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Video:Tips for Smoking on a Charcoal Grill

with Krystyna Rittichier

Smoking food in a charcoal grill can be a tricky process but it's not impossible. Here's a video with some tips on the best ways to smoke food using a charcoal grill.See Transcript

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Transcript:Tips for Smoking on a Charcoal Grill

Hi, I'm Krystyna Rittichier with About.com, and today I'll be sharing some tips with you about how to smoke food using a charcoal grill.

Drawbacks of Smoking Food in a Charcoal Grill

Typically, when you are cooking on a charcoal grill, you are placing the food over the coals in order to cook it using direct heat from the charcoal. When smoking food, you are using a method of slow-cooking using indirect heat from the charcoals. This means you do not place the food over the coals, but allow the internal temperature of the closed grill to cook the food. Although all charcoal grills are able to smoke food, there are a couple of drawbacks to using a charcoal grill. For one thing, charcoal grills are often a little bit small, which means you can not cook larger quantities of meat. Also, most charcoal grills must be opened to restock the coals, which allows the heat to escape the smoker. This is incovenient because drastic fluctuations in cooking temperature can dry out the food being cooked. Lastly, most charcoal grills do not have a built in temperature gauge to monitor the temperature of the grill.

Charcoal Placement for Smoking

Despite the drawbacks of using a charcoal grill instead of an actual smoker, it is still possible to smoke delicious food using a charcoal grill. While placing your charcoal in the grill, there are two possible options. You can place a pile of charcoal at either end of the grill, leaving the middle clear for cooking. Using this method, it may be easier to raise the internal temperature of the grill more easily. However, this method can often cook the outer edges of your food faster than the inside of the food. The other method of placing your charcoal is to stack it all at one end. Although this method may make it more difficult to raise the temperature of the grill quickly, many people believe it cooks the meat more evenly.

Tips for Smoking With Wood Chips

When using wood chips to add the smoke flavor to your food, it is very important you soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before you begin cooking. This will prevent the chips from catching fire and giving your food a burnt flavor. Another helpful option while using wood chips is to create an aluminum foil bowl with holes in the bottom and an open top to ensure the wood chips last throughout the entire cook time. When smoking meat, it is very helpful to place a drip tray with water in it into the grill. This will add moisture to the inside of the grill, and will help to keep the meat moist. Do not use too much water to your drip tray, because this will make it more difficult to raise the temperature of the grill. Some people like to add apple juice, wine, or other flavored liquids instead of water. However, many people believe that although this adds a pleasant aroma to the steam, it does very little in the way of actually flavoring the food.

Monitor Temperature of Charcoal Grill While Smoking Food

It is imperative to monitor the internal temperature of your grill while you are smoking your food. In order to do this, you will need an oven safe thermometer. It is very helpful to buy a thermometer which has a cord attached, because this allows you to monitor the temperature without frequently opening the lid of the grill. Oven thermometers with cords can be purchased in many stores for around $15. While regulating the heat of your grill, you will use the grill vents. You need air circulating in the grill in order to feed oxygen to the charcoal embers. If the temperature is too high, simply close the vents a little more. If your grill is not hot enough, open the vents a bit more.

Practice Maintaining Proper Temperature in Grill

While learning how to use a charcoal grill as a smoker, it is helpful to do a dry run before you begin cooking food. Each grill is different, and it is important that you learn how to moderate the temperature of your grill. After you have set up your grill for smoking, play with the vents until you achieve and maintain the proper cooking temperature. To practice, bring the grill up to the proper temperature and make sure it stays steady for 10 minutes. Next, open the lid for at least 30 seconds, replace the lid, then regulate the temperature again. Pay attention to how much space you are giving your grill vents.

Replenish Charcoal in Grill While Smoking Food

If you are smoking a dish for longer than 2 hours, you will most likely have to replenish the charcoal supply during cooking. Be sure to add additional charcoals before the embers die down too much to ignite the fresh charcoal. You will need to restock the charcoal every 2 to 3 hours. Do not open the lid of the grill any more than you have to during the cooking process. Each time you open the grill lid, the grill will take several minutes to return to the proper cooking temperature. In order to speed up the reheating of the grill, leave the vents open until the proper temperature is reached, and open and close the vents until your temperature is regulated again. Using these tips, it is possible to smoke fish, roasts, or even whole turkeys to perfection.

Thanks for watching. For more information, visit us online at About.com. Music by Jason Shaw @ audionautix.com.

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