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Charcoal Smoker BBQs

Smoking meat over charcoal is perhaps the purest form of BBQ. While it takes more work than grilling over gas, many BBQ lovers stick with charcoal for its unique flavours and hands-on cooking experience.

Charcoal Smoking

Smoking isn’t the quickest way of cooking, nor is it the most convenient. Charcoal smokers require regular checks during use to ensure that the temperature stays stable and the fire stays in the right place, and the long, slow approach to cooking means that it will take hours to cook your meal properly. BBQ experts recommend taking a whole day. However, what you get for your trouble is deeply flavoured, smoky meat that is fall-apart tender. For BBQ enthusiasts and perfectionists, charcoal smoking delivers results that other cooking methods can’t match.

Types of Charcoal Smoker

There are several different designs of charcoal smoker, each with their own advantages. Vertical water smokers stack a pan of water in between the charcoal and the smoking chamber in order to regulate temperature and keep the meat moist. They are typically inexpensive and user-friendly, making them a great first smoker. Drum smokers are potentially even smaller as they do away with the water pan, although this can make temperature control more of an issue. Offset smokers cook the food in a horizontal chamber into which smoke is fed from a separate firebox. This allows you to add more fuel without opening the cooking chamber and losing smoke and temperature, and the cooking chambers can be potentially very large for catering big groups.

Charcoal and Wood

Charcoal BBQs and smokers ideally need two sources of fuel for a good cook, charcoal for heat and wood for flavour. Charcoal generally comes in two different types. Lump charcoal is pure carbonised hardwood, generally made from wood scraps. Briquettes, on the other hand, are processed hardwood and contain other filler materials. Briquettes are more uniform and will burn more consistently in the smoker, but lump charcoal is easier to light and burns hotter. As well as charcoal, smoker users add hardwood chunks to provide smokey flavour. Different woods leave their mark on the meat in different ways. Fruit woods like apple and peach tend to be lighter in flavour, while maple is moderately strong and mesquite can overpower the food if overused.

Pellet Smokers

If charcoal smokers sound too complicated, pellet smokers provide a similar outcome with less hassle. Pellet smokers burn pellets made from compressed sawdust which, unlike charcoal, doesn’t produce ash. They also feature electronic temperature control systems, making them easier to set and forget than a traditional charcoal smoker. On the other hand, a pellet smoker requires constant access to electricity and may struggle to get the same intensity of smokey flavour as charcoal.

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