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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
“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.
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).
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.
Source: Food Network
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.
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.
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 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.
Source: The New York Times
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!).
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!
Usually, when you think of a beef pot roast, you think of one slow-cooking for hours in the oven or Crockpot. But, things don’t always have to be done the same way. This is one of those examples. Why not get some delicious wood smoke flavor on a roast? Your grill or smoker actually offers another great way to cook a delicious pot roast.
In this article, we’ve put together 8 tips on how to cook pot roast on a BBQ grill straight from Champion pitmasters:
We’ve said it plenty of times before but it is so critical: your final result is only as good as the meat you start with. For a good roast cooked on the grill, your best options for the type of a cut are going to be a chuck roast, which is a very affordable and delicious option, or a rump roast.
As far as the appearance of the meat, a good roast will be a deep red color with bright, white fat marbling running throughout the meat. It will also be dry to the touch and have a slightly sweet smell. Your best bet for the freshest roast is going to be from your local butcher shop.
In regards to the size of the roast you’ll need, a good rule of thumb is a half-pound of boneless meat per adult.
If you decide to go with a chuck roast cut, before it goes on the grill, you should tie it up with butcher’s twine. By wrapping/tying the twine around the meat every couple of inches down the length of the roast, it will help keep it together while it is cooking.
Don’t be in a hurry to throw a refrigerator-cold roast onto the grill. For the best results, you want to let the roast sit out at room temperature for a little bit first. Taking the chill off of the meat will produce juicier and more evenly cooked meat. If you take the time to properly tie up the meat (if it’s a chuck roast) and season it with a dry rub (and marinade if you want) it will give it time to come closer to room temperature.
Just let the meat sit out of the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes covered with foil or butcher paper. Keep in mind that for safety reasons, meat should never sit out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours (1 hour on hot, summer days).
Bonus tip: After it has set out, make sure to also pat the roast dry before you season it.
No matter if you are using a grill or smoker, to properly cook a pot roast on the grill, you need to make sure you have a two-zone cooking setup. You need one side that is direct high heat and one side that is indirect heat and a lower temperature. The direct side will enable you to sear it (see more on this below) and the indirect side will enable you to slow cook it until it is done.
One of the best things about cooking meat on a grill is the delicious caramelization you can achieve on the exterior of it. So, before you start slow-cooking the roast, use the high heat side of the grill to get a good exterior crust on all sides of it first. This will not only impart some good wood-smoke flavor onto it but also help lock in the moisture inside the meat.
But, you only want to sear it long enough to get the exterior crust. Remember, you are NOT going to cook this roast over high heat the whole time.
Source: Spruce Eats
Bonus tip: Hickory or pecan wood are going to be your best flavors/types of wood when it comes to grilling a beef roast.
One of the things that makes pot roast so good is the fall-apart tenderness that comes from it slow cooking and braising in its own juices. To do this on the grill you need to wrap it up.
So, after it has been seared, wrap it in a layer of aluminum foil and leave the top part open just slightly. Once it is wrapped, place it on the grates on the indirect heat side of the grill, as far away from the heat source as possible, and let it slowly roast. The ideal cooking temperature to slow-cook your roast will be about 300°F - 325°F.
You want to let it cook until it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 145ºF. So, make sure you’ve got your digital meat thermometer on hand as well. For fall apart tenderness you want to cook it until it reaches 190°- 205°F internal temperature.
Once your roast is cooked to temperature, let it rest before you serve it. Letting it rest for about 10-15 minutes gives the interior juices time to be reabsorbed back into the meat’s fibers. This will give you a more tender and juicy final result.
If your delicious grilled roast doesn’t end up getting totally devoured when you first serve it, the leftovers can make great roast beef sandwiches. If you do have leftover roast beef, make sure you store it properly. When stored in an airtight container, it can safely last in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. When vacuum sealed, it can be refrigerated for up to 7 days or frozen for up to 6 months.
Go ahead and add pot roast to one of the delicious but somewhat unusual options that you may not initially think to grill. Cooking a pot roast on the grill is easy to do and by following the tips we covered above, you can end up with a tasty, juicy, and fall apart roast that will have everyone’s mouths watering.
Pair your roast with some grilled potatoes and grilled vegetables (grilled tomato halves are perfect!) and you’ve got yourself a delicious and hearty outdoor-cooked meal.
Have you cooked a pot roast on your BBQ grill? Going to try it soon? If so, leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!
Do you want to elevate your smoking and grilling skills like never before? If so, join the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters in the first-of-their-kind step-by-step virtual barbecue cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy! In these great classes, you’ll learn competition-level BBQ cooking methods, insider tips, and much more. Grab your All-Access pass today and start showing off your delicious barbecue cooking in no time!
Don’t miss any of the latest insider info and competition BBQ news straight from barbecue pros. Make sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel today!
One great thing about having a smoker is that you can cook a huge variety of things. From appetizers to a huge whole packer brisket to feed an army and everything in between. You can even make some delicious snacks to have on hand when you’re feeling “munchy”.
One great snack, especially if you’re looking for something protein-packed, is smoked jerky. Drying and curing meat is a method that’s been used for centuries to preserve it for long periods. What we know as jerky actually came from the Quechua, a South American tribe from the ancient Inca Empire who referred to it as "ch'arki".
And when it comes to how to make jerky in a smoker at home, it’s a lot easier than you may think!
