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We recently broke down everything you need to know about grilling delicious hamburgers for your next backyard cookout. But what if you have some vegan or vegetarian friends or family and you want to do a meatless burger option? Your answer lies in the king of mushrooms, portobellos. Grilling portobello mushrooms can make a fantastic, hearty go-to for a vegan burger that even meat-lovers would enjoy. 

Portobello mushrooms, which are mature cremini mushrooms, can range in size from 3 inches to 6 inches in diameter and about 1 to 1.5 inches thick. This makes them the perfect shape and size to sit on toasted hamburger buns and their texture holds up well to grilling. 

When exposed to live fire, the umami and other hearty flavors found in mushrooms really come to life. This results in a rich, meaty flavor and a texture that is just firm enough. Plus, due to their sponge-like nature, mushrooms easily absorb the complex flavors of your wood smoke.

Like many other things you can cook on the grill, there are some specific recommendations to follow to ensure you end up with a properly cooked result. Portobello mushrooms can quickly become tough on the surface if not grilled correctly. 

Here’s what you need to know when it comes to grilled portobello mushrooms:


Prep the Mushrooms Properly - 

The preparation before your portobellos go on the grill is just as important as how you are grilling them. So, under the cap, make sure to remove the thick and fibrous stem and use a spoon to scrape out the dark brown/black gills. The gills are edible but can often have a gritty, muddy flavor. 


prepping portobello mushrooms | portobello mushroom burgers | grilling portobello mushrooms
Source: Edible Times


Make Sure They Are Clean -

Another part of prepping the mushrooms is making sure they are clean and free of dirt. You can either wipe the surface down with a damp paper towel or quickly rinse and then dry them. Just make sure you don’t let them soak in water because then they will absorb a bunch of water and not be able to absorb any marinade.


Score the Tops - 

When prepping the mushrooms, you also want to use a sharp knife to score the top of the mushroom cap in a small cross-hatch pattern. This will help them absorb more of the marinade, keeping them tender and preventing them from becoming overly chewy.


Definitely Use a Marinade - 

Mushrooms are very good at absorbing liquid. So, a marinade will not only help flavor them but will also keep them tender. Make sure to generously coat both sides of the portobellos and let them marinate at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. You don’t want to marinate for more than about 30 minutes or else the mushrooms can start to get overly soggy.


Use Complementary Flavors in Your Marinade - 

Certain flavors in particular go well with the natural earthy flavor of mushrooms. Balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, rosemary, and similar ingredients will help enhance the umami flavor and provide a balanced flavor profile


Save the Leftover Marinade - 

Unlike when you are using a marinade with raw meat and have to worry about cross-contamination, it is safe to save the leftover marinade after you remove your portobellos to put them on the grill. And you’re going to want to use the remaining marinade during your cooking. 

(Once the mushrooms have been cooking on one side and you’re ready to flip, brush some more of the marinade on them to keep them tender.)


portobello mushroom burgers | grilling portobello mushrooms | how to grill portobello mushrooms
Source: Food Network


Season the Mushrooms Lightly & Just Before They Go On the Grill - 

If you’re going to season the portobellos don’t go overboard with too much and too many different flavors. You don’t want to compete with the marinade too much. So, just lightly season the mushrooms with some salt and pepper just before you are ready to put them on the grill.


Make Sure the Grill Temperature is Right - 

When it comes to grilling portobello mushrooms (and other vegetables and fruit), you want to get the grill ready for direct-heat cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F). If you go much hotter than that you risk the mushrooms burning quickly.


Prep the Grill Grates Too - 

Not only do you want to make sure the grill temp is ready to go but you also want to prep the grill grates properly too. First, once they’ve heated up, brush the grill grates off to make sure they’re properly clean. Then, lightly brush some high-heat compatible cooking oil on the grates to ensure your mushrooms don’t stick to the grates.


Always Start Grilling Portobello Mushrooms Cap Side Down - 

You always want to put the mushrooms on the grill with the cap side down (gill side up). Starting them on this side will ensure you capture more of the smoky flavor into the meat of the cap and get proper char lines.

Bonus tip: If you are going to use wood chunks or chips for additional flavor, go with a lighter flavor of cooking wood, like oak, so you don’t overpower the natural mushroom flavor.


portobello mushroom burgers | grilling portobello mushrooms | how to grill portobello mushrooms
Source: The Spruce Eats


Avoid Overcooking Them - 

Portobello mushroom burgers don’t take long to cook. You only want to grill them for 4-6 minutes per side. They’re done when they are slightly tender and have released some of their juices (each mushroom can hold as much as two tablespoons of liquid).


Stay Close to the Grill - 

When it comes to grilling portobello mushrooms and not burning them, it is very important to not venture too far from the grill. You want to keep the lid closed but set a timer for grilling each side and check them promptly.


Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative With Toppings - 

Another fun part of grilling portobello mushrooms is topping them with delicious ingredients just like you would with regular burgers. Some great toppings for mushroom burgers include grilled beefsteak tomato slices, arugula lettuce, grilled onions, and even grilled pineapple for a sweet and savory combo.


Try Out Portobello Mushroom Burgers Today

As you can see, large portobello mushroom caps make a great beef burger substitute for any meatless guests you may be planning for. They’re even a great option for when you’re looking to cook something different for yourself. Fortunately, mushrooms are one vegetable that holds up very well on the grill. 

Follow our recommendations above and you’ll end up with deliciously grilled portobello mushroom burgers that will have anyone’s mouth-watering. 

Make sure to also check out our article on some great additional vegetarian food options for your grill. 

Have you grilled portobello mushrooms recently? Plan on trying your hand at grilling portobello mushrooms soon? Let us know in the comments below. We want to hear from you!


If you want to elevate your backyard cooking game, make sure to check out our Backyard BBQ Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today! You’ll learn straight from the pros how to cook a variety of grilling favorites in easy, step-by-step virtual classes.

Ready to dive into in-depth competition smoking and grilling techniques and master smoking and/or grilling a variety of BBQ favorites? If so, grab your All-Access pass now! You can join our Champion Pitmasters and Grillmaster in their first-of-their-kind online BBQ classes.

Don’t forget to also check out the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel! Click “Subscribe” to stay on top of all the latest BBQ news and insider info straight from the BBQ pros!

When it comes to your backyard cooking, there’s one thing that will always go well with summertime, the upcoming Labor Day holiday, and the return of football -- hamburgers! This easy grilled meal option has been a fan favorite for a long time and, when cooked properly, will have people coming back for more.

If you are wondering how to grill a perfect burger, we’ve got you covered. The last thing you want to do is end up feeding charred hockey pucks to your family and friends. So, we went to our champion Grillmasters and got the inside scoop. 

To ensure you cook juicy and flavorful hamburgers, just follow these pro tips below:


#1 - Start With the Right Beef

To answer the question of how to grill hamburgers like the pros, you have to start from the base. The cut and quality of meat you are starting with will always have a huge impact on the flavor and texture of your final result. 

So, when you are going to be grilling hamburgers, it’s important to go with ground chuck, which is cut from the shoulder, versus ground round, which is taken from the rump. Chuck will range between 15 and 20 percent fat, making your burgers more juicy and tender. Also, make sure you are getting at least USDA Choice (Prime is even better) and avoid Select.

Your local butcher is the best place to get fresh ground chuck.


#2 - Be Careful Not to Over-Season

You do not want to salt the burgers before you form them into patties. This will dissolve muscle proteins and dry out the meat too much. The best thing is to liberally season the patties with a simple mix of salt and pepper just before going on the grill. You don’t want to go crazy with a bunch of additional seasonings and overpower the delicious taste of the beef itself.


#3 - Don’t Mix the Meat Too Much

This is one often overlooked tip for how to grill a perfect burger and is crucial to ensuring you end up with a good final result. The fat and collagen are what helps keep the meat juicy and tender. So, if you overwork the meat by mixing it too much, you’ll break down the muscle fibers and collagen too much. This will highly increase the chances of your burgers drying out and being way tougher in texture than you were aiming for.

