With direct grilling, the meat is cooked on a grate over the embers at temperatures between 200°C and 300°C. This process takes a total of about two hours. Steaks, chops, sausages and other small cuts can be prepared in a short time. Briefly not paying attention, the steak is quickly charred while still raw inside, or it is tough and dry.

“Indirect grilling is gentler and better for larger pieces of meat,” says Michael Hoffmann from Rösrath, who has been German grilling champion several times. “The grilled food lies next to the embers and cooks in the hot air stream at 150°C to 160°C.”Larger pieces are cooked evenly in this way. Roast beef, for example, takes up to 2 hours to cook. If you have even more time, choose the supreme discipline, the barbecue method: Large pieces such as pork shoulder or beef brisket are cooked for up to 16 hours in special smokers. “The temperature is 110°C to 130°C, and the fire burns in a separate room,” explains grill master Hoffmann. ” The addition of woods provides additional smoky flavor.”

There are now numerous smoker grills on the market. For indirect grilling you don’t necessarily need a smoker, but only a good (kettle) grill with a lid. 

What are the advantages of indirect grilling??

The long cooking process means that even tough pieces become tender and juicy. The high proportion of connective tissue is converted into gelatin by the long-lasting heat. For this, the temperature must be neither too high nor too low, otherwise the process stops and the meat becomes tough. But that’s not the only advantage: With indirect grilling, no fat can drip into the embers – so no polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs for short), which are suspected of causing cancer, are produced during grilling.

Why should the smoker burn in?

Your new smoker needs to be ‘burned in’ before it can be used for the first time. If you run your hand over the metal, you’ll notice the rough surface. This is due to the open-pored steel, which must be coated with smoke and soot before grilling for the first time. This takes about 4 hours in total, but it is very uncomplicated: Cover the entire bottom of the smoker with charcoal. Target temperature is 120°C. If the smoker gets too hot, open the lid. After one or two hours, brush the entire grill with vegetable oil, for example sunflower or rapeseed oil. After that it should be heated up again for two hours to 120°C. When the grill has cooled down, oil the grill grate again and the new smoker is ready for use.

Which meat is suitable for grilling with the smoker??

Already the purchase decides whether the result will be a success. It is therefore better to avoid plastic-wrapped meat from the supermarket. Oxygen is often added to the air space so that the meat still shines through the foil rosy and fresh even days later. The very aggressive oxygen molecules make the meat dry and tough. At the butcher’s you get free advice on the meat and can decide for yourself how big the piece should be, because it is cut freshly. However, very few butchers still do the slaughtering themselves. It is best to ask where the meat comes from. Ideally, you get your meat directly from the farmer. Of course, this quality has its price, but you can clearly taste the difference. But which meat is suitable for direct or indirect grilling??

  1. premium cuts: Unlike regular grilling, preferred cuts such as tenderloin, rump steak or sirloin may not be your first choice when indirect grilling. “They tend to be grilled hot and then cooked with a lid on,” explains expert Hoffmann.
  2. Muscle chunks: Especially with beef, the front cuts like shoulder, brisket and ribs are coveted. They are particularly strong, because the animal trains its muscles in these areas by movements. Therefore, these parts require a particularly long cooking time, at a constant and not too high temperature. They contain an increased amount of connective tissue, which only transforms into the soft gelatin during the long cooking process, so that the meat then almost falls apart. It becomes particularly tender and juicy, and thanks to its high fat content, it is extremely aromatic.
  3. Small animals: “Fish that falls apart is always grilled indirectly,” says the expert. Solid fish meat (tuna, for example) or whole fish can also be grilled directly. The best way to prepare a chicken is on a beer can to keep it nice and juicy, or you can cut it up into quarters.

Smoker grilling instructions: 6 tips for newbies

However much grilling experience you have: With a closed lid, the technique changes. We tell you what you have to consider when grilling with the smoker. 

  1. Buy a thermometer: Smoking drags on for several hours, no one can or wants to stand next to it the whole time. A meat thermometer tells you the core temperature of the grilled food and thus allows you to prepare everything according to taste.
  2. Don’t open: It’s no problem to open the grill from time to time, as long as you don’t do it every 10 minutes. To keep the temperature constant at around 110°C, it’s quite enough to check the food under the hood every 2 hours or so.
  3. Keep an eye on the fire: Despite temperature checks, a fire must always be observed separately. When it’s windy, flames can quickly get too big, and the meat burns. You also need to be careful that the drippings don’t catch fire.
  4. Soak wood chips: For extra-long cooking, be sure to soak the wood so that the heat is lower. Smoke comes from wet wood – dry wood just burns, but can replace charcoal to some extent.
  5. Don’t be alarmed: A piece of meat that has been cooked in a smoker for about 10 hours will look like a piece of charcoal afterwards. Sugar in the marinade caramelizes after some time. Cut off layer beforehand or, when desired brown crust is achieved (usually halfway through grilling), wrap in aluminum foil.
  6. Don’t bite into it: For meat to remain tender and juicy, it must rest after it is cooked (duration: 20 percent of total cooking time). This relaxes the meat fibers and the meat juices are distributed evenly again. Simply wrap the meat in aluminum foil, then place it in an empty thermo box with a bottle filled with hot water. So the meat is still hot and fresh after 2 hours.

Which woods provide the perfect smoke flavor when smocking?

Not the charcoal brings the taste into the meat, but the wood. That’s why not only a charcoal grill is suitable for smocking, but also a gas or electric appliance. “You can also achieve tasty results with this in a smoker box with different woods,” knows barbecue expert Hoffmann. ” The only important thing is that there is an enclosed space where the smoke can collect or where smoke can pass through.” For many palates, especially in the beginning, you will hardly be able to taste a difference in wood. So you can also use something from your own garden. Due to their high resin content, conifers are the only woods you are not allowed to burn. Classic firewood comes from fruit trees, but beech wood is most often used.

It is important that your smoking wood is completely dry. Depending on its thickness, it must be allowed to dry for 2 to 3 years. It must also be free of bark, resin and chemicals, as well as motor oil (the latter if it has been previously chopped with a chainsaw). If you don’t have your own garden, you can buy a variety of woods in all possible sizes in specialized stores. Wood chips from old whiskey barrels are very popular, because they develop particularly aromatic smoke when smoked.

A tip from our expert: Coordinate the woods and the recipes – for example, use cherry wood for smoking when you marinate meat in cherry. Strong meat tolerates strong wood, while fish should be smoked more gently. You’re right on the money with this one: 

  • Beech: The classic among smoking woods, it’s by far the most commonly used for this purpose. It is pleasantly mild, balanced in flavor and therefore universally applicable, for fish, poultry, beef and pork. 
  • Alder: This wood is equally popular. It has a very subtle smoke flavor with a bit of sweetness. The mild, subtle smoke goes well with fish and seafood as well as white meats, but also vegetables. 
  • Hickory: The most popular wood in the USA. It gives meat the typical barbecue aroma and gives spareribs, pulled pork and larger briskets an intense, smoky flavor. But also goes very well with all other types of meat.  
  • Cherry: The insider’s tip among domestic fruit woods. The sweet, mild fruit flavor gives a soft pink color to light meats. Is perfect for fish, beef, pork and poultry.
  • Apple: Compared to cherry, for example, this wood develops a much more aromatic smoke. This still tastes sweet and gives a mildly fruity aroma that goes well with poultry and pork, but also with fish. 
  • Whiskey: Wood chips are often obtained from old bourbon barrels. If none are available, you can soak your own oak punks in some whiskey. 
  • Citrus woods: Lemon, orange or grapefruit wood usually develops a slightly pungent aroma that still allows you to detect the citrus note at any time. This aroma goes particularly well with pork, poultry, fish and any vegetables.

How to make the perfect spare ribs in the smoker

Ingredients for 6 people: 

  • 3.5 to 4 kg ribs
  • 15 tablespoons rib rub (recipe below) 
  • 200 ml apple juice
  • 500 ml tomato ketchup
  • 110 g brown sugar
  • 50 g honey
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Preparation of the spare ribs in the smoker:

  1. Remove the silver skin from the bone side of spareribs and excess fat. Lightly score the remaining skin on the underside over each bone to make it easier to pull off the bone later. Sprinkle with rib-rub and then marinate overnight in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap.
  2. The next day, set up the kettle grill with a few charcoal briquettes to smock at 130°C. Unwrap the spareribs and place them meat side down in the center of the grate, smokey for 45 minutes. During the first half hour, place watered wood chips on the embers (such as apple or cherry). Turn after 45 minutes and smock for another 45 minutes.
  3. Remove the ribs from the grill and wrap them individually in aluminum foil with 4 to 5 tablespoons of apple juice each. Smoke in it for another 1.5 hours, increasing the temperature to 150°C so that the apple juice simmers slightly.
  4. For the barbecue sauce, combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan, bring to the boil briefly and simmer for 20 minutes while stirring.
  5. Unwrap the spareribs and brush thinly with the warm barbecue sauce. Smoke for another 60 minutes, brushing occasionally with the sauce. Do not allow to get too dark! 
  6. Serve in a cadillac cut – that is, cut so that meat is still attached to one bone on the right and left side respectively. 

Nutritional values per serving: 818 calories, 33 grams protein, 59 grams carbohydrates, 47 grams fat

Ingredients for the Rib-Rub (yields 100 grams of seasoning mix):

  • 3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons paprika powder, noble sweet
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp allspice (ground) or clove powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Oil of choice

Mix the spice mixture with oil. This makes a great marinade.

By the way: The spice mixture is also a great souvenir and a nice little gift for friends.  

Smoking takes conventional grilling to a new level. Finally you can grill not only steaks and sausages, but also large cuts of beef and pork. The long wait is worth it, because the meat is butter-tender and aromatic due to the slow cooking process.  

About the Author

Andrew Scott

ANDREW SCOTT, Founder Mountaineer Country Tours About me In my spare time I test toys and that's why I created this site. If you have any questions feel free to ask and I'll be happy to reply to you by email or in comments.

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