Start Here: Let’s BBQ!

There’s something about the world of true BBQ. Those that know how to do it are revered and respected, causing many to be interested in becoming BBQ masters themselves. As I’m sure you know, when we talk about true BBQ, we mean smoking food over low temperatures. BBQ is not grilling: not that there’s a thing in the world wrong with grilling – I love a flame grilled steak or hamburger or grilled vegetables. But it is not BBQ. True BBQ is “low and slow” – low temperatures (compared to grilling temperatures) and slow (hours and hours sometimes). Here’s a simple primer that will get you started, so let’s smoke something!

The first thing to understand is what we mean by “low” temperature. As mentioned, grilling is performed at high temperatures, oftentimes exceeding 500, 600, or even higher on good quality grills. But BBQ is cooked at temps typically ranging from 225 to 275°F. That sounds easy enough, but how can I “turn down” my grill from 500 to 250°? The secret is indirect cooking.

Indirect cooking is when the food is placed in a location in the cooker where it is not directly over or near the heat source, hence the term “indirect” cooking. If you have used or seen a BBQ smoker, you notice that the fire chamber and the food chamber are separate, creating an indirect cooking system. The heat and smoke flow from the fire chamber into the food chamber and out a chimney.

But what if you don’t have a true BBQ smoker? Relax! You can use your basic kettle grill by placing the charcoal to one side and the food on the opposite side of the kettle. Whala!  Indirect cooking!

The one thing you will need that you may not have is a good thermometer. Search the web to find a source for a good BBQ thermometer. You can permanently mount it or simply insert into one of the vent holes on top. Control the temp to keep it to the desired level (between 225 and 275°) by closing and opening the bottom and top vents. Most of the time, they will both be nearly completely closed. If the temp starts to drop near 225° after opening the vents a bit, it is time to add more fuel (charcoal).

That’s it! Now you’re ready to smoke something! Good luck and take a look at some of the other articles of interest to get more information as you need it, such as the temperatures at which different foods are perfectly cooked!

Philip Allen