Cooking Beef with Rub on It
Overall GRILLING BASICS are covered here.
Overall SMOKING BASICS? Oh, they are covered here.
Many kindsa beef meats out there.
For each cut, we’ll offer some suggestions on applying the Rub and actually cooking the cut.
Click on your favorite kind of beef and read away:
Midyett Premium Rub was developed for beef and game meat initially, particularly beef, and particularly steak.
I am not a humble person by any means, but my parents did teach me not to toot my own horn.
Here, however, I want to state unequivocally that I am certain that Midyett Premium Rub is the ne plus ultra of steak rubs.
As magnificent and wonderful as Midyett Premium Rub is on all types of edible material...
...it destroys any other powdery substance you can put on a steak.
I'm happy for you if you have never tried it and are going to put it on a steak for the first time.
And if you've used it before, well, maybe there will be something new in here for you to consider.
Applying the Rub to steak
Don’t dry the meat. A little moisture will help the Rub adhere.
I treat steak differently by thickness….
On any steak over ¾” thick
I suggest coating both sides and the edges completely.
Midyett Premium Rub is formulated such that the meat won't turn out overly salty or peppery.
If a complete coating makes you nervous, try coating one side completely.
On any cut less than 3/4” thick (flank steak, etc.)
Sprinkle Midyett Premium Rub generously on one side.
Cooking the dang steak
You can cook a steak in a pan and eat it just fine. Same with broiling.
Maybe I’ll add some stuff about frying and broiling later. If I can bear to fry and broil some otherwise perfectly good steaks.
I’m just a humble griller. I know I don’t know everything, and I’m sure I’m not the best possible griller on the planet.
But I believe in simplicity and my own taste buds, and I think I can help you make a great steak on a grill.
So let’s start with that.
Grilling Basics covers the essentials of setting up a grill for grilling grilled meats.
More than any other cut of meat, there’s no consensus “doneness” with steak. Let’s work from the middle, which is to say: medium-rare.
Medium-rate steak is 125°F to 130°F in the center. The steak will have a pinkish-red center surrounded by a thin band of grey meat, with a seared outside.
You can adjust how you cook as you see fit, with medium-rare as the baseline.
While steaking it up, I like a grill with a starting temperature around 500°F, as measured in the dome covering the grill.
I’m not picky. Anything between 400°F and 600°F is OK. That’s a pretty wide range.
Below 400°F, you’re going to have a harder time getting a good sear without overcooking the steak. Above 600°F, your margin for error will shrink to nothing in a hurry.
Super-high temps up to 800°F can work, particularly if you like your steak very rare and you want to put a bare minimum but effective sear on the meat. I would work up to that jazz, though. That’s some advanced steakery.
Once the fire is stable at a reasonable temperature, lay the meat out in such a way that you can turn each steak 90 degrees easily. Look at this little picture. Put the steaks thusly, and there's plenty of grill space to rotate when the time comes. Yes.
Looking at that terrible drawing, you may note that it is an attempted rendering of porterhouse or t-bone steaks.
I love those guys. I think they are the best steaks. But here’s an important note about them:
A porterhouse or t-bone is two cuts in one steak. You have both a strip (the big part that holds together better) and a filet (the little part that is floppier) on each steak. I recommend placing them (both initially and on the flip) so that the strip is towards the hottest part of the fire. The strip is a hardier cut and marginally less easy to overcook than the filet.
One more thing on your initial meat layout: if you’re cooking for many, resist the urge to cram the grill full of steaks. It’s bad for airflow, and you’re more likely to end up with hot spots (from burning fat) that are hard to control.
OK, so steaks are down!
After an initial sear, I turn the steak 90 degrees to get a cross-hatched grill mark.
Then I flip the steak and do the same thing—grill the flipped steak in one position, then turn it 90 degrees.
On a 500°F grill with steaks between ¾” and 1 ½” thick…I tend to sear for 3min a side. 90 seconds in each of those four positions.
Keep in mind during the searing part of the cook—most fires have hot and cool spots.
Good grilling technique requires moving the meat around so that no lone steak bears the brunt of extra heat or gets left out in the cold.
That said, I do not like to move the meat around on the grill overly much. It knocks Rub off the steaks and just makes me nervous in a broad, existential sense.