The less you handle the meat the better. So, mix it just enough to evenly work any seasonings in (onion, etc.) and form the patties.


how to grill a perfect burger | how to grill hamburgers | tips for grilling hamburgers
Source: CopyKat - Stephanie Manly


#4 - Aim For the Ideal Thickness

You want to make sure you are forming the patties the right size. Ideally, the thickness of the raw patty is 1 inch. If you go thicker, then the exterior can start to burn and ruin the flavor before the center is done cooking. Go thinner and you greatly increase the risk of the burgers quickly overcooking and drying out. Staying right at 1 inch will give you the delicious caramelized exterior crust and a juicy interior.


#5 - Keep Them Level

While grilling, burgers can start to puff up in the middle and become rounded at the top, making it awkward when it comes time to put toppings on. A good tip to avoid this is to make a slight indentation in the top of each patty with your thumb or the back of a spoon before they go on the grill. Then, if the center pushes up while cooking, the top of each burger will still be level and you’ll keep it from breaking.


#6 - Start With Cold Ground Beef

Some cuts of meat cook better when you let them sit at room temperature for a little bit first. But burgers are NOT one of those things. The best burgers will be put on the grill straight out of the fridge. This will allow a nice caramelized crust to develop on the exterior while cooking the interior to the desired Medium temperature.


#7 - Cook on a Clean Grill

Even if it’s been a while since you cooked on the grill, don’t make a rookie mistake of cooking burgers on a grill that’s not clean. Cooking on a dirty grill can cause uneven cooking since it can impede heat transfer, taint the flavor of your burgers, and even cause flare-ups that end up over-charring the meat. So, make sure your grill is properly cleaned first.

(Check out our article on natural homemade grill cleaner!)


clean your grill for hamburgers | how to grill a perfect burger | how to grill hamburgers
Source: Clarke Clean


#8 - Use a Two-Zone Cooking Method

By setting up your grill in a two-zone setup, with a direct heat side and an indirect heat side, you’ll have the flexibility and ideal heat control to properly grill hamburgers. You can start your burgers on the direct heat side near the fuel source and get a nice crust on the outside. Then, you can move them to the indirect heat side when they start to develop too much color too quickly and can safely finish cooking away from the direct heat.

A two-zone grill setup will also give you room to move burgers away from the direct heat if a flare-up does occur.


#9 - Keep the Grill at the Right Temperature

To grill a perfect burger, you want to keep the grill’s temperature at medium-low to medium heat, which is usually between 275 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. If you go much higher than that, you risk the exterior of your burgers burning before the inside has reached the desired temperature. 


#10 - Don’t Keep Flipping

Be careful not to go crazy with the flipping. You want the burgers to cook evenly and to the proper doneness (160 degrees Fahrenheit according to the USDA). So, the perfect burger will only be flipped once and only when it’s actually ready. Close that grill lid and let them cook. 

Burgers are ready to flip when you can easily slide the edge of a spatula underneath them and lift the edge gently. If the meat is still sticking to the grate, let them cook a little longer and then try again.

Also, make sure not to use the spatula to flatten the burger. This will squeeze all the juices out and dry out your burgers.


how to grill a perfect burger | how to grill hamburgers | tips for grilling hamburgers
Source: Robb Report


#11 - Serve the Burgers Right Away

Unlike steaks or some other meats that are smoked low and slow, you don’t want to let burgers sit for long after they come off the grill. Because the meat is ground and not intact muscle, if they sit too long, all the juice will run out and leave you with an overly dry burger. So, serve them up as soon as they are done cooking.


#12 - Cook to Temperature

If you are wondering how long to grill hamburgers for, the important thing to know is that you should be cooking to temperature and not by time. Get out your meat thermometer and insert it into the burger horizontally (you should definitely have a thermometer if you are going to be doing any serious backyard cooking!). 

Remember, you want to cook ground beef until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This will give you delicious, juicy burgers without being overcooked.


You Can Master Grilling Pro-Caliber Hamburgers

By following these tips for grilling hamburgers that we covered above, you can be confident in knowing how to grill a perfect burger every time. Give yourself plenty of time for proper preparation, make sure you have everything you need outside, and enjoy the process. Don’t be afraid to get creative with toppings too! 

Have you discovered another tip for how to grill hamburgers that we didn’t cover above? Plan on grilling hamburgers soon? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!


To level up your backyard cooking game and become the king or queen of your street, check out our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today! You’ll learn straight from the barbecue pros step-by-step how to cook a variety of grilling favorites.

If you are ready to dive into competition smoking and grilling techniques, in-depth insider BBQ tips, and more, get your All-Access pass now! Join our Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters in their one-of-kind online BBQ classes and master smoking and grilling a variety of different meats.

Make sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel and stay up to date on all the latest insider info and news straight from the BBQ pros!

Grilling meatloaf!? Yes, you read that right! If done properly, this staple comfort food gets kicked up to a whole new level of deliciousness when cooked on a hot grill. There’s nothing quite like the flavor of the exterior crust that you get with BBQ cooking, But, there are some important things to keep in mind to ensure you end up with a perfectly seared and smoky meatloaf that doesn’t fall apart.

So, if you want the inside scoop on how to cook meatloaf on the grill, we’ve got you covered. Here are X tips for grilling meatloaf that is sure to make everyone happily full:


Set Your Grill Up Properly

The first crucial step in grilling meatloaf is making sure your grill is set up properly. You want to do a two-zone cooking setup where you have one side open for indirect cooking and the other side is direct cooking over high heat.

Then, make sure you have a foil drip pan underneath your indirect heat side. This is the side you will mainly be cooking your meatloaf on.

Before your loaf goes on the grill you want to let the grill preheat properly. You’re aiming for a medium-high internal grill temperature of about 325 degrees Fahrenheit.


Use Wood to Add Another Element to the Flavor

Using a little bit of cooking wood will help add another dimension to the flavor of your grilled meatloaf. You can throw some wood chips or chunks onto your charcoal to generate a nice smoke. For example, hickory wood pairs well with beef and will give it that delicious smoky flavor synonymous with BBQ.


hickory wood chunks | grilling meatloaf | how to cook meatloaf on the grill


Make Sure Your Sauteed Onions Are Cool

Sauteed onions are one of the necessities when it comes to grilled meatloaf ingredients. They add a nice flavor with a little sweetness. Saute them with garlic for perfect seasoning to add to the loaf.

But, it’s very important to make sure you let your onions cool before you mix them in with the ground meat and other ingredients. 


Avoid Crunchy Vegetables (Unless Cooking Ahead of Time)

Unless you are going to saute them a little ahead of time, skip crunchy vegetables like carrots and celery if you are going to be grilling meatloaf. These types of vegetables take longer to cook to a proper softness than it will take to grill the loaf. So, unless you want extra crunchy veggies in your meatloaf, save these for your baked version.


Consider Your Meat Selection

One of the great things about meatloaf is you could choose from a variety of different ground meat, including beef, pork, veal, turkey, venison, etc. Beef is usually the most popular choice. Though this is sometimes combined with other types of meat as well.

If you are going with beef, ground sirloin or ground chuck are going to give you the best flavor and texture. Avoid using ground round since it will be more grisly and less flavorful. 

Whichever type of meat you choose, keep in mind that the higher the quality/grade, the better the flavor. 


ground beef | grilling meatloaf | how to grill meatloaf


Don’t Skip Seasonings, But Be Mindful

Properly seasoning the meatloaf is another key. You don’t want to skip the seasonings but you also want to stick with more “traditional” things that go well with the meat. And don’t over-season it with a ton of different things. 

Some great options include:

  • SPG (combination of salt, pepper, garlic)
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Basil 
  • Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Dijon mustard
  • Hot sauce (for those who like a kick)


Do Not Over-Mix Your Ingredients

The last thing you want is a finished meatloaf that is tough. An important thing to do to ensure this doesn’t happen is to not over-mix your ingredients. Doing so breaks down the meat’s fibers too much and they’ll quickly dry out.

Put all of your dry ingredients/seasonings in a bowl and mix them by hand or with a spoon. Then add your egg, onions/garlic, ground meat, and other wet ingredients. Use your clean hands to mix everything together just long enough until everything is evenly combined.


Make Sure Your Loaf is Not Too Thick

The thicker, dome-shaped meatloaf that you’d probably use if cooking it in the oven will not work as well on the grill. If the loaf is too thick, the ends will end up charred and overcooked before the center is cooked to temperature. (Make sure to have a good meat thermometer on hand.)

