Top 12 smoking mistakes that can ruin your barbecue

Jason Webster
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1) Using the wrong cut of meat.

Using beef for example, (no matter the cut) is best when done on a smoker. The fat content is higher than most types of meat. A cut of beef that should be used for barbecuing is beef brisket. It has enough fat and thick meat to stay moist while cooking. It is best used in a indirect method.

2) Using lighter fluid to start your charcoal briquettes.

Some grills come with a handy fluid chamber to fuel the charcoal. If yours does not, you can add the fluid to your charcoal. To do this, soak the charcoal in the fluid before starting the grill. The fluid should burn off during start-up. If you use lighter fluid, you will be adding unneeded grease to your food.

3) Not controlling the temperature inside the grill

The most common mistake I see at the barbecue pit. People set up the fire and leave it at that. The worst thing that can happen is that you end up cooking the food unevenly.

Once the fire has burned all the way down, you have to maintain a steady temperature. For long smoking sessions, there is no way around the thermometer.

You need to to constantly adjust heat source. If it goes too low, add hardwood chips to the fire. If it gets too hot, add water.

To maintain temperature, you also need to control airflow. You can opt for charcoal grills, that have vents in the lid or cook in a smoker with a built-in damper.

Controlling the airflow is one of the most important aspects of smoke-cooking. The idea is to maintain steady temperature and not let the outside of the meat cook faster than inside.

If the temperature inside the grill is not steady you can use special accessories. For example, mechanical dampers like the ‘Smokey Joe’ from Bradley Smoker (see pic) or the ‘Thermostatic Fan Controller’ from Auber Instruments.

4) Over adjusting your grill setup

You have to make sure that your grill is set up in the right settings. You will only need to adjust your grill if you’re using a charcoal grill. There is a fine line between over-compensating and overwhelming your charcoal barbecue.

Here’s how to adjust your barbecue:

{1}. On a gas grill, the biggest mistake you can do is to turn up the heat to the maximum. This can affect how food cooks on the grill. If you want to adjust the heat, try to find your grill’s sweet spot.
{2}. When you use lighter fluid to burn the charcoal, make sure that no flames appear. You will know that it is burning correctly when you see white smoke.
{3}. Start your charcoal in a chimney starter. There is one simple method to lighting your charcoal, and this is using starter fluid. But if you are a purist about grilling, there is a way to light coals on fire without using a starter fluid.

That is using a chimney starter. All you’ll need to do is fill it up with briquettes and light it with your lighter. It will give you 6 to 8 charcoal briquettes which can burn for 2 hours.

5) Having a few too many drinks while you barbecue

And then attempting to start lighting the barbecue. This often results in setting fire to the charcoal, can be dangerous and can ruin your smoke and cooking.

Don’t drink while doing barbecue!

It must be boring to do the same thing every weekend. Imagine winding up your weekend by coming home, grabbing your favourite brew … and then getting out the grill.

I understand that a drink or a beer or two can be a really fun way to start a barbecue. But as the weekend goes on, I often find myself wondering if I just enjoy cooking, or if I am addicted to beer. One or two can be okay, but often I end up with half a case of beer or something bigger. That is crazy!

There are many things that people can do that are just as fun without consuming alcohol.

Common sense is to do things you enjoy more. If you know that these are things that you can enjoy without alcohol, why would you do it with alcohol?

Start with a drink and maybe even one or two, but then stop there. If you’re trying to light the barbecue while intoxicated, you may forget or fumble in putting the charcoal briquettes or lighter gas.

6) Too much smoke

Perhaps the biggest fear of any new barbecue tender is that they will run out of smoke.

What do you do if this happens? It depends on why they run out.

If your wood gets consumed in too short a time, try using a bigger log.

If you run out because you have too feeble a flame, try adding more charcoal or burning your coals longer before adding wood.

If you run out because your meat’s ready, you might as well go ahead and enjoy it and worry about the smoke later.

Remember that any extra helpings of wood you put on won’t cause a fire. In fact, they’ll create more smoke and flavor. Just don’t overdo it.

7) Not giving yourself enough time

When it comes to barbecuing food, things can get a little bit hectic especially during the hot summer days.

The meat may burn if not attended to immediately, and the food can dry up without absorbing the moisture of the sauce.

To prevent this, it is wise to have a plan, and give yourself enough time so that you never feel rushed.

If you were not able to plan ahead, then have everything done ahead of time, and do the actual grilling just before tasting time.

To make sure that your day goes smoothly and that you don’t run out of time, consider this tricky scenario:

Your guests are arriving in an hour, but your chicken breasts still need to marinate for 30 minutes. So you place your chicken breasts in a marinating bowl to marinate.

