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Grilling and smoking are both popular methods for cooking meat (and other foods). But which one is the better choice? 

This debate often comes down to several variables, including personal preference, but a better understanding of the differences between the two can help you make an informed decision. 

In this article, we’ve broken down the difference in grilling vs smoking, the pros and cons of both, and which method works best for certain meats.


The Difference in the Cooking Process & Pros/Cons

Between grilling and smoking, both of these outdoor cooking methods produce delicious results, but they differ in the way they cook the meat and the flavors they impart.


Grilling is the process of cooking meat over an open flame or a high-heat surface. This method is great for cooking smaller cuts of meat, including steaks, pork chops, burgers, and sausages/hot dogs. Grilling is a fast and convenient way to cook meat, and it's perfect for summer barbecues and bigger backyard gatherings. 

The high heat of grilling creates a more pronounced char flavor on the exterior of the meat, which gives it a nice but slightly tougher texture than smoked meat. This is because the higher cooking temperatures causes a browning of the exterior during what is known as a Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction that occurs between the meat’s amino acids and sugars when they are heated. This reaction produces a variety of flavor compounds that give grilled meat its characteristic flavor.


Pros of Grilling:

  • A quick and easy way to cook meat. You can have a perfectly cooked steak or burger in just a few minutes.
  • It creates a flavorful char on the exterior of the food.
  • You can grill a variety of foods, including meat, seafood, vegetables, and even fruit.
  • It is a healthy way to cook meat, as any excess fat drips off the meat and into the flames. This means that grilled meat is leaner and lower in calories than meat cooked using other methods.


Cons of Grilling:

  • You can overcook food easily, especially if you are fairly new to grilling. This is because the cooking temperatures are high and juices within the meat can evaporate quickly. And, sometimes, without a digital meat thermometer, it can be tough to judge the doneness of the food.
  • It can create a smoky mess if the food is not cooked properly, the grill is not properly cleaned, or you have overcrowded the grill.


pros of grilling vs smoking | grilling versus smoking | grilling or smoking



Smoking is the process of cooking using smoke and low heat over a longer period. This method is great for cooking larger cuts of meat like brisket, pork butt, ribs, and whole chicken/turkey. Smoking requires a bit more effort and preparation than grilling, but the result is a tender and flavorful piece of meat.

Smoked meat has a milder flavor and a more tender texture, compared to grilled meat. This is because the lower cooking temperature allows the smoke to penetrate the exterior of the meat, adding flavor without overcooking it. The smoke and longer cooking times also help to break down the collagen in the meat, making it more tender.


Pros of Smoking Meat:

  • It imparts a rich and smoky flavor to the meat (but a milder flavor than when grilling). The low and slow cooking process with the added wood smoke gives it a unique flavor that can't be achieved with any other method.
  • Makes the meat incredibly tender and juicy, as the low heat breaks down the connective tissue in the meat.
  • This method can also be used to cook a wide variety of foods. (Though some items are better grilled and vice versa. See more on this below.)


Cons of Smoking Meat:

  • With lower cooking temperatures, it does take longer to cook the items to the proper temperature.
  • It can be more difficult to master this cooking method compared to grilling.

Both grilling and smoking are great methods for cooking meat. And, as you can see, each one has its advantages and disadvantages. If you're looking for a quick and easy way to cook small cuts of meat, grilling is the way to go. If you want to cook a large cut of meat and have the time to spare, smoking is the better method. Ultimately, the choice between grilling and smoking comes down to personal preference and the specific type of meat you're cooking.


So, Which is Better for the Different Types of Meat?

Now you should have a better idea of exactly how each method cooks the food and the pros and cons of each. But how does this apply to the different types of meat specifically? Let’s break down which method, grilling vs smoking, is best depending on exactly what you are cooking:


Grilling is a great option for chicken since it is a lean meat that doesn't require a lot of time to cook. You can quickly sear smaller cuts of chicken like breasts, thighs, wings on a hot grill and get a nice char and flavor. Smoking whole chicken can also be delicious, but it does require more time and effort. If you do decide to smoke chicken, be sure to brine it first to help keep it as moist as possible.


grilling vs smoking chicken | grilling versus smoking | grilling or smoking



Beef is a meat that can benefit from both grilling and smoking it. Grilling is ideal for smaller cuts like steak and burgers that are best cooked quickly over high heat. While smoking is great for larger, tougher cuts like brisket that need to cook slowly over a long period to become tender and flavorful. If you're new to smoking beef, start with an “easier” cut like a tri-tip or chuck roast.



Pork is another meat that can do well either grilled or smoked, depending on the specific cut. Grilling is great for pork chops and pork tenderloin, which can be cooked quickly over high heat. While smoking is ideal for pork shoulder or ribs, which need to be cooked more slowly to become tender. When smoking pork, opt for using fruit woods like apple or cherry for a sweeter, more delicate flavor.



When it comes to fish, grilling is most often the best option. Fish is delicate and can easily become overcooked and dry, so grilling it quickly over high heat is ideal. Fattier/oilier fish, like tuna, salmon, sea bass, and snapper, are the types of fish that hold up the best directly on the grill. Leaving the skin on the filet will help even more to ensure that they do not stick to the grates. 

You can also smoke fish (and even lobster!), but it requires a lot of care and attention to ensure that the fish doesn't dry out or become too smoky. If you do decide to smoke fish, consider using a mild wood like alder or maple to complement the delicate flavor of the fish.


You Can Make an Informed Decision on if Grilling or Smoking is Best


smoking meat | grilling vs smoking | grilling versus smoking


In the battle of grilling vs smoking, both methods prove to have their advantages and drawbacks. Grilling offers a faster, more convenient way to cook meat, with a delicious charred flavor and attractive grill marks. On the other hand, smoking provides a distinct smoky taste, enhanced by your choice of wood and a longer, slow-cooking process that tenderizes the meat.

Ultimately, the decision boils down to the type of meat, your personal preference, and the desired outcome. Those seeking a quicker, high-heat cooking method will prefer grilling, while those who appreciate the art of slow cooking and complex flavors will lean towards smoking. Experimenting with both techniques and various recipes will help determine the best fit for your taste buds and cooking preferences.

Do you have a preferred cooking method between grilling or smoking? Switch back and forth depending on what you're cooking? Leave a comment below, we want to hear about it!


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Everyone loves tender, juicy ham. And like lamb, this meat is a popular choice during springtime get-togethers (especially Easter). But, this delicious cut isn’t relegated to just being cooked in the oven. Smoking ham is a great way to add an extra layer of distinct flavor while still getting moist and juicy meat.

Whether you’re preparing a family dinner or smoking a ham for the holidays, proper preparation and cooking techniques are essential to ensure a delicious final result. 

In this article, we’ve broken down exactly what ham is and put together some pro tips on smoking ham to help you achieve perfect results every time.


What is a Ham Exactly? 

"Ham," generally speaking, is a cut of pork taken from a pig's lower hind leg or thigh that is preserved by either wet-curing with a nitrate mixture or dry-curing with salt and other spices. 

It is a common misconception that a ham and a pork butt are the same cut of meat, but they are taken from two very different parts of the pig. The pork butt is actually cut from the upper shoulder of the pig. 


Tips on How to Smoke a Ham Properly:

Choose the Right Ham

It is critical to your final result to start with a good cut. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to this:

  • Don’t skimp on quality. As is true with any kind of meat, the better quality you get, the better results you’ll end up with. Your local butcher shop is the best place to go. But, if you have to go to your local grocery store, it is still possible to get a good ham.
  • Opt for bone-in. A bone-in ham will have more flavor while the bone helps to insulate the meat and prevent it from drying out, giving you better results when it is smoked.
  • Get an uncured ham. You want to make sure you are getting a “fresh ham” (an uncured ham) since you are going to be doing the curing part yourself for the best results.
  • Don’t get it pre-sliced. You may think it’ll be more convenient in the end, but avoid getting a pre-sliced ham. It will negatively affect the consistency of the final result.  
  • Make sure the ham is big enough. Make sure you’re getting a large enough ham to give everyone a sufficient amount of meat. You should roughly plan for 1/3 of a pound of meat per person you are feeding.
  • Consider the size of your smoker. You'll need enough space for the meat to smoke evenly.


Trim the Excess Fat & Score the Ham


how to smoke a ham | tips on smoking ham | smoked ham tips
Source: Gourmet Food Store


Remove any packaging and/or string from the ham and rinse it off before patting it dry with a paper towel. Remove any excess fat around the outside, leaving just a thin layer for flavor. This will help the meat cook more evenly. Score the remaining fat in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife, which will allow the smoke to penetrate the meat more easily. This will also help the fat render better during smoking.