So, form your loaf mixture into a uniform rectangle that is not too thick. Usually about 9” long by 5” wide works well. If needed, you can split your ingredients mixture up until multiple loaves.


grilling meatloaf | how to cook meatloaf on the grill | how to grill meatloaf
Source: Sugar Dish Me


Avoid Cooking It In a Pan 

Don’t set your meatloaf in a metal loaf pan to grill it. Instead, you want to freeform grill it. Freeform grilling meatloaf directly on the grates is going to give you those nice, seared grill marks and allow the smoke to flavor the meat. 

But, more importantly, it will prevent fat from pooling at the base of it (like what would happen cooking in a pan) and creating an overly greasy loaf. Alternatively, the fat will drain and drip below it into the drip pan you’ve set up.


Sear the Exterior First

When you first put your loaf (or loaves) on the grill, you want to put them on the direct heat side first for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. You’re going to sear both sides of the exterior first. This will seal in all the juices from the meat and form the exterior bark. Not only is the bark delicious but it will make it much easier to flip the loaf when needed.

Then, you’ll move the meatloaf over to the indirect heat side to cook for the remainder of the time on that side.


Don’t Glaze It Too Early

It’s important that you wait to glaze the meatloaf until you have a nice exterior crust on it. This is especially true if your glaze is sugar-based because, if put on too early, the sugar will quickly burn and can char the outside of your loaf.


grilled meatloaf | grilling meatloaf | how to cook meatloaf on the grill

Source: Grillseeker


Cook by Temperature, Not by Time

As with many other outdoor cooking situations, you want to cook it until it’s reached the proper internal temperature versus just watching a timer. This will ensure you don’t over or undercook the meatloaf. 

So, get your meat thermometer out. Your meatloaf is ready to come off the grill when it has reached 160 degrees Fahrenheit at the deepest part of the center. This is the minimum internal temperature for safe consumption of ground meat.


Don’t Slice It Immediately

Yes, it will look and smell amazing but don’t start slicing your grilled meatloaf immediately. Like with many other grilled meat items, you want to let it rest for a little bit before cutting into it. Letting it sit for about 5 minutes should be enough time to let the juices settle and the collagen in the meat thicken again.

To even throw another twist on there, you can slice the loaf into 1-inch slices and then throw the slices back on the grill just long enough to crisp the cut sides.


Try Your Own Grilled BBQ Meatloaf Today!

Now, by following the tips above, if someone asks you “can you cook meatloaf on the grill?”, you can confidently answer “yes, yes you can!” Grilling meatloaf puts a whole new spin on this classic meal.

As you can see, preparation is a crucial element to ensuring you cook a delicious BBQ meatloaf that doesn’t totally crumble apart or end up too soggy. This includes proper preparation of your ingredients, your grill, and the loaf itself. Gather up everything you’ll need and try your hand at grilling meatloaf on your cooker today!

Have you tried grilling meatloaf? Know of any other tips when it comes to how to grill meatloaf? Let us know below in the comments. We want to hear from you!


Want a great step-by-step video recipe for grilling meatloaf like a pro? Check out our tell-all Championship Backyard BBQ class on Bacon Wrapped Glazed Meatloaf!

If you want to dive into even more smoking and grilling techniques, insider secrets, and more, join our Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters for first-of-its-kind online BBQ cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Master cooking all kinds of meats on your grill or in your smoker today.

Make sure to also subscribe to our YouTube channel to get access to all of the latest insider info and BBQ news straight from the pros!

*Feature image sourced from Weber Grills

As many will agree, turkey is a delicious meat that should not be reserved only for the holidays. Especially when it’s actually one option of affordable cuts of meat to choose from any time of the year.

But, because it is a delicate meat compared to beef or pork, turkey does take some extra attention to ensure you don’t turn it into a dried-out chunk. Below, we’ve covered some pro tips on how to smoke whole turkey straight from champion pitmasters to help ensure you are smoking a turkey everyone will be wanting seconds of. Let’s take a look:


10 Tips For Smoking A Turkey Whole:

Here are some tips straight from the pitmasters to help you smoke some delicious turkey every time:


Buy Fresh For Better Flavor

To get the best flavor and juiciness, avoid a frozen bird from your big box grocery store and opt for fresh turkey from your local butcher. They can help ensure you get the freshest meat possible, decide on a size, and more. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Plus, with fresh turkey, you won’t have to worry about waiting forever for a frozen turkey to thaw.


Prep the Turkey Properly Before Brining/Seasoning

Before you start thinking about brining and seasoning your bird, you have to ensure it is prepped properly. Make sure to trim off the excess fat deposits and remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity. Then, rinse the bird thoroughly inside and out. 

You also want to carefully separate the skin from the turkey’s breast area. This will allow you to apply seasoning directly to the breast meat and then reposition and secure the skin with toothpicks.


Brine the Turkey to Keep It Tender

Like chicken, turkey is a leaner meat. So, it is important to brine the turkey before smoking it to ensure it stays moist and tender. Because brine is salt-based, it works to tenderize the meat, break down muscle, and increase moisture absorption. The best brines have a 1-to-1 ratio of water to salt.

The minimum amount of time you should brine the bird is 3 hours. Make sure to rinse it thoroughly after it is done brining and dry it well before seasoning. Ensuring it is thoroughly dry will prevent the skin from turning rubbery while cooking the turkey.


brining turkey | smoking a turkey | tips for smoking a turkey
Source: Betty Crocker


Go For a Savory Seasoning (But Not Too Much)

Turkey is a versatile meat that does well with a variety of seasonings. Remember, you want that delicious smoky flavor to still come through so you don’t want to overpower the meat with too much seasoning. You could go with just a simple rub of salt and pepper, make your own homemade savory rub (think the addition of rosemary, garlic, etc), or opt for a delicious premade rub just for turkey. 

Don’t forget to put the rub on the walls of the turkey’s body cavity to help season it from the inside as well.


Don’t Stuff the Turkey

When you’re smoking a whole turkey, don’t try and stuff the bird. Either cook the stuffing separately in your smoker or grill or go for oven-cooked stuffing. It takes longer for heat to make it to the center of the turkey. So, if you try and stuff it, the turkey breast will be over-cooked and dry by the time the stuffing is done.


Be Careful With the Wood

Of course, the wood (whatever shape or size you are using for fuel) that you put in your smoker or grill is what produces the delicious smoke that will help flavor the meat. But, depending on the flavor of wood and how much you use, it is possible to overpower your turkey and ruin the taste.

So, make sure to use a type of wood that has a complementary flavor to the mild protein that turkey is. Most often, fruit woods like Apple or Cherry are going to be the best options because they are milder in flavor. Oak or Hickory are also options, but because they have a stronger flavor you shouldn’t use nearly as much. Even combining a fruitwood with Hickory is a delicious option but make sure to lean more towards the fruitwood in the combo.


Don’t Forget a Drip Pan

One thing you want to make sure you have on hand when smoking a turkey is a drip pan. Placing a drip pan underneath the turkey will catch the drippings and minimize cleanup. Even more importantly, doing this will prevent the juices from burning at the bottom of your cooker and possibly causing a flare-up. The last thing you want is black smoke from burning juices to ruin the taste of your bird. 

Using a pan also means you’ll have some delicious drippings to use for homemade gravy. You can even fill the tray beforehand with chopped herbs, carrots, onions, celery, and stock for some extra-tasty additions to use.


smoking a turkey with a drip pan | how to smoke whole turkey | tips for smoking turkey
Source: Weber Grills


Monitor the Meat Temperature

If you’ve read any of our other articles on cooking specific meats, you may have noticed a common theme. It’s more important to cook by internal meat temperature and not by time. The same goes with smoking turkey. 

As mentioned above, turkey is a delicate meat that can overcook easily if you’re not monitoring it. Make sure you have a good remote digital thermometer to use to constantly monitor the internal temperature of the turkey. If you only have one, place it in the breast, which is the thickest part of the meat. Even better is if you use a dual-probe thermometer with one probe in the breast and the second probe clipped to the grate. This will allow you to monitor the internal meat temperature as well as the internal temperature of your smoker, without having to open the cooker. 

