To many, beef brisket is the ultimate choice when it comes to cuts of meat to smoke. But, it can take some strategy and technique to do it properly. Using a brisket injection before smoking the meat is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep the beef moist and tender and enhance the flavor.
Of course, you could use a pre-made brisket injection marinade mix (like Butcher BBQ's Prime Brisket Injection from David Bouska, one of the Champion Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy). But, it can be fun to experiment with different flavor combinations by making your own homemade beef brisket injection.
In this article, we’ve outlined why you should be using an injection to begin with, some tips on making a homemade beef brisket injection, and a brisket injection recipe you can start with.
The key to good smoked meat is adequate moisture retention. But, with it being smoked slowly at warm temperatures, it can be especially vulnerable to drying out. This is especially true for a super lean cut of meat like beef brisket.
When smoking a brisket, the meat can quickly start to lose moisture. Injecting the meat can help compensate for this. Using a brisket injection helps get extra moisture and flavor deep into the inner layers of the meat quickly. It is actually a very easy process that won’t leave much cleanup at all.
Check out our article on how to inject brisket to learn more about the benefits of using a brisket injection and exactly how to do it the right way.
Source: Derrick Riches
Brisket injections can range from a very thin, water-like mixture to a thicker, heavier almost sauce-like consistency. No matter what kind of injection you are using, the most important thing to keep in mind is to keep things simple.
You don’t want to lose the delicious natural taste of the beef. So, you only want to use ingredients and flavors that will complement the brisket. Some of the most commonly used ingredients in homemade beef brisket injections include things like:
Some brisket injection recipes also start to work in more creative ingredients like:
Along with keeping the ingredients simple, there are some additional tips to keep in mind when it comes to making a good homemade brisket injection that will yield good results. Here are a few things to remember:
Remember, your injection is going to have to pass through some small holes at the end of the needle of your meat injector. So, keep the injection thin enough to easily pass through without clogging things up.
Try and keep your injection between 1% and 2% salt content. Then it will still help tenderize the meat without being overly salty.
If you are going to smoke the brisket using wood as a fuel source (whether as the main fuel source or a flavoring source), DO NOT use liquid smoke in your brisket injection mixture. Doing so will result in an overly smoky, bitter flavor that could ruin your whole brisket. If you are using an electric or gas smoker and not heating up any wood chips in it, you may be able to get away with just a little bit of liquid smoke to add that flavor.
If you are also using a dry rub on the exterior of the brisket, make an injection that either has the same flavor profile or a complementary flavor profile of your rub. You don’t want to create a situation where there are too many flavors competing with each other in/on your brisket.
If you decide to use any solids as ingredients in your mixture, try and grind them as much as possible (ideally, into a fine powder) to reduce the chances of your injector clogging.
Heat your water or both (usually 2 cups of liquid is plenty) in a small saucepan over medium heat. But it’s very important not to let it boil, or even simmer. You just want it warm enough to easily dissolve the other ingredients. Allowing your injection mixture to boil can significantly change the flavor profile of certain ingredients.
After heating the liquid and mixing the ingredients, transfer it to a mixing bowl or tall glass. Then, put it in the fridge for several hours before you are ready to use it. Make sure to give it one last good stir right before you start injecting. Letting the injection stand before using it will ensure all of the ingredients are dissolved properly and thoroughly mixed.
Be patient and make sure any powdered or paste-like ingredients are fully dissolved into the liquid before you start trying to inject your brisket. The last thing you want to do is clog your injector or shoot a chunk of concentrated flavor into just one spot of the meat.
As a gauge for how much brisket injection you’ll need, you should have 1 ounce of liquid per 1 pound of meat. Remember, the meat/muscle is already close to 85% water, so it won’t take a lot of liquid injection.
If you are using a brisket injection that contains apple juice, pineapple juice, vinegar, or another ingredient that has high acidity, do not let your brisket sit for longer than 3 hours after it is injected before you cook it. Doing so can over-tenderize the meat and you’ll end up with a soggy, mushy hunk of meat.
If you are looking for a place to start when it comes to how to make a brisket injection, check out this simple, easy-to-make brisket injection recipe that perfectly complements the natural flavor of the meat with delicious umami:
Once you’ve tried a simple recipe like this, then you can make adjustments and additions of new flavors based on your taste. For example, adding ground thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf for an elevated savory profile. Or add brown sugar for a sweet and savory combo.
Now that you’ve got a good idea on how to make a homemade brisket injection you can use, go ahead and grab your meat injector and get going. Using an injection will help you achieve that juicy, tender, and deliciously-flavored slow-smoked brisket that you are after.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different recipes and combinations of ingredients to find your favorite.
Do you have some more tips when it comes to making a homemade brisket injection? Did you recently try injecting a brisket for the first time? If so, leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!
Do you want to learn valuable insider tips and techniques, including how to make a great homemade brisket injection, straight from Champion Pitmasters and master meat-smoking? Then check out the tell-all online barbecue classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. To get the full inside look, grab your All-Access pass today!
Make sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel for the latest videos packed full of insider info, tips, and barbecue competition news straight from the pros!
The weather is warming up and we’re coming into primetime outdoor cooking season. If you haven’t been grilling or smoking throughout the winter, you’re probably itching to fire up your grill.
But, just like the fact that there are some things to do to prep your grill for winter storage, there are also some important things to do when it comes to bringing it back out and getting your grill ready for summer.
In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know when it comes to how to get a grill ready for summer cooking the right way.
After being stored away for several months, properly getting your grill ready involves a little more than just knocking some dust off. Here are the steps to ensure your grill is ready to go:
The first place to start is to do a thorough once-over and look at every part of your cooker. Check for any rust or corrosion that may have built up while it wasn’t being used. If you do find some, it should be addressed before cooking again.
If your grill was covered while being stored away, you also want to look for any pests or critters that may have snuck in. Make sure to check the regulator hose/gas line opening on a propane grill and the hopper and auger on a pellet grill, as these are favorite hiding places for small insects and rodents.
Before you get too far into taking apart your cooker, you want to decide where it is going to stay for the summer. Of course, you want to keep it away from your home or any other enclosed structures while you are cooking.
