If you love cooking outdoors, sooner or later you’ll probably consider getting a smoker. And we’re here to say, don’t consider it anymore — just get it! For any food connoisseur, a smoker offers an unmatched culinary experience. Sure, the food takes longer to prepare, but it will be well worth the wait when you taste all of that smoky, tender goodness.
Just like there are many different types of grills, there are also different types of smokers. One of the simplest smokers to operate uses ready-made wood pellets, available in applewood, hickory, maple, mesquite, and other flavors. Simply fill the hopper with the wood pellets of your choice, turn it on, and the smoker does the rest. Charcoal smokers use the same type of fuel that your charcoal grill burns, but the distance between the combustion and the food is greater, resulting in lower cooking temperatures and increased smoking time. Whichever method you choose, the end result is going to be nothing short of delicious.
Unlike cooking in an oven, or even on a gas grill, most smoker recipes provide a range of temperatures and times rather than precise ones. This is because smoker cooking has more variables, so you’ll need to be a bit flexible, navigating the nuances as you proceed.
As a general rule, the thickness of the cut of meat largely determines the length of the cooking process. In addition, the meat’s fat and moisture content, whether it’s dry-aged or not, and plenty of other conditions change the optimal cooking time.
For smoking, the internal temperature of the meat conveys its doneness. Never cut it open while cooking to check if the meat is done, as this could dry out the meat. Instead, invest in a good meat thermometer. Stick a thermometer in the meat when it feels done to the touch or, to prevent needing to puncture the meat at all, choose a thermometer with a remote or wired sensor.
Now that you have a smoker, it’s time to plan an entire menu that revolves around it. Try your hand at these five dishes you can cook in your smoker, at around 240°F.
With its flavorful bark and smoky tenderness, beef brisket is a true smoker classic. You’ll find so many recipes and a variety of cooking methods, but this one from the Tulsa Barbecue School is plain, simple, and irresistible.
“Every region of the world has its own version of barbecue, and Central Texas is no different. Oak hardwood and simple rubs are preferred to the sweeter and more complex offerings of Kansas, Memphis and the Carolinas. Texas is beef country, and the king of beef is the brisket. Master that, and there’s nothing you can’t smoke.”
Nick Parsons – Founder, Tulsa Barbecue School
As if the incredible smoky taste isn’t enough, one of the best parts about smoking a turkey is that it’s virtually impossible to overcook it — so you can say goodbye to dry turkey for good! Cook it slow and steady at 240°F and you’ll have fork-tender, moist turkey, with complex flavors you never thought you could coax from this bird. The general rule of thumb is to cook it for about 30 minutes per pound, but your thermometer will ensure it’s done right.
If you love garlic — and who doesn’t — finding new ways to enjoy it is never be a bad thing. Smoking garlic adds an incredible complexity that will enhance whatever dish you add it to. We love smoking garlic and spreading it on toasted baguette slices or crunchy French bread, just like butter.
You need a side dish to go with all of that yummy smoked meat goodness, and this one is here to prove that your smoker can be every bit as beneficial to side dishes as it is to the main course. Its buttery, lemony, garlic goodness elevates this asparagus side dish to rival the main event.
Your smoker is so versatile, it’s even able to create mouthwatering desserts. Apples are ideal for smokers because you can core and fill them with a variety of different foods to give them even more flavor, from brown sugar and cinnamon, to jam, cream cheese, honey, and granola. This recipe stuffs the apple’s center with raisins, maple syrup, and butter. Delicious!
Start with the basics: meat, meat, and more meat, and then expand your smoker culinary horizons by adding side dishes, condiments, desserts, and more. With a little practice, slow and steady smoking is destined to become your go-to cooking method.