Bonus tip: If your ham came with the skin on it still, make sure to remove the skin before curing. Keeping the skin on will prevent the ham from absorbing the delicious smoke flavor.


Cure the Ham 

Once you have trimmed your ham, the next step is to start the curing process. Curing the ham with salt will help it hold that delicious smoky flavor while also increasing its shelf-life. You can either dust the outside of the ham with salt and other spices before smoking, or for a more intense flavoring, leave your ham to marinate in a salt-based brine solution for a few hours (or overnight).

You can also inject the ham with a mixture of spices and liquid for added flavor.

Another type of ham that is available to buy is what is called “country ham”. This ham has already been cured with a salt-based dry rub, hung to dry, and aged for at least 6 months. Then it’s sold ready to cook. So, if you really don’t want to worry about brining or curing the ham yourself, this is another option that you could try. Though these are usually much more salty tasting and often have a drier texture.


Use the Right Type of Wood

Whether you are using chips, chunks, or pellets, wood smoke adds a delicious layer of flavor unlike anything else. But, when smoking ham, it is very important to use the right type of wood. You don’t want to use a wood that is going to overpower or clash with the natural flavor of the meat. Hickory, Applewood, Cherry, or Pecan are your best choices for a delicious flavor with smoked ham (and any other type of pork cut).


wood chunks for smoking ham | tips on smoking ham | smoked ham tips


Maintain the Proper Consistent Cooking Temperature

When smoking ham, it's important to maintain a consistent temperature. Keep your smoker between 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. This cooking temperature allows the fat to properly render and drip off of the meat without cooking the meat too fast. Smoke the ham until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit. (See more on this below.)


You Can Spritz the Ham to Add More Moisture

If you are dry-brining the ham and putting a rub on it, it’s important to do what you can to ensure it doesn’t dry out too much while it is smoking. One way to do this is to use a spritz occasionally throughout the smoking session. Similarly to spritzing brisket, you can use an apple cider vinegar spritz and occasionally spray the ham while it’s cooking to help add moisture and a touch of sweetness. 


If You Glaze It, Do It Just Before It’s Done Cooking

For many people, one of their favorite parts of eating ham is the sweet glaze that coats the outside. If you do decide to use a glaze, make sure that you wait to brush it on the exterior until shortly before it is done. (Roughly within the last 5 minutes of cooking.)

In many cases, the glaze contains ingredients that are sugar-based (ie. brown sugar, maple syrup, bourbon), and putting it on too early will cause the sugar to burn which will then char the outside of your ham and ruin the flavor.

Bonus tip: If you do use bourbon as an ingredient for your glaze, opt for a higher-quality bourbon that goes well with barbecue versus a cheap “well” bourbon. Doing so will give your ham a much better flavor. 


Let It Rest Before Carving

After smoking the ham, it's important to let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in more flavorful and tender meat. When carving the ham, slice it thinly against the grain for the best texture.


So, How Long to Cook a Ham Properly?

This is a common question not only with ham but with any kind of meat that is going in your smoker. But, as with all types of meat, it is important to remember that for best results, you want to cook to internal temperature versus relying on a set time. 

Lower temperatures at a slower rate will give you the best-tasting and juiciest ham. But, your cooking time will vary depending on the specific cut of ham, how big it is, and your specific smoker. So, make sure you have a good digital meat thermometer on hand.


use a thermometer when smoking ham | tips on smoking ham | smoked ham tips


Once your ham reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it is ready to come out of your smoker. Then, while letting it rest, it will come up to about 145 degrees Fahrenheit and is then ready to carve.


You Can Smoke a Ham That is Sure to Impress!

Smoking ham is a great way to create an amazing flavor and texture that can’t be achieved with other cooking methods. With these pro tips in mind, you’ll be able to smoke a ham perfectly every time.

And remember, whatever ham is leftover after your initial meal can be used in a variety of different recipes afterward. This includes soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and even casseroles! 

Now, if you want a step-by-step recipe that shows you exactly how to smoke ham perfectly, check out our online video/class for Port Wine Brined Smoked Ham for only $7.98!

Do you have any other smoked ham tips to share? Plan on smoking ham for the first time soon? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it!


Take your backyard cooking to the next level with the BBQ Pro-led Championship Backyard Cooking Classes from BBQ Champs Academy! Our online classes, taught by competition-winning Pitmasters and Grillmasters, will teach you how to cook 20 delicious recipes on your grill, step-by-step. 

And when you’re ready to upgrade your competition skills, grab your All-Access pass and join Champion Pitmasters in our in-depth online BBQ classes. You'll learn to master ribs, brisket, pork butt, and chicken in your smoker or grill. As well as get insider cooking tips like you won’t find anywhere else. 

Plus, don't forget to subscribe today to the BBQ Champs YouTube channel to stay up to date with the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from the pros.

Everyone loves perfectly grilled chicken. And if you are looking for something different to try on your grill today and want to try a different variation of grilled chicken, Yakitori makes a great option. This delicious street food is so popular in Japan that there is even a whole area in Tokyo called Yakitori Alley. There’s not much that can compare to these charcoal-smoked meats with delicious Asian seasoning.

If you’ve cooked kebabs before, this Japanese grilling style is very similar. Yakitori is relatively easy to do but there are definitely some things to keep in mind to ensure you end up with perfectly grilled meat and the traditional flavors you are going for.

That’s why we’ve put together this article that covers exactly what yakitori is, the top tips on making homemade yakitori, and the most popular seasonings to finish it off.


What is Yakitori Exactly?

The Japanese word Yakitori literally translates to “grilled chicken”, which exactly describes what this food item is–small pieces of chicken grilled on skewers. Yakitori first started during the middle of the Meiji Era (1868 to 1912). During this time, most meat was still scarce and expensive.

So, the original street stalls that offered yakitori used the offcuts that came from the restaurants and used tare sauce (more on this below) to help improve the flavor. In the 1960s yakitori became much more widespread with the public at large, largely due to the development of nationally protected chicken breeds that were more readily available. Today, it is available at traditional street food stalls or in yakitori restaurants, referred to as yakitori-ya, like, for example, the Michelin Star-winning Toriki in Tokyo.

Yakitori, which flavors happen to pair very well with ice-cold beer, is also a popular menu item at izakayas (Japanese gastropubs).

To make traditional yakitori, the chef will cook the skewered meat over a narrow charcoal grill, continuously turning the skewers over red-hot binchōtan (activated white charcoal designed primarily for culinary uses). The meat is grilled until every piece is flavorful, juicy, and has just the right amount of char.

Compared to “regular” charcoal briquettes, binchōtan is longer-burning, cleaner (it does not smoke at all), and a more natural alternative. Many people argue that binchōtan is a critical part of the delicious taste of true yakitori. Though, it is usually significantly more expensive than traditional charcoal. (You don’t absolutely have to use this type of charcoal to cook good yakitori!)


binchotan for yakitori | how to make yakitori | yakitori tips
Japanese Binchōtan charcoal


Grilled chicken thigh (momo) by itself is the most popular form of yakitori, but yakitori restaurants now offer a wide variety of options, including:

  • Chicken thigh and scallion (negima)
  • Chicken breast (mune)
  • Chicken wings (tebasaki)
  • Chicken meatballs (tsukune)
  • Crispy chicken skin (kawa)
  • Chicken cartilage (nankotsu)
  • Chicken gizzard (sunagimo)
  • Chicken hearts (hatsu)
  • Chicken liver (reba)

Other common non-chicken items include wagyu beef, pork belly (buta bura), bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms, shishito peppers, and mushrooms (king trumpet or shiitake). When the grilled item is not chicken, it can still sometimes be referred to as “yakitori”, which seems to serve as a catch-all term. But, it is sometimes referred to in Japanese as “kushiyaki”, which is the general term for food on skewers.


Specialized Yakitori Grill Setups

Though you don’t absolutely have to have one to cook yakitori, there are special grills designed just for yakitori and kushiyaki. These rectangular grills are often more portable and smaller than traditional American grills and are designed for accommodating a row of 6 to 8” skewers.

Yakitori grills are often made of diatomite insulating brick, to better handle the higher-than-normal heat of binchōtan, although there are also a wide variety of stainless steel yakitori grills. 


10 Tips for Making Yakitori Properly

There are a few tips to keep in mind when making yakitori at home to help ensure you end up with a final result that you’ll be happy with. These include:

#1 - Make Sure to Use the Proper Skewers 

It’s not essential, but if you want to follow tradition, use wooden yakitori skewers (teppo gushi). You can find these in most Asian grocery stores. These thin skewers taper to a flat end, making it easier to pick up and rotate the skewers over the grill grate while they cook. Technically you could use regular wooden skewers, but just make sure that they are long enough to have plenty of skewer to grab and maneuver them on the grill.


yakitori skewers | how to make yakitori | yakitori tips


#2 - Soak Wood Skewers First

Soaking the skewers in a shallow bowl or pan of water will not only prevent them from burning on the grill but will also make them easier to thread the meat onto. Soak the skewers for one hour before you start cooking.