Solution? How about rotating the grilling surface itself? You can use tongs or a drum stick or whatever implement works. The rotation should give each steak a chance to sit over various parts of the fire.
If the fire is more even, it’s less important (maybe unimportant) to rotate the grilling surface, but it’s a useful technique when you have the inevitable “spotty” fire.
After the last sear at the last of the four searing positions, here’s what I do….
I shut down the grill. I close every vent to choke off the air to the fire.
If the steak is < ¾” thick, I’ll leave it in the closed grill for 90s or so.
If the steak is ¾” to 1 ½” thick, I’ll let it go up to 3min.
Thicker than 1 ½”…I’d still check at 3min, but I wouldn’t expect it to be done right then.
Then I check the meat.
How do I check it? I open up the grill, and from there it depends on how thick a cut I have.
Thin cuts - I pick up the steak by the edge, with tongs, and I check them for flex. They should be not stiff but not floppy if they’re supposed to be medium-rare. Err on the side of less done with thin cuts—you can always throw it back on the grill or into a pan for 30 seconds.
¾” to 1 ½” thick – I check the steak by poking it with my finger. You can use your hand as a way to calibrate what the steak should feel like when you poke it. Various methods exist, but here’s my favorite: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/the_finger_test_to_check_the_doneness_of_meat/
Note on the finger poke: don’t mistake the lack of give in the seared crust for a lack of give in the entire steak. Even a very rare steak can seem stiff if you poke the hardest part of the crust. Try a few spots to get the whole picture.
Also, I take the meat off slightly early—top end of rare if I want medium-rare, for example. The meat will cook a bit more during the resting period after being removed from the grill.
A real thick steak should be checked with a meat thermometer. Through the edge of the steak, right in the middle between top and bottom, avoiding any bone. Take it off the grill when the therm hits 125, which is the upper edge of rare.
If the steaks aren't done at this point...they'll be close. Flip 'em and continue to cook with grill open until they're just right.
Once the steaks are off the grill, put them on a plate and let them rest at room temperature for 5 to 7 minutes or so.
Too much more of a rest than that, nothing good happens. The meat just gets cold.
And now you are ready to eat steak meat.
Brisket seems exotic to the uninitiated, because it takes a long time, and the mystique of smoking isn’t exactly talked down by people who make barbecue their business.
Brisket is not that hard to do. You don’t need special equipment, and even if you totally blow it, you can probably eat it when you’re done.
Here’s a basic way to do brisket.
Preparing to cook this big thing
Brisket (uncooked and not corned beef)
Midyett Premium Rub and maybe some extra salt if you want
Yellow mustard, maybe
All the stuff in Smoking Basics
An oven and tin foil if you worship the false god of expediency (are lazy)
Figuring out what kind of brisket meat you want and preparing said meat
Get a “packer cut” brisket. This means you’re buying the brisket with both the point and the flat attached together.
The flat sometimes is sold on its own—it’s the clean, lean part of the brisket. Don’t just get a flat unless you really know what you’re doing and want to do a quick cook of it.
The point is the big, bulbous, fatty, messy part. I like the point a lot more myself, so much so that I would just buy the point if I could find someplace to sell it to me without the flat. But most people seem to like the flat for some reason.
Anyway, get a whole brisket. They come in various sizes. Don’t get a monster if you don’t have a monster grill. You can probably tell the guy at the place what you have to cook on, and he’ll know what you can handle. Factor in 90min/lb cook time, by the way. Might not take that long, might take longer.
If you can get the butcher to trim the fat cap, you might have him do it. Otherwise, you’ll have to wrestle with it at home. I usually trim it (or have it trimmed) to ¼” to ½” or so, certainly no thicker than that. The fat cap is a thick layer of fat on the bottom of the brisket, and if you don’t trim it, you get a lot of drippings and it just makes a mess to no good end.
Thaw the brisket if it’s frozen. It’ll take a while, like a day on the counter and a day in the fridge.
Even at that, when you have a not-frozen brisket, you might want to put it in the freezer for a few hrs before you cook it. Supposedly that helps it take up the smoke. I don’t know if that is true, but I do this thing sometimes.