If it is going to be staying outside and not under a covered porch etc, it is a good idea to invest in a good grill cover to keep it protected. Direct sunlight can quickly wear on the exterior and components.
Source: Oklahoma Joe’s
Ideally, before you stored your grill or smoker away for the winter you did a thorough deep cleaning. Either way, it is important to make sure it is totally clean before firing it up again.
You want to start from the inside and work your way out. It is best to take out any removable parts and clean them to ensure everything is good to go. For example, the grates, flame tamers and burner tubes (on gas grills), grease pan, ash catcher (on charcoal grills), etc.
It’s important to always keep your grease pan(s) clean to prevent any dangerous flare-ups and grease fires.
Once the interior components are all clean, make sure to clean and wipe down the interior of the cooking chamber as much as possible also. Then, wipe down the exterior of the cooker as well. Soapy water is the safest cleaning solution for most types of grill exteriors. Finally, make sure everything is thoroughly dried to avoid any rust.
Check out our article on properly deep cleaning a grill for more info.
During your visual inspection, you should also be making note of any parts that may have gone bad (due to corrosion, rust, etc.). Oftentimes rust can be cleaned off but if a part is crumbling, it needs to be replaced.
The last thing you want to do is take the time deep cleaning your grill, putting it all back together, and firing it up just to find out a component has gone bad. Replacement parts are going to be a lot cheaper than getting a whole new grill.
Once you’ve cleaned your cooker and fully reassembled it, you’re ready to test it and start it up.
If you have a gas grill, check the state of the fuel lines. Look for any cracks and test them with the soap test. Hook up the gas lines and brush soapy water on the lines and the connections. If there is a loose connection or break in the line, a bunch of bubbles will start forming.
Once you get the grill or smoker fired up, let it run for about 15 minutes to burn off anything else that wasn’t completely removed during the cleaning process. Make sure to also test any electrical components to ensure everything is working properly.
Source: SABER Grills
An important part of getting a grill ready for summer is seasoning it. This will help keep grill grates protected from moisture (which causes rust) and premature wear, make cleaning easier moving forward, and help prevent food from sticking.
To season, use a high-heat-resistant cooking oil like canola oil to coat the grates and interior of the grill. Then, fire up your cooker and get it to high-heat and let it run for about 30 minutes.
There’s probably a good chance that if you haven’t used your grill or smoker in a while, your grilling tools and accessories haven’t been used either. Some of them may have even been stored with your cooker. So, go through everything you have and get rid of anything that has severely rusted or come apart. Clean everything up that you will be keeping to ensure it’s fresh and ready to go.
This is also a good opportunity to upgrade your tool selection with new things you may need or want to try, like cedar planks or a rotisserie rod attachment for example. At the very least, make sure you’ve got all the essentials you’ll need to cook.
Source: Tyrus, Komodo Kamado Forum
The last thing to do to ensure your grill is ready for the summer is to make sure you’ve got plenty of your fuel on hand. Whatever type of grilling fuel source that might be. Check how much you currently have.
If you have a propane grill, you want to always have one tank connected to your grill and one backup on hand at a minimum. If you have a charcoal or wood-burning grill or smoker, you want to have enough fuel on hand for two cooks.
You never want to run into a situation where you run out of your heat source mid-cook.
Pro-tip for propane tanks: If your propane grill doesn’t have a fuel gauge, just pour a glass of warm water down the side of the propane tank. Your fuel level is wherever the water starts to feel cool on the outside of the tank.
If you have followed all of the steps above, your grill or smoker should be in good shape now and ready to perform. Remember, a little maintenance along the way goes far. Burn off excess food residue after every cook and deep clean your grill every few months to help extend its life. Plus, then you won’t have to work so hard the next time you bring the grill out for the start of the outdoor cooking season.
Did you recently get your cooker out for your first cook in the warmer weather? Do you know of another tip when it comes to how to get your grill ready for summer? Let us know below. We want to hear from you!
When you’ve got your grill cleaned up and ready to go, make sure to check out the step-by-step online video classes with top Grillmasters and Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. You can learn how to master the art of grilling and smoking everything from the perfect steak to a full packer brisket!
Also, make sure to check out and subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel for all the latest from the world of competition BBQ and insider secrets from the pros.
BBQ rubs can do wonders in imparting additional flavors when you are barbecuing and smoking. A rub is simply just a dry blend of spices, herbs, seasonings, and/or peppers that are mixed together and used to coat the surface of the meat. Oils or other “wet” ingredients can then sometimes be used with the rub, technically making it a wet rub.
When used properly rubs can help amplify the natural, delicious flavor of your meats without overpowering them. For example, when it comes to Memphis-style or much of Texas-style barbecue, BBQ rubs take front and center stage.
Of course, there are some great premade rubs available for purchase, from BBQ rib rubs to BBQ beef rubs and everything in between. For example, the Sweet Rub O'Mine Texas Beef Rub from one of our pitmasters, Mark Lambert's, Sweet Swine O’ Mine Distributing.
But, to really have some fun with your outdoor cooking and get creative, why not try out a homemade BBQ rub? One huge advantage of making your own rub is that you monitor and control exactly what goes into it. You can experiment with different ingredients and determine what your favorite flavor profile is for different types of meat.
If you are wondering how to make a BBQ rub, we’ve got you covered with advice straight from the pro pitmasters. In this article, we’ll cover some quick tips on making homemade BBQ rub that you’ll love. Let’s take a look:
There are, of course, a lot of different ingredients that can work in a homemade BBQ rub. But, it’s important to start simple and start with the basics. Many great rubs are made around the foundation of the usual three core ingredients: salt, pepper, and garlic (known in the barbecue world as “SPG”).
Many good rub mixes will also add sugar to those three ingredients to give a good balance of savory and sweet.
Salt not only adds and enhances flavor, but it also draws moisture away from the outer part of the meat. This allows a nice seared crust to develop, locking the rest of the moisture in the interior of the meat and keeping it juicy.
Start with those three core ingredients and build and modify your rub from there. For example, if you’re going for a spicier rub, you may use less garlic and more pepper as well as additional ingredients. If you’re going for sweeter, use less pepper and garlic and add an additional ingredient or two for sweetness. Sugar helps create a caramelizing effect on the exterior of the meat but be careful not to use too much. High amounts of sugar in a rub can make it start to burn.