We went straight to the Champion BBQ Pitmasters to find out everything you need to know to make jerky. In this article, we’ve put together 13 pro tips on smoking jerky yourself. Let’s take a look:
When smoking jerky, you should always start with a lean, economical cut of meat. The meat needs to be lean because fat does not dry out properly and can’t be stored for long. So, some good options of cuts for jerky include a beef eye of round roast or sirloin tip roast.
Traditionally jerky is made from beef. But don’t be afraid to experiment with different types and cuts of meat. Turkey, pork, lamb, and even game meats like venison and moose can make good jerky. Just make sure the cut is as lean as possible.
When prepping the meat for jerky, it is very important to slice against the grain in the meat. If you go with the grain, you’ll end up with tough, stringy, and extremely chewy jerky. So, going against the grain will ensure that your jerky has a nice bite-through without being really tough. Jerky that is done right will actually be a tiny bit soft and have some give when you bite into it. You shouldn’t have to tug at it with your teeth.
Just as important as cutting against the grain is to make sure you are cutting the meat into thin even strips. Your best bet is to use a very sharp knife to slice it into strips that are about 1/4” thick. This will ensure the meat dries out properly. It is also important to remove any excess exterior fat as you are slicing the meat.
One trick to help make it easier to slice the meat at a consistent width is to wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours to partially freeze it first.
It is not a requirement to marinate the meat before it goes in the smoker (versus using a dry rub), but it does often result in better jerky. So, after you’ve sliced it, place the meat in your marinade of choice and make sure all of the pieces are covered evenly. You’ll get the best results if the meat is allowed to marinate in the refrigerator for 6-24 hours.
A marinade that uses salt, pepper, and garlic (SPG) as the base ingredients will give a nice, balanced, flavor. This jerky marinade from Charbroil is a good place to start:
Homemade Jerky Marinade:
Remember, the goal of smoking jerky is to dry the meat out. So, if you have marinated the strips, before you put them in your smoker it is important to lay them out on paper towels to remove any excess marinade. Then, the strips will be ready to either lay directly on the metal racks/grates or hang.
If your smoker has plenty of room below the metal racks/grates and the bottom (and the heat source), like in a vertical smoker, hanging the strips of meat is a very good method to use. There’s nothing wrong with laying the strips across the grates, but hanging the meat seems to allow the strips to properly dry out evenly, sometimes even in less time.
To hang the strips, just slide one toothpick through one of the ends of each strip. Or you can space apart several pieces on a long wood skewer. The toothpick/skewer can then rest on the grate while the strips hang below it. Just make sure to soak the toothpicks or skewers in water first so they don’t catch fire.
Source: My Plastic-Free Life
To ensure that all of the strips of meat dry out properly, make sure not to overlap any of them when placing them. Use multiple grates/racks to allow for enough space between the slices.
If you have already soaked the strips of meat in a “wet” marinade, do not put water in the water pan when smoking the jerky. You don’t want to add more moisture to the exterior of the meat. But, if you used a dry rub to season the strips of meat without any liquid, put a little bit of water or other liquid of choice in the pan during the first 1 to 2 hours of smoking.
The flavor/type of wood you use will be very evident in the taste of the jerky. So, you don’t want to overpower the meat by using a strong flavored wood, like Mesquite. Unless that’s the flavor you are going for. Hickory, Apple, Oak, and Pecan wood infuse the best flavor for jerky.
Remember, you’re not cooking the meat like normal. For this smoking process, the goal is to dehydrate it and remove all the moisture. The ideal temperature to smoke jerky at is usually between 150°F and 170°F. These lower temperatures allow the meat to dehydrate, without being traditionally cooked. You could go up to 200°F and probably be OK but any hotter and you run the risk of overly charring your jerky.
If your smoker’s burning at the right temperature, you’ll see a thin, blue smoke coming out. If the smoke is thick, billowing, white smoke, open the vents more and increase the temperature of the smoker. Thick white smoke can impart a bitter taste to the meat and ruin your jerky.
Source: Kamado Guru
The answer to this question can vary widely. The important thing will be to keep an eye on it. It should take between 3 and 10 hours depending on the thickness of your jerky and the type of smoker you have. For example, at 200°F in a pellet smoker, jerky usually finishes in 3 to 5 hours. But in a Masterbuilt electric smoker, it will usually take 6 to 8 hours.
So, check for doneness at the 3-hour mark. Then check every hour and even more frequently as it gets closer to done. Remove any slices as they are done to prevent overcooking.
Once you’re 3 hours or so into the smoking time, periodically pull a strip out of the smoker and let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Then check to see if it is done by bending it AFTER it has cooled down. You want to smoke the strips until your jerky is firm and bends and cracks but does not break in half. Small white fibers within the meat are also a good indication that the jerky is finished smoking.
As you can see, the answer to how to make jerky in a smoker is not overly complicated. If you follow the tips above, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying some delicious jerky that you can snack on for weeks. (Plus it’s WAY cheaper than store-bought jerky!)
You can expect your homemade jerky to last 1-2 months when stored in an airtight container. If you store it in ziplock-type bags in a dark pantry, the jerky will last about 1 week. When stored in a refrigerator, your jerky will last 1-2 weeks.
Have you tried making jerky in a smoker? Know of any other important tips? Leave a comment below and let us know. We want to hear all about it!
Ready to really elevate your meat smoking and grilling skills like never before? Join the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters in our first-of-their-kind in-depth virtual BBQ classes here at BBQ Champs Academy! In these classes, you’ll learn competition-level BBQ cooking techniques, insider secrets, and more. Get your All-Access pass today and start showing off your high-caliber cooking in no time!