Actually, if you want to know a secret…you don’t have to thaw it the whole way. It’s gonna be on the smoker for a long, long time. It’ll cook. The main drawback to starting with partly frozen meat is that it won’t take the Rub as well, and you’ll have a hell of a time trimming the fat cap if it’s totally frozen.
Rub: I have my Rub I use. Midyett Premium Rub. I manufacture and sell it, and I use the production run on whatever I cook. I believe in it 100% for beef and game meat—I recommend it without reservation. It is salt, pepper, sumac, coffee, garlic and cocoa powders.
Get Midyett Premium Rub and put it on your brisket already. If you don’t want to buy my Rub and use it, you can try copying it, or you can use something like 2 to 1 salt to pepper and just kind of go from there.
I have used turbinado sugar in beef rub, though I really think sugar is more of a pork thing. I will say that I don’t like cumin in barbecue rub, as it makes it taste like chili, and that just seems weird to me with barbecued meat that is not actually in chili.
You can’t put too much Midyett Premium Rub on the brisket. I don’t care what you put in it—you can’t put too much Rub on it. If you like, smear the brisket with plain yellow mustard before you put on the Rub, to help the Rub adhere. You won’t taste the mustard in the end.
I’d do the Rub 30min before cooking. I don’t know why 30min. That’s just when I do it, and it works out.
Setting up the smoker
Smoking Basics lays out how to get your fire set up.
Applying the Rub to brisket
I use a thin slather of plain yellow mustard to improve adhesion.
Works great, and you don’t taste it in the end.
You may consider adding salt to taste, up to 1 part salt to 5 parts Rub.
I do not. But you may!
Cooking the gol-darn brisket
Once you have a good smoking setup and it has stabilized...put the brisket on the grill. I do it fat-side down. I think the fat protects the meat a bit, and I don’t buy that the fat does anything special if you have it on top—I don’t notice it basting the meat or anything like that.
Put the lid down on the grill. Keep the dampers open about halfway. Monitor the temperature carefully until it stabilizes. You don’t want it to get too hot, so take your time bringing it to temp. More open top means less smoke staying in smoker—do that if you’re getting tons of smoke. More open bottom means more air to fire, but more smoke kept in the smoker unless you open up the top, and if you do both, you are going to get more heat for sure.
From this moment until about 90min in, you’re getting most of your smoke into the meat. Maybe try not to open the lid during this period.
If you can stabilize the temperature at 225 or 250, nice job. Go take a nap.
If you wake up and your fire went out, disassemble and get it going again. No big deal. If you wake up and your fire is way too hot, do what you can to get it down. You might end up with a pretty charred brisket, but oh well, it’ll probably still be good. Everyone likes jerky, and jerky is dry…. You can make chili out of it, or certainly you can do burnt ends, which I won’t get into here.
The rest of the cook is like an interpretive dance towards a very easily apprehended finish, which is about 190-195°F as measured in the middle of the point. The interpretive part mostly involves trying to figure out how much longer you have to wait before it is done. There’s a long-ass period in the middle where the meat is sweating moisture at a rate that balances the cooking heat of the fire, which means the meat temperature “plateaus” and stops rising, maybe even dips. Can be alarming, but don’t worry about it as long as the overall grill heat is still up.
One good trick is the Texas Crutch, wherein one takes the brisket off after 6hrs or so (after the stall, not during it!) and wraps it (in what? See below...). One then puts it back on the grill or even (gasp!) in a 225-250°F oven. I’ve finished a few briskets this way, and if you put it back on the fire for 45min at the end (to tighten up the bark on the outside), I doubt anyone will know what horrible thing you have done.
Wrapping...many use foil. I'd go so far as to say most use foil. I certainly did. But Aaron Franklin at the famous Franklin Barbecue shop in Austin, Texas advocates for unwaxed butcher paper. Having tried it, all i can say is go buy a roll of unwaxed butcher paper if you are going to smoke brisket. The paper wrap helps the brisket retain heat while still letting it breathe, and the result is that the precious brisket-bark maintains much more of its solidity than it will if you wrap in foil.
