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Essential Tips For The Novice Smoker

Feb 3, 2008
Writing a website full of BBQ Smoker Recipes is a time consuming business even at the best of times. I take pride in ensuring that the pictures I put up on my site are of food that I have cooked and not some glossy template purchased on the internet and I also want my recipes to be innovative. What I enjoy most of all is when readers use my feedback form with ideas for improvements to my site and also to suggest recipes, there's so much creativity out there and to harness just a small amount of it is truly humbling.

It's a two way street of course and just as I get some great free barbecue recipes in return and I also get a lot of questions to which answers are free of charge. Many of the questions start with the sentence "I've just won / been given a smoker without any instructions and I'm gonna cook for 20 guests at the weekend, do you have any tips for me?"

I'm not sure about tips but my immediate reaction is a combination of:-

Lucky you winning a smoker
Cooking for 20 first time out, that's a challenge..........
Cooking for 20 first time out - are you mad?

Barbecue cooking for any number of people is challenge enough but doing it on a piece of equipment that's never been used before is really asking a lot. Nevertheless I always respond with my "essential tips" for the novice smoker:-

1. Do a trial run. Not just to test your BBQ cooking abilities but also if the smoker is new it will be protected with an oily film that needs to be cleaned up. Just like any oven it's important to give it a run otherwise your first food will not taste right.

2. Keep the temperature in the smoker between 230 - 250F

3. It's indirect cooking so heat should no be directly under the food, put the drip tray here and this will help keep it moist.

4. If it's a charcoal smoker the coals will start to cool after 60 mins so keep a steady stream on fresh charcoal available and change every 45 mins

5. Slow cooking is the order of the day and you'll need to allow up to 90 mins cooking time per pound of meat

6. Many argue that after 5 hrs smoking, the smoke adds no further flavour so you can finish off in the conventional oven if you wish. (Just wrap the food in foil to keep it moist)

7. Don't be tempted to lift the cover of the barbecue too often - you only let the smoke out

8. Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature.

9. Practice makes perfect - don't give up after the first attempt!

And that last point is so true, I've been cooking on grills and smokers for 20 years and I still get it wrong so don't be too hard on yourself if at first you don't succeed.

Even if you're not a novice smoker, hopefully there's something here for you to take away and you'll have a happy and safe cookout or maybe you have got a tip for me?
About the Author
BBQ Smoker Recipes - Free barbecue grill recipes & meat smoker cooking ideas on gas, charcoal or electric. Free Barbecue Recipes - Outdoor grilling tips, easy fire pit menus, healthy rotisserie suggestions, best homemade bbq sauce recipes. Easy Barbecue Recipes - Easy recipes for the smoker grill with lots of tips.
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