Other good rub ingredients can include things like turbinado sugar, roasted red pepper, paprika, ground mustard seed, ground coffee, or even dried and ground apple. But remember, simpler is better when you are first venturing into homemade rubs.
If you are taking the time to make a homemade BBQ rub, chances are you want to cook some quality barbecue. So, that desire for quality should also apply to the ingredients you use as well.
Dry spices, dried herbs, etc don’t last forever. They do lose their potency over time. So, the more fresh your ingredients are, the better tasting your rub will be. At a minimum, your ingredients don’t have to be brand new but you definitely don’t want to use ingredients that are out of date. Your rub will end up not having the level of flavor that you are really wanting.
So you know you’re going to get fresh ingredients, but you can elevate the flavors of the types of spices and herbs you want to use even more. Buy the ingredients whole and roast them in the oven or in a dry skillet. Then grind the toasted ingredients yourself. This will greatly amplify the flavors and quality of your homemade BBQ rub.
Source: The Kitchn
Before your rub goes anywhere near your meat, always do a taste test of it first. This guarantees there won’t be any unpleasant surprises. You want to make sure the flavor profile of the rub is what you are wanting and is a pleasing combination. The last thing you want is to put the rub on the meat and be disappointed when you go to take your first bite after it’s done cooking.
When you’re experimenting and putting together your rub, take notes of what ingredients and how much of them you are using. If you put together a killer great-tasting rub, you want to be able to make more of it later. So, the only way to do that is to take notes of what you’re making.
Ideally, you want to have documented recipes of exactly what rub ingredients to put together for different flavor profiles you enjoy and the different meats to use them on.
Once you’ve come up with a homemade BBQ rub recipe that you like, you can make a large batch of it and store any leftover for later use. Just make sure you date it! As we mentioned above, you don’t want to keep rubs and spices for too long. Dating your batch will ensure this doesn’t happen. A good rule of thumb is that anything more than six months old should be discarded.
To keep your leftover rub fresh, put it in a sealable plastic bag, and remove as much air as possible (better yet, vacuum seal it). Then store the bag in a cool, dry place, like your freezer or a dark pantry.
After reading the tips above, you may still be looking for an exact starting place for how to make a BBQ rub.
This BBQ rub recipe below, from Weber Grills, is an all-purpose BBQ rub that utilizes the core ingredients of SPG with some great aromatics mixed in as well.
From this recipe, you can tweak it, replace ingredients or add in different things, and get creative. Then you will have made your own homemade BBQ rub to fit the type of flavors you are looking for.
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
Making your own homemade BBQ rub can not only be fun but it’s very easy and opens you up to a lot of flexibility depending on the taste you are trying to achieve. Just follow these tips above, get creative, and elevate your barbecue today!
Check out our other great article here for tips on how and when to properly use your homemade BBQ rub when you are cooking.
Have you come up with a great homemade BBQ rub that you love? Been experimenting with different ingredients lately? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
You can learn more insider BBQ tips and techniques and elevate your outdoor cooking game with the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. In our first of its kind online barbecue classes, you’ll learn step by step, in stunning video, everything you need to know to cook competition-worthy barbecue. Check out our All-Access pass to get the full inside look.
It’s the beginning of fall and that means some great things---football is back and racing is in the final stretch of the season. Almost even more importantly, it’s time to tailgate. In some places, the tailgating before and after the event is just as big as the game or race itself.
Of course, the goal for anyone putting together a tailgate BBQ is to make sure there is plenty of food and that everyone is enjoying themselves. A huge part of that is making sure you’ve prepared properly and that you’ve got everything you or your friends and/or family will need. Whether it’s at the event itself or you’re planning to “tailgate” in the backyard for the big game.
In the moment, when you’re starting to prepare and get everything together, it can be easy to start to feel like you are forgetting something. This is where having a complete checklist of all of the tailgating essentials can be a life-saver. So, we’ve done the work for you!
In this article, we’ll help you get prepared to show off your BBQ game and make sure you have all of the essentials for tailgating with a handy checklist:
Before you start going through a tailgating essentials checklist, there are some things to consider first. Depending on certain factors, you may not need everything on the list or you may find you need to add a few things.
When tailgating at an event, make sure you check any regulations or stipulations of the location. There may be regulations on certain types of grills or smokers, the size of the area you’ll have, if glass bottles are allowed, etc. All of these things will impact what you will need to bring or leave home.
The part of the day that you plan on starting your tailgate will determine exactly what types of things you need to bring food and beverage-wise, utensils, etc. If it’s going to be an all-day affair that starts early in the day, plan for breakfast items and breakfast friendly drinks (think mimosas and bloody marys) as well as lunch and possibly even dinner for after the event.
To really show off, select beers that pair best with the types of meat you’ll be serving. Check out our beer pairing article for more info.
Another thing that will impact your list of tailgate essentials is if you’re going to be cooking mainly at the event or if you’ll be cooking a lot of the food ahead of time. It’s best to stick to “simple” foods if you are cooking there at the event. Plan for food that will allow you to enjoy the time with your friends and/or family too.
Trying to tackle smoking a brisket or ribs will be impossible unless you’re cooking it at home first. You can easily cook large meats like that ahead of time, time them to finish shortly before it is time to pack up and go, and hold them at temperature wrapped up and stored in a dry cooler. Then all you have to do is serve them at the event.
It also helps to do as much prep as possible beforehand. If you are cooking things at the event that have chopped ingredients, for example, go ahead and take care of that ahead of time and store them in containers. Then everything is ready to go.
Another important thing to consider for the day is food safety. Keep in mind that you won’t have hot running water or refrigeration away from home. A set of good thermometers is imperative to have when tailgating. Keep cold food below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and hot food above 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are storing cooked meat to hold at the desired temperature in a cooler, label that cooler.
Also, make sure you’ve got jugs of clean water on hand for washing your hands, clean up, etc. You should also have hand sanitizer and a spray bottle of a diluted bleach solution to help sanitize surfaces and utensils throughout the day.