It’s easy to dry out the flat by overcooking it. I don’t know what to say about this exactly. I still dry it out sometimes. Since fundamentally the problem with a dry flat is the escape of moisture, sometimes I will wrap the flat for the last however-long of the cook, in an attempt to keep it moist. This technique works pretty well. But you’re bound to dry it out a few times—that’s just the way it goes. I feel like I should have some lessons to impart here, but I guess you just develop a feel for the cut and get better at it.
Meat thermometer: I use an electronic one with a cord, so the probe is in the grill and the measurement device is outside it. That way, I don’t have to open it up. Some people are like “DO NOT OPEN THE GRILL EVER!!!!!” I have realized it doesn’t really matter after a certain point, in terms of the cook, but you can mess up the cooking environment, so if you can avoid it, avoid it, I guess.
You may lose your fire at some point and have to refuel. Don’t worry about it. Just pull the brisket and drip pan, redo the fire, and get it going again. Or, as noted, you can go to the oven if you’ve gotten at least a few hrs of smoke and you want to cheat.
You can do all this lily-gilding with glazes and stuff, kind of basting it etc. etc. I do that stuff sometimes for kicks. You can spray it while it cooks, inject it with boullion or other solutions before you put it on the grill, etc. Injecting is fun, and I like the results, so it’s something I do often but not always. You can find out plenty about those frilly things elsewhere on the World Wide Web, although I hope to address some of them very soon.
Burgers....burgs...sometimes just buh. The humble hamburger sandwich has attained its preeminent status among meat items in the USA because of its simplicity, flexibility, common form, and uncommon deliciousness. A great bu satisfies the American palate like nothing else, and there are times in any American life when only a b- will calm an insatiable need to chew meat.
Cooking burgs happens in a variety of arenas. You got your griddle, your grill, your frying pan, your broiler. You can't cook a burger in a microwave, really. Or by the heat of the sun, most of the time. Modern automobiles run cooler than the old ones, so the days of frying ground beef patties on your manifold are mostly over (unfortunately). But surely it is true that you can manage to cook up a burg-type meat disc in more than one way.
Here...no joke, I'm going to lay it out for you. You're welcome. I just got this down, like really down, like REPEATEDLY down. I've held off on this section because I didn't want to offer you some b.s. advice. This is not b.s. or h.s. (horse s.) or baloney or nonsense. Not at all.
It's the story of how to make, cook, and eat a great hamburger patty, and I think you'll find the information so deeply useful it might be a little scary. Brace yourself and continue if you wish.
What do you need? You need some stuff.
Burger meat (more on this later)
Midyett Premium Rub, duh
All the stuff in Grilling Basics
Buns for hamburgers or similar
Bacon (optional but come on not really)
Maybe sliced tomatoes
Other stuff if you insist
Applying the Rub to burgers
Add judiciously to ground beef. About ½ tablespoon per lb...
Dust outside of burger on both sides. I'll go through this section in a bit.
If you coat the patty, like really coat it, it might be a bit much. Don't say I didn't warn you!
Preparing the burger patties
When you're buying burger meat, if you ask me...and you kind of are asking me, indirectly...you want 80/20 meat/fat ratio. Don't be a ding-dong and get 90/10, much less anything leaner. Fat is good. It is delicious, and burgers with an 80/20 ratio are easier to cook and harder to dry out.
If you use bison meat or venison or other ground game meat, well, it might be pretty great, as it often is. BUT I very highly recommend mixing the game meat with 80/20 ground beef. Like half and half, or maybe 1/3 game to 2/3 beef. Game meat is lean. Lean burgs aren't always a great cook and aren't usually at the top of my personal list of things to eat.
So you got your meat. It should be in a mixing bowl. Add the "judicious" amount of Rub to which I referred earlier. 1/2 tbsp per pound should be fine. Sprinkle, mix, sprinkle, and mix until you've introduced the Rub gradually and thoroughly. This Rub layer is but one layer of Rub you will be applying.
Good job. And now...time to make patties. Listen to me here...seriously, I know this thing is typed and not spoken, but "listen."
Make...the...patties...pretty dang loose. Do not compress them substantially in any way.
You want to put a loose ball of burger meat in your palm. You want to form the ball into a patty very gently, without squishing it too vigorously at all. Then you want to put it on a plate. And you want to take your thumb or a spoon and make a divot in the middle of the patty...again, gently, just a shallow divot. This divot will keep the patty from curling on the grill. Now sprinkle that patty with Rub...and make the rest of 'em.
