Top 10 smoking tips on the grill (plus the perfect rib eye steaks)
1. Start early.
Many of the flavour compounds in smoke are fat and water soluble, which means that whatever you are cooking will absorb smoky flavors best when it is raw. As the surface cooks and dries out, the smoke does not penetrate as well.
2. Go low and slow (most of the time).
Real barbecue is cooked slowly over low, indirect heat—with wood smoke—because that’s a traditional way to make sinewy meats so moist and tender that you hardly need teeth. But don’t miss easy opportunities for adding sweet wood aromas to foods that are grilled over a hot fire for just minutes, like steaks, shrimp, and even vegetables.
3. Regulate the heat with a water pan.
Big fluctuations in smoking temperatures can tighten and dry out foods. Whenever you cook for longer than an hour with charcoal, use a pan of water to help stabilize the heat and add some humidity. Obviously a water smoker already has one, but for a charcoal grill, use a large disposable foil pan, and don’t forget to refill it.
4. Don’t overdo it.
The biggest mistake rookies make is adding too much wood, chunk after chunk, to the point where the food tastes bitter. In general, you should smoke food for no longer than half its cooking time. Also, the smoke should flow like a gentle stream, not like it is billowing out of a train engine.
5. White smoke is good; black smoke is bad.
Clean streams of whitish smoke can layer your food with the intoxicating scents of smoldering wood. But if your fire lacks enough ventilation, or your food is directly over the fire and the juices are burning, blackish smoke can taint your food or lead to unpleasant surprises when you lift the lid.
6. Keep the air moving.
Keep the vents on your charcoal grill open, and position the vent on the lid on the side opposite the coals. The open vents will draw smoke from the charcoal and wood below so that it swirls over your food and out the top properly, giving you the best ventilation and the cleanest smoke. If the fire gets too hot, close the top vent almost all the way.
7. Don’t go golfing.
Smoking is a relatively low-maintenance way of cooking—but remain mindful and be safe. Never leave a lit fire unattended, and check the temperature every hour or so. You might need to adjust the vents or add more charcoal.
8. Try not to peek.
Every time you open a grill, you lose heat and smoke—two of the most important elements for making a great meal. Open the lid only when you really need to tend to the fire, the water pan, or the food. Ideally take care of them all at once—and quickly. Otherwise, relax and keep a lid on it.
9. Let the bark get dark.
When smoked properly, ribs and large chunks of beef and pork should be enveloped in a dark mahogany, borderline black crust called “bark.” This bark is the consequence of fat and spices sizzling with smoke on the surface of the meat developing into a caramelized crust. So before you take your dinner off the grill or wrap it in foil, make sure you’ve waited long enough for the delicious, dark bark to develop.
10. Feature the star attraction.
The main ingredient in any smoked recipe is like the lead singer in a rock-and-roll band. Every other flavor should play a supporting role. In other words, don’t upstage something inherently delicious with a potent marinade, heavy-handed seasonings, or thick coats of sauce. Harmonizing flavors in ways that feature the main ingredient is what separates the masters from the masses.
Dijon and Garlic Rib Eyes Smoked with a Little Thyme
Ideal grill: Charcoal
Smoke intensity: Mild
Prep time: 15 minutes
Marinating time: 2 to 4 hours
Cooking time: 6 to 8 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6
1 small handful fresh thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
Ground black pepper
4 boneless rib eye steaks, each 12 to 16 ounces and about 1 inch thick
2 small handfuls hickory or mesquite wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
1. Strip the leaves from the thyme sprigs and reserve the sprigs for tossing on the coals later. Finely chop enough of the leaves to give you 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme. Mix the thyme leaves in a small bowl with the remaining paste ingredients, including 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
2. Brush the paste evenly over both sides of the steaks. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
3. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and season evenly with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Allow the steaks to stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.
4. Prepare a two-zone fire for high heat (450° to 550°F).
5. Brush the cooking grate clean. Drain and add the wood chips and thyme sprigs to the charcoal and put the lid on the grill. When smoke appears, grill the steaks over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until cooked to your desired doneness, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare, turning once or twice (if flare-ups occur, move the steaks temporarily over indirect heat). Remove from the grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve warm.
©2012 Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Recipe from Weber’s Smoke™ by Jamie Purviance. Used with permission. Source: www.newscanada.com