#3 - Start with an Easy-to-Cook Cut of Chicken 

For your first time making yakitori at home, boneless, skinless chicken thighs are going to be your best bet. They’re more flavorful than breasts, easy to cut into the proper smaller pieces, and relatively forgiving while you’re getting the hang of the cooking timing.

Make sure to also check out our article on what to look for when buying chicken to ensure you get good-quality meat to start with.


#4 - Cut the Chicken Into the Proper-Sized Pieces

You want to cut the chicken into approximately 1-inch cubes. Remember, you’re aiming for easy-to-eat, bite-sized pieces. Plus, if you cut pieces too thick, it will be hard to season them all the way through.


#5 - Crowd the Pieces on the Skewer 

Don’t be afraid to push the meat close together on the skewers. The tighter the pieces of chicken are, the less moisture will be lost as they cook. Leaving too much room between the pieces on the skewers can quickly dry the meat out over the high heat.


#6 - Let the Grill Come to the Proper Temperature

It’s important to let your grill reach the proper cooking temperature before you start grilling. You want to let the charcoal get to a medium-high temperature, roughly 400 degrees Fahrenheit and then you are good to go. It’s always good to have a digital thermometer on hand to monitor your grill temperature.


#7 - Keep an Eye on the Heat 

You will be cooking the yakitori over fairly high heat and you don’t want it to burn. So, make sure to keep an eye on the charcoal, monitor the cooking temperature, and watch out for any flare-ups.


#8 - Season the Meat As You Cook 

The traditional seasonings that are used and the way it is done is a large part of what takes yakitori to the next level. The meat is seasoned throughout the cooking process, instead of just at the beginning, making for a more deliciously-complex flavor profile and juicy bite. If you are using tare sauce (see more on this below), make sure you have a small basting brush on hand, as this is the easiest way to put it on the meat.


seasoning for yakitori | how to make yakitori | yakitori tips


#9 - Keep the Skewers Moving Periodically

Since you are grilling over high heat, it is important to rotate your skewers frequently to promote even cooking. This also allows you to easily control the level of exterior charring on the meat. 


#10 - Don’t Leave the Grill Unattended

Your yakitori will cook pretty quickly. So it’s important to keep a close eye on the grill. Move skewers as needed to ensure even cooking and remove them once you have a good char on all sides and the chicken is cooked through (internal temp of 165 degrees F.) Have a digital meat thermometer on hand also to monitor the chicken’s internal temperature.


3 Most Common Seasonings for Yakitori

The simplicity of its seasonings is one of the things that makes yakitori so good. The three most commonly used seasonings are:

Shio (Salt) and White Pepper 

With “shio-style”, it’s the chicken’s natural flavor that is the star of the show. This minimalistic seasoning simply uses a generous coating of salt (shio) and white pepper.



The most common type of sauce for yakitori is known as tare. This is a glaze made of a combination of soy sauce, sweet mirin (Japanese rice wine), sake, and dark brown sugar. Some variations of the sauce also include garlic and ginger. If you don’t feel like making homemade tare or don’t have bottled tare sauce in your pantry, teriyaki sauce can serve as a good substitute.

For a good recipe for homemade tare sauce, check out this recipe from TastingTable. (Keep in mind, if you can’t find mirin, you can use a sweet white wine as a substitute.)


Togarashi with Lemon 

For those that want to add a little spice, the finished chicken can be seasoned with a little bit of Shichimi Togarashi. This dry seasoning blend is typically made of a mixture of red chili peppers, ground ginger, sanshō pepper or Sichuan peppercorns, dried orange peel, white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and nori (seaweed). Then, the chicken is spritzed with a lemon wedge and served.

You can also serve Togarashi on the side so people can add some to their chicken if they wish.


togarashi for yakitori | how to make yakitori | yakitori tips
Togarashi Ingredients
Source: The Daring Gourmet


Try Out Some Delicious Yakitori Today!

With the information and tips we’ve covered above, you can easily cook delicious and tender homemade yakitori today. Whether you use a traditional yakitori grill or your normal stand-up grill, you can enjoy mouth-watering Japanese-style grilled chicken skewers in no time. Plus, it can be a fun way to get your friends and family together to try a new-to-you style of outdoor cooking.

Have you ever tried yakitori before and know of some additional tips? Plan on trying yakitori for the first time? Leave a comment below! We want to hear all about it.


If you really want to take your backyard cooking skills to a whole other level, check out the BBQ Pro-led Championship Backyard Cooking Classes from us here at BBQ Champs Academy! In these online classes taught by pro Pitmasters and Grillmasters, you’ll learn exactly, step-by-step how to cook 20 delicious recipes on your grill.

And if you are ready to try your hand at professional, competition smoking and grilling techniques, grab your All-Access pass today! Join the Champion Pitmasters in our first-of-their-kind, in-depth online BBQ classes. You can master cooking ribs, brisket, pork butt, and chicken in your smoker or grill, get insider outdoor cooking secrets, and more!

Make sure to also click “Subscribe” on the BBQ Champs YouTube channel today. You don’t want to miss any of the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from the BBQ pros!

A recent conversation was overheard that revolved around the common question “can you smoke lobster tails?” Though they may be “fragile” compared to other things that are smoked, the answer is absolutely yes!

Smoking lobster tails low and slow versus steaming or broiling them imparts a delicious smokiness that can significantly elevate the flavor of the meat even further, without overpowering them and ruining their delicate yet rich flavor profile. And you can have delicious, plate-ready lobster tails in an hour!

But, some extra care and attention will be needed to help ensure that you end up with a good final result. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be intimidated, we’ve got you covered. They’re actually easier than you may think. 

In this article, we’ve broken down some pro tips for how to smoke lobster tails perfectly:


Start with Good Lobster Tails

A major part of getting good results when it comes to smoking lobster tails is to start with fresh, good-quality lobster. Ideally, you want to go with cold water tails (versus warm water lobster) for the best flavor and texture. 

No matter which type you get, make sure it does not have a fishy smell or look slimy. Fresh lobster will have a neutral smell and may even smell slightly sweet. You’ll also get the best taste from lobster tails that were freshly caught or fresh-frozen. Also, avoid any lobster that is rinsed with or soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate or other preservative chemicals.

Important note: Make sure you have enough lobster for the number of people who will be eating. In general, you should plan for two 6-7 oz tails per person.


Use a Two-Zone Cooking Set-Up

For best results, you are going to be smoking the lobster tails over indirect heat. So, make sure your grill/smoker is set up for two-zone cooking. This means one side is the direct heat side and the other side is the indirect heat side. Cooking the tails over indirect heat will ensure they cook through without overcooking.  


two zone setup for smoking lobster tails | how to smoke lobster | smoked lobster
Source: Vindulge


If Using Wood, Use a Mild Fruitwood

Remember, lobster is a delicate meat. So, if you are using wood pellets or chunks as either your main fuel source or a secondary source for flavor, you don’t want to overpower it with a strong flavor of wood. Avoid things like Mesquite or Hickory wood.

Your best bet is to go with a lighter/mild fruitwood. Some good options are Maple, Applewood, or Cherry wood. Both of these will impart a deliciously light smoke flavor with a hint of sweetness. 


Preheat the Smoker to the Proper Temperature

It is important to let your smoker preheat to the proper cooking temperature before you put the lobster tails on. You are going to be cooking the lobster between ​​225°F to 250°F. So, if you let the smoker preheat while you are prepping the tails, you’ll be good to go.


Carefully Slit the Tails

The most important part of prepping the lobster tails before smoking them is to carefully put a slit in them. This is the best and easiest way to help enhance their taste even further. Slitting the shell allows both the smoke and the melted butter to get down to the lobster meat.

First, make sure that the tails are not frozen at all. Rinse them in cold water and then place them on a cutting board, with the top of the tail facing up. With a pair of kitchen scissors, carefully cut the shell down the middle of the tail, just until you reach the fin. Gently pull the shell apart, just slightly, enough to expose the meat. The meat should be visible but still attached to the inside of the fin.

It’s important to be very careful not to break or crack any more of the shell beyond this. After slitting the tails, rinse them again under cold water to wash any broken shell fragments away.

Important Note: The lobster tails are going to go onto the grates with the slit side facing up.