Don't use a Mason jar lid to make "perfectly" round burgs. Don't buy preformed patties. Do it this way. The burgs will be able to expand and contract during cooking, and the juices in the meat will be able to move around within the burg meats.
Cooking hamburgers man hamburgers are so good
Grilling Basics goes over how to set up a grill to cook. I'll stress one thing for this cook and suggest another (and pretend that you took my suggestion).
I will stress the need to dump most of your coals to one side of the bottom of your grill. You need a hot side and a cool side. You don't want your only options to be "hot as hell" and "not on the grill." You also don't need the hot side to be crazy hot. You need it hot enough to make the meat sizzle when you put it down. But that's it.
I will suggest that you have some kind of griddle scene on the cooler side of the grill. Could be a half-circle, cast iron grilling griddle (which I have and love to use). Could be a broiler pan or whatever else will serve a griddle-like function. I just recommend some kind of flat surface on your grill right now—it's integral to my burg cook, and I'm gonna pretend that you took my advice. Good job on the griddle! It looks great!
OK, so you're all set up? You dumped your coals on one side of the grill, you put in a griddle deal, and you let the grill heat up to a temp that will result in sizzling meat when you put it down. Nice.
Take the burgs one by one and put them Rub side down on the open part of the grill. Also...remember the order of when you placed which burgs on the grill. It'll be important later.
If you have more than a half dozen burgs to cook...don't cram them all on at once. You'll see in a second why such a thing isn't necessary, and cramming them on can have two bad outcomes:
1. Cram job can choke off the air to the fire and result in bad flow and spotty heat.
2. Crammed-on burg amount can drip too much fat and make a fat inferno. A little burning fat is the spice of life with burgers, but too much is a stinky and smoky drag.
Actually, there's a third bad thing about cramming on too many burgs...you have to manage like a dozen burgers and you only have really one burger-flipping paw. Think about it. No thanks. Get about six on the open part of the grill at a time, tops.
Now you should do exactly two things with the burgs:
1. Very gently put a divot on this side of the burg (which should not have a divot to begin with--the original divot should be on the side on the grill right now). You can make a little divot with the spatch if you're gentle.
2. Sprinkle Rub on this side of the burg (again, the original Rub side should be down right now).
THAT'S IT. Absolutely...seriously...do NOT press down on the g.d. burg with the spatula. Man, you just kill the thing when you do that. I know it's fun to hear the sizz and watch the grease catch fire, but a lot of things are fun and counterproductive. The spatch squish is one of them. Leave the burgs ALONE right now.
Let them go for, I dunno, 90s? Then go to the burg you first placed (remember it?) and nudge it gently with the spatula.
The deal here is this:
Initially, the fire will sear the meat and the burg will stick to the grill.
But eventually, the meat will be seared sufficiently and the burg will be "freed" from its stuck state.
At that point, the thing will be not difficult to get on a spatula.
So when that happens...you get the burg on a spatch and you flip it...gently. Remember these burgers are pretty loose, not like the preformed puck patties you can buy in a tube. If you were dumb enough to squish the patties down with the spatch, those poor things are probably WELDED to the grill and will take forever to sear enough (burn, really) to be "released."
If the first burg you put down is freed up enough to flip, chances are that the other ones are as well. Maybe your fire isn't quite even and you have to wait slightly longer to flip the others. Don't cry. It's probably going to be fine.
Anyway, when you get 'em all flipped, you do the same wait-and-see bit on this side, until the burgs can be gotten on a spatula...only this time, you flip nothing. You transfer the burgs to that griddle part of the grill I mentioned earlier.
When the burgs are on the griddle...it's gonna be cooler (ideally), but they're still on the grill, so they're still cooking. But they're also on a solid surface, so they're not losing moisture as readily as they would over an open flame. I think that rules pretty hard.
If you're going to put sliced cheese on the cooked burgs, now is the time to do it.
And once that's done, if you do it, I would advise sprinkling the burgs rather lightly with Rub once again. You'll get a good depth of flavor between the "raw" Rub and the "cooked" Rub on the outside of the burg and the "kinda boiled" Rub in the burg's interior.
