Everything You Need To Know About Smoking Meat

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All week, Art of Manliness is gonna have some different videos where we talk about smoking. Now, immediately, somebody’s gonna be out there filling up the comment thing with they smoke better than everybody, their ways’ the best, and it very well could be. That’s the great thing and the great debate about smoking. There are a lot of ways to do it, but it imparts an incredible, incredible flavor on the food.

So, this week, we’re just gonna show you how we do it, what we’ve been successful with, and it’s just one day. And if you’ve never tried it, we hope that these series of videos inspire you to go out and try it. Do some smoking, and experience that barbecue nirvana that is out there.


Now, there are a lot of different smokers that are out there.

I know we’ve got, you know, this one that does rotisserie, and it’s a big huge thing. And chances are you’re not gonna have that and they say you know is that really fair that you see that? No. But there are a lot of different types of smokers. Believe me, there are, you go to cooking contests and barbecue contests, you will see tons of Weber Bullet smokers, so you can get them online for under 200 dollars. They do a fantastic job of smoking meat, whether it’s brisket, pork ribs, whatever. If you’ve got a Weber kettle grill at home, you can smoke on that. If you’ve got a big, green egg, those are very popular ceramic cookers.

You can virtually cook your whole 15, 16 hour cook, just on a handful of lump charcoal. They’re really incredible, incredible smokers.

We’ve had people who have cooked on a trash can with a grate in it. A good rule of thumb is if you can control the fire, you can cook it.

And, you know, typically, barbecue is about low and slow. It’s about controlling that fire over a long time, imparting a flavor of that smoke onto the meat, getting it good and tender, and just getting a great product. Just like, you eat out of a good barbecue restaurant.


People always ask us “what kind of meat do you smoke?” Well, we spoke everything: we smoke brisket, we smoke pulled pork, we’ll smoke prime rib, we’ll smoke chicken, we’ll, we do everything. Any food could be smoked, potentially.

Sometimes, it’s better grilled; sometimes, you’re not going to smoke a hamburger, but we smoked a meatloaf before. It’s incredible way to eat a meatloaf. You could do beef ribs; you can do pork ribs. You know there are people that smoked lamb. You can do whole beef shoulders. You could even smoke a whole hog. And do pig picking parties.

So, these are all things that are possible. So, keep your mind open. You can smoke fish, smoke salmon. It’s an incredible, incredible, with a little bit of butter, a little bit of dill, a little bit of lemon juice. It’s just fantastic.


The next great thing about smoking is you can be creative. You can try different flavors. The type of food you use will help determine the flavor of your food.

We cook with a lot of different smoking woods, and big and small. Some of it can be used for different. These are some cuttings off some plum trees. This is some peach wood, right here. We’ve got hickory over there. We’ve got pecan here. We’ve got any good hardwood that bears a fruit. You can cook on and that’s a good rule of thumb.

And then, you wanna make sure that whatever you have, that it’s good and well-seasoned. Typically, you want it to be about six months old from the time it’s cut to when you start to cook on it. That’s gonna give a better flavor of the food.

Some woods are gonna impart a stronger flavor. Applewood for chicken and fish, very mild. Hickory: great for beef and even pork. The hickory has a pretty strong flavor, so sometimes you have to be careful about oversmoking the wood.

Some people will met mix charcoal, and mix hickory, or mix charcoal. Pecan is a very mild wood. Often, we cook with just pecan because of the mild taste of the smoke, it allows us to cook for a long period of time, and just use wood, which is what we like to do.

So, be creative. Think about it. And just don’t hesitate to experiment, and if you mess it up, so what? You’ve learned. And so, try different woods. See the different flavors, and ask your friends who have done this for tips. They’re gonna be able to help you along too.


Another question people ask us a lot is, “what temperature do you cook at?” And again, this is another debate altogether. And you’re going to get at many opinions on every topic on how to smoke and make good barbecue, as you are with anything.

So, when you talk about temperature, typical smoking, typical barbecue, is low and slow. We cook about 225 degrees; sometimes, up to 250. Chicken will cook a little bit more. But there are many people out there who cook hot, whereas we may cook a brisket for 12, 14 hours. There may be people that cook that same brisket at 300, 350 degrees for five or six hours and they make a fantastic product. It’s just a different technique; a different way to do it.

Some meats lend themselves to a hotter cook, like chicken. Chicken seems to do better at a hotter cook because it crisps up that skin slightly more. It’s not as rubbery. We like brisket, we like pulled pork, we like ribs low and slow. But again, there are just as many people doing it hot and fast, as there are low and slow. So, try both ways, see what works best for you.


Okay, a lot of people ask me this: what do you season with? Do you use a wet marinade? Do you use a dry rub? What do you use?

Typically, most barbecue restaurants you go to and as what we do, we use a dry rub. And when we started cooking, you can go to the store, there were no dry rubs. Now, you go there, several championship barbecue teams have commercialized their rubs, so there are many good things to choose from. Some are sweeter; some are hotter. It’s all based on what your taste is.

And I think it’s important to have fun with rubs. If you like a hotter flavor, try different pepper: your white pepper, cayenne pepper, or black pepper. If you like a sweeter rub, there’s different types of sugar: brown sugar, white sugar, turbinado sugar. You know, try different things that fit your palate.

Paprika gives a certain color to your meat. Typically, most rub recipes you’ll see have equal parts of salt and sugar. And then from there, they’ll add things like garlic. They’ll add things like paprika. Things to give it color. And you know there’s onion powder; there’s cumin.

There’s all depends on what you’re cooking. Beef, you wanna have something with a little bit heavier salt and pepper, maybe even a little bit of heat with some cayenne pepper. Something like pork or your ribs, you want something a little bit sweeter.

So, a lot of times, you can make a good all-purpose rub that covers many things. But a lot of times, we will use a rub that is specific to those specific meats. And there’s many really, crazy ingredients like powdered honey that you can get and put in your rub. It’s very fine. It could get makes it a real sweet flavor. We’ve got a friend of ours that cooks with powdered jello in his rubs.

Just to give a little bit extra flavor, sometimes a little bit extra texture on that bark.

So experiment, have fun with it, do a little research, and again, you’re never going to mess anything up, just because if you do, you’re just going to learn from it, and you’re going to make it better the next time. So come up with your own rub that makes your signature barbecue taste best.


A lot of times, people ask us “what tools do I need the smoke? Are there anything special that you need?”

Well, obviously, you need a grill. We’ve talked about the different types of grills that are out there. And, you know, you need a good bbq cleaver; or a good sharp knife, that don’t have to be anything fancy. Just make sure it’s sharp.

Okay. And then you need a good cutting board, and a lot of things that you don’t really have around the house. Good set of tongs.

One thing that I think are always pretty are a good set of thermal gloves. That fire gets really hot sometimes, so you want something to protect yourself so nobody gets burned, nobody gets hurt.

Another thing that I would invest in is a great, instant-read thermometer. There’s a lot of them out there on the market. This is the one we use. It’s a thermo pen. You stick it in that meat; it gives you an accurate temperature within seconds. So, you don’t need to sit and wait for it to go.

But, that’s very important because when you’re cooking these meats, a lot of it is the science of food, the science of cooking, and cooking chemistry. At certain temperatures, different meats, certain things happen, whether it’s a collagen breaks down, something goes pulled pork at a 195 degrees, goes from being stiff to immediately falling apart. Same thing with brisket; there’s that fine line that takes you right there and a good instant-read thermometer will help you to do it.

About The Author

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James is a writer who is a self-confessed kitchenware and coffee nerd and a strong advocate of Sundays, good butter, and warm sourdough.