Use Skewers to Help Tails Hold Their Form

Make sure to also grab some skewers (wood or metal will work). Lobster tails, similarly to shrimp, will often curl up when cooked in a smoker/grill. So, skewers work well to prevent this from happening by holding the tails straight. For each lobster tail, just carefully push through the exposed meat and out the tail fin at the other end. If you are using wooden skewers, make sure you pre-soak them so that they don’t burn in the smoker.

Bonus tip: Brushing a light coating of olive oil onto the lobster tails after you skewer them will help prevent them from over-charring.


skewer lobster tails | tips for smoking lobster tails | how to smoke lobster tails
Source: Dinner at the Zoo


Baste at the Right Time

For best results when smoking lobster tails, baste the lobster tails with the butter halfway through the smoke (roughly at the 20-minute mark) rather than right when they go in the smoker. Then, the meat will be hot enough for the butter to melt, while also still giving the lobster enough time to cook in the juices.

When basting halfway through, make sure to save about a quarter of the butter mixture to baste again right before pulling the tails out of the smoker.

Butter Mixture to Try:

(Portioned for 4 lobster tails) - 

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • ½ tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp of minced fresh sage or dried sage
  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, lemon juice, black pepper, minced garlic, and sage. Then, just put the pot on the cooking grate in the smoker next to the lobster tails. For a little added spice, you can add a ½ teaspoon of paprika to the butter mixture. Once the butter has fully melted, remove it from the heat, stir thoroughly to mix everything well and allow the mixture to cool slightly.


Cook to Temperature Versus By Time

Like with many items cooked in your smoker or grill, it is important to smoke the lobster tails to the proper internal temperature versus trying to rely on a specific amount of cooking time. So, make sure you have a good digital meat thermometer on hand and place it in the thickest part of the tail’s meat.

Remove the tails from the smoker when the meat’s internal temperature reaches 135°F. At this temperature, the meat should have turned an opaque white and/or pearly color.

Remove the tails as soon as they reach this temperature to avoid overcooking. Once removed from the heat, the internal temperature of the tails will continue to rise by a few degrees. Ideally, you want them at 140°F when you are serving them.

Bonus tip: Make sure to serve the smoked lobster tails with lemon wedges and extra melted butter mixture on the side! Plus, a light, crisp glass of Chardonnay will pair very well with the lobster also.


smoked lobster tails | tips for smoking lobster tails | how to smoke lobster tails
Source: Yummly


You Can Confidently Try Your Hand at Smoking Lobster Tails Today!

If you’re looking for something different to cook in your smoker and are craving seafood, why not try smoking lobster tails? These make a great option if you want to have a nice dinner with family or friends or even for a random Tuesday night.

If you follow the pro tips above, you’ll be well on your way to confidently smoking lobster tails to delicious, buttery perfection.

Do you know of any other tips for smoking lobster tails? Plan on smoking lobster tails for the first time after reading this article? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!


If you want to give more great backyard BBQ recipes a go, check out our step-by-step virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes. Taught by some of the top competition Pitmasters and Grillmasters, these 20 videos will teach you a variety of delicious recipes with all of the insider tips and techniques you need to know. You can master your backyard smoking and grilling today!

Make sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel. You don’t want to miss all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from pros!

One of the most critical aspects of smoking a delicious brisket is preventing the meat from drying out. We’ve talked before about the different ways you can keep meat moist while smoking. One of these ways, used by some pitmasters, is lightly spritzing the brisket while it is cooking (unwrapped).    

Spritzing brisket can be an effective way to not only add moisture during a low-and-slow cook but, when done properly, also aids in the caramelization that occurs on the exterior crust during the Maillard reaction. The liquid from the spritz also aids in the formation of that pink smoke ring just below the surface of the meat because the moisture attracts smoke.

So, are you wondering what to spritz brisket with? In this article, we’ve covered 7 great options of liquids to use for spritzing the meat. But first, there are a couple of important things to note about using a spritz on your brisket (or any other meat).


Important Notes About Using a Spritz:

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind when spritzing brisket. Firstly, it is important not to overdo it. One of the best things about a properly smoked brisket is the perfectly crisp exterior crust, aka bark. But, if you overdo it with a spritz and add a ton of excess moisture to the outside of the meat, it can soften the exterior crust and prevent proper browning. So, err on the side of caution when you are using a brisket spritz.

The other thing to keep in mind is not to spritz the brisket too early. You need to wait for the exterior crust to form on the meat first. If you don’t, there’s a high probability that your spritz will wash your rub/seasonings off the outside of your brisket and take your chance of that delicious bark with it. To prevent that from happening, let the brisket cook for about 90 minutes first. Then, lightly spritz it every 45 minutes (unless otherwise specified) while it is cooking unwrapped.


spritzing brisket for moisture | brisket spritz | what to spritz brisket with


7 Options of Liquids to Use for Spritzing Brisket:

There are some tried and true liquid options for spritzing your brisket while it is smoking. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try something new for your next brisket. No matter what liquid you use, make sure that it is thin enough to easily be sprayed through a spray bottle without clogging it up. 

Here are 7 of the most common options of liquids you could use:


Apple Cider Vinegar

This is one of the most commonly used liquids for a brisket spritz, especially for Carolina-style barbecue. Apple Cider Vinegar is often mixed with a little bit of water or apple juice to slightly dilute it. The acidity of the vinegar effectively breaks down the spices in your rub to help aid in the formation of the exterior bark. It helps the bark become deliciously crunchy and dark. 

And don’t worry–using apple cider vinegar won’t leave a strong vinegar taste on the finished brisket. The vinegar flavor cooks out, similarly to if you were to cook with wine.


Apple Juice

Apple juice is another popular spritz option. The sugar in the juice helps give the exterior bark even more delicious caramelization and a slight sweetness. Any liquid that is high in fructose will caramelize and helps add a nice layer of brown, crispy bark. If you want to cut back on the sweetness of the juice, just dilute it with a little bit of water before adding it to your spritzing bottle.



Beer is great for not only drinking while you are cooking but also as a spritz to give your meat extra moisture. Beer sticks to the brisket very well, adds a deliciously hoppy taste to the crust, and similarly to apple juice, because of the slight sugar content in beer, it will aid in the caramelization of the meat’s exterior. Dark ales or stouts do very well as a brisket spritz. The flavor pairs very well with the meat and the seasonings commonly used.


beer for brisket spritz | what to spritz brisket with | spritzing brisket with beer
Source: Founders Brewery


Beef Broth

Spritzing brisket with broth is a safe option if you are worried about your brisket becoming too sweet or salty. Many of the other liquid options for a spritz contain sugar, salt, or have a high acidity. This isn’t a problem, but it does affect the flavor of the meat. So, broth is a more neutral flavor option for a spritz.

Broth is low in fructose, so you won’t get that sticky sweetness that you would from using apple juice or beer. The spritz mixtures that are higher in sugar content do tend to caramelize the crust a little bit better, but the differences in the bark are subtle.


Melted Butter

Butter makes for a good alternative to using oil as a brisket spritz. It is commonly used as a mop sauce but can be melted down and thinned so that it can be sprayed. Just melt the butter to a liquid consistency and add water until it is thin enough to easily use in a spray bottle. Make sure to keep the liquid butter warm so that it doesn’t solidify and clog up the sprayer.

Using butter as a spritz won’t add a strong flavor to the meat but works well to add moisture to the exterior. If you want to control the salt content of your brisket and avoid making it too salty, use low-salt butter.


Worcestershire Sauce

As long as your rub doesn’t have a high salt content, Worcestershire Sauce is another good liquid option for a brisket spritz. It will give you a strong but delicious extra layer of flavor on the brisket. If you find the flavor of the sauce too heavy on its own, just add some water to thin it out. 

Because it does have a stronger flavor compared to other options we’ve covered, you’ll only want to spritz the meat roughly every 90 minutes throughout the smoke (compared to 45 with other liquids).


Worcestershire sauce for brisket spritz | what to spritz brisket with | spritzing brisket with Worcestershire sauce
Source: The Kitchn


Plain Water

Sometimes the simple way is a good way to go too. If you want to give your brisket some extra moisture without messing with the flavor, just use plain water. It will get the job done and allow you to focus on imparting your desired flavor into the meat through a brisket injection and exterior rub.


More “Unusual” Alternatives

There are a variety of other liquids that can work as a brisket spritz and are more “unusual” options that you could try. These include:

  • Bourbon
  • Whiskey
  • BBQ sauce and apple juice mixture
  • Red wine vinegar 
  • Red wine and water mixture
  • Pineapple juice
  • Olive oil
  • Hot sauce


Try a Liquid Spritz for Your Brisket Today!

If you ask different pitmasters, you’ll find that it is a matter of personal opinion/preference as to whether to spritz or not. It won’t hurt to try and see how you like the results. As you can see, there are quite a few liquid options out there to suit everyone’s tastes. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what you like the best!