Now you know what? The cheese will take a bit to melt....so you can put onto the open part of the grill any of the other burgs you still have to cook. Maybe close the lid for a minute. Lift it up, and if the cheese is now melted on the totally cooked burgs, take 'em off. Eventually, you'll finish the burgs presently on the open grill the same way you just finished the first batch.
Dressing the burgs
OK, so people put all sorts of stuff on burgs. I'm just going to throw my two cents in here. Do whatever, but I have a little advice so here ya go.
Bun: you can grill it if you want, sure. Make it toasted or whatever. And yes patty melts are good, so toasted rye bread can be great. Bun integrity is important to me, but I don't like too much bun, so you know, something with some substance that isn't too thick. That's my bun. I'm not crazy about pretzel buns, and I don't like super soft buns.
Cheese: I just think burgs are always better with good cheese on them. I do.
Bacon: Similarly, I truly believe a burg is made better by putting bacon on it. Right on top of the cheese.
Pickle: Pickles are a) the jam and b) just real good on burgers. Dill pickles, I mean. I'm not sure I've eaten a sweet pickle since I grew out of comic books.
Mustard: I'll eat mayonnaise or special sauce or even ketchup on a burg if it's already on there. But I'm not going to—of my own free will—put any saucy thing except mustard on a burg. Pickles, bacon, and mustard are the things for me and all I really need though I will eat other stuff, no problem.
No judgment. Dress your bun as you see fit, and eat.
What you need to do to grill things...go!
Get this stuff:
- A grill (kettle, "egg"-style, something like that)
- Hardwood charcoal and a little bit of hardwood (chips, a chunk, whatever)
- Some food to grill
So there's grilling and there's smoking. Grilling is cooking over a fire at moderate to high heat for a short time. Smoking (barbecuing) is cooking over smoke at low temperature for a long time. This here tutorial thingy is about grilling.
Now...if you have a gas grill...no judging. I use 'em when they are around. Just fire it up and grill the food. If you have multiple burners and can afford to leave one unlit, do that. You can move things over to that part of the grill to sit for a bit, if they get cooked enough and you need to catch up with other stuff or whatever. And also ignore the rest of this thing.
If you do not have a gas grill...are they gone? OK...good for you. Man, who wants to cook on one of those things? You might as well stay inside, right? Don't you feel bad for those people? Me too. Ugh caveman cook food wood fire, me big caveman. So anyway, let's move on with real grilling.
Fill a charcoal chimney with charcoal and get it going. Use hardwood (a/k/a "lump") charcoal, if at all possible. Briquettes are a total drag for smoking, but you can get away with them when grilling. Still, I don't recommend them. They don't burn as hot as lump, they don't smell or taste as good, and they produce a ton of ash.
Now...if you are cooking just a bit of food, or you're cooking just veggies for some reason, or even cooking real thin stuff like bulgogi or cutlets, you might only want a half-chimney of charcoal. And I don't clear out the grill if there's viable charcoal in the bottom (as opposed to just ash, which I do trash)--if you have a bunch of leftover charcoal in there, then a half-chimney might be the ticket for your cook.
I use some kind of pulpy paper (newspaper is ideal) crumpled up to light the chimney. Crumple the paper into balls, put it on a non-flammable surface like concrete or the bottom of your grill, light it on fire, and put the chimney with charcoal in it on top of the now-burning paper. You can use a crumpled-up paper bag, as well, but it might not catch as quickly (hint: light a candle, drip wax on the paper, and light the waxy paper with the candle--wax is an accelerant). You know what else works great? Peanut shells. Seriously great for lighting a fire.
Anyway, LIGHT IT, then let the chimney run until the top of it sees ash. You should have at least a bit of white ash on the top of the charcoal in there. Then dump the coals into the grill...
...ideally leaving about a quarter of the available space largely free of charcoal.
Why? So you will feel smart when you have a steak or piece of chicken or charred pepper that is done early and you want to keep it warm but not full-on cooking for another five minutes.
The charcoal you have in there? You ideally want it spread out evenly over the area you DID want covered. That can be hard to do pouring charcoal out of a chimney. Maybe move coals around with tongs to get it evenish. Once you grill a bunch, you get good at managing the hot and cool spots, and maybe this will not matter much.