Make sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest insider info and competition BBQ news straight from barbecue pros!
It seems like all the time there are new techniques, hacks, and accessories that come out to help make smoking and barbecuing easier or more successful. What was once used mainly by butchers as wrapping for meat orders has become one of the latest must-have accessories for slow smoking large cuts of meat – pink butcher paper.
In this article, we’ve broken down what exactly pink butcher paper is, how it’s a better alternative to foil, and how to use pink butcher paper.
Even if you’ve never bought it, chances are you've seen pink butcher paper before. Sometimes also referred to as peach paper, this paper is usually what your cuts of meat (and sometimes seafood) will come wrapped in at the butcher’s counter.
Pink Butcher paper is an FDA-approved 100% food-grade type of kraft paper that is made from Southern Pine pulp. It has a high level of elasticity and will not tear easily when exposed to moisture. It also still has breathability, so it will still allow a good amount of smoke through. All of these things make pink butcher paper perfect for smoking meat.
The color of the pink (peach) butcher paper is because the paper is natural and unbleached, unlike the white variety. “Peach” is just another reference to the color of this paper and not any kind of peach flavoring or content.
This paper can be purchased in either individual pre-cut sheets or full rolls and is safe to put in your smoker at the normal “low and slow” cooking temperatures. It is important to note that waxed butcher paper, wax paper, and freezer paper should never go in your smoker or grill. It can catch fire and the wax will emit toxic fumes at high heat.
Butcher paper and parchment paper are very similar. So what is the difference? Compared to parchment paper, pink butcher paper is thicker, more absorbent, and more is more permeable (breathes better). It also has a lower heat threshold. With butcher paper, when smoking meat you’ll be able to still get a good level of smoke flavoring and a better bark/crust on the exterior of the meat.
So, deciding between using butcher paper or parchment paper largely comes down to the method you are using for cooking and the kind of results you are going for.
Pink butcher paper is perfect for slow-smoking meat. It will help retain heat while still preventing a buildup of excess moisture and allowing the meat to breathe. If you do want to retain moisture and collect juices for a sauce while smoking meat, parchment paper is a better choice.
Keep in mind that parchment paper often comes treated with a coating of silicone to increase its non-stick capabilities. Paper with coatings like this works just fine in an oven (especially for baking) but should never go in your smoker or on your grill.
So, for high-heat grilling applications, you should always opt for unwaxed parchment paper versus butcher paper. Parchment paper does have a higher temperature rating and can easily handle the temperature on the indirect heat side of a grill. Pink butcher paper, on the other hand, will just catch fire.
There are two main reasons that many BBQ pitmasters are now using pink butcher paper. The first is that it helps beat “the stall” that sometimes happens when smoking meat, especially beef brisket.
Wondering what “the stall” is? To put it simply, it’s the point during a low and slow smoking session that the internal temperature of a large cut of meat stops rising while cooking. (Make sure to check out our in-depth article on the stall for more information on this!)
The other good reason to use pink butcher paper when smoking meat is during the final stages of cooking. Wrapping the meat towards the end helps to lock in the meat’s internal moisture and heat, keeping it tender and juicy. The loose-fibered and loose-fitting pink butcher paper still allows the meat to breathe and can even help speed up smoking times without drying the meat out.
You may be familiar with the method known as the “Texas crutch”, which is using aluminum foil to wrap meat during low n’ slow smoking. This method is good for smoking pork ribs and can be very effective for helping big pieces of meat, like brisket, power through the stall.
But remember, once something is wrapped in aluminum foil, it is now inside an impermeable reflective layer. No more smoke can get in and heat cannot escape. So, cooking continues uninterrupted and no moisture escapes at all. With beef, this will sometimes make the meat too moist and it eliminates the chance for a nice crisp bark to further form on the exterior of the beef.
With pink butcher paper, the paper still allows the meat to breathe and doesn’t lock excess moisture inside the wrapping. You’ll still end up with moist meat, but you’ll get that delicious crispy bark that you want on your brisket or beef ribs. It will also help you effectively get through the stall and can even help shorten the length of the stall phase.
Pink butcher paper is most often used when slow-smoking beef brisket at lower temperatures. But, you can wrap many different types of meat cuts that you cook on a smoker. Pitmasters are now wrapping pork butt, ribs, and more.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what cuts come out better when wrapped in butcher paper and what cuts get better results with aluminum foil.
As you can see, pink butcher paper can be very helpful when smoking meat. But some other great uses for it that can come in handy as well, including:
Source: Challenge Butter
Pink butcher paper makes it easier to maintain proper internal meat temperature, allows the meat to breathe and absorb smoke flavor, prevents over-steaming, and enables you to achieve a perfect exterior bark.
If you’re not using pink butcher paper when slow smoking large cuts of meat, you should start today! This inexpensive cooking accessory adds utility and versatility to your smoking endeavors.
Do you use pink butcher paper when smoking meat? Have you recently tried it for the first time? Leave a comment below. We would love to hear about your experience with it!
If you are ready to really kick your meat smoking and grilling skills up a level, join the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters in first-of-their-kind in-depth virtual BBQ classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Here you’ll learn competition-level cooking techniques, insider tips, and more. You can be showing off your competitor-caliber cooking in no time. Get your All-Access pass today!Also, make sure to check out the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel! Subscribe to get all the latest insider info and competition barbecue news straight from BBQ pros!
For anyone smoking meat, one of the main goals is to ensure it is moist and juicy when it comes out of your cooker. There are a lot of different things that can affect the temperature and moisture content of the meat while it is cooking.