Print out this list, broken down by category, and mark it off as you go so you know you won’t be forgetting anything for your tailgate get-together:
__ Portable grill/smoker
__ Charcoal (or propane tank)
__ Charcoal chimney starter
__ Wood chunks/chips
__ Lighter (x2)
__ Grill brush
__ Side dishes (check out our article on some great tailgate sides)
__ Hamburger or hotdog buns
__ BBQ Sauce
__ Condiments: mustard, ketchup, mayo, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles,
peppers, hot sauce, sauerkraut
__ Snacks (chips, salsa, trail mix, etc)
__ Basting brush/mop
__ Meat claws
__ Meat thermometers
__ Tongs (one set for cooking, one set for serving)
__ Cooking oil/butter
__ Cutting board
__ Mixing bowls
__ Fire extinguisher
__ Heavy-duty aluminum foil
__ Aluminum pans
__ Pots/pans/grill baskets
__ Hand sanitizer
__ Coolers (label each cooler)
__ Paper towels
__ Bottle and can openers
__ Cups and plates
__ Plastic silverware
__ Serving spoons
__ Wet towelettes
__ Sharpie marker
__ Bar utensils for mixed drinks
__ Pop-up tent or tarp
__ Portable tables (for food serving and eating)
__ Portable chairs
__ Wireless speaker or boom box
__ Extension cords
__ Extra batteries
__ Jug of water for cleaning
__ Spray bottle with bleach solution
__ Clean plastic bins for washing and rinsing
__ Dish soap
__ Trash bags
__ Large Ziploc bags
__ Cell phone charger/charging block
__ Duct tape
__ Tailgate games (football, cornhole, etc)
__ Mosquito repellant
__ First aid kit
__ Jumper cables
__ Tool kit
__ Event tickets!!
* This list covers everything you may need. After first considering what we covered earlier in the article, just cross off anything you won’t need on game day (if you’re cooking meat ahead of time, serving breakfast or not, etc.)
With the tips above and the tailgating essentials list we’ve provided, you should be ready to go to set up the perfect tailgate BBQ without forgetting anything. The main thing is to be prepared with everything you’ll need (or may need). It’s better to be over-prepared than scrambling for something you missed.
If you really want to impress your friends and family at your next tailgate or backyard BBQ party, dive into our in-depth online barbecue cooking classes taught by champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters. You’ll get all of the insider tips and secrets step-by-step to take your BBQ game to a whole new level. Check out our All Access now!
Did we forget anything on our list? How have you mastered your tailgate BBQ process? Let us know. We want to hear from you!
The goal of any grilling or smoking session is to cook delicious food and have fun doing it. So, the last thing you want is to end up with an overly charred piece of meat you have to throw out. Especially knowing it can be avoided. Grill flare-ups can happen quickly, often in seconds, if dripping fat or grease starts to get too hot.
Most of the time, a grill flare-up will happen when you are cooking on a charcoal or wood-fueled grill since they don’t usually have drip guards like many gas grills do. But, flare-ups are still possible on a gas grill.
In this article, we’ll break down how to prevent grill flare-ups and how to put them out if you do encounter one that becomes an issue. Let’s take a look:
Grill flare-ups are quick bursts of high-intensity flames that are often the result of fat and oil dripping onto hot coals or wood and igniting. A flare-up and a grease fire are not the same things. Quick, short flare-ups that happen from small drips can be common and are not usually a problem or something you have to worry about extinguishing. These often happen when placing fatty meat onto the grill, like chicken or steak, or when flipping the meat.
If you have a small flare-up happen, the best thing to do is to move the food to another part of the grill and it will typically die down quickly. It is when a small flare-up grows and gets out of control that it can change into a grease fire and quickly turn into a problem. This usually happens when there is a buildup of grease and carbon in your grill.
There are several things you can do to prevent grill flare-ups from getting out of control.
Kevin Kolman - Weber Grills
Proactive habits that help prevent grill flare-ups will save you burnt food and heartache, and in the worst cases, a destroyed grill. Most of these habits come down to preventative maintenance and proper preparation.
Here are some ways to prevent large grill flare-ups:
Source: Two Zone Grill Setup from Weber Grills
As you can see, it’s important to work these habits into your normal grilling routine. But, what happens if, somehow, you do end up with a serious flare-up and you find yourself with a grease fire on your hands? Just as important as prevention is knowing what to do in the chance this happens.
If you do end up with a grease fire, it is important to act quickly. First, remove your food from the grill to save what you can. One important thing to remember is that oxygen fuels fires. So, the first method to try and put out the fire is to close your grill lid and vents to suffocate the fire. (If you are cooking on a gas grill, turn off the burners right away as well.)
If the flames have started to die down, carefully look through one of the grill vents to see if it is safe to open the grill lid. If you still see flames and/or white billowing smoke, do not just throw the lid back open. You risk creating a flash fire when all that oxygen rushes back into the grill. When the flames have subsided or gone out, slowly open the lid partially to “burp” the grill before opening the lid all the way.
Another method to put out a grease fire, especially if it is getting more and more out of control, is to pour baking soda, a box of salt, or even sand on it to smother it. This won’t be the most ideal method due to the additional mess you’ll need to clean up after, but it works. (Make sure to check out our article on how to properly clean your grill)
You DO NOT want to spray water on a grease fire. This can actually make it worse. Doing this can spread the grease around further since the water will not extinguish burning grease or fat and it will also cause ash to go everywhere.
If the fire continues to burn uncontrollably for 30 seconds and it coming out of the vents, this is the time for a fire extinguisher. Of course, if the fire is continuing to spread quickly, is too hot for you to get near it, or if the flames are reaching the gas hose or tank on a gas grill, get out of the area and call 911 immediately.
Knowing exactly what causes grill flare-ups, how to avoid them, and what to do if one gets out of control will help ensure your outdoor cooking goes smoothly. Prevention and preparation are key. Keeping your grill clean will prevent 90% of grill fires.
When you don’t have to worry about a flare-up, you can focus on cooking like the top competition cookers do.