Have you or do you regularly spritz your brisket? Know of some other liquid options to use? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!


Do you want to take your brisket smoking skills up to a whole new level and cook a perfect brisket every time? If so, grab your BBQ Champs Academy All-Access pass today! Taught by Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters, these online video classes show you exactly, step-by-step how to cook a competition-caliber brisket, as well as three other types of meats (pork ribs, pork butt, and chicken). 

These in-depth, online BBQ classes will not only teach you how to cook these cuts of meat perfectly in your smoker or grill, but you’ll also get insider information and cooking secrets straight from the pros like you won’t find anywhere else online.

Make sure to also subscribe to our BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel today to stay on top of all the latest insider info and competition BBQ news!

One type of food that takes on a whole different, mouth-watering flavor profile when grilled is fish. This is especially true for salmon. Not only is grilled salmon absolutely delicious but it is also very healthy for you. Plus, salmon’s density is perfect for high-heat grilling.

But, when it comes to grilling salmon, there are some important things to keep in mind to ensure that you end up with a good result. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there!

In this article, we’ve put together the most important pro tips on how to grill salmon to a flavorful and juicy result every time (even if you’re fairly new to grilling!):


Start With Quality Salmon

If you’ve read any of our other blogs on tips for grilling specific items, you may have noticed a trend with the first tip. But it rings true with anything you are cooking on your grill or smoker. The higher quality you start with, the better result you’ll end up with. 

So for salmon, you want to consider the specific type and if it is wild-caught or farm-raised. There is a wide variety of different types of salmon, which all range in flavor and how well it holds up on the grill. 

The “premier” salmon in both taste and size is King salmon (aka Chinook), with its high fat content and succulent taste. But, this type will also be the most expensive. If you don’t want to splurge on the King variety, sockeye is another good option. Sockeye salmon is low in sodium, full of omega-3 fatty acids, and rich in distinct salmon flavor.

Wild-caught salmon will have a more robust flavor and will be leaner. This is because wild salmon have to work harder for their food than farm-raised salmon. Like any type of protein, higher fat fish will have a more mellow and buttery taste. So, if you or those you are feeding are more mild fish fans, a high-quality farm-raised option would be the way to go. No matter if you get wild-caught or farm-raised, fresh and never frozen salmon is your best choice.

Another important factor is the thickness of the filet. Ideally, you want to get filets that are between 1-inch and 1.5-inches. Center-cut salmon filets are usually a great choice because they will be thicker and more uniform.


fresh salmon filets | how to grill salmon | grilling salmon


Choose Skin-On Salmon Filets

When selecting your salmon, besides considering the specific type of salmon, you also want to go with skin-on filets. The skin will help hold the salmon together and protect it from sticking to the grill or drying out. Plus, when grilled, the skin takes on a delicious crunch. But, if you don’t want to eat the skin, it's easy to remove after it comes off the grill.


Don’t Put the Salmon Straight from the Refrigerator Onto the Grill

Taking your salmon right out of the cold refrigerator and putting it on the grill can cause it to cook much faster on the outside before the inside is even close to being done. So, for even cooking, you need to let the salmon sit out at room temperature for about 20 minutes before you are going to grill it.


Make Sure to Pat it Dry

Once you are ready to start grilling, make sure to set the salmon filets on a paper towel-lined plate or pan and pat them dry first. This will speed up the searing process and help prevent them from sticking to the grill grates. If you have marinated the salmon, blot away as much marinade as you can before grilling.


Use a High Smoke Point Oil to Prevent Sticking

Make sure to brush both sides of the salmon with an even coating of oil to further prevent them from sticking. It is important to use a neutral-flavored oil that has a high smoke point, like avocado oil or grapeseed oil. Light olive oil is another good option as well.


Don’t Go Heavy on Seasoning

One of the best things about grilled salmon is its distinct, natural flavor. So you don’t want to mask that with a ton of seasonings. Remember to go light and even just a pinch of salt and pepper on each side is enough. Season the salmon after you have oiled both sides.

*Bonus tip: Always season fish just before you put it on the grill to prevent moisture loss and the chance of a flare-up.


seasoning fresh salmon filets | how to grill salmon | grilling salmon


Use a Two-Zone Cooking Setup

A two-zone cooking setup is ideal for grilling salmon. You want to have a hot, direct heat zone for searing and another indirect, lower heat zone for slower, gentler grilling. The two zones will enable you to properly sear the salmon on the direct heat side and then transfer it to the indirect heat side to finish cooking.

If you are cooking on a charcoal grill, just make sure all of the hot coals are on one half of the grill. For a gas grill, simply turn the burners on one side to low and the other side to high.


Preheat Your Grill to High Heat

Before your salmon goes on the grill, you need to let the grill properly preheat to 450°F. This is one of, if not the most important tip to ensure success when it comes to how to grill salmon. A smoking hot grill will ensure that the fish doesn’t stick to the grill and you will easily be able to lift it away when it’s done cooking.


Grill the Skin Side Down First

Start grilling your salmon skin side down. The skin provides a layer of protection between the grill grates and the flesh of the fish as it cooks. So cooking it skin side down first will allow you to cook it a majority of the way through and help it hold together better when you flip it over. 

Don’t panic, the fish may stick to the grates at first, but after roughly 6 to 8 minutes, the skin will become crisp and release naturally, allowing you to easily flip the filet.


Keep the Grill Lid Closed

You want to keep the lid of the grill closed while grilling salmon. This will enable you to maintain a more consistent cooking temperature and create a very similar environment to an oven. 


You Only Need to Flip It Once!

Don’t try to keep flipping the fish throughout the cook. To ensure that the fish holds together without falling apart or sticking to the grill grate, you are only going to gently flip it once after it is about 90% of the way cooked. You are only flipping it to the non-skin side to brown it for the final 1 to 2 minutes.


grilling salmon | how to grill salmon | grilling salmon


How to Know When the Salmon Is Done Grilling

Salmon cooks quickly on the grill so make sure you are paying attention to it! To avoid overcooking it, you want to aim for a final internal temperature of 140°F. But don’t forget about carry-over cooking. The salmon will continue to cook for a few minutes once you’ve pulled it off the grill. 

To prevent the fish from overcooking, transfer it to a plate when it has reached an internal temperature of 125°-130°F. Then let it rest for a few minutes to reach the final desired temperature before serving.


Try Grilling Your Salmon on a Cedar Plank

Cedar wood planks provide a perfect surface to grill salmon on. Not only do they help prevent the fish from sticking to the grill but they also impart that delicious wood-smoke flavor into the salmon. You’ll get even more of that charred wood flavor than you would just cooking the salmon directly on the grill. 

Check out our article on grilling on wood planks for more info on this method and how to do it properly.


Serve up Some Delicious Grilled Salmon Today!

Cooking mouth-watering grilled salmon is much easier than some people may think. By following the tips we covered above, you’ll be well on your way to knowing exactly how to grill salmon perfectly every time. The most important things to remember are to start with quality salmon, preheat the grill until it is smoking hot, and use two-cooking zones. 

Once your salmon filets come off the grill, serve them up with a slice of lemon, a cucumber dill or tartar sauce, some grilled asparagus or another veggie, and maybe even a glass of Pinot Noir for a delicious finish.

Now, if you want a step-by-step grilled salmon recipe, check out our online video/class for Sweet Heat Cedar Plank Salmon Bites for only $7.98!

Do you know of another tip for how to grill salmon that we should add to the list? Plan on grilling salmon soon? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it!


If you really want to kick your backyard cooking skills up to a whole new level, check out the full set of Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today! Taught by Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters, these online video classes show you exactly, step-by-step how to cook 20 delicious grilled or smoked recipes!

And if you want to take it up a notch and learn how to master cooking competition-caliber barbecue, grab your BBQ Champs Academy All-Access pass today! These in-depth, online BBQ classes will teach you exactly how to cook several different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill perfectly, with insider information straight from the champion cookers, like you won’t find anywhere else online. You’ll also get all the pro cooking secrets and tips.

Make sure to also stay on top of all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info by subscribing to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel today!

One great side item that always goes with barbecue (and grilled chili!) is delicious bread. Not much beats a piece of soft, warm bread to help soak up that extra barbecue sauce on your plate. So, why not bake bread directly on your grill or in your smoker while you’re cooking your meat and other sides?  

You may not have ever thought about making bread anywhere other than in your kitchen’s oven. But a dry, hot grill makes for a perfect outdoor baking “oven”. Almost any bread recipe can be successfully done on a grill. Though to ensure you end up with a good result and not a charred chunk of dough, there are some important tips to keep in mind.