For example, higher altitude environments or other places where the outside humidity is low makes it harder to prevent the meat from drying out. Similarly, smoking in winter weather offers its own set of challenges. The type of smoker you are using, the type of meat you are cooking, and the cooking temperatures are some of the other factors that can affect the meat’s moisture levels.
So, if you are struggling with how to keep meat moist while smoking, we’ve put together some of the top tips you can follow to ensure you end up with a deliciously juicy result every time:
This is one of the most important tips on the list. If you start with a sub-par cut of meat, nothing you do is really going to help when it comes to keeping the meat moist while smoking it. A quality cut of meat is going to give you better results, so don’t be too cheap. Of course, there are still some good economical cuts of meat that can be smoked well. The main thing to remember is that fat holds moisture. So, a good lean-to-fat ratio in the meat is crucial so don’t go too lean.
Salt helps not only to flavor the meat but helps it retain its moisture as well. The process known as denaturing, which is initiated by the salt, actually helps to slightly break down the proteins in the meat and add to its moisture level. So, before your meat goes in the smoker, dry brine it with kosher salt, use a salt-based dry-rub, or use a liquid salt-based brine, depending on the type of meat.
A liquid brine is great for leaner cuts of meat. This will give you a slight buffer and allow you to smoke it longer without it getting too dry.
Make sure to check out our article on how to make a great homemade dry rub.
Source: Food Network
Leaner and tougher cuts of meat, especially large cuts like beef brisket, are easy to dry out if you’re not careful. That’s why using a meat injector and a liquid injection is a great method for keeping the meat moist.
Injecting the meat will allow you to deliver fats, salt, seasonings, and more liquid deep into the core of the meat, far below the surface. The mixture that you inject will help to moisten the meat from the inside out and prevent it from drying out while you are slow smoking it for long periods.
Check out our article on how to inject brisket for more information on proper injection techniques.
One way to lock in moisture while you are smoking meat is to wrap it in either aluminum foil or pink/peach butcher paper. This will prevent moisture from escaping and help maintain temperature throughout the cooking session. Make sure to wrap the meat so that it is totally covered and there are no gaps where steam could escape.
Aluminum and butcher paper are both very effective for wrapping meat. The main difference to keep in mind is that butcher paper is more porous so it will let more of the smoky flavor in. Whichever material you use, don’t wrap the meat until it’s already been smoking for a few hours.
Charcoal is a very efficient fuel source, but sometimes it can be hard to control your cooker’s internal temperature when using it. Because charcoal burns very hot, using too much of it can quickly raise the internal temperature of your smoker higher than you want.
To help prevent this from happening and help ensure your meat stays moist, mix some wood chunks in with your charcoal. Doing this not only gives the meat that delicious natural wood-smoke flavor but also gives you better control over the smoker’s internal cooking temperature. Just follow the “less is more” approach when adding your charcoal to the smoker.
Check out our article on cooking with charcoal for more helpful tips on using this fuel source.
Source: Traeger Grills
If you are trying to master how to keep meat moist while smoking, the last thing you want to do is put the meat directly over the fuel source. This is one of the quickest ways to dry it out. So, make sure you are cooking using indirect heat by placing the meat away from the direct heat.
Depending on the type of smoker you have, this could mean placing the meat a couple of racks up from the bottom or placing it to one side away from the fuel source.
Being able to properly control the internal temperature of your cooker is essential. Reaching the desired cooking temperature and then maintaining that temperature will make it easier to keep the meat moist. If the temperature goes too high, you can quickly overcook the meat. If the temperature drops too low for too long, you won’t cook the meat all the way through.
So, you should be constantly monitoring your smoker’s temperature to ensure that it remains even throughout the whole cooking process. When smoking meat, you typically want to maintain a temperature around 225 to 245 degrees Fahrenheit.
A good digital thermometer is a must-have accessory and can help ensure you maintain the proper cooking temperature. You don’t want to just rely on the smoker’s built-in/mounted temperature gauge as these are rarely correct. In many cases, the smoker will be hotter in some areas than in others. You want to know the temperature of exactly where the meat is sitting.
If your smoker has air vents that are used to control the airflow and temperature (versus electronic temperature control) make sure you are comfortable with how to open and close them as needed. If you need a higher temperature, open the vents more. If you need to lower the temperature, close the vents.
Some smokers come with a built-in water pan at the bottom that you can use during each cook. The manufacturer did not include this as a side thought. If you are not using yours, start today! If you don’t have one in your smoker, put an aluminum pan with water in it on the bottom rack (in a vertical smoker) or to the side of your meat.
While you are smoking the meat, the heat of the cooker will cause the water to evaporate and create steam. This steam will help moisten the meat and seal in its internal juices.
Just because you are smoking meat doesn’t mean that the more smoke you use the better. Of course, some smoke is needed to impart that delicious wood-smoke flavor into the meat. But too much of it can quickly dry out the meat and overpower its natural flavor.
When you are smoking meat you want to aim for a thin stream of blue smoke coming out of the chimney. This indicates a good, clean-burning fire. If you start to see thick black smoke billowing, it’s probably time to replace the wood. This type of smoke can suck the moisture out of the meat and impart a strong and bitter charred taste (from creosote), which is definitely not what you want.
Spraying or basting your meat during the smoking process can help not only add flavor to the exterior of the meat but also add moisture. There are a variety of different things you can use to spray or baste depending on the barbecue style you are going for and your personal preferences.