Bonus tip: Avoid constantly opening the cooker to check on your meat. Doing so can cause the internal temperature of your smoker to fluctuate and draw out the cooking process.

According to the USDA, turkey is safe to eat when all parts of the bird reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. So, once your turkey has reached 160 degrees, remove it from your cooker. The internal temperature of the meat will still rise another 5 degrees or so, bringing it to safe temperature, without you overcooking it.


Don’t Be Afraid of Some Pink Turkey Meat

If you’ve cooked your turkey to temperature and you discover some of the meat is pink on the inside, don’t panic! As the USDA states, “turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink.”

So, as long as you use an accurate meat thermometer and the internal temperature of your bird has reached 165 degrees, it is perfectly safe to eat. 


Use a Rotisserie Attachment If Possible

One way to ensure even cooking and smoke flavoring for your whole turkey is to use a rotisserie attachment in your smoker or grill. This will keep the bird turning at a constant rate and allow the smoke to evenly coat all parts of the turkey.

Check out our article on rotisserie cooking for some valuable tips to follow when using a rotisserie attachment.


rotisserie smoking turkey | how to smoke whole turkey | tips for smoking a turkey
Source: Serious Eats


Start Smoking Turkey You Can Be Proud Of Today

Smoking a whole turkey doesn’t have to be intimidating or overly complicated. Just make sure to give yourself plenty of time for proper preparation and cooking. By following the tips above, you’ll be well on your way to smoking a whole turkey that will easily impress your family and friends.

If you are going to be smoking a turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, make sure to also check out our article on cooking your holiday whole meal on the grill!

Are you planning on smoking a whole turkey soon? Know of any other good tips? Let us know in our comment box below. We want to hear from you!


For a great step-by-step video recipe for smoking turkey, check out our tell-all Championship Backyard BBQ class on Brine Smoked Turkey with Pepper Jelly Glaze!

For even more insider secrets, smoking and grilling techniques, and more, join our Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters in the one-of-kind online BBQ classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Master cooking all kinds of meat in your smoker or grill today.

Make sure to also check out our YouTube channel and hit “Subscribe” to get all of the latest BBQ news and insider info straight from the pros!

Pulled pork has been a longtime favorite when it comes to BBQ, especially in the Southern US. Many people will agree, including champion Pitmasters, that pork butt (aka Boston butt) is the favored cut of pork to cook for pulled pork. 

A pork butt is one of the best cuts of meat to smoke due to its texture, tenderness, and flavor. So, it should definitely be included as a must on your list of meats to master on your cooker. 

If you’re wondering exactly how to smoke pork butt to a mouthwatering finish every time, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ve put together some top tips straight from the professional pitmasters.


What is a Pork Butt Exactly?


smoked pork butt | how to smoke pork butt | tips for smoking pork butt
Source: The Spruce


A pork butt, which is sometimes also referred to as a Boston butt, is one of the two sub-primal cuts that come from the pork shoulder primal cut (the other being the picnic shoulder). This cut comes from above the shoulder blade and will usually weigh between 5 and 10 pounds. 

Most pork butts will have a “fat cap” on one side of it. Because this cut has a great amount of fat compared to lean meat, it is great for smoking and will result in moist, tender, and extremely flavorful pork. 

So, now that you know exactly what a pork butt is, here are the 10 tips to keep in mind to ensure you cook it to a delicious finish:


10 Tips Straight From the Pitmasters:

Start With a Good Quality Cut

Making sure you start with quality meat and a good cut of pork butt is just as important to the final taste as how you cook it is. There are several things to look for when it comes to getting a good quality cut:

  • For better taste, opt for all-natural pork from smaller farms versus industrial pork that is often full of additives. 
  • Avoid pork that’s been frozen for a while. You’ll get the best results from meat that is fresh and has been recently cut.
  • Select a pork butt that has a good balance between fat and muscle fibers throughout the cut. You don’t want to get one that has a ton of extra fat that you have to trim off, impacting the meat’s texture. Don’t be afraid to ask your butcher to select a good one for you.
  • Ideally, you want to go for a pork butt that still has the shoulder bone running through it. This will help hold the meat together and act as a built-in thermometer. When the meat is done, the bone will easily slide out with a gentle twist. You can, of course, still cook a great pork butt without the bone as well.


Trim the Excess Fat Away as Needed

As we mentioned above, there will be a fairly thick “fat cap” on one side of the pork butt. Evenly trim this fat cap down so that it is only about ¼” thick, if that. Also, trim off any part of the cut that is strictly cartilage, tough, or webby. This will leave you a clean cut to work with and prevent overly chewy bites of pork in the end.


trimming pork butt | how to smoke pork butt | tips for smoking pork butt
Source: Vindulge


Thoroughly Inject the Pork Butt

It is a common myth that marinades can penetrate deep into the meat to help flavor and tenderize it. It is scientifically impossible for it to soak in much further than just the exterior of the meat.

Like beef brisket and other large cuts of meat, injecting the pork butt using a meat injector will allow you to get a brining or braising liquid deep inside the meat. This will help flavor and tenderize the meat, ensuring you end up with a moist and delicious final result.

Check out our article on injecting beef brisket for some great general info on the benefits of injecting meat and how to do it properly.


Prep Your Pork Butt for Rub  

Before you try and put any rub on your pork butt, throw on a pair of disposable plastic gloves and coat your pork butt with a binder of yellow mustard (mustard will not affect the flavor of the meat). Doing this will help your rub stick to the meat better, allowing you to properly and effectively coat it with your favorite seasoning.


Get the Rub Right

Sufficiently coating your pork butt with a rub will help season the meat, bring out the natural flavor of the pork, and help create that great exterior bark as it is smoking. Many good pork rubs have a combination of salt, sugar, paprika, and pepper in varying degrees. But, don’t be afraid to create your own rub using your favorite ingredients and determine what you like best on your pork butt. 

Make sure you put a good thorough coating all over the cut. You don’t want a coating that is too light or uneven.


The Meat Should Not Go Straight From The Fridge to Your Smoker

You never want to put cold meat straight into your smoker. Doing so can cause the exterior to cook much faster and even burn while the interior is still undercooked. 

So, give your pork butt about 30 minutes to sit at room temperature before putting it on to cook. As soon as you take it out of the fridge that is a perfect time to add a generous coating of rub.


Keep the Cooking Temperature Consistent

To smoke any kind of meat properly, it is critical to make sure that your cooker’s temperature stays consistent throughout the entire cooking session. Remember, you will smoking the pork butt low and slow. 250 degrees Fahrenheit is a good sweet spot to maintain. Keeping your cooker's temperature consistent will also help you power through any "stall" that you may encounter with the butt's internal temperature while cooking. (Check out our article on the stall that can happen while smoking for more info on that.)

Make sure you have enough fuel (no matter what type of fuel you’re using) on hand to get you through the whole cook.


smoker fire management | how to smoke pork butt | tips for smoking pork butt
Source: Heavy Metal Bar-B-Que


Wrap the Meat Halfway Through

Once the internal temperature of your pork butt has reached between 155 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, wrap the meat in peach paper or a double layer of aluminum foil. This will trap the liquids in with the meat and baste the butt over the last couple of hours until it is finished. So, make sure you have a good instant-read meat thermometer on hand before you start cooking.


Rely on Temperature Versus Strictly on Time

If you’re wondering how long to smoke pork butt, knowing when it is finished is more about cooking by temperature versus time. Not every pork butt will need to smoke for exactly the same amount of time. This is why it is so important to have a thermometer handy. When cooking at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, you want to cook pork butt until it reaches an internal temperature of 208 degrees Fahrenheit. 

As we mentioned earlier, the shoulder blade bone can act as an internal thermometer too. In most cases, once you can easily pull or move the bone, the pork butt is finished and ready to come out. But, make sure to double-check it with your instant-read thermometer as well.


Let Your Pork Butt Rest

Once your butt is finished cooking, don’t be in such a hurry to start pulling or slicing it. You want to let it rest for 1 hour first. This will allow the fatty collagen to thicken and keep the juices within the meat longer, keeping it moist. One way to let it rest is to keep it wrapped and keep it warm inside an empty cooler with a lid on it.