In this article, we’ve put together some of the things you need to know on how to make bread on the grill perfectly every time.


Bread Will Bake Faster on the Grill Than in an Oven

Firstly, it is important to note that bread will bake much faster on a grill than it does in a kitchen oven, sometimes up to twice as fast. This is because of two things: the fact that the grill can get much hotter much faster and it also produces more convection than your oven does due to the airflow through the vents.


Use Indirect Heat to Evenly Bake the Bread

On a grill, you’ll be baking the bread using a lot more heat than you would traditionally use to bake bread. So, to end up with a good result for your bread, you’ll need to maintain a consistent medium-high cooking temperature (375 to 450°F) and bake the bread over indirect heat. 

Using indirect heat (using a two-zone grill setup on a charcoal or gas grill) will ensure an even and thorough cooking process. Remember, if the grill is too hot directly under the bread, the outside of it will burn, while the inside remains doughy. Alternatively, if the cooking temperature is too low, the bread will not have the delicious crunch that you are aiming for.

The other good thing about a two-zone cooking setup is that if you check the bread and it looks like the bottom is browning too fast, you can simply move it closer to the cooler part of the grill.


two zone grill for baking read | how to bake bread on the grill
Source: Weber


Make Sure to Preheat the Grill First 

Like when cooking many other things on the grill, when baking bread on the grill, it is very important to adequately preheat the grill before putting the dough on. Putting it on a cold surface will increase the chance that the dough will stick to the grates and can result in it baking unevenly. 

So, crank your grill’s temperature up to closer to 450°F to get it ready and then you can bring it down slightly just before your bread goes on.  

Also, if you are doing a no-knead bread in a cast-iron pot (like a Dutch oven) or using a baking/pizza stone, make sure to preheat these accessories as well before you add the dough.


Thermometers are a Must!

As mentioned above, maintaining a consistent grill temperature that is not too hot is a critical part of successfully baking bread. A trick to being able to do this is by using thermometers. First, you want to have a digital grill thermometer or oven thermometer on hand. Place it on the grill near your bread to monitor the cooking temperature. 

You also want to have a digital instant-read thermometer with a needle so that you can monitor the internal temperature of the bread. The bread will be done when it has reached an internal temperature of 205°F and golden brown on the exterior.


Work Your Way Up to a Traditional Bread Recipe

Unless you are extremely comfortable with operating a smoker, you probably wouldn’t dive right into smoking a full packer brisket on your first try smoking meat. The same idea applies to baking bread on a grill.

If it is your first time, a good starting place is with pre-made frozen dough. This will allow you to get the hang of controlling the grill’s heat properly for bread. Once you are comfortable with that, you can try a no-knead bread recipe. Usually, these recipes involve putting fresh dough in a cast iron Dutch-oven pot. So then you are not having to worry about the bottom of the bread burning. Once you feel that you have mastered that method, the next step would be to try a traditional bread recipe.


grilled bread in dutch oven | how to bake bread on the grill
Source: Big Green Egg


Make Sure the Grill Grates are Oiled

If you are going to be baking bread dough directly on your grill grates, make sure that they are lightly oiled first. This is especially true for flatbreads or pizza dough. A light coat of oil will prevent your dough from sticking to the grate and help ensure even cooking across the bottom. 


Slash the Top of Rolls of Loaves

The last thing you want is for your bread to end up with a soggy interior. The way to prevent this from happening is to allow the steam to escape by slashing the top of the loaf or rolls in a few places. Usually, two or three quarter-inch deep slashes is enough to do the trick.


You May Want to Try a Baking/Pizza Stone

If your bread keeps getting too dark too quickly, try putting the dough on a baking stone (aka pizza stone). These thin pieces of stone can help the dough cook thoroughly and evenly without burning the bottom.

But, not all baking stones are made to withstand the high heat of a grill. So, make sure the one you have or get is grill-safe. If the stone you have says it shouldn't be used for broiling, don’t put it on your grill!


You Can Easily Enjoy Grill-Baked Bread Today!

When it comes to how to bake bread on the grill, it’s actually a lot easier than you may have anticipated. By following the tips we covered above, you’ll be able to enjoy delicious grill-baked bread today. The most critical things to keep an eye on are the cooking temperature of your grill and the internal temperature of the bread.

Also, another good accessory you may want to have on hand is a baker’s peel (aka pizza peel) to easily move the bread on and off the grill. 

If you try baking bread on the grill for the first time or have some other tips on how to do it properly, leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!


Do you want to kick your backyard cooking skills up to a whole new level? If so, check out the Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today! These step-by-step video classes, taught by Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters, show you exactly how to cook 20 delicious grilled or smoked recipes!

And if you want to dive into cooking competition-caliber barbecue, grab your BBQ Champs Academy All-Access pass today! Taught by Pro Grillmasters and Pitmasters, these online BBQ classes will teach you exactly how to master several different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill like you won’t find anywhere else online. You’ll also get all the in-depth insider tips and cooking secrets.

Also, to stay on top of all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info, make sure to click “Subscribe” on the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel today!

*Feature image for this article courtesy of Big Green Egg.

One saying we definitely agree with is that “a grill just makes everything taste better”. This also applies to chili! If you want to elevate your chili to a whole new and even more delicious level, try cooking it on the grill. You can easily impart that great sweet and smoky flavor into the meat and veggies of the chili and kick the flavor complexity up a notch. 

Plus, grilled chili makes a great option for a large backyard gathering or tailgate party because it’s so easy to make and feeds a crowd.

In this article, we’ve put together 11 tips straight from pro pitmasters and grillmasters on how to cook chili on the grill perfectly.


Use a Cast Iron Dutch Oven

To cook chili on the grill, you need a heavy-duty pot to use that can withstand the high heat of the grill/smoker. Kitchen pots often have plastic parts (usually on the handles) that can be damaged in the heat. Cast iron is always a great option for your outdoor cooker and a cast iron dutch oven will work perfectly for your grilled chili.

If you do not have a dutch oven and don’t want to buy a new one, you can use a large pot but absolutely make sure it is grill-friendly. 


Fresh Is Best

As with many things that are cooked on the grill, the fresher the ingredients the better results you are going to get. So, for your grilled chili, try and avoid canned items as much as you can. Instead, opt for fresh tomatoes (to make your own grilled tomato sauce), dried beans, fresh peppers, etc. The extra work will definitely be worth it.


grilled tomatoes for chili | chili on the grill | grilled chili


Make Sure the Ingredients are Cut Small Enough

It’s important to make sure that your veggies (and pieces of meat if you are using something like steak and not ground meat) are cut small enough. So, chop onions, peppers, jalapeno, and other similar items into ¼-inch pieces before they go into the pot. If you are using grilled steak or chops, cut those into ¾-inch cubes.


Use a Variety of Different Spices/Liquids

One of the best things about chili is the robust, meaty flavor profile. So, don’t be afraid to use a variety of different spices and liquids to build a complex and delicious flavor. Remember, besides meat, the base of your chili is going to be tomato. So, think of things that will complement both tomato and meat flavors. 

Besides salt and black pepper, of course, some other good examples include chile peppers (especially chipotle peppers), minced garlic, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne seasoning, beef broth, and even ale


Preheat the Grill or Smoker High Enough

For best results, you want to preheat your grill or smoker to at least medium heat, which is between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Before you add the soft/liquid ingredients (tomato sauce, broth, water, vinegar, etc.) you have to partially cook the other ingredients. 

So, at this higher temperature, the meat will properly cook through, the veggies can be grilled and softened just enough, and you’ll get that delicious char-grilled flavor. Then, you can move on to adding the liquids and seasonings to the pot with the meat and veggies and lower the temperature to finish cooking the chili.


Cook Dry Beans Separately

Dry beans do not cook very well if they are cooked in/with acidic foods, like tomatoes and onions. By cooking your dry beans separately, they will end up with a better texture and won’t get too mushy. So, just make sure to wait to add the beans to the tomato mixture until AFTER they are cooked.


dry beans for chili on the grill | how to cook chili on the grill
Source: The Spruce Eats


Let the Chili Simmer

Once the meat has been browned and the veggies softened, add your remaining chili ingredients (except beans, see above) and lower your cooker’s temperature. The temperature should be lowered to between 250 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, you should let the chili slowly simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half to cook the rest of the way.

A good rule of thumb to follow is to add the cooked beans to the chili once it has simmered for at least 60 minutes. Then, let it simmer for about 20 minutes more with the beans. 


Make Sure the Chili Stays Covered While Cooking

Understandably, the smell of your chili cooking on the grill will be intoxicatingly delicious. But, to cook properly, it has to stay covered except to stir it occasionally. So, make sure you’ve got a tight-fitting lid on your dutch oven/pot.


Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment With Different Meats

Ground beef is the most commonly used meat in chili. But, don’t be afraid to try different meat options in your grilled chili. Some other good options include diced steak, diced pork chops, ground turkey, bison (ground or chunked), or venison (ground or chunked).


Remove Excess Fat Before Serving

Sometimes, depending on the type of meat you use, once the chili is almost done and ready to serve, you may see some fat that has risen to the surface. This is totally normal. Just use a spoon to gently skim the surface of the chili to remove any excess fat before serving it.


Don’t Forget the Toppings!

No chili is complete without some good toppings in each bowl. So, make sure to have an array of toppings available so people can get creative and discover their favorite combination. Some good chili topping options include:

  • Shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese 
  • Sour cream 
  • Sliced scallions
  • Avocado chunks
  • Fresh jalapeno slices
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Crushed tortilla chips
  • Fritos
  • Broken saltine crackers

toppings for grilled chili | chili on the grill


To round out your chili meal, you could serve it with grilled corn bread or focaccia bread and a fresh tossed salad. Don’t forget dessert either! While you are cooking the chili you could be cooking a delicious grilled dessert as well.

Check out our article on grilled desserts for a bunch of great ideas!


Try Out Grilled Chili Today!

Compared to stovetop cooking, cooking chili on the grill is still super easy but will help elevate the flavor as you’ve never experienced before. You may even end up saying that chili was meant to be grilled in the first place!

By following the pro tips we’ve covered above, you can help ensure that your grilled chili turns out perfectly every time.

Have you cooked chili on the grill before? Do you plan on trying it soon? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it. We want to hear from you!


If you want to really elevate your backyard cooking skills, make sure to get our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today! Taught by Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters, these classes show you step-by-step exactly how to cook 20 delicious grilled or smoked recipes!

And if you want to start cooking competition-caliber barbecue, make sure to grab your All-Access pass today! In these first-of-their-kind online BBQ classes, you’ll learn exactly how to master several different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill, straight from the Pro Grillmasters and Pitmasters. With BBQ Champs Academy, you’ll get all the in-depth insider tips and cooking secrets like nowhere else!

Plus, to stay on top of all the latest insider info and competition BBQ news, make sure to subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel today!

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, you may already be thinking about the big gathering of family and friends that you are planning and what you are going to be cooking. Chances are, most of that cooking will be done outside on the grill.

When it comes to outdoor cooking for a large gathering, Americans aren’t the only ones who have mastered it, cherish it, and love to do it as much as possible. South Africans are another culture that knows a thing or two about cooking big feasts over a large wood fire.

If you have spent any time around a South African, there’s probably a good chance that you’ve heard them mention doing a “braai” (pronounced “bry”). This often weekly tradition, which is much more than a simple BBQ, is a huge part of South African culture and something that has been growing in popularity throughout the U.S. And there’s no surprise that this is happening. Americans and South Africans clearly have a shared love–delicious grilled food.

In this article, we’ve broken down exactly what a braai is, what it involves, and why you should try it today.


What is a Braai Exactly?

To put it simply, a braai is the South African equivalent of an American barbecue. A common (and very frequent) practice in any South African household, a braai is a fundamental part of South African culture and is a gathering of friends and family around a wood-fire grill in celebration. 

Even through South Africa’s turbulent past, braaing is a tradition that continues to tie the nation together. It is one of the few things that are not specific to one cultural or ethnic group in South Africa–everyone braais. (There are 4 ethnic groups and 11 different languages in South Africa.) For South Africans, the simple act of cooking food over a fire is something that everyone feels connected to—no matter who they are and what language they speak. It’s a social gathering where friends are always welcomed as family.

Compared to the American BBQ that you are used to, South Africans take the gathering/cooking at a much slower pace. A braai is a special “meat-fest” that can often last for hours on end.

Also, a traditional braai is cooked over local hardwood, like kameeldoring wood, which gives the meat and other sides a distinct flavor. Apple wood is another wood species that is good for braaing and is more available in the U.S. 

One important point to note is that a braai will never be cooked on a gas grill. Traditionally, the grill itself will be an open grill that has a diamond-patterned metal grill grate (aka grid) or regular grill grates and a large, flat fire pit. (Like these Kudu grills.) If you don’t have a braai-specific grill or plan on getting one, you’ll need at least a kettle grill or fire pit that can accommodate a wood fire, like a Weber Grill, Big Green Egg, or Char-Broil charcoal grill


what is a braai | how to braai | South African braai


When Do You Have a Braai?

South Africans rarely need an excuse to have a braai. In many cases, families will host a once-weekly smaller braai (even a breakfast braai) and do a bigger braai on special occasions. No matter the time of day, the day of the week, before or after work, rain or shine, braais can and will happen. So, if you are going to have a braai, do it whenever you feel like it!

Officially, September 24th is Heritage Day in South Africa but it is also unofficially known as “braai day”. Pretty much every South African will be having a or attending a braai that day.


What is Served at a Braai?

South Africa’s diverse history is quite evidently reflected in what you’ll usually find on a braai grill. Indonesian slaves, brought to the country in the 1650’s by Dutch settlers, brought spices with them such as cardamom, ginger, and curry pastes. They are also the source of common items such as sweet and spicy chutneys and sosaties (aka kebabs). The Dutch also brought their own spices and dried fruit (used for chutneys). 

Meanwhile, the indigenous South African people offered a wide variety of meats (including what we consider game meats), local fish from around the Cape, and goat and mutton from further inland. The traditional spicy Peri-Peri sauce is thanks to Portuguese traders who brought the bird’s eye chili to South Africa.

Due to all these influences, a traditional South African braai is usually a delicious global adventure. The meat is the center of attention for any braai. But there will also usually be a variety of snacks and sides to go along with the main dishes. Some of the things you’ll find on offer at a braai will usually include:


Biltong and Droëwors - Both of these are cured, air-dried meat snacks that are specially seasoned with spices, mainly coriander. Droëwors are thin round sausages based on the popular boerewors, while biltong is usually cut into small thin slices from slabs of beef.


Chips ‘n Dip - The dips will usually include smoked snoek pate and hummus (which usually has garlic and tahini). Snoek is a fish native to South Africa and is a species of snake mackerel.


Main Items:

Boerewors - Meaning “Farmer’s Sausage” in Afrikaans, this traditional fresh sausage is either made from entirely beef or a combination of beef and pork and usually comes in a large coil. This sausage is abundantly spiced with ingredients such as coriander, cloves, black pepper, allspice, and nutmeg.


Boerewors | South African braai | what is a braai


Lamb chops - Another popular braai item, the lamb chops are usually seasoned with garlic, rosemary, and thyme.


Steak -  For a braai, you will often find a variety of beef steak cuts including ribeye, T-bone, filet mignon, sirloin, and rump. In South Africa, ostrich steaks are also a favorite.


Chicken - Chicken kebabs are a popular option as well as beer-can chicken, where a whole chicken is cooked over the grill with an open beer in the body cavity.


Seafood - Seafood is also a very popular item. This will usually include things like South African crayfish tails (rock lobster), tuna, or yellowtail.

Other common meat items for a traditional braai include ostrich burgers and wild boar sausages.



Braaibroodjie (South African grilled cheese sandwich) - This traditional sandwich combines slices of white bread, cheddar cheese, tomato, onions, and chutney and is cooked directly on the grill.


Pap (pronounced Pup) -  Similar to what many Americans know as grits, this is a maize porridge that is made with chicken stock, butter, and maize meal. It can be made to be runny, soft, or stiff.


Potato bake - This favorite braai side dish usually combines sliced potato, cream, as well as ingredients like caramelized onion and Parmesan cheese and is baked in the oven ahead of time.


Roosterkoek - These are balls of bread dough that are cooked on the grill and served as an accompaniment to the Braai meat.


Salad - You’ll usually find different versions of cold potato salad and/or coleslaw at traditional braais. 


No braai is complete without an abundance of sauces and South Africa has no shortage of incredible sauces. These include peri-peri sauce, fresh chimichurri, and sweet chutneys. Don’t be afraid to use these generously. There should also be an abundance of cheese as a side to eat with the meats as well.



Of course, no braai is complete without some delicious wine, cold beer, or mixed drink. South African Sauvignon Blanc pairs great with chicken and seafood, while Shiraz or Cabernet will be your best bet with red meats and sausage. Pilsner and IPA beers all pair very well with traditional braai food. Another popular braai drink is brandy and coke.