You can get more of the inside scoop like we’ve covered in this article, as well as competition BBQ secrets, straight from the pros in the online grilling classes and barbecue cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters will walk you through step-by-step to help you elevate your outdoor cooking game like never before.
To get the full inside look, check out the All-Access pass now!
As we have touched on in previous articles, preparation is key when it comes to successful outdoor cooking. A huge part of that is making sure your grill or smoker is clean and stays that way in between uses. To get the best flavors in your grilled foods, it is essential to start with a clean cooker and grates. But, you may be wondering, how to clean a grill or smoker properly and what you can do to keep it clean.
In this article, we’ll break down why you should be cleaning your grill consistently, the best ways to clean a grill, and some tips on how to keep your grill or smoker cleaner.
Old buildup on your grill is not the “ingredient” you want to help flavor your food. That should be left up to the seasonings, sauce, or wood you decide to use.
When you cook, two things can build up on your grill: grease and carbon. Left for too long and not cleaned off, the grease can get rancid, vaporize with heat, and leave a foul taste to your food. The grease can also become a food safety issue if left uncleaned for too long. The carbon forms a black crust on your grates and other components and can quickly leave a burnt taste on your food. It also makes it a lot easier for your meat to stick to the grates.
A buildup of grease and carbon also wreaks havoc on your grill itself. It will cause grill components to break down or rust very quickly, unnecessarily shortening your cooker’s life span.
Keeping your grill or smoker clean and free of excessive buildup will not only help you cook great-tasting food but also help extend the life of your cooker.
Whether you are doing a deep clean or cleaning immediately after you cook, high heat is one of the best weapons against a grill that needs to be cleaned. It will carbonize grease and food remnants that may be leftover from your last cook and make it easier to scrub clean.
Get the grill as hot as possible (if it is a gas grill turn all of the burners on high) and close the lid. Leave the lid closed for about 15 minutes. If the grill hasn’t been cleaned in a while you may have some smoke but most of this will be grease smoke. This should burn off after about 15 minutes.
After 15-20 minutes have passed, open the lid and let the grill cool to a moderate temperature of about 250-300 degrees Fahrenheit. Now you will be able to use your choice of tool or method (see below) to effectively scrub the grates clean.
Source: Seriously Smoked
There are some tried and true ways to clean a grill that will help you get your grill clean now and clean it in between cooks. It is recommended that avid cookers deep clean their whole grill or smoker every 2-3 months. More casual cookers should do a deep clean at the end of each grilling season. Then, once you’ve deep cleaned, you can clean more easily in between cooking sessions.
When cleaning your grill or smoker, the grill grates is always the first place to start. After using high heat and getting the grates nice and hot, once they’ve cooled to a moderate temperature, the main goal is to scrape off any remaining residue and carbon char. This can be done in several ways, including:
You should periodically deep clean your grill grates as well. Remove the grates and use hot water, mild dish detergent, and a brush or stainless steel scrubby to thoroughly clean both sides. Soaking the grates for a little while in a large tub of hot water with the detergent will make the scrubbing even easier.
Make sure to rinse the grates off well and dry them when finished. If the grates are cast iron, make sure to oil them before your next cook. Deep cleaning cast-iron grates like this may cause them to lose a little of their non-stick properties. But, it’s essential to keep them clean.
Important tip: You should not run your grill grates through the dishwasher. The grease leftover on the grates will quickly coat everything in your dishwasher, making a much bigger mess than you started with.
Source: DIY Network
When you want to deep clean your grill or smoker, before starting, make sure the grates are cleaned and removed and the cooker is completely cooled. If it is a gas grill, also make sure the burners are off and the gas is disconnected.
The best way to deep clean your grill is to work from the top to the bottom. Focus on every part of the grill and just utilize a clean, heavy-duty stainless steel wire brush. This will scrub off the carbon buildup throughout the grill. Remove components individually that can be removed and scrub them with the brush outside of the cooker. This will help ensure each part is thoroughly cleaned.
Water, a mild dish detergent (like Dawn), and a clean sponge will help safely clean off any remaining residue and carbon from any components. Just make sure to thoroughly rinse and dry them before cooking again.
Remember, harsh chemical cleaners, caustic oven cleaners, chloride, or bleach should never be used to clean your grill. Mild enzymatic cleaners, like Dawn, or even baking soda are much safer bets.
Use the wire brush to scrub the exterior of any remaining fixed components as well as the sidewalls and firebox walls (if applicable). These must be cleaned and maintained also or else the carbon buildup can quickly corrode the metal.
As you work your way towards the bottom of the grill, your drip pan would be the last component to clean. Make sure it is fully emptied and cleaned out with mild soap and water.
Finally, just wipe down the exterior of the cooker with a clean, damp cloth. Never use an abrasive brush on the exterior of your cooker.
Then, you are ready to put all of the freshly cleaned grill components back in the reverse order that you took them out.
Source: Traeger Grills
Once you have done a deep clean of your grill, being proactive about keeping your grill clean will make things much easier and your cooking more successful. One of the easiest ways to do this is to do a quick clean of your grill grates after each cook while the grates are still hot. This will keep grease and carbon from building up on those grates.
If you are using charcoal and/or wood as your fuel source, just let the coals burn out and carbonize the food residue. Then, use one of the methods we covered above to clean your grill grates. If you are using a pellet cooker or gas grill, leave the heat going for a little bit after you are done cooking and clean those grates off. Just make sure you don’t forget to turn the cooker all the way off when you are done.
Then your grill grates will be clean and ready to go for the next time you cook.
Metal bristle brushes are a very effective tool to use when it comes to cleaning a grill or smoker, but you have to be very careful. Especially with cheaper brass bristle brushes. Sometimes, the bristles can become loose, fall out, and stick to the grill grates. This is the last thing you or anyone you are cooking for want to end up ingesting. That can quickly turn into a bad situation.
If you are using a metal bristle brush, make sure to wipe the grates with a damp paper towel or cloth to pick up any loose bristles. Some people even rub half a lemon or onion over the grates after brushing to eliminate any bristles. Look the grates over one last time before cooking just to be extra careful.
You will have less chance of stray bristles with a good quality stainless steel grill brush versus cheaper copper. But, if you do notice any bristles coming loose from your brush, don’t chance more getting stuck on your grill and throw the brush away.