You forget to turn on the TV, and the Giants game is getting interesting.

You decide to watch TV while you wait for the sauce to set.

By the time you remember about the chicken breast marinating in the fridge, it is not even half done. It’s now time to smoke the breast, wrap it in foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes.

You get your smoker ready and now you’re listening to ESPN.

8) Panicking during the stall

If you start your barbecue and notice that your coals arent blazing as fast as youd like. Don’t panic!! (If you do so, youll ruin your barbecue in seconds).

At first, it will be normal to find a “stall,” where the smoker temperature levels off to a point where it can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes before you see any increase in temperature.

Take a deep breath and dont open the lid. Let the meat and smoke do their magic, and wait it out. Every time you look at your smoker temperature, you are letting out precious heat. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax. The temperature will go up, we promise.

9) Opening the grill lid to peek too often.

This is a rookie mistake and it will ruin your barbecue. Every time you open the lid, the temperature inside your grill declines and you will have to wait for it to reach the optimal temperature once again. Even worse, if you open the lid before you have time to adjust the temperature by adjusting the bottom vents or controlling the fire with on and off of the gas, you will create cold spots that will prevent you from reaching a desirable temperature.

10) Trusting the thermometer on a dome smoker

A common mistake made when smoking meat is to trust the thermometer on a dome smoker. It is very important that you understand the concept of an orbit.

The thermometer is on the side of the smoker closest to the coals so that it will remain constant, while the thermometer on the opposite side will be a degree colder.

Both the smoke and the heat begin at 1 o’clock, travel counterclockwise, and hit the meat from opposite sides.

Thus, the temperature on the inside of the smoker varies, but the dome thermometers cannot communicate these changes to the user.

Also, it is important that you know how your smoker is calibrated. It is not uncommon to find an inaccurate thermometer.

This will ruin your barbecue.

11) Choosing the wrong type of wood.

If you use the wrong wood, you could spoil your barbecue, or your results will lack the flavor you were hoping for. So it’s important to know which wood to use with which smoker. Each hardwood essentially boils down to either mesquite or hickory. Mesquite is most often used for steaks, chicken, and fish. Hickory is for pork and beef, and it’s more common to use it for boston butt and brisket.

There are other woods you can use for smoking other foods. Apple, cherry, and pecan are three excellent wood choices for vegetables and fruit.

12) Not treating your finished meat with the respect it deserves

It’s really important to know when your meat is cooked. The joy from a really good smoke filled barbecue can turn into despair in a second if you serve overcooked meat.

Grilled meats should be done to a minimum internal temperature of 145� F (60� C). And for a whole piece of meat like a lamb shank that has a large surface area, the temperature should be 160� F (70� C).

One of the best ways to test if your meat is perfectly done is to use an instant read meat thermometer. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat. If the needle doesn’t move, your food isn’t ready.

When ready, you can expect for the the needle to jump up and down rapidly, and then to slow down and finally stop.

Everyone makes mistakes when learning to barbecue.

One the easiest mistakes to make is to apply your precious, hard earned rub to the outside of the meat, which is the wrong place. Rubs and marinades can be applied to raw meat once it is on the grill , but if you rub the spice mix on a piece of meat before you put it on the grill, what you put on the grill won’t cook.

While it will help a little, it comes with some risks. One of them is the increased likelihood of drying out some of the meat. That’s why pros don’t use rubs on raw meat. They reserve rubs for cooked meat.

However, this tip hopefully teaches you a valuable lesson. You can’t just apply spice rubs to raw meat and throw them in a smoker or on a grill.

Another mistake that’s easier to avoid would be to not use the proper wood. You won’t go wrong if you stick to what everyone says theirs is the best wood for smoking. It is either going to be hickory, apple, pecan, or mesquite.

What you aren’t supposed to use is any wood that’s softwood.

Guide to Wrapping Brisket

Barbecuing or smoking brisket is an act of love. It is a long process and, at the end, you can have an amazing feast.

If you wrap one brisket properly, you should be able to have an amazingly fun time with your friends and family.

If you need to wrap one, you could do a lot of things wrong. And if you do, you don’t have fun, you get frustrated and you end up with sliced meat after being wrapped, which is not the item you wanted.

A brisket gets wrapped in towels before being placed in the smoker.

Placing the brisket directly on the smoker racks may result in it burning and may also make it dry. Wrapping it up in towels will protect the meat from direct heat, add some moisture and also keep the meat in place.

Wrapping should be done in aluminum foil. Most people think that the addition of foil is to make the brisket presentable when it’s served.

The real reason for wrapping a brisket in foil is to remove the risk of the outer surface of the meat getting too dry.

Check for any creases where the inner and outer surface touch each other.