For Carolina-style barbecue, pitmasters often use an apple cider vinegar spray. While St. Louis-style usually means occasionally brushing the meat with a semi-sweet tomato-based sauce. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different options for spraying or basting and find the one you love best!
Newer smokers often have the hardest time with this. But you must fight the urge to keep opening the lid of the smoker to check on your meat. The steam that has built up inside is released when the lid is opened. Losing this steam can cause the meat to dry out much faster.
Instead of constantly checking on the meat, trust your tools. Rely on a digital meat thermometer and the thermometer you’ve put inside the smoker (as mentioned above).
Source: Traeger Grills
Almost as important as starting with a quality cut of meat is letting it rest after it comes out of your smoker. When the meat is done and you first pull it out, it is still tensed from the heat. If you cut into it right away, you’ll cause all the tasty juices inside to leak out, making the meat really dry.
Letting the meat rest for a little bit first will allow the muscle fibers to relax and reabsorb the internal juices. Then once you do cut into it, it will be deliciously juicy. Your best bet is to let it rest for a minimum of 10 minutes. You can wrap it in clean butcher paper and towels and store it in a dry cooler to keep warm.
Sometimes smoking meat can be a challenge and requires some strategy, energy, and patience. With the tips we’ve covered above on how to keep meat moist while smoking, you can utilize a few of them and help ensure you end up with a deliciously juicy final result every time.
Have you recently used any of these methods above? Do you have another tip for keeping the meat moist? Leave a comment and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!
Ready to become the barbecue king or queen of your culdesac? Check out our virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. You can go step-by-step through a variety of great recipes with some of the top pros in the outdoor-cooking game. You’ll also get all of the insider tips you need to master your cooker. Kick your outdoor cooking skills up a level today!
Ready to learn competition-level smoking and grilling techniques from Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters? Grab your All-Access pass now and join our first-of-their-kind in-depth virtual barbecue classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. You can be showing off your competitor-caliber cooking in no time!
Make sure to check out the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel! Subscribe to stay on top of all the latest outdoor cooking and competition barbecue news, as well as insider info straight from the pros!
Even with the word “grilled” in the name, a grilled cheese sandwich is not always made on the grill anymore. The truth is, many people don’t. But, doing so can give you such a delicious result that you may not want to do it any other way going forward.
It can be tricky to properly make a grilled cheese on the grill if you’ve never done it before. The last thing you want is some great cheese and toppings ruined by totally charred and burnt bread.
To help you avoid that, we’ve put together some specific tips on how to make grilled cheese on the grill and do it successfully. Ready to perfect an actual “grilled” cheese? Let’s take a look:
First things first, you should never cook anything directly on grill grates that have leftover food particles or char. This can impact the flavor of what you are about to cook and even cause it to burn. So, to get the best results for grilled cheese on the grill, make sure your grill has been properly cleaned and the grates have been scraped off. Cranking up the heat on your grill, letting the grates warm up, and then gently scraping them off before cooking will help ensure there’s nothing leftover on the grates.
Make sure to set up your grill with multiple cooking/heat zones. The minimum should be two zones but three zones work even better for a grilled cheese on the grill. With two-zone cooking, you’ll have one zone that is the direct, high-heat side and the other zone is the indirect, low-heat side. When you do three zones, it adds a medium heat zone into the mix. Multi-zone cooking allows you to move the grilled cheese as needed throughout the cooking process to ensure the cheese is properly melting without the bread burning.
Source: Healthier Steps
Good quality, thick-sliced bread is critical for a grilled sandwich. The traditional, pre-sliced sandwich bread, which is usually pretty thin, will not do well on the grill grates. So, you want to make sure you have thick, sturdy bread that will hold up to the heat of the grill. Keep in mind that since your bread is thicker, it will take longer to melt the cheese when doing it on the grill versus a conventional grilled cheese. That’s why the multi-zone grill setup is important.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with other types of bread than the traditional white varieties. Try out whole wheat and whole grain varieties, as well as rye, pumpernickel sourdough, or even a halved donut. Then you can mix and match different types of bread, cheeses, and additional toppings to create some delicious combinations. (See more on this below)
Buttering the outsides of the bread has long been standard procedure for grilled cheese sandwiches. This helps to flavor the sandwich and prevent the bread from burning and sticking to the pan. But, if you’re going to do a grilled cheese on the grill, make sure to grab the mayonnaise. Mayo actually works better when it comes to browning the bread, preventing it from sticking to the grill grates, and keeping it just moist enough. Plus, it adds a little tangy flavor that pairs with the richness of the bread and cheese very nicely.
If you really love the taste of butter on your grilled cheese, you can still do both. Spread mayo on the outside of the bread slices and butter on the inside and place the slices mayo side down on the grill.
No matter what variety of cheese you use, the main thing is that you stick to varieties that melt nicely. Of course, the classic choice for grilled cheese is American cheese. But, as we mentioned above, you should also try some other cheeses to discover new favorites. Some other great options for grilled cheese on the grill include young cheddars, Gruyère, Comté, Fontina, jack cheeses, Taleggio, Brie, Gouda, Manchego, or Mozzarella.
Crumbly and dry fresh cheeses like Feta or overly-aged cheeses like Parmesan won’t melt very well. They’re a great way to add an additional kick of flavor to other cheese options but don’t use these as the main cheese.
Source: Nutrition Advance
The best way to ensure your cheese reaches the edge of the bread and melts perfectly is to use grated or shredded cheese. The cheese will melt faster and more evenly and you can ensure every bite of the sandwich will have a good amount of cheese.