Now, you should have a good idea as to how to clean a grill properly and how to keep it that way. Preparation is key to successful outdoor cooking and maintaining a clean grill is part of that.
When you are working with a clean cooker for each and every cook, you give the other elements you are using, from the seasonings to the wood, an opportunity to live up to their full potential. You are also protecting your investment in your grill or smoker and helping to ensure it holds up for many more cooking sessions to come.
If you really want to elevate your cooking game on your freshly cleaned grill, get the inside scoop straight from the pros in the online outdoor cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters will walk you through step-by-step how to cook like a pro like never before. To get the full inside look, check out the All-Access pass now!
Slow-smoked brisket is undoubtedly one of the kings of the BBQ meat world. Perfectly cooked brisket results in tender, juicy, and flavorful bites. This can quickly make it easy to forget that this cut of meat actually comes from one of the most muscular, weight-bearing areas of the cattle. This lower chest area is responsible for carrying roughly 60% of a steer’s total weight. Thus making it a challenge to slow cook it properly without drying it out. Preparation of the meat is key and keeping it moist is critical. One way to do this is by injecting brisket.
Many competition pitmasters swear by using injections when it comes to cooking great BBQ brisket. The process of how to inject brisket is easier than you may think. It will help ensure you end up tender, juicy meat that is packed with flavor.
In this article, we’ll go over why you should try injecting brisket, and some tips on how to do it the right way.
When a marinade or rub is used on meat, it will only impart flavor to the surface of the meat and just below the surface. No matter how long you let it sit. This will leave a nice, delicious bark on the outside. But, the inner part of the meat won’t have the same level of flavor from the seasonings.
Injecting brisket (or any other large meat) is the method of delivering salt, fats, seasonings, and other flavors straight into the core of the meat, well below the surface. This is the only way to get any additional flavor and liquid deep into the meat.
The mixture that is injected also helps to moisten the meat throughout and keeps it from drying out while it is cooking low and slow for long periods. This is why brisket injection is so effective. With brisket being a more muscular, tough cut, injecting it with fats, oils, and other ingredients helps to tenderize the meat and keep moisture locked in.
Image from Corey Mikes' Brisket class in BBQ Champs Academy
Injecting brisket properly is not overly complicated or difficult. But there are some essential tips when it comes to learning how to inject brisket, straight from the pros, to make sure it is done effectively:
When it comes to doing barbecue right, ensuring you have the proper tools is just as important as the actual cooking process. For injecting meat, there are a couple of things to look for in an injector. A stainless steel injector is going to be your best bet as far as material. It will hold up longer, is easier to clean, and won’t hold smells or oils like plastic can.
Also, make sure your needle size is big enough to handle your injection of choice. If you plan on using a thicker injection or one with some herbs or spices mixed in you have to be able to push it through the needle effectively. Most quality injector needles will come with two or more holes on the sides of it as well to help distribute the injection evenly.
Finally, make sure your injector holds 2 ounces or more. This will save you a lot of time from having to constantly refill it.
Using a deep container or tall glass to hold your injection will allow you to fill your injector easily without damaging the needle.
It is important to make sure you distribute the injection evenly throughout the meat. To do this, insert the needle at a slight angle (not perpendicular to the meat) in a checkerboard pattern every 1-2 inches across the brisket. You want to insert the needle and then slowly depress the plunger as you are pulling the needle out each time. This will help ensure you are getting the injection between the muscle fibers and bundles.
All parts of a good quality full packer brisket will benefit from the injection, but the Flat is where you want to focus your attention most. The Flat section of brisket is the leanest part of the cut. Which means it’s the most likely section to dry out during slow cooking. Making sure that most of your injection is adequately throughout the flat will help retain moisture and keep it tender.
Since the Point (aka Deckle) section of brisket has a higher fat content, the injection will be more for flavor throughout this section versus moisture retention.
Source: Northwest Edible Life
When injecting brisket, the goal is to add enough complimentary flavor to elevate the meat without overpowering the delicious beefy taste. So don’t load up on a big combination of heavy flavors like garlic, pepper, or bold herbs. You still want your beef to taste like beef. Go for ingredients like butter, beef stock, saltwater (brine), vinegar, and flavors that complement the brisket. Keep in mind that you want to aim for 1-2% salt content in your injection so that it helps tenderize the meat without being too salty.
You can get creative and put together great homemade injections with complementary flavors at home. Or, you can even try a competition-winning pre-made injection mix like Butcher BBQ Brisket Injection from David Bouska, one of our Champion Pitmasters.
When using an injection on brisket, it is still up for debate on how long to let the meat sit with the injection before cooking. Some let it sit for several hours, while some inject just an hour before cooking. But, one certain thing is that you have to be careful letting your brisket sit too long with an injection that has a high acidic, vinegar, or citrus level.
The acid in an injection that has a good amount of vinegar, apple juice, or pineapple juice will quickly break down the collagen and tenderize the meat. This is great for a couple of hours, but anything longer than that can quickly ruin your meat and turn it into mush.
The muscle in beef brisket is 75% water, so you won’t need a ton of injection. There’s not a whole lot of room for a lot more liquid. The injection will go between the muscle fibers and bundles, not within the fibers.
A common rule of thumb is 1 liquid ounce of injection per 1 lb of meat.
Image from Corey Mikes’ Brisket class in BBQ Champs Academy
It will be inevitable that you will end up with the injection mixture across the surface of the brisket as well. Leaving it on the exterior will make it difficult if you plan on using a rub as well. It will just cause your rub to cook into a light crust that won’t stick to the surface effectively and flakes right off.
So, make sure to have paper towels ready and use them to pat dry the exterior of your brisket after injecting it. This will help give your rub a better surface to stick to.
Now you should have a good idea of where to start when it comes to how to inject brisket. Injecting brisket is an effective, easy, and fast way to deliver moisture and flavor deep into a tough and lean cut of meat.
It is a great method that is used by many of the top Pitmasters to cook tender, juicy brisket every time. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your injection ingredients and flavors, whether it’s a homemade recipe or pre-made mix.
