy. Or you could soak the chips in water for an hour or so first to slow the process down.

Different types of wood result in different flavours, with manuka, hickory, apple, or oak all good choices. There are also certain types of wood you should never smoke with, as they can be dangerous. Pine, cedar, and eucalyptus are just some examples of wood that may be poisonous, so do your research first. Wood which has been painted, stained or treated in any way should never be used for obvious reasons.

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The best meat for barbecue smoking

Surprisingly, it is the least desirable cuts of meat which smoking is best for.

Classic barbecue meals such as beef brisket, pork shoulder, and ribs are great because the slow, low-temperature cooking tenderises the meat. These tougher, chewy cuts fare better over time, needing those extra hours to break down the fat and collagen, sweetening the meat and keeping it moist.

Fish turn out beautiful in the smoker, and the oilier the better. Salmon, snapper and kahawai are all recommended. Chicken thighs also, but not chicken breasts, as they tend to dry out. Any cut of meat we consider ‘good’, like a sirloin, can of course be smoked, but it’s probably best to grill them, as they’ll taste delicious no matter what.

Patience is a virtue

Barbecue smoking is a skill, and like all skills, it takes time and effort to perfect.

With so many variables to consider, such as the temperature, the cut of the meat, and the type of wood chip, smoking food on the barbecue takes practice, but if you have the time and the patience, you will reap the rewards of some of the finest food you’ve ever tasted.

The Engel Fire makes the process easy, allowing you to smoke food like a professional Pitmaster. Whether it’s brisket like a Texas BBQ joint or some locally caught tarakihi, you can impress friends and family with your new barbecuing skills and mouth-watering food.

If you think you’ve taken char-grilling as far as it can go, then try the challenge of smoking – trust us, your taste buds will thank you for it!

If you would like to know more about the amazing Engel Fire, then please don’t hesitate to contact us today for more information.

Jude Engel