You want to use the right type of cheese and make sure there’s enough to cover the whole sandwich, but it’s also important not to use too much cheese. Cheese spilling out the sides can cause a big mess very quickly on a grill.
Of course, the cheese is and should be the focal point of any good grilled cheese sandwich. But, if you’re going to make the effort of cooking a grilled cheese on the grill, why not kick it up a notch with some delicious toppings? Bacon, sliced ham, prosciutto, or even homemade pulled pork are great additions when you want to bring meat into the mix. (Cheddar Jack cheese, pulled pork, and BBQ sauce makes a great combo!)
Tomatoes, sliced avocado, roasted red peppers, Peppadew peppers, caramelized onions, and sauteed mushrooms all make great veggie options to add in. Thinly sliced pears, apples, or peaches can add a delicious crunch to the mix while also complementing the flavor of the cheese. If you’re looking for more crunch, potato chips or corn chips (Fritos!) are good options. Olive tapenade or mustard can add a good tangy flavor, while honey, sweet BBQ sauce, jam, or chutney can create a salty-sweet flavor profile.
When you’re cooking a grilled cheese on the grill, thinking like a BBQ pitmaster and exercising patience is going to be key. The indirect heat zone of your grill is where you are going to mainly be cooking the sandwich. To properly melt the cheese, you need to cook it low and slow.
So, keep that cooking zone in the medium to medium-low range (medium is 325 degrees to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.) This will ensure that the bread is toasting at the same rate that the cheese is melting. Then, if needed, you can use the direct, higher heat zone to toast the bread just a little more before serving.
Cook the sandwich with the grill lid closed until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is nearly melted. (Roughly 4 - 6 minutes)
Source: Trip Advisor
Everyone loves a good grilled cheese sandwich. With these tips above, you can cook the best grilled cheese directly on the grill today. As mentioned above, don’t be afraid to get creative with your cheese and topping combinations. With so many options, you could have a delicious and totally different-tasting grilled cheese every time you cook one!
Do you have a favorite combination of cheese and toppings for a grilled cheese on the grill? Have another tip we should add to the list above? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
Want to learn how to cook more great backyard BBQ? Check out our in-depth, step-by-step virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes with some of the top competition Grillmasters and Pitmasters. You can learn a variety of delicious recipes, including all the insider tips you need to know, and level up your backyard cooking skills today!
Make sure to also click Subscribe on the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to catch all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from pro cookers!
*Feature image from Land ‘O Lakes
With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, you may already be starting the planning for your big holiday meals with your family and friends, complete with the smoked turkey and all the sides. But what if you want to get everyone together for a backyard meal before, between, or shortly after the holidays (football tailgate anyone)? A seafood boil makes a great option for this occasion!
Of course, many people associate a seafood boil with the summertime. And yes, this simple meal makes a fantastic choice for that time of the year. But, even in the wintertime, in the south’s mild winter days, a low country boil makes it easy to feed a large crowd without the formal pressure of holiday meals. Plus, you can do a delicious seafood boil on the grill or in your smoker!
Here’s what you need to know about seafood boils and how to ensure you end up with a grilled seafood boil that will have everyone digging in for seconds:
When it comes to what you want to put on your seafood boil, there are a couple different ways to go. The term “seafood boil” is actually an all-encompassing term for a type of social gathering meal that is cooked in a large quantity and will include shrimp and sometimes other seafood. The best part is, with any type of seafood boil, you can just dump everything out and let everyone dig in, making cleanup super easy.
But, like there are different regional styles of BBQ, there is a variety of different regional styles of seafood boils and the differences will be in what ingredients and seasonings are included.
For example, you may have heard the term “low country boil” before. Many people ask what is a low country boil exactly? Or what is the difference between a cajun shrimp boil and a low country boil?
Here is a brief breakdown of a couple of different styles of seafood boils:
Often referred to as a “crawfish boil”, “cajun shrimp boil”, or “crab boil” and will usually include the one type of shellfish, as well as corn on the cob, new potatoes, andouille sausage, and onion. A seafood boil in Louisiana will usually be on the spicier side and seasoned with cayenne pepper, hot sauce, lemons, bay leaves, and other cajun spices.
Low-Country boils, sometimes referred to as Frogmore stew or a Beaufort boil, originated in the Carolinas, eventually making their way down through Georgia, and are usually much milder in flavor compared to Cajun boils. Though they do sometimes contain a little bit of hot sauce, the flavor of these boils will often mainly revolve around butter and Old Bay seasoning. It will always have shrimp and they’ll also include corn on the cob, red potatoes, sausage, and sometimes ham. Unlike Louisiana boils which usually only have one type of shellfish, a Low-Country boil will sometimes also have crabs, crawfish, or mussels included as well. And sometimes even a combination of all of it.
Source: Food Network
Both of the types of seafood boils above can easily be cooked on your grill or smoker. Just like you’ve got some options when it comes to what you put in the boil, you’ve got a couple of options when it comes to exactly how to cook a seafood boil on the grill:
Using a large pot to boil everything together is the most traditional way to cook a seafood boil on the grill. Depending on the type of smoker you have, you may have room to use a pot insert and smoke your boil in a pot also.
Here’s how to do a large pot boil-
This method is a fun alternative to the traditional pot boil and allows you to really smoke everything and infuse some of that great wood-fire taste you love. Doing foil packs will cook everything through more of a roasting/steaming method than traditional boiling.