Sauvignon blanc for a braai | South African braai | how to braai


The Rules/Etiquette of a Braai

There absolutely is braai etiquette and it’s usually taken pretty seriously. The host of the braai and the one who is in charge of the fire and meat is known as the “braai master”. Every braai master usually has their own process of doing things, preference of wood, and preference of meats. When going to a braai, keep in mind that, backseat braaing is heavily frowned upon. So, don’t try to start suggesting “better” ways that the braai master could be doing things. 

There are two types of braais in regards to what people should bring. For a “chop ‘n dop” braai, guests are expected to bring their own meat and wine/beer and the host will provide the rest. For a “bring ‘n braai,” the only thing the host is providing is a fire, so guests should bring their own food and drinks. Unless it is a breakfast braai, the braaing will usually begin in the afternoon (around 3 p.m.) and go well into the evening. It is a process that is never rushed.

As we mentioned above, if you are wanting to host a braai, gas grills are a big no-no. Only hardwood should be used. Although charcoal can be used as a last resort.


Embrace South African Tradition and Cook Your First Braai Today!

When it comes to the tradition of South African braaing, it is just as much about the intense sense of inclusivity and human connection as it is about the delicious food itself. After reading this guide, you should now have a good idea of how you can do something different, gather your friends and family together, and recreate a braai in your backyard.

So, If you are looking for a new outdoor cooking experience with some different tastes than your normal American BBQ, cook a South African braai today!

Have you been to a South African braai? Do you plan on hosting your own braai soon? If so, leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear all about it!


Want to learn some more new recipes and pro tips to elevate your backyard cooking skills? If so, join us in our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy! These step-by-step outdoor cooking classes are taught by Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters and you’ll learn exactly how to cook 20 delicious smoked or grilled recipes.

And if you want to dive into competition-caliber smoking and grilling, get your All-Access pass today! In these tell-all online BBQ classes, the Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters will show you exactly how to master cooking several different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill, provide all the in-depth pro cooking secrets, and more. You’ll be cooking competition-level barbecue in no time!

Don’t forget to also Subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to get all of the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from the barbecue pros!

One true thing—almost everyone loves pizza. With so many varieties and combinations of toppings, sauces, and crusts that you can do, a delicious pizza can be made to satisfy anyone’s tastes. What you may not know is that pizza is not relegated to just being cooked in the oven. Yes, you can cook pizza on a grill! 

Grilled pizza is absolutely fantastic and gives the crust and toppings a whole new level of flavor that you won’t get from cooking it in the oven, thanks to that great wood-fire smoke. Plus, it’s super easy to do! But, to get the best results, there are a couple of things to know.

In this article, we’ve put together all the pro tips you need to know on how to cook pizza on a grill to perfection every time:


Make Sure the Dough is Ready First

Whether you make your pizza dough from scratch or you use a pre-made dough, you need to make sure it’s ready before you start prepping it for the grill. This means that if it’s a homemade dough, you want to make it the day before you want to grill it to ensure it has enough time to properly rise. 

Also, no matter if you use homemade dough or store-bought premade dough, you always want to let it come to room temperature for an hour before you start stretching it out and forming it.

Bonus Tip: If you are going to use premade dough, the higher quality doughs are your best bet for cooking pizza on a grill. These doughs will have less chance of burning too quickly on the high heat of the grill.


Set the Grill Up for High Heat Cooking

Unlike when barbecuing and smoking anything, where you rely on low indirect heat and longer cooking times, with grilled pizza you will be cooking quickly using high heat.

For the best results for grilled pizza, you want to set up your grill for two-zone cooking. This will help you get a nice crispy crust while also preventing it from burning before the cheese has melted. The direct heat side will be used first to grill the crust and get the charred grill marks. Then you’ll top the pizza and put it on the indirect heat side and let it finish cooking there. 


hot grill for grilled pizza | how to cook pizza on a grill | pizza on grill
Source: CDN


You want to get your grill to a consistent temperature between 400 and 500℉. You could go slightly higher but anything over 550℉ could overly char and burn the crust.

Bonus Tip: If there is not a built-in temperature gauge on your grill (or it’s not working accurately), you can carefully use your hand to gauge when it hits the correct temperature to start cooking the pizza. The grill is ready when you can hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill grates for one second before it becomes uncomfortable. Of course, exercise caution and use your best judgment with this!


Practice Mise En Place

“Mise en place” is the French term for having all of your ingredients ready to go before you start cooking. Cooking a pizza on a grill is one of those situations where this technique is very important to use. 

Because grilled pizza cooks so quickly, you’ll need to be ready to add ingredients right when you need them. You’ll be topping the pizza directly on the grill so you need to have the sauce, cheese, and other toppings all prepped and ready to go. So, chop everything up and place your toppings in small bowls ahead of time.


Make Sure You’ve Got the Oil Ready

Olive oil is crucial in helping ensure that the pizza crust doesn’t overly char or stick to the grill grates, so make sure you have it handy before you start your grilled pizza. First, use long-handled tongs to hold a paper towel dipped in a little bit of oil and lightly coat the grill grates as well.

Then, brush a little bit of olive oil on the one side of the crust that will be placed on the grill first. Then brush oil on the other side facing up while the crust is on the grill (before you get to any toppings).


Grill the Crust First

Before adding any toppings to your pizza dough/crust, you want to grill one side of it first. This will prevent your pizza from getting soggy, ensure that both sides of your crust have a nice char, and ensure that the crust will be fully cooked through. So, as mentioned above, brush one side of the crust with olive oil and place it on the grill. Cook it until it is lightly browned and has char marks. 

Then, use tongs to flip the crust and start building your pizza. The side with the grill marks is the side that your toppings should go on.


grilled pizza crust | how to cook pizza on a grill | pizza on grill
Source: Food Network


Go Light on the Sauce & Easy on the Toppings

The key to remember when building your grilled pizza–you can’t overdo it. The last thing you want is a soggy pizza or toppings so heavy that the slice can’t hold them. So, cover the crust with only 1 ladle of sauce and go light on the toppings. You don’t need a ton to still get delicious flavors. 

Grilled pizza is not going to have a thick layer of bubbling cheese like oven-cooked pizza. So use a soft cheese (like mozzarella) that can be sliced and spread lightly and evenly on your pizza to be grilled.


Precook Certain Toppings

Already tender or ready-to-eat toppings work best since the pizza won’t be on the grill nearly as long as it would be in an oven. Because the pizza cooks so quickly, it won’t be enough time to properly cook things like raw sausage or to fully caramelize onions. So pre-cook any raw ingredients that you want and make sure to thinly slice any toppings that you will eat fairly raw on the pizza.


Make Sure to Keep an Eye on the Pizza

As we’ve mentioned a couple of times above, the pizza will cook fast on the grill. So, unless you want to chance burning it, you need to keep a close eye on it while it’s cooking. This will also enable you to be prepared to move it more towards the indirect heat side if the cheese is melting faster than the crust is cooking.


The Cheese is Your Indicator of When It Is Done

The pizza will cook pretty quickly. Unlike when cooking meat, you are not cooking pizza to a desired internal temperature and relying on a meat thermometer to determine if it’s done. So, keep an eye on the cheese. When the cheese is melted your pizza is done and ready to be pulled off the grill. 

This is when you would add any final fresh toppings like arugula, basil, chopped herbs, etc. Balsamic glaze or other infused oils are another great topping option to finish your pizza off with.


grilled pizza | how to cook pizza on a grill | pizza on grill
Source: The New York Times


Let It Rest before Cutting It 

It’s understandable to be anxious to dive right into the pizza after it comes off the grill. But let it rest for just a couple of minutes before you start cutting it. This will make it easier to cut and easier to handle (you don’t want to burn your fingers on hot cheese!).


Try a Pizza on the Grill Today!

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to make hot and crispy pizza on a grill. If you follow the tips we covered above, you’ll end up with a delicious grilled pizza every time. Don’t be afraid to get creative with types of dough, different sauces, and toppings combinations to find your new favorites.

Make sure to take a look at our other blog articles for plenty more ideas for unusual grilled foods you can try, grilled breakfast options, ideas for your vegetarian family and friends, and even desserts you can grill!

Have you cooked pizza on a grill recently? Do you have a favorite combination of toppings for your grilled pizza? Tell us about it in the comment box below. We want to hear all about it!


If you want to kick your backyard cooking skills up to a whole new level, get started with our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. In these step-by-step classes taught by Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters, you’ll learn exactly how to cook 20 delicious grilled or smoked recipes!

And if you’re ready to really dive into competition-caliber smoking and grilling, grab your All-Access pass today! These tell-all online BBQ classes with the Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters will show you how to master cooking several different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill, give you all the in-depth insider cooking secrets, and more.

Make sure to also check out the BBQ Champs YouTube channel and hit Subscribe to stay on top of all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from the barbecue pros!

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