Preparing good tasting food on a grill requires some skill. People boast that after cooking their meats over slow, indirect heat in a smoker, the meat is so tender and juicy you can “cut it with a fork.” Well, if you just have an average sized charcoal grill, you can also cook foods with that same quality. If you are willing to take your time and monitor your grill while cooking.
A smoker and a grill can perform the same job. The smoker just separates the meat from direct heat more than a grill.
In a smoker, the heat is maintained at a temperature that cooks meats at around 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (around 120 degrees Celsius). Even though a grill usually cooks food quickly over high heat, with some creativity, your grill can also serve as a smoker. Simply maintain a smaller flame on just one side of the grill, you can produce the desired low cooking temperature. Then, you too can boast about your delicious meal!
To get started, you need fuel such as hardwood or charcoal, a method for igniting your flame – perhaps a charcoal chimney, two aluminum pans – one for collecting drips and another pan for water – smaller in size than your grates, and a thermometer that is oven safe. And, of course, you need meat or veggies to cook and enough time to do the job well. You cannot rush the process!
When you have your materials assembled, you are ready to start building the fire. Remove the grates from your grill and make the first on one side of the grill. Observe the direction of the wind. Build your fire on the windward side. In other words, on the side that the wind is blowing against.
Wind direction is an important fact before airflow is so important when using smoke to cook your food. Because air comes in from the bottom of the grill and goes out through the top on the opposite side of the grill, you want the direction of the wind and the air flow to be the same.
Next, place one aluminum drip pan on the side opposite the flame. There will be no charcoal underneath the pan.
Now, you can replace the grates on the grill and wait for the grill to get hot. You are ready to cook when your charcoal is hot. The other aluminum pan should be filled to be about two third full and placed over the coals. The pan of water provides moisture to the cooking environment. Now, you are ready to add the meat. Place it over the drip pan with the thermometer alongside it. Close the lid on the grill and open the vent that is over the side with the food.
During the cooking, you need to maintain airflow that enters under the first and exits through the vent directly above the meat. When the air flows in this way, the air goes through the heat, passes over the water pan, and finally over the meat before exiting through the vent. Continue to adjust the vents and airflow to maintain a cooking temperature of about 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (110 to 120 degrees Celsius).
Even though it will be tempting to peek at the meat while it is cooking, you need to keep the lid closed as much as possible. However, it is important to watch the flame and the temperature. Also, more fuel may be needed periodically. While this may seem challenging, you will gain experience in checking the temperature and knowing when to add fuel to lid opening to a minimum.
So, what you waiting for? Go get some meat and let’s start cooking!