Another advantage to this method is that everyone will have their own individual portion already separated out. Here’s how to do foil packs -
Similar to the foil pack method, cooking everything in a large foil sheet pan will also allow you to infuse that great smoke flavor into your boil. Here’s how to do it -
If you want to ensure you end up with a delicious seafood boil that will have everyone raving, there are definitely some pro tips to keep in mind. These include:
To ensure you have a successful seafood boil, it’s important to make sure you include enough of each ingredient for everyone to get a good portion. Of course, this may leave you with a little leftover, but it’s better to have a little too much than not enough for everyone.
To give you an idea of how much to get, here is a breakdown of ingredients for if you were doing a shrimp boil in foil packs on the grill. For every 4 people you want to have:
For this amount of ingredients above (for 4 people), you would need this much seasoning:
No matter what time of the year it is, a seafood boil on the grill is a great way to easily feed a large crowd and have very little cleanup to worry about afterward. As you can see, the process is very simple and you can get creative with what exactly you want to put in it. Whether you have a grill or a smoker, you can quickly cook up a delicious seafood spread big enough to feed a small army.
Have you done a grilled seafood boil recently? What is your favorite type of boil, maybe a cajun shrimp boil or is it a low country boil? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
Want more great backyard BBQ recipes you can cook all year long? Check out our step-by-step virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes with some of the top competition Pitmasters and Grillmasters. In these, you’ll learn a variety of delicious recipes with all of the insider tips you need to know. You can master your backyard cooking today!
Also, make sure to subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest insider info and competition BBQ news straight from pros!
*Feature image from Traeger Grills
For a long time, perfect grill marks across a steak (and other foods) have been equated to a perfectly cooked piece of meat. There’s just something about those dark lines that makes many people’s mouths start salivating. Plus, many old-school Steak Cookoff Association judges still love seeing it.
But, how do you do it properly? In this article, we’ve broken down how to get perfect grill marks every time, as well as what is actually better when it comes to getting the best flavor in your steak.
If you are looking to imprint the perfect grill marks on your meat, seafood, or vegetables, there are a few steps to follow to make that happen every time:
Note: A diamond sear pattern works best for meat and thicker seafood. Vegetables, fruit and smaller seafood do best with a singular diagonal sear pattern to ensure they are not overcooked. So, in that case, you would skip the step where the food is rotated 45 degrees to sear the other way.
With seafood, vegetables, and fruit, achieving those perfect grill marks not only looks good but can also help you gauge when the food is done cooking. But, when it comes to steak and other cuts of meat, you actually want to go beyond just grill marks to get the best result.
When you sear grill marks into a piece of meat, it is more than just the aesthetic aspect. What is actually happening is known as the Maillard reaction. This is a chemical reaction that occurs when heat changes the chemical structure of amino acids, proteins, and sugars in the meat. When this happens, the surface of the meat caramelizes and browns, resulting in a much better flavor profile.
So, when you are just going for grill marks on the meat, you are actually stopping the Maillard reaction before it can spread over the entire exterior surface. Instead, grill marks are just a superficial reaction that limits the perfectly browned parts to just where the meat touches the grates.
Unless you are grilling seafood, vegetables, or fruit, to get the best results and maximum flavor, you want to sear as much of the exterior of the meat to a golden brown. Thus, allowing the Maillard reaction to happen over the entire piece of the meat. This is especially true for beef. So, grilling a steak or other cut of meat this way will give you more even cooking and a richer, more delicious flavor.
To achieve this result, you may need to change the way that you are grilling your meat. Unlike when you are just wanting to imprint the grill marks, you don’t want to grill your cuts directly over the high heat for long. You need to create a two-zone grilling set up and cook the meat over medium-high heat on the indirect side (at about 225°F) for most of the time. Then, make sure you are flipping often. Doing this will allow your meat to cook evenly, give it a delicious crust over the entire exterior, and properly cook the interior.
When it comes to grilling steaks over a two-zone setup, many people think of first searing the cut over high heat and then moving it to the indirect side to allow the interior to cook the rest of the way. Sometimes this is still a good method.
But, for steaks that are over 1” thick (and even other cuts of meat), this can actually lead to the meat burning on the exterior before the interior is done. This is because meat cooks from the outside to the inside. The last thing you want is burnt, black char all over your steak. So, to ensure this doesn’t happen with a thick-cut steak, utilize the reverse sear method.
With this method, you’ll start the steak over the indirect heat side. When the internal temperature of the meat reaches about 115°F, move it over to the direct heat side to get that brown crust over the entire exterior. Make sure you flip and rotate the steak often to ensure even browning.
In doing a reverse sear, you’ll get a steak that is perfectly crusted on the exterior and properly cooked through the interior.
Source: Fine Cooking
There are times where you may still want to get those perfectly lined grill marks, especially when it comes to seafood and vegetables. Following the steps above, you’ll be able to do that every time. But, when it comes to steaks and other meats, allowing the entire exterior of the meat to sear into a beautiful crust will give you an unmatched flavor.
Do you like having grill marks? Have you recently mastered the all-over exterior crust? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
For more tips on grilling steak like champion Grillmasters, make sure to also check out our article here on insider steak secrets.
The pro tips on grilling steak don’t stop there. Check out the in-depth online steak-grilling classes with the champion Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. Take your grilling game to the next level and master how to cook competition-caliber steak through step-by-step instructions and tips. Get your All-Access pass now and learn how to grill a perfect steak straight from the pros!
Also, don’t forget to visit the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel! Subscribe to get all of the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from pro cookers!
