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Grilling vs. Barbeque vs. Smoke Cooking
How these techniques differ and ways to experiment with them at home.
Most of us say "let's have a barbeque" and what we mean is "let's grill some steaks or burgers".
Grilling - a high-heat cooking method done directly over hot coals and sometimes with live flames (cooking the food in a matter of minutes).
Barbeque - a long, slow, indirect, low-heat method that uses smoldering logs, charcoal, or wood chunks to smoke-cook the food (usually some kind of meat). "Indirect"
means that the heat source is located away from the food to be cooked.
Smoke Cooking - is defined separately from Barbeque here. Barbeque is technically 'smoke cooking', but Smoke Cooking isn't necessarily Barbeque. I'm making
this distinction because to barbeque truly means to cook in the smoke, well off the heat source. In this collection, many of the smoke cooking recipes are done very near or over the
heat source, but at very low temperatures. The smoke is used to flavor the food and both the smoke and the heat source cook it.
A number of the recipes here are for smoke cooking. You can use these recipes fairly easily if you have a smoke cooker, of which there are many. This is not the same as an electric smoker
for doing jerkey or smoked fish. Smoke cookers come in a variety of styles, they all have a fire pan, and an upper grill, very like a kettle style grill. Ideally, they also have tight sealing lids with
upper and lower venting for controlling the temperature, as well as a thermometer to monitor the inside temperature of the cooker. However, if you don't already have or want to
purchase a smoke cooker, you can use a kettle style grill for most smoke cooking recipes. If you like the technique, you may want to pick up one of the may Smoke Cooking cookbooks available.
To add smoke flavor to foods, use oak, maple, or fruit woods that are in no more than 2 inch by 2 inch pieces (twigs work great) that have been soaked in clean water for about 1 hour. Most
woods work for this as well as woody herbs such as rosemary or sage, but don't use trees or shrubs that have needles instead of leaves. (I keep all my fruit tree prunings every year for future
smoke cooking.) Place the soaked wood directly on the coals just before you place your food on the grill.
To smoke cook food long and slow, you need to use the vents and have a way to observe the temperature inside the cooker. You can drill a hole in a kettle style grill lid and insert an
accurate candy thermometer such as a Taylor. To prepare the coals, add a large quantity of lump charcoal and ignite. I don't like to use charcoal briquettes and I'm not a fan of gas grills,
although I've heard people claim to get good results with smoke cooking on a gas grill. I think you can taste the gas and petroleum products in gas grills and charcoal briquettes, but if
you have a gas grill and want to try it for smoke cooking, go for it. Set the vents fully open and burn the coals until they completely ash over. Spread the coals over the fire pan and close the lid.
Adjust the vents and bring the temperature to around 200 degrees. Beef and pork are often cooked between 170 and 220, whereas poultry and fish are cooked between 200 and 250. The most important
thing to keep in mind about smoke cooking is that is is intended to cook foods well done and is ideal for cheaper and tougher cuts of meat. Be patient and you can almost always cook longer
(with the exception of fish and seafood) than the recipes call for if you are controlling the temperature. Vegetables and such can be cooked at whatever
temperature the main course is at.
Questions about this article?