Hungry for great smoked flavor? Our guides below will get your fire started whether you’re using a charcoal grill, a gas barbecue, or a traditional smoker. We’ve got tips for beginners and a comprehensive Smoking Woods Chart to match the right woods with specific foods. Check out our list of recipes to get you started.
Woods: Start by soaking wood chunks in water for at least one hour; chips (including wine barrel chips) and aromatic twigs (grape vines or fruit wood twigs) need only 30 minutes of soaking. Shake all excess water off woods before adding them to your fire or smoker box. (See our chart below for available wood types.) You can find smoking woods in hardware stores and home centers-or if you’re lucky, in your own backyard! Wine barrel chips are available in specialty food stores and gift shops, and some hardware stores.
Water: Water adds moisture to the smoking process so meats come out flavorful and tender. If you’re using a traditional smoker with a water pan, try adding barbecue sauce, marinades, wine, beer, fruit juices, or herbs and spices to the water pan for additional flavor. Be sure to keep the water pan full. For large roasts and turkeys, you may have to add water to the pan a couple of times throughout grilling. Check the water pan when you add charcoal-a watering can makes replenishing easy. (Note: When smoking cheese, add ice to the water pan so the cheese doesn’t melt above it.) You can use a water pan with charcoal and gas grills, too.
Food: Place food in the center of the cooking grate above the water pan (if you are using one). Remember that smoke and heat escape every time you peek into the grill, so add 15 minutes to cooking time for each peek (more if you are smoking in cold weather). Boneless meats, such as beef brisket and pork shoulder, will shrink considerably during smoke-cooking, unless they have a heavy layering of fat. Simply cut off the fat before serving. (Note: Consider cooking your menu up to two days before serving. The smoke flavor becomes richer after a day or two in the refrigerator. That’s why smoked foods make great leftovers.) All Weber recipes are based on 70-degree weather with little or no wind at average altitudes, so add more cooking time for wind, cold, and high altitudes.
Preparing your Charcoal Grill, Gas Barbecue, or Traditional Smoker: Virtually all Weber Gas Barbecues can be equipped with or are sold with a smoker attachment (exceptions: Spirit Series and Genesis Junior). The smoker attachment makes it easy to turn your barbecue grill into a hot smoker. You can also improvise with a foil pan. Before preheating your grill, simply fill the water pan on the smoker attachment with hot tap water. Place presoaked wood chunks or chips/twigs in the other compartment, or in a foil pan directly on the Flavorizer Bars over the lit burner. (Use a separate pan for water if you are using a foil pan for the wood pieces.) Begin cooking after preheating and when grill is fully smoking.
Smoker: Always position smoker on a level, heatproof surface away from buildings and out of traffic patterns. It’s best to find a place away from the house, since smoke aromas can linger for hours. Weber’s Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker has three grates-one for charcoal and two for food-and a water pan. To prepare the smoker, heap charcoal in the center of the charcoal grate, ignite the coals, and when coals have a light coating of grey ash, spread them evenly across the inside of the charcoal chamber. Check recipe for number of charcoal layers needed. If you are using the water pan, place it on the lower bracket of the center ring and fill it with hot tap water. Add seasonings to water, if desired.
Place soaked woods on the coals through the door on the front of the smoker. Keep all vents partially closed for smoke-cooking. Place food on the top and/or middle cooking grate, depending on recipe and food quantity. Arrange food in a single layer on each grate, leaving space for smoke to circulate around each piece. Add 12 to 14 briquets and as many wood chunks as needed to fire, and replenish water and seasonings.
WEBER’S CHEF’S TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
- Use a meat thermometer to make sure smoke-cooked foods are done but not overcooked. Smoke-cooked foods look different than other grilled or oven-prepared foods. They may be pink or red when completely cooked (apple wood especially will make chicken look red, for example).
- Use tongs and barbecue mitts to add charcoal, turn meats, refill the water pan, or adjust vents.
- Do not use charcoal infused with starter fluid-it can add an unpleasant taste to your smoked foods.
- Experiment with different woods and meats until you find the right combination for your tastes.
- Start with a small amount of wood to see how you like the flavor, then add more for more intense smoky taste. (Just don’t overdo it; too much wood smoke over long periods can make food taste bitter.)
- Try combining woods as you get more experienced for unique and flavorful results.
- Keep a smoker’s notebook while experimenting. Jot down ingredients, wood amounts and combinations, and results so you can repeat successes. (Unless, of course, you want to keep your best recipes a secret!)
|Wood Type||Characteristics||Good Food Matches|
|Hickory||Pungent, smoky, bacon-like flavor.||Pork, chicken, beef, wild game, cheeses.|
|Pecan||Rich and more subtle than hickory, but similar in taste. Burns cool, so ideal for very low heat smoking.||Pork, chicken, lamb, fish, cheeses.|
|Mesquite||Sweeter, more delicate flavor than hickory. Tends to burn hot, so use carefully.||Most meats, especially beef. Most vegetables.|
|Alder||Delicate flavor that enhances lighter meats.||Salmon, swordfish, sturgeon, other fish. Also good with chicken and pork.|
|Oak||Forthright but pleasant flavor. Blends well with a variety of textures and flavors.||Beef (particularly brisket), poultry, pork.|
|Maple||Mildly smoky, somewhat sweet flavor. Try mixing maple with corncobs for ham or bacon.||Poultry, vegetables, ham.|
|Cherry||Slightly sweet, fruity smoke flavor.||Poultry, game birds, pork.|
|Apple||Slightly sweet but denser, fruity smoke flavor.||Beef, poultry, game birds, pork (particularly ham).|
|Peach or Pear||Slightly sweet, woodsy flavor.||Poultry, game birds, pork.|
|Grape vines||Aromatic, similar to fruit woods.||Turkey, chicken, beef.|
|Wine barrel chips||Wine and oak flavors. A flavorful novelty that smells wonderful, too.||Beef, turkey, chicken, cheeses.|
|Seaweed||Tangy and smoky flavors. (Wash and dry in sun before use.)||Lobster, crab, shrimp, mussels, clams.|
|Herbs & spices (bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, mint, orange or lemon peels, whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and others)||Vary from spicy (bay leaves or garlic) to sweet (other seasonings), delicate to mild. Generally, herbs and spices with higher oil content will provide stronger flavoring. Soak branches and stems in water before adding to fire. They burn quickly, so you may need to replenish often.||Vegetables, cheeses, and a variety of small pieces of meat (lighter and thin-cut meats, fish steaks and fillets, and kabobs).|