Chances are if you are wanting to show off your outdoor cooking skills to your family and/or friends at your next backyard get-together or tailgate party, you’re going to want something that can wow them. In that case, a BBQ favorite you could go for is hot smoked sausage!
But, if it’s not something you’ve really done before (or if you’ve ended up with some not-so-tasty links on your last attempt) you may be wondering how to properly smoke sausage.
So, in this article, we’ve put together some insider tips straight from the pitmasters to help ensure you know how to smoke sausage to a perfect finish - every time. Let’s take a look:
There are many different types of sausage, but not all of them necessarily do well being hot smoked. In general, you want to go for fresh raw sausage versus pre-cooked sausage. Doing so will give you much more of that rich and delicious smoked flavor you are going for.
Some good options for fresh sausage that hold smoke well include:
Feel free to experiment and cook a variety of sausages to try different ones. You don’t have to limit yourself to smoking a single type of sausage.
Just like certain types of sausage go better with smoke, certain types of wood flavors go better with sausage. So, make sure you are utilizing a complementary hardwood. Post oak is a great all-around choice with a mild yet delicious flavor. Hickory is also a good choice. It is stronger than oak but imparts a semi-sweet “bacon-like” flavor that compliments most types of sausage. Other options that work include cherry and pecan wood.
Bonus tip: Keep an eye on your wood during the cook. Around the hour and a half mark, if it is not producing much smoke anymore, change it or add new wood to continue generating the proper smoke.
Source: B&B Charcoal
While your wood is soaking, make sure you let your smoker or grill preheat to the desired temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are using a grill and adding wood to use it as a smoker, it is also important to set it up as a two-zone setup. This means you have one side that is direct heat and one side that is indirect heat. In this case, you will be smoking the sausages over the indirect heat side.
The indirect heat side of a two-zone grill setup can also act as a safe zone in the event of a flare-up, ensuring you don’t have to end up with burnt sausages.
The last thing you want is for the sausage to stick to the grates and the casing tear when you try to take them out of the cooker. You also don’t want them to end up tasting like bitter char. Regardless of which type of sausage you intend to smoke, it’s probably encased in a shell.
You can prevent these things from happening by making sure the cooking grates are properly clean and oiled, leaving you with a great non-stick surface. Always make sure to use high-heat cooking oil to ensure that the oil doesn’t burn off as your cooker heats up.
Bonus tip: Check out our article on natural homemade grill cleaner to help you keep your cooker spotless.
Another important tip to keep in mind is the spacing of the sausages on the grates. This is not the time to try and cram as many links in as possible. You want to make sure that there are 2-inches between each sausage.
This will give plenty of room for proper airflow, allowing the smoke to reach out evenly over the entire sausage.
Source: Oklahoma Joe’s
This is a critical part of smoking food that applies to any food item you are cooking. And as with anything, smoking sausage requires a precise temperature throughout the whole cook time. Let your smoker get too hot and you’ll dry out your sausage. If the smoker’s temperature is too low, you’ll struggle to get the sausage to reach a safe internal temperature.
When smoking sausage, you want to bring your smoker to an internal temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, your sausage will cook “low and slow” while still reaching a safe internal temperature. If your smoker’s temperature is not automatically controlled, make sure to keep an eye on it. Make adjustments to the fuel source or vents when needed to maintain the constant necessary temperature.
When smoking sausage, you want to flip them occasionally to ensure they cook evenly, achieve the best flavor overall, and prevent them from burning. The bottom of the sausage, the side closest to the heat source, will cook faster than the top. But don’t go crazy flipping every 20 minutes. In doing that, you will let out a lot of smoke and can negatively affect the internal temperature of your cooker.
If you’re wondering how long to smoke sausages for, it’s usually safe to assume that if your smoker has an internal temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit, it will take two to three hours to properly smoke sausage. But, it’s always best to cook to the desired internal temperature of the meat versus going strictly by time. So, make sure you have a good probe meat thermometer.
Use your thermometer to check the sausage after it’s been smoking for a while. The recommended minimum safe internal temperature you’re aiming for with sausage is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if your thermometer is reading lower than this temperature, let the sausages smoke for a little longer.
Once your sausages come out of the smoker, you can let them rest for a few minutes at room temperature. But, to ensure they are plump and juicy, they are best served right from the cooker. If left to rest for too long, the sausages’ casings will begin to shrivel and the sausage will start to dry out.
One easy way to prevent that from happening is by putting the sausage in a cold water bath to bring their temperature down and stop the cooking process.
Also, smoked sausage retains its flavor well so it can also be stored in the fridge safely for up to four days. If you want to store them longer than that, they can be kept in the freezer for up to three full months before they start to lose quality.
By following the tips we’ve covered above, you’ll be well on your way to smoking sausage to a mouth-watering and juicy finish every time. Once you’ve started to get the hang of it, don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of sausages and different types/flavors of hardwood. You might just find a few new favorite combinations.
Plan on trying your hand at smoking sausage soon? Do you know of another tip on how to smoke sausage that we left out? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!
Want to learn straight from the pros on how to cook a variety of delicious BBQ favorites and elevate your backyard cooking skills? Check out the Backyard BBQ Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy! In these easy-to-follow step-by-step virtual classes, you’ll learn how to cook a variety of favorites on the grill.
Think you are ready to dive into competition smoking and grilling techniques for a variety of meats? Grab your All-Access pass now and join our Champion Pitmasters and Grillmaster in these in-depth first-of-their-kind online BBQ classes. You can be cooking competitor-caliber food in no time!
Finally, make sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest insider info and straight from the pros!