But, by following the tips above, you can ensure you are properly injecting your brisket and setting yourself up for BBQ success.
Want to learn more insider tips and info, as well as proven techniques and competition barbecue secrets? You can get the inside scoop from David Bouska, Mark Lambert, Robby Royal, and more Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here in the BBQ Champs Academy online barbecue classes. To get the full inside look, check out the All-Access pass now!
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When it comes to grilling and smoking on a charcoal, gas, or electric grill, you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to be restricted to cooking strictly over direct heat. You can easily broaden your cooking horizons and master your grilling temperatures by utilizing the two-zone cooking method.
The most common mistake in outdoor cooking is using too much direct heat. Then, sometimes, this can lead to being afraid to utilize enough direct heat when appropriate and you end up with food not being cooked enough. This creates a food safety issue. If you want to avoid overcooked undercooked food and up your barbecue game on your grill, you have to learn to use two-zone cooking.
In this article, we’ll break down exactly what it is, its advantages, and how to properly set up two-zone grilling.
When you hear two-zone cooking, it actually refers to your fire or heat source. A two-zone grill setup is the most versatile way to cook because it provides both direct radiant heat and indirect convection heat on the same grill. Unlocking the opportunity to sear, roast, and smoke meat all in one place.
With a two-zone setup, you simply divide the grill into two zones. One side of the grill is your high, direct heat source zone while the other side of the grill is clear of any charcoal or active burners. Thus making it your indirect heat zone. The indirect side also serves as a safe-zone in case of flare-ups.
On the direct heat side, directly over the fuel source, you can cook fast, sear the meat, and get good caramelization and grill marks. Alternatively, on the indirect side, you can smoke and cook meat to juicy, tender perfection using the low and slow method.
Instead of being restricted to one temperature while grilling and smoking, with two-zone grilling, you can utilize two separate cooking temperatures and master your grill.
No matter what type of grill you are cooking on, two-zone cooking has many advantages. These include:
Setting up two-zone grilling is very simple. The most important thing is to create the two defined sides, one with the direct heat source and the other without. This can be done on a charcoal grill, gas grill, or electric grill. Here’s how to set up a two-zone fire or grill:
Bonus Tip: Utilize different types of kiln-dried cooking wood and add them to or use in place of traditional charcoal to generate delicious wood smoke and experiment with different flavors. B & B Charcoal has a great selection. For example, smoking meat with B & B Cherry wood will create a whole new flavor profile. You can try different variations of wood including wood chunks, chips, pellets, and even B & B Char-logs.
Source: Weber Grills
Source: Kary Osmond
Temperature control is essential to mastering great barbecue and grilled meats. The best way to do this is by utilizing the two-zone cooking method. You’ll have the control and flexibility to cook both perfectly tender and juicy meat as well as perfectly seared and tender steaks. Gone are the days or you overcooking or undercooking meats.
Want to learn more insider tips and secrets to up your smoking and grilling game? Here at BBQ Champs Academy, you’ll learn everything you need to know straight from the champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters. Our first of its kind online barbecue classes will have you cooking outdoors like a pro in no time. Get all-access today!
Few things bring people together like a great barbecue. As the spring progresses and we get into summer, this often means much more outdoor cooking and more barbecues for your friends and family. One thing you may not know is that according to the CDC, food poisoning peaks during the summer months. This is because foodborne germs flourish in the warmer temperatures.
The last thing you want to do when you are showing off your barbecue skills is to risk your health and the health of your friends and family. This is easily avoided by following some important grilling food safety precautions and avoiding improperly cooked food and cross-contamination.
In this article, we’ll cover some essential smoking and grilling food safety tips every outdoor cook should follow each and every time you cook. No matter what time of the year you are cooking.
When you are shopping, make sure to pick up your meat, poultry, and seafood last. Bacteria start to multiply very quickly when meats and seafood reach room temperature. So, pick up your dry goods and produce first and make the meat or seafood counter your last stop. This will help keep your items cold until ready to cook.
You also want to make sure that you keep your meats and seafood separate from other foods while shopping and make sure they are bagged separately. This will help prevent cross-contamination, a very important thing to keep in mind when it comes to food safety. Cross-contamination occurs when the juices from raw meat and seafood come in contact with ready to eat or cooked food.
Before handling raw meat and seafood it is very important to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. This will eliminate any bacteria that may be on your hands.
Always wash your hands directly after handling raw meat or seafood also. Especially before touching any other surfaces or food products. This may mean you are washing your hands multiple times before your food ends up on the grill.
Another option is to use rubber or latex gloves when handling raw meat. When the meat is on the grill and you’re ready to take the gloves off, pull them off from the cuffs inside out to avoid contaminating your hands.
Before putting anything on to cook, you want to make sure you check your grill and clean it as necessary. Once your grill has started to preheat you can use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean off any remaining food particles. If you use a wire grill brush, check to make sure that there are no wire bristles stuck on the grill surface that could stick to your food.
Another way to avoid cross-contamination is to clean your utensils, cutting boards, plates, and workspace after coming in contact with raw meat or seafood. A bleach solution works best to clean and sanitize everything that can’t go in the dishwasher.
When cutting boards start to get worn and get deep cuts, you can quickly encounter a problem with bacteria hiding in the cuts even after cleaning. If your board gets a lot of deep cuts and gouges it is time to replace it. Or if it is wood, sand it down to a smooth surface again.
To avoid cross-contamination, never use the same plate, cutting board, and utensils to handle cooked meat as you did for the raw meat. Unless, of course, they have been cleaned before reusing.
So, as mentioned above, as soon as you get your meat on the grill make sure to clean everything that touched the raw meat before reusing. Or have an extra set of everything ready to use for the cooked food.
One of the quickest ways for a person to get food poisoning is to eat undercooked food. That is why it is so important to use a good-quality thermometer when doing your outdoor cooking to make sure you cook everything thoroughly and the meat has reached safe internal temperatures.
Keeping the internal temperature of your grill or smoker between 225 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit will allow you to properly reach the recommended internal temperature for the meat. Safe internal temperatures, as outlined by the USDA, are:
As you can see, maintaining proper food temperatures is very important when it comes to avoiding foodborne bacteria. This applies to both keeping cold food cold and hot food hot.