Master How To Smoke Pork Butt Today

By following the tips we’ve covered above, you should be well on your way to tackling this tender cut confidently, resulting in a delicious final product with that great smoky flavor. As you can see, proper preparation and making sure you have the proper tools are both important factors when it comes to smoking pork butt properly. 

Are you planning on smoking a pork butt soon? Have you recently smoked one for the first time and learned a few things? Tell us about it below. We want to hear from you!


Here at BBQ Champs Academy, we'll show you everything you need to know to smoke pork butt perfectly just like the professional pitmasters do for competitions. In our online classes, you can learn the step-by-step techniques along with their insider secrets, all in stunning high-def video.

Check out the individual pork butt class from your favorite pitmaster or try your hand at an All-Access Pass to learn how to cook four different BBQ meats!

Make sure to also head over to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel for the latest insider info, barbecue news, and more. Click on the “Subscribe” button to stay on top of all the latest!

Guide To Grilling On Wood Planks: 11 Tips You Need To Know

You may hear some outdoor cookers argue that grilling on wood planks (aka planking) is a fairly recent fad that isn’t much more than a gimmick. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you haven’t tried using wood planks on your grill, you absolutely should.

Cooking food directly on hardwood planks is an easy way to cook fish, meat, and veggies on your grill and impart a delicious, smoky flavor. Fish is the most common item to grill on wood planks, but nearly any protein or vegetable can be cooked on them. 

In this article, we’ll break down exactly how far back grilling on wood planks goes and the tips you need to know to do it right.


When Grilling on Cedar Planks Actually Started

Dating back to 4000 B.C., native tribes in the Pacific Northwest were fire-roasting salmon that was attached to split Western Red Cedar poles (called piquin sticks) with slender cedar pins. These poles were then propped at an angle next to the large alder wood fires.

Meanwhile, American Indians along the East Coast were using a similar method to fire-roast shad (a bony, succulent but fish related to the herring). Although, these groups used locally plentiful oak poles or planks versus cedar.

Fast forward to the late 19th century and fish baked on cedar planks in an oven was served in several hotels throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Since then, using wood planks has evolved and grilling on wood planks using traditional grills began. Though historians are still trying to pinpoint exactly when this particular method started. 


Important Tips on How to Grill on Wood Planks

There are some important tips you need to know to ensure you are grilling on wood planks properly and, more importantly, that you end up with a delicious final result.  Let’s take a look:


#1 - Pick the Right Type of Plank

You can find pre-cut wood planks at many cooking stores, some supermarkets, or through
online grilling-wood wholesalers. Make sure to only use food-safe untreated planks. If you try and buy planks at a lumberyard or hardware store, they will often be pressure-treated for outdoor use and contain harmful chemicals like arsenic.


types of planks | grilling on wood planks | grilling on cedar planks
Source: Gourmet Grillmaster


The best types of wood for grilling (and smoking) are going to be a variety of hardwoods. You never want to use softwoods like spruce or pine because they will emit a strong resin taste on your food and burn too quickly. Ideally, when it comes to the specific type of hardwood, you want to use one that compliments what you are cooking: 

  • Seafood/Vegetables/Cheeses: For more delicate foods, woods like cedar (especially Western Red cedar) and alder are milder woods that make a good match.

*Some heavier, fattier fish (like Salmon) can also pair well with stronger woods like hickory. 

  • Chicken/Pork: Heartier meats like chicken and pork pair well with medium-flavored woods like maple and pecan, as well as fruitwoods like apple and peach.
  • Beef/Gamier meats: You can go with the heavier-flavored woods like oak and hickory without them overpowering the meat.

The thicker the plank the better. Ideally, you want to use planks that are at least a half-inch thick. Also, the planks you use should be large enough to still leave 1-inch of wood around your food.


#2 - Check For Splinters

It’s important to check both sides of the plank for any splinters before using it. You don’t want to have any wood splinters end up in your food. If you see one, just use some sandpaper and lightly brush the plank smooth in that spot.


#3 - Make Sure to Pre-Soak

Before your plank goes on the grill, make sure to soak it in water for a minimum of 1 hour before cooking. Soaking prevents planks from catching fire. You want to maintain a slow smolder while it’s on the grill, not definitive flames. Pre-soaking the plank also generates a little bit of nice steam during cooking. 

You can soak it in a baking sheet with a raised side and place something heavy on top of the plank to keep it submerged. Make sure to flip the plank occasionally to ensure it is evenly soaked.

You can even add wine or fruit juice to the water for an extra boost of flavor.


#4 - Be Prepared For Flare-Ups

When grilling on wood planks, you always want to keep a spray bottle filled with water close by in case the edges of the plank start to catch fire. Sometimes, using
long-handled tongs to rotate the plank will help extinguish any flames also. 

* Make sure to never leave the grill unattended when using wood planks.


grilling on wood planks | grilling on cedar planks | how to grill on cedar planks
Source: Cedareo


#5 - Use a Two-Zone Grill Setup

Set your grill up in a
two-zone setup where one side is indirect heat and the other is direct heat. Preheat the grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then you’ll be placing the planks with your food on the indirect heat side.

This temperature will roast the food and allow a brown, flavorful crust to develop on your food. Lower temperatures will just steam the planked food rather than roasting it.


#6 - Pre-Charring the Planks Can Add Extra Flavor

Starting on a wood plank that has been pre-charred and is still smoking gives a deeper wood flavor. You do this by placing the plank over the direct side of the grill and heating it for about 2 minutes on either side, enough for it to start to blacken and lightly smoke.

Once it’s slightly charred, place the food on the charred side and move it to the indirect heat side of the grill.

Keep in mind that pre-charring the planks will remove almost all of the pre-soaked moisture. So, use the spray bottle to moisten the planks again once you start cooking.


#7 - Make Sure to Oil Fish

If you are going to be
grilling fish with the skin on, brush the skin with cooking oil before adding it to the plank. It also doesn’t hurt to brush a little bit of oil on the food-side of the plank as well. This will keep the fish from sticking to the plank at all.


#8 - Fresh Herbs Work Well

If you want to experiment with extra flavor, put sprigs of fresh herbs on the plank before topping them with the food. Things like rosemary, dill, parsley, or thyme work very well.


#9 - Cook to Temperature, Not Time

Usually, items take a little longer to cook on a plank than they do directly on the grill grates. This is because wood conducts heat slower than metal. So, you want to cook to temperature versus relying on a “set” time. 

For example, fish should be cooked to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. So, make sure you have a good instant-read thermometer on hand.


#10 - Experiment With Cooking Different Things

Most meaty, heartier fish are great for grilling on wood planks. Try salmon, bass, bluefish, swordfish, or trout. But planking is not reserved only for fish. You can also grill scallops, lobster, shrimp, beef,
chicken, pork, vegetables, and even cheese on a plank.

Have fun and experiment with planking different things.


grilling steak on wood planks | grilling on wood planks | grilling on cedar planks


#11 - You Can Reuse Planks (Sometimes)

Planks can often be used two to three times before they become too charred. (Unless you pre-car the planks often). After using the plank, wash it well with water and a stiff-bristled brush and then store it in a clean, dry place. Do not use soap, as this can change the flavor of the wood. 

If there's some heavy char or food that you are having trouble getting off, you can use a piece of fine sandpaper to sand it clean.

Also, the wood can sometimes take on a little bit of the flavor of what you cooked on it. So, for example, it’s often a good idea to stick with fish on a plank you cooked fish on before.

If a plank has become too charred and brittle for any more grilling, you can easily break it into pieces and use it for smoking.


Mix Up Your Outdoor Cooking Game By Grilling On Wood Planks

Grilling on wood planks is a fun and easy way to add some variety to your grill game. It prevents delicate foods from falling apart on the grill, adds some great flavor to a variety of different seafood, meats, and vegetables, and makes for super easy cleanup.

Have you tried grilling on wood planks? What is your favorite thing to cook on planks? Tell us all about it below in the comment box. We want to hear from you!

If you want to follow a great step-by-step for grilling on wood planks, check out our tell-all Championship Backyard BBQ class on Sweet Heat Cedar Plank Salmon Bites!


To learn even more insider info, grilling and smoking techniques, and more, join us in our one-of-kind online BBQ classes with the Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. Master how to cook everything from a perfectly grilled steak to deliciously tender ribs and more.

