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Matt Grace, the Urban Lumberjack, is the guy with all the tips you need to start cooking up delicious hot-smoked food on your grill. A life- long lover of being outdoors, lighting fires, and chopping wood, Matt switched after 20 years in telecoms to supplying a range of high-quality smoking woods (think peach, pohutukawa, pear) for the booming New Zealand BBQ industry. “Over the past four to five years, specialist barbecue has established itself in New Zealand. The community around it is fantastic, there’s so much interest in it” You can find the Urban Lumberjack online at ulj.co.nz
It’s time to elevate our BBQ. We’ve cooked up this guide for smoking, with the help of an expert in the field.
BBQ gloves You’ll be moving your proteins, adding wood, and handling hot grills and metal
Heavy duty tin-foil For wrapping your proteins to lock in the moisture towards the end of a cook
Digital thermometer Some can even send the temperature to your phone via Bluetooth
How to smoke
Grill Sort your grill. Ask yourself how much time you have to commit. The best results are from low and slow cooking, but this means you might have to tend the grill for several hours. Otherwise, a simpler charcoal grill could be the answer. See below to see what grill suits your needs.
Protein Now you’ve got your grill, you need to think about what proteins to use. Certain woods pair better with different proteins. Fish or chicken will take the smoke more intensely than a large piece of brisket. See the chart for a complete guide.
Rub Once you know what you’re cooking, season it and explore flavour options like rubs. You don’t need too much, though, as the smoke will do a lot of the work. The popular Texas BBQ style is predominantly just salt, pepper, and oak wood smoke.
Cook time The protein you’ve chosen will affect the fuel and wood you use. For cooking larger pieces like brisket or ribs you want bigger charcoal that will burn for longer; for fish, sausages, and steaks, smaller charcoal will burn quicker, achieving higher temperatures faster.
Wood The wood goes on once you have the charcoal burning efficiently. This is where you impart the smoke flavour, so it’s important you use the right pieces and research which wood goes well with your protein. Less is more when experimenting (you can always add an extra piece next time). One or two chunks placed over the charcoal is a good place to start.
Types of grills
Grills come in all shapes and sizes. The offset and pit barrel smokers have their roots in the Deep South of the USA, where the cheaper cuts like ribs and brisket needed to be cooked slowly, to get them soft and tender. This is where the low and slow smoking method was born, and you can do it too. First things first, you need a grill.
Cook time: Very long Results 10/10
Uses charcoal and smoking wood in a separate firebox.
Low-and-slow-style grilling, long cook times: the traditional method for Texas-style smoking.
Pit barrel smoker
Cook time: Long Results 9/10
Proteins can be grilled or hung, thanks to the smoker’s size.
Charcoal and wood go in the bottom, and smoke rises up over the meat.
Ceramic charcoal smoker
Cook time: Medium-long Results 8/10
Popular charcoal grill which can easily incorporate smoking wood.
Internal ceramic bricks retain heat, keeping the temperature consistent.
Cook time: Medium Results 7/10
Your standard backyard BBQ, ubiquitous and iconic.
Can take chunks of smoking wood on top of charcoals.
Cook time: Medium Smoke flavour 6/10
The most convenient option, but results in less of the smoke flavours.
Can take a piece of wood directly on the burner or in a metal tray to infuse some smoke.