Making great barbecue is not as intimidating as it might seem. You'll need some time, and maybe a beer to kick back with, but the real key is smoking your meat. The process involves using wood chunks that give off that distinct smoky flavor when burning and usually requires meat to be cooked at a low temperature for a few hours. But you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on a clunky smoker to achieve great results. You can smoke meat well on a grill, or you can easily find a smoker that doesn’t break the bank—we’ve made a pretty strong case for it, if we do say so ourselves.
Whatever route you choose, giving your meats a low-and-slow smoke is the best way to achieve tender, juicy, succulent meat with a distinctly smoky flavor. Keep reading for 11 of our favorite smoked-meat recipes, from brisket and pulled pork to steak and chicken wings that call for smoking in a wok.
You’ll want to grab yourself a Boston butt to make the most of this recipe for classic pulled pork. By cooking the meat over low heat, it becomes juicy and tender. An overnight brine helps the pork retain its moisture while a simple dry rub leads to bark that’s flavorful and not overpowering. Best of all, pork shoulder is forgiving enough that even the least experienced barbecuers can achieve quality results.
What’s the best way to guarantee pull-apart-tender pork with great bark and smoky flavor, time after time? Sous vide it. Not only does it lead to better results, but it also requires minimal hands-on time. The immersion circulator does most of the work, leaving the meat needing only about an hour and a half on the grill to finish smoking. It’s a streamlined and reliable process for achieving a pork shoulder that’s moist and tender yet still smoky with a flavorful bark.
If you’ve had trouble with dry brisket in the past, turn to beef chuck—brisket’s cheaper, easier cousin. A simple salt-and-pepper rub, some slow smoking, and the “Texas crutch” (a wrap in aluminum foil) will lead you to moist, tender, and smoky results. To let the true flavors of the beef shine, serve it sliced on white bread with onions and pickles. For a more foolproof method that will guarantee juicy meat with much less effort, try this sous vide version.
Montreal’s answer to pastrami, this smoked meat requires a five-day dry cure in the fridge to allow the salt and nitrites to work their magic. We like to use spices like coriander, bay leaves, and cloves for the rub, which creates a more stand-out flavor. The brisket is then soaked to remove some saltiness before heading to the smoker, and the finished product is a smooth, tender meat that pairs best with rye bread.
Tired of pulled pork? Give this sweet and smoky cochinita pibil a try instead. Smoking the meat on the grill eliminates the need for a conventional pib oven. We lend an extra boost of flavor to the marinade by toasting the spices in oil before blending them together with bitter Seville oranges, charred garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce. In keeping with tradition, we wrap the pork in banana leaves, which imparts an herby flavor on the meat while also locking in moisture. Finish by shredding the pork and serving it in tacos with your toppings of choice.
Though smoking requires longer cooking time, it’s possible to use this method for steak while still achieving a juicy, medium-rare center. The key is to choose a thick cut of meat, use very low heat, and position the tenderloins vertically so that they’re far from the heat source. You’ll give the steak ample opportunity to pick up that sweet, smoky flavor while ensuring even cooking. Quickly finishing off the meat over a piping-hot blaze gives it just the right amount of char without overcooking.
Sweet and salty char siu sauce leaves this smoked pork belly dripping with flavor. The mixture is made up of hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, dry sherry, and Chinese five-spice powder as well as an uncharacteristic splash of pineapple juice. We recommend marinating your meat overnight for maximum results. Cook until the skin is crisp, then try your best not to gobble down the fruits of your labor in one sitting.
The key to Memphis-style dry ribs is a rub that also serves as a base for a vinegary mop. Earthy, herbal ingredients like dried thyme and oregano, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper come together with brown sugar and other seasonings. Brushing the ribs with the vinegar mop every 15 to 20 minutes while cooking keeps them tender and gives them a deep mahogany color. You’ll get a simultaneously spicy, sweet, and tangy flavor with every bite.
These ribs veer in a sweeter direction, but thanks to chili powder, they’ve got that kick of heat that we love. In the last half hour of cooking, the meat is slathered with a layer of barbecue sauce, which helps caramelize it slightly. If you’re not afraid of getting down and dirty, you’ll have no problem enjoying these sweet, spicy, and sticky ribs.
If you want to take smoked meat to the next level, try recreating this fast food specialty. Everything from the barbecue sauce and rub to the pickles and buns is made from scratch, ensuring a much better flavor. The key to the meat’s irresistible smokiness is grinding smoked rib meat together with salted pork shoulder, then throwing it on the grill. Though creating each component of this sandwich is no small feat, the results are well worth it—just make sure you block out a good amount of time to tackle it.
A wok is a great way to add smoky flavor to ingredients that don’t need to cook for a long time. Here, green tea and spices are used to smoke chicken wings before they're briefly thrown under the broiler, which gives them more of a charred flavor. After tossing the wings in a sweet and savory glaze, you’re left with smoky and juicy meat that’s finger-lickin’ good.
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