Also, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest insider info and BBQ news straight from the pros!


*Feature image courtesy of Weber Grills

The weather is warming up and you’re itching to start grilling more. You may have perfected grilling the perfect steak or smoking a delicious brisket and you are wanting to try something new. Springtime has long been the traditional season for lamb. Grilled lamb is absolutely delicious, and when cooked the right way, results in tender and delicate meat with a rich flavor that is not too overpowering or “gamey”. 

If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re missing out! But, if you are wondering how to grill lamb the right way, we’ve got you covered. We went straight to the Champion Grillmasters to find out what you need to know:


Start with Quality Meat

As we have mentioned before when dealing with other types of meat, ensuring you are starting with good quality meat will have a significant impact on the taste of the final result. 

Your local big-box supermarket will usually not have a huge selection of lamb cuts. Specialty grocery stores, your local butcher, or even high-quality online meat wholesalers are the best places to find good lamb. 

When buying your lamb to grill, you want to look for meat that is light pink with evenly distributed smooth white fat and red streaks running through the bone. This meat will be the most tender and have a mildly-robust flavor. If the meat is darker (almost purple) and has yellow fat, it was an older sheep and the meat will be tougher and have a more “gamey” taste. Marbling is not as important in lamb as it is with beef selection, but just make sure the fat is evenly distributed. 

If you are new to the taste of lamb, American lamb, which is often fed grain versus grass-fed, will have a milder flavor compared to New Zealand or Australian lamb which is pasture-raised. Once you’ve tasted lamb that is properly cooked, don’t be afraid to venture out to those more robust lamb varieties.

The best cuts of lamb for grilling are going to be the rack/rib chop, loin chop, leg, rump, and shoulder.


Trim Excess Exterior Fat

Some cuts of lamb may have some exterior fat around the edges. Go ahead and trim this off. The meat will remain tender without it. This fat won’t add any additional flavor and trimming it off will help reduce any oil-induced grill flare-ups

Also, leaving it on can actually cause the lamb to cup up, as the connective tissue under the fat layer shrinks when it heats up, causing uneven cooking.


trim lamb chops | how to grill lamb | how to grill lamb chops
Source: Kingsford


Let it Sit First

You don’t want to immediately take your lamb out of the refrigerator and put it on the grill. In doing this, because the meat is cold, you’ll quickly increase your chances of the outside charring too much before the interior of the meat is cooked to temperature. This quickly leads to overcooked meat.

So, you want to let the meat sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before it goes on the grill. This will make properly grilling the lamb much easier. First, pat the meat dry with a paper towel after pulling it out of the refrigerator, lightly season it with salt, and cover it with aluminum foil to let it sit.


Use Seasonings & Flavors That Complement the Meat

Lamb is a rich-flavored meat that, unlike other types of meat, can hold up to bold seasonings, spices, and aromatics. If you want to add some seasoning to the lamb (more than salt and pepper) or use a marinade, some specific ingredients help enhance the natural flavor of the meat. These include:


  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Onion
  • Lemon zest
  • Mint
  • Lemongrass
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Parsely
  • Yellow curry


You don’t want to go overboard with the seasonings and end up masking the meat’s natural flavor. Use just enough to lightly coat the exterior and amplify the meat itself.


Coat the Meat With Oil Before it Hits the Grill

Lamb has a tendency to stick to a hot grill more than other meats. So, it is important to make sure the meat has a good coating of oil before it goes on the grill. This can either be done by brushing it shortly before cooking it or marinating it overnight. 

Lamb does well with marinades that are oil and lemon-based and this provides an opportunity to work in some of those spices and aromatics. 

It also helps to use a paper towel dipped in oil and coat the grill grates before the meat goes on also. 


Use a Two-Zone Grill Setup

Like many other types of grilled meats, with lamb you want both a seared exterior crust and a nice tender interior. Using a two-zone grill setup is the best way to make this happen. With two-zone grilling, you have one side where you can cook directly over the direct heat above the fuel/heat source and the other side is the indirect heat side which is away from the heat source.

Two-zone grilling gives you the versatility to sear the exterior to a deep brown first (without charring) and then grill for longer periods over lower heat without overcooking the meat. Cooking the lamb for the majority of the time over the indirect side will slow roast it and create a much more flavorful result. 


two zone grill setup | how to grill lamb | how to cook lamb on the grill
Source: Weber


Cook to Proper Temperature, Not by Time

At this point, you may be wondering how long to grill lamb for to cook it perfectly. The important thing to understand is that you should cook to the proper temperature versus relying on cooking times. This is why it is important to have a good quality thermometer on hand.

To grill lamb properly using a two-zone method, the indirect zone of your grill should be 225 degrees Fahrenheit, while the direct zone is between 350 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. For medium-rare lamb, you want to cook the meat until it reaches 135 degrees Fahrenheit in the center away from the bone. If you prefer medium, leave it on until it reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything more than medium can quickly result in a very tough and gamey tasting piece of lamb. 

After you pull the meat off the grill, let it rest and the internal temperature will rise roughly another 10 degrees, bringing it to the final desired temperature. Per the USDA, the minimum final internal temperature of lamb is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. 


Don’t Be in a Hurry to Carve It

Just like when grilling steak, an important tip for delicious and juicy lamb is not to immediately carve it and serve as soon as it comes off the grill. As touched on above, after removing it from the grill, cover it with aluminum foil and let it rest for roughly 5 minutes. 

This not only allows for the carryover cooking to bring the internal temperature to the desired point, but it also allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. This results in a perfectly flavored, tender, and juicy result.

*Bonus tip: Always make sure to cut lamb against the grain. 


You Can Cook Delicious Grilled Lamb Like The Pros

Lamb is deliciously tender meat with robust flavors all its own, and something everyone should try at least once. No matter if you are grilling lamb chops or kebabs, the tips we covered above will help you end up with a delicious final result. 

Now, if you want a step-by-step recipe that shows you exactly how to grill lamb perfectly, check out our online video/class for Frenched Rack of Lamb Chops for only $7.98!

Are you planning on trying your hand at grilled or smoked lamb soon? Do you have any other tips on how to grill lamb that you’ve discovered? Tell us about it in the comment box below. We want to hear from you!


Make sure to also check out our YouTube channel for insider info and BBQ news straight from the pros. Click “Subscribe” to stay on top of all the latest from BBQ Champs Academy!

Join us in our one-of-kind online BBQ classes for even more insider secrets and cooking techniques straight from the Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. Master how to cook everything from a perfectly grilled steak to deliciously tender beef brisket and more.

At this point, we’re only one week away from the Super Bowl and you may be trying to decide what to cook up for the big game. Lookup any list of favorite foods for football parties or tailgate get-togethers and wings are sure to be near the top. 

So, if you’re looking for tips on how to grill chicken wings, you’ve come to the right place! Here's what you need to know for grilling wings that will wow your guests and make you a legend in your own neighborhood:


Better Quality Meat = Better Tasting Wings

When we previously discussed smoking whole chicken on the grill, several tips given there will apply to wings, too. Such as starting with good quality meat. 

Why go to the trouble of perfecting the art of how to grill chicken wings and then buy low-quality meat? Look for cage-free, all-natural wings in your local meat shop rather than the grocery store. The results will be worth the extra shopping time and maybe a bit higher price. 


Separate The Wings First 

There are three parts of a chicken wing - the drumette, wingette/flat, and the tip. For best results, you want to use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to separate the wings into the three pieces. This makes a difference because, due to the difference in thickness of each part, they all cook at different speeds. You don’t want to burn the flat part of the wing while you’re still waiting on the drumette to finish.

It is a lot easier to control how the wings are cooking when the pieces are separated. The flats and drumettes will be the main pieces you are cooking. 

The tips are very thin, have very little meat, and hard to cook on a grill separately. Instead of throwing them out, these can be frozen and used for flavoring when making soup another time.


parts of a chicken wing | how to grill chicken wings | how to prepare chicken wingsSource: A Pinch Of Salt Lake


Use Two-Zone Cooking On Your Grill

Utilizing a two-zone cooking system and a reverse sear method is the best way to cook wings on the grill. Start the wings first on the indirect heat side of the grill (at about 325 degrees Fahrenheit), flip them as needed as they brown, and then gradually move them to the direct heat side to sear and finish them. 