If you have wood to add here...add it. Use only hardwood, and not too much. You're only going to get a short amount of time with the smoke. It's going to be an accent, not a primary element as in smoking. Let it burn a bit before putting anything on the grill.
For grilling, I would suggest opening the bottom damper on the grill completely. Get it hot. And you may or may not be using the grill cover. If I'm cooking sausage or hot dogs or burgers, I do those cooks with an open grill mostly (though I do smoke sausage at low temperature sometimes when barbecuing). Steaks, I'll use the lid, but usually when I do put the lid on over steaks, I close off all dampers completely.
A note on burning grease and fat: it's not a major flavor issue when grilling like it is with barbecue, mostly because the temperature of a grilling fire is so much hotter than a smoking fire. The grease burns off more quickly and completely. The food isn't lingering over the smoldering grease fire for many many minutes, soaking up the petroleum taste. If anything, a little beef grease just adds some grilly grillness on the flavor front--but only at grilling temps! You want to avoid burning grease completely on a low and slow cook.
Anyway, if your grill is hot, good job. You're ready to grill now.
What you need to smoke meat:
- Hardwood charcoal
- Hardwood chunks (not chips)
- Drip pan (large hotel pan)
- Grill with a couple layers of grills (more on that later)
And now...here's how you set up your grill to smoke meat.
We're talking kettle grills and kamado-style smokers like the Big Green Egg and so forth. If you have something fancier like an offset smoker or whatever, good for you! But you can figure that out on your own!
Fill a charcoal chimney with charcoal and get it going. I'll assume you know how to use a charcoal chimney. Use hardwood charcoal, not briquettes. Briquettes are not pure wood. They have fillers like clay and other stuff in 'em. As a result, you're smoking your meat with whatever else is in the briquettes as well as whatever wood material is in there. Even if the fillers do not flavor the meat (they might), the non-wood stuff in there means they won't produce the same flavorful impact as hardwood charcoal. The filler also means briquettes ash a TON. Plus I don't think they last as long for low-temp cooks, maybe because they ash so much and kinda smother themselves or something, I don't know. I think they're a drag.
Fill the bottom of the smoker with unlit charcoal—”fill,” yeah…not FILL-fill. Just get a good one-chunk-thick layer of charcoal in there. Dump the chimney onto it once the chimney stuff is nice and hot.
Add 5-6 sizable chunks of hardwood to the fire—or less. I like a lot of early smoke myself, but you can overdo it, I guess. Spread the chunks out so they’re not clumped together.
What kind of wood? Hardwood of some kind. Hickory and oak are good for most everything, as are other nut woods like pecan. Cherry is good for cuts of beef. Apple is great for pork or chicken, just OK for beef (kind of light). I like mesquite, but it’s strong--I wouldn’t use it all alone if you can help it, and I wouldn't use it at all on anything but beef. A mix of wood will give you good, complex flavor.
The bottom damper on the grill should be maybe ½ way open and the top should be about the same. Just because that’s the middle and you can go up/down on either end from there.
Ideally you’ve got a thermometer on the lid of the grill. Shoot for 225°F or maybe 250°F tops. Overshooting is best to avoid—high temp wastes fuel and takes a long time to come down.
You’ll want to have some kind of two-level grill scene so you can put a drip pan between the fire and the meat. There is a variety of ways to do this—just depends on your grill deal. Maybe you have an offset smoker, and it’s a nonissue. But the drip pan should have a large surface, it should be pretty shallow (couple inches deep), it should not be right on the coals, and it should be maybe half full of water—room at the top for whatever grease falls into the pan.
The top grill goes above the drip pan—worst case, you can put the drip pan on the regular grill and balance a second grill on top of the drip pan. That would be wobbly, but I’ve done it and it works OK.
Just do not allow too much grease to get in the fire. It’s not like getting a little steak fat on the fire when grilling. A brisket, for example, puts out a lot of grease from the fatty point and the fat cap. If that grease gets into the fire to any great extent, you’ll end up with a hot-ass grease fire, greasy smoke, and meat that has this gross petrol taste. Even if other people don’t notice it, you will, and it will bum you out.
Once your drip pan is “secured” or at least there, with a grill above it...you're ready to put on the meat.