You never want to leave cold food out longer than 2 hours (1 hour if the outside temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more.) Make sure these items are refrigerated or placed on ice as soon as possible. This applies to your cold raw meat, poultry, and seafood before cooking, perishable side items, and leftovers after the meal.
After you have cooked your meats and seafood, it is important to keep those items hot until served. This can be done by setting the meat to the side of the grill rack away from direct heat, wrapped in aluminum foil and then towels and placed in a warmed cooler, or in the oven inside at a temperature setting of 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some of the grilling food safety tips above are things that are often overlooked by many outdoor cooks. Food safety is all about properly cooking food, keeping everything you use for smoking and grilling clean, and avoiding cross-contamination.
As you can see, following these measures we covered each and every time you are smoking and grilling will ensure you are cooking as safe as possible and keeping everyone healthy.
Want to learn more tips and techniques on cooking competition-worthy barbecue straight from the pros? Here at BBQ Champs Academy, you’ll learn everything you need to know in step-by-step video classes directly with World Champions Pitmasters and Grillmasters. Check out the All-Access Pass to get the full inside scoop or purchase classes individually!
The official start of winter is coming up soon this month, but many parts of the country have already been seeing cold temperatures and even snow for several months. For the serious outdoor cooker (or even those of you just starting to get serious), a little cold weather won’t deter you from wanting to cook some great meat. And it doesn’t have to.
One of the most important things to keep in mind cooking outside is the effect the cold weather will have on temperature consistency for your smoker or grill. For great BBQ, consistent cooking temperatures is critical. Maintaining that consistency in the cold will be tough but not impossible.
The exterior of your cooker will be cold. That cold metal will absorb the heat from the warm air inside which will decrease the inside temperature. Also, the cooker will draw in cold exterior air during the combustion process. This can also decrease the temperature. So, you will need to preheat your cooker until the exterior metal is too hot to touch and you’ll need more fuel to do that. Also, be prepared to use more fuel throughout the cooking to maintain the necessary temperature.
You don’t have to pack away your smoker or barbecue grill for the winter season. But, there are some tips & tricks to keep in mind when barbecuing and smoking in cold weather to make sure you achieve the best results. Let’s take a look:
While opening your smoker or grill’s lid in the summer doesn’t make too much of a difference, in the cold it can have a huge impact. So, it is important to try and keep your cooker’s lid closed as much as possible when barbecuing or smoking in cold weather. This will help maintain the constant proper temperature inside. There are better ways to check the temperature of the meat when needed. (See below)
You can help maintain proper temperature inside your cooker by keeping it warm and dry. One trick to do this is to use a welding blanket as insulation over the cooking chamber. Rated for high temperatures, these blankets will protect the cooking chamber from snow, wind, and cold temperatures without catching fire. You can also use furnace insulation. It’s best to only use any type of insulation on the cooking chamber and avoid covering the firebox.
Make sure when you are using a welding blanket or similar type of insulation that you still provide for enough airflow. You don’t want to block the flow of oxygen in and keep too much smoke in. Then your fire can go out or your meat ends up tainted with a gnarly smoke taste.
Source: Smokin’ MAK
Barbecuing and smoking in cold weather is definitely a situation where having a good wireless digital thermometer on hand is extremely useful. Especially if it is multi-probe. Then you can easily and constantly monitor the temperature of the inside of your cooker as well as the current temperature of your meat.
Many of these digital thermometers have capabilities to set alarms for a particular temperature range. So you are immediately alerted if the internal temperature of your cooker falls below that range. Then, you can jump into action before it falls too low and add more fuel.
As we mentioned above, when cooking in cold weather you are definitely going to burn through more fuel. So, it’s important to make sure that you are stocked up and ready to go, with whatever fuel source you are using, before you even start heating up your cooker. The last thing you want to happen when it’s time to refuel is to not have more readily available on hand, your internal temperature crashes, and you have to start all over.
If you are using wood, make sure you’ve got your stockpile already chopped up, stored in a nearby dry place, and ready to go. If you are using charcoal or gas, make sure you’ve got enough on hand to make it through the entire cook before you start. For any type of fuel source, it’s a good idea to have on-hand double the amount of fuel as you would when cooking in warm outdoor temperatures.
While you are getting your fuel stocked up and ready to go, it’s also a good idea to get any tools, utensils, seasonings, etc ready to go while you are at it. You want to make sure you are totally prepared before you even start cooking.
Cold winter weather almost always means cold gusty wind as well. Dealing with and adjusting for the wind is going to be crucial to maintain good temperatures inside your smoker or grill.
One way to do this is to find a spot outside to put your cooker that is a little more sheltered or protected from direct wind flow. This will help maintain a little more consistency in cooking temperature in the cold weather. But, definitely make sure you are not cooking in an enclosed space in or near your home. Especially not in a garage.
Also, you should monitor the wind direction. You should know how the air flows through your cooker and from what direction and you can make adjustments based on this and the wind direction. Positioning your cooker perpendicular to the wind is often most effective. You don’t want to get too much wind flowing into your cooker or else your fire will be stoked and it will raise temperatures quickly. You also don’t want to be getting too little airflow and lose your fuel source.
By monitoring the wind direction, you can also adjust your air intakes on your cooker accordingly. You may need to use another vent to adjust temperature and completely close off the vent facing the wind.
These are just a few tips and tricks for barbecuing and smoking in cold weather. As you can see, the most important thing to remember is to prepare to have to do a little more to maintain constant internal temperatures inside your cooker. The more you can do to keep your cooker dry and warm, the easier it will be to do that.
Treat your cooker like you would yourself in cold weather. When outside, both of you must be kept warm and sheltered (safely) as much as possible to keep cooking great BBQ.
With the first of their kind BBQ cooking classes available from us here at BBQ Champs Academy, you’ll learn all the tips and tricks from champion BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters. You’ll be excited all year round, even in the cold weather, to show off your skills and cook championship-quality barbecue.
Have you been cooking outdoors in the cold weather lately? Have you figured out another great way to keep those internal temperatures warm in the cold? Tell us about it below. We want to hear from you!