This method will create a nice crispy skin with a juicy inside, as well as reduce flare-ups as the fat from the wings slowly renders. If you’re using a smoker, you can start the wings furthest away from the heat source and then move them closer and sear them to finish. 


The Type Of Wood Matters

If you are using wood as your fuel source or even an additional source for flavor, the type of wood you burn matters. This is especially true with meat like chicken that is a milder protein. 

A small amount of Hickory is a good mild choice, as are fruitwoods like Apple and Cherry wood. You can even try mixing Hickory with one of the fruitwoods. If you want to make a bold statement with your wings, go with Mesquite or Oak. 


Brine or Marinade?

First of all, it is important to understand they are not the same thing. Brine is a salt-based liquid bath and works to maintain the juiciness and tenderness of the meat.

So, for best results, let the chicken wings sit in a brine for a couple of hours before cooking. The brine will protect the delicate meat from drying out during cooking. After brining, make sure to pat the wings dry before seasoning and/or cooking.

Marinades, especially if they are oil-based, do nothing to tenderize meat. The liquid cannot pass deep into the meat so you end up with a surface seasoning only. All that time letting the meat rest in a marinade is wasted. 

Save any marinades or BBQ sauces for just before taking the wings off the grill. Brush it on the meat and then serve. Or place several sauces in bowls on the side and let your guests try them all. 


how to brine chicken wings | how to grill chicken wings | grilled chicken wingsSource: The Mountain Kitchen


Keep Seasonings Simple

With chicken wings, less is better for several reasons. The skin of wings can start to burn quickly. You don’t want to overload them with seasonings and add to that chance. 

You can season the wings lightly with salt and pepper for simplicity. Or you can use one of your favorite bbq rubs, just go easy. You don’t want to overdo it, especially if the rub has salt or sugar in it. Put the rub on before cooking to get savory, smoky wings. 

Wait until the last few minutes of cooking to brush on any sauce if you’re going with that. The sugar in the sauce can quickly start to burn if you put it on too early. 


Internal Temperature Tells You When the Wing is Done

Chicken wings are not a “one size fits all” type of cooking. You have to keep a close eye on them and move them around as needed since the thickness varies widely. It is not possible to rely on cooking times when grilling wings. 

Also, if you use the often-quoted “when the juices run clear it’s done” method, you might end up serving wings that are either over-cooked or not quite done.  Your football parties will have a short life if you serve either one to your guests.

So, you should always go by internal temperature to determine how long to grill chicken wings. Get out your meat thermometer and test each piece before shutting down the grill. 

It may be a little harder to use the thermometer with wings since the meat on some pieces doesn’t give you much to work with. But insert it into the thickest part of each wing, staying away from the bone. The wings need to reach an internal temperature of 165℉ before you can serve them up. Some outdoor cooks prefer the internal temperature to reach around 175℉ for meat that pulls away from the bone easier, yet isn’t overcooked.


Serve Up Some Delicious Grilled Chicken Wings

If you followed the tips above, prepped the wings properly, and cooked them to temperature, chances are you’ve now got some delicious wings to eat. Get out a serving platter, slide the wings onto the platter and serve with celery and carrot sticks. You can also warm any barbecue sauces you’ve prepared by setting the bowl on the grill briefly. 

If you want to follow along with a step-by-step recipe that shows you exactly how to cook some amazing chicken wings, check out our online video/class on Peach Mango Habanero Chicken Wings for only $7.98!

Are you planning on grilling wings soon? Have you discovered any other tips on how to grill chicken wings perfectly? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!


Don’t miss our YouTube channel for the insider tips and BBQ info straight from the pros. “Subscribe” to see all the latest from BBQ Champs Academy!

Join us for even more insider tips and cooking techniques straight from the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters in our one-of-a-kind online BBQ classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Master how to cook everything from the perfect smoked chicken to delicious beef brisket and more.

Prime rib is a very popular cut of meat to have around the holidays. Rightfully so, as it is one of the most tender cuts of beef available and sometimes referred to as the king of beef cuts. It is also usually one of the most expensive. But, this delectable option does not have to be reserved to only this time of year.  

If you want to step up your smoking and outdoor cooking game and want a great piece of meat to share with family or friends, go for the prime rib. Below, we’ve put together some insider tips straight from the pros on how to smoke prime rib low and slow the right way.

If you follow these tips, it should help eliminate the worry of tackling this tender cut, resulting in a mouthwatering final product with that delicious smoky flavor.


What Is Prime Rib Exactly?

To truly understand and master how to properly smoke any type of meat, it always helps to know exactly what it is or where it is cut from. So what is prime rib exactly?

You may hear the names used interchangeably but prime rib, rib roast, and standing rib roast are all the same thing. The prime rib cut is cut from the primal rib along the upper back of the steer. Making it one of the nine primal cuts of beef. The entire piece can weigh up to 30 pounds and is available boneless and bone-in. Though ribs six through 12 make up this entire rib section, a prime rib cut may contain anywhere between two and seven ribs.

A prime rib/rib roast will include the “cap” which is the outer, fat-marbled muscle (Spinalis Dorsi) as well as parts of the "eye" of the rib. That is why slices of a prime rib roast are known as Rib Eye steaks.

So, now that you know the answer to “what is prime rib?”, here are the tips to follow to ensure you smoke it to a delicious finish. Let’s take a look:


Tip #1 - Great Prime Rib Starts With Great Quality Beef


How to smoke prime rib | How long to smoke prime rib | What is prime ribSource: Double R Ranch


Taking the time to get good quality beef has a huge effect on the taste and tenderness you end up with. As you may know, beef is available in several different grades, as determined by the USDA. These grades go by the amount of fat marbling within the meat and will tell you the potential tenderness and juiciness you’ll be getting in that particular cut. 

Your best choice is to go for USDA Prime, which is the top 8% of all US beef and will have the most amount of marbling throughout. Thus resulting in a deliciously juicy and tender final result. Keep in mind, just because this cut of beef is called Prime Rib doesn’t automatically mean it will be USDA Prime beef.

Your local butcher is going to be the best place to go to find USDA Prime cuts locally. You can also order great quality Prime beef online. If you cannot get or don’t want to splurge on Prime, another good option is upper two-thirds USDA Choice, which can be found in many supermarkets.


Tip #2 - Opt For Bone-In

A Prime Rib cut can be purchased bone-in or boneless. When you have the choice and you’re going to smoke the meat, opt for bone-in. The bones don’t do anything for the flavor of the meat but play a huge role in insulation. With a higher thermal resistance, the bones will cause the areas of meat around them to cook slower than the rest of the roast, leaving those sections more juicy and extra tender. 

To make it easier when it comes time for carving, you can have the butcher remove the bones from the raw cut and tie them back on. Or you can do this yourself if you bought the Prime Rib Roast at a supermarket.


Tip #3 - Salt Your Prime Rib First


dry brine prime rib | How to smoke prime rib | What is prime ribSource: Meadow Creek


Before cooking your Prime Rib, one of the best things you can do is dry brine it with kosher salt. You want to liberally coat all sides with salt at least an hour or more before cooking and put it back in the fridge uncovered. 

The salt will break down some of the meat’s proteins, not only helping enhance flavor but also helping the meat hold moisture and stay even more tender. When cooked, the meat’s proteins, natural sugars, and the salt combine with the moisture. This results in a delicious exterior crust.

You’ll want to let the robust flavor speak for itself so you don’t have to season the Prime Rib with much more than salt if you don’t want to. But, if you want to add a little more varied flavor, there are some good Prime Rib rubs available or you can even make your own homemade rub.


Tip #4 - Trim The Fat Cap Before Cooking

As mentioned above, the prime rib roast will come with a fat cap that runs over the top of the cut. It is often recommended that if you are roasting a Prime Rib to leave the fat cap on while cooking it to help prevent the meat from drying out. 

But, because you are smoking it, you want to have as much of the actual meat exposed to the smoke to allow it to permeate throughout. So, trim off a good amount of that thick fat cap so that the remainder of it is ¼ inch thick. Keep in mind, when you are smoking at lower temperatures compared to roasting, you will have a lower chance of it drying out without a thick fat cap still on.


Tip #5 - Tie The Meat Off


How to smoke prime rib | How long to smoke prime rib | What is prime ribSource: Kitchen Encounters


The Prime Rib is naturally a very tender cut, even more so after you have let it dry brine and the connective tissues within the meat have loosened up. That is why it is important to break out the butcher’s twine. You want to tie the roast off between the bones with the twine. This will keep the eye of the meat from separating from the cap.


Tip #6 - Don’t Rely On Time To Determine How Long To Smoke It

If you are wondering how long to smoke Prime Rib, with a high quality (and expensive) cut like this, the last thing you want to do is overcook it into a dried out chunk of chewy meat. That is why it is imperative to have a good instant-read meat thermometer on hand.

Each cut of meat is going to be different. So, you should always rely on cooking your Prime Rib to temperature versus relying on a “specified” cooking time. For example, cook until the internal temperature is between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare. Keep in mind that the meat will increase in temperature roughly 5 to 10 degrees while it rests. So medium-rare will end up being 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit after resting.


Tip #7 - Let It Rest!

Don’t be overly eager to start carving your Prime Rib after it is done cooking. For best results, it is important to let it rest for roughly 20 to 30 minutes wrapped in Pink Butcher Paper or aluminum foil.

Letting it rest like this will lock in the moisture inside and keep it juicy and tender when it is ready to serve. You can even let it rest and then sear it over high heat to get that nice charred crust before carving and serving it. 


Master How To Smoke Prime Rib Today

Even if it’s not the holidays, any day is a good excuse to enjoy one of beef’s best cuts. If you follow the tips above, you’ll be well on your way to mastering how to smoke Prime Rib Roast, a delicious and juicy one at that. As you can see, proper preparation is a huge factor when it comes to smoking Prime Rib properly. 

Make sure to check out our backyard BBQ class where you can learn step-by-step exactly how to smoke Texas-Style Prime Rib.

Are you planning on smoking Prime Rib during the upcoming holidays? Have you recently smoked Prime Rib for the first time? Let us know all about it below. We want to hear from you!

Also, make sure to check out our YouTube channel for the latest videos, insider info, and barbecue news. Hit that “Subscribe” button to stay on top of all the latest from BBQ Champs Academy!

It’s mid-November and in a lot of places across the country, that means deer hunting season has started. If you’ve already got your hunting plans lined up, more than likely you’re hoping to end up with a good amount of meat to cook when you get back home. You should go ahead and plan to get your smoker ready too.

Smoked venison has been a part of outdoor cooking since our ancestors did it hundreds of years ago. This rich-tasting meat is very tender but also very lean, with little marbling or intramuscular fat. So, it does take some extra care to ensure you don’t end up with flavorless dried out chunks of meat. When cooked properly, smoked venison can be deliciously mouth-watering and not overly gamey.

If you are wondering how to smoke venison the right way, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ve got some of the most important tips on smoking venison straight from the pitmasters to ensure you end up with a delicious final product. Let’s take a look:


#1 - Trim Off Excess Fat First

Though you may think that keeping the fat on the meat will help keep it tender, the excess fat on venison needs to be removed before cooking it. This also includes any silver membrane. The excess fat and silver “skin” on venison can leave a strange taste and is what can make the meat taste extra gamey.

Removing the excess fat will also help you avoid any flare-ups while you are smoking the meat.


#2- Dry Brine Before Smoking Venison


dry brining venison | Smoking venison | How to smoke venisonSource: Serious Eats


Because venison has very little intramuscular fat throughout the meat, one of the most important things when smoking it is keeping the meat tender. A critical part of this is dry brining the meat before you start cooking it. 

Dry brining is the process of coating the meat with salt and letting it rest in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours before cooking. The salt breaks down the muscle, locks in moisture, and acts as a tenderizer, ensuring you end up with delicious and juicy meat.


#3 - Season The Meat Properly

Dry rubs do very well on venison. You can even get creative and make your own dry rub that will complement the rich natural flavor of the meat. But, it’s important not to overdo it with the rub and keep it simple. You want the delicious smoky flavor to be the center of attention.

After dry brining the meat, pat it dry to remove excess moisture from the exterior of the meat. Coat the meat with a coat of olive oil (or another moist ingredient) and then apply your rub liberally just enough to coat the entire exterior. Once it is covered, wrap it and let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or more so the rub can work to impart its flavors into the meat.

Bonus Tip: Ground coffee is a great ingredient to include in your rub for venison.  


#4 - Smoke Venison Low & Slow

Since venison is a leaner meat, smoking it “low and slow” and not quickly over high heat is going to give you the tender result you are looking for. To do this, you will be smoking the meat over indirect heat. So, make sure your smoker or grill is set up so that you have a 2-zone cooking setup, with an indirect heat side and a direct heat side. 

You want to adjust the smoker or grill vents so that the internal temperature of the smoker is holding at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will allow you to cook the meat through without drying it out or burning it. Make sure you have thin, white smoke coming out of your smoker before putting the meat on.

Again, because venison is a leaner meat, it is critical to keep an eye on it to ensure you don’t overcook it.

Check out our article on smoking in cold weather to help ensure your smoker setup is ready to go. 


#5- Keep The Meat Moist


Smoking venison | Smoked venison | How to smoke venisonSource: Traeger'ing


Another critical part of keeping venison tender throughout the smoking process is keeping the meat moist. This is done by having a source of moisture within your smoker itself. 

Many smokers come with a built-in water pan or a place to put a water pan in when needed. This will help prevent the venison from quickly drying out as it cooks and keep the moisture throughout the meat itself.


#6 - The Type Of Wood You Use Makes A Difference

Whether you are using chunks, pellets, or logs, the type of wood you choose to use in your smoker makes a huge difference in the flavor that is imparted onto the meat. So, you want to choose a species of wood that will complement the venison and stand up to its rich flavor without fighting it.

Dense hardwoods hold up better when cooking for longer periods like you’ll be doing. Oak, Hickory, and Walnut are great options for smoking venison as they are medium intensity versatile choices in flavor. Fruit woods like Apple and Cherry wood also pair well with venison if you want to balance the rich meat flavor with some sweetness.

Mesquite is the strongest flavor of hardwoods. It can be used with venison but paired with the meat’s already rich flavor, expect to end up with a very robust final flavor.


#7 - Cook By Temperature And Not Time

You may be wondering how long to smoke venison. The last thing you want to do is rely solely on a prescribed cooking time when you’re smoking. This can quickly lead to a dried or burnt chunk of meat because each piece is different in size and thickness. The best thing to do is have a good meat thermometer on hand and cook to temperature and not time.

For venison, you want to smoke it until it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Most venison cuts, like loin (aka backstrap), are best enjoyed medium-rare.

Keep in mind that once you remove it from the smoker, you will have a brief residual increase in temperature. After you take it out of the smoker, wrap it in foil and let it rest for a little bit before carving to help retain the juices.


#8 - Pair Your Smoked Venison With The Right Beverage


pairing porter and venison | smoked venison | venison and beerSource: Father & Us


The type of beverage you choose when it’s time to eat has a big impact on the flavors you’ll be tasting in the meat. Pair your smoked venison with a good Porter or Stout beer to amplify and complement the meat’s delicious flavor.


Wrapping It All Up

When cooked properly, smoked venison can be a deliciously tender game meat that doesn’t have an overly “gamey” taste. By following the tips above, straight from champion pitmasters, you can ensure you end up with a great-tasting and juicy result and not dried out deer jerky. Proper preparation is key when it comes to smoking venison. 

Is venison one of your favorite game meats to smoke? Have you recently smoked venison for the first time? Are you planning to try smoking venison soon? Tell us all about it by leaving a comment below. We want to hear from you!

Here at BBQ Champs Academy, you can master your smoker or grill and learn how to cook using the same techniques and tricks the pros use. Through stunning high-def videos that you can access any time, you’ll learn step-by-step methods alongside their insider secrets. Our Pitmasters and Grillmasters will show you from beginning to end how to cook delicious, competition-worthy barbecue.

For the full inside look, check out the All-Access Pass. Our classes also make great gifts! Get your fellow outdoor cooking enthusiast one of our gift cards and help them elevate their barbecue game as well!

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