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The Art of Smoking Different Cuts of Meat

Everything gets better with BBQ

Group of youngsters chilling out at garden chilling and enjoying

Smoking meat has not only become a passionate hobby for many but is also the theme of thousands of successful restaurants across the country. I mean, who doesn’t love a great meal of barbequed ribs and chicken! There are countless books written on smoking meat, but it’s a much simpler process than you might think. Let’s dive into the BBQ basic requirements and get smokin’!

The Right Meat
Remember, you are slow cooking, so you will want to find a piece of meat that will benefit from that process. Looks for cuts of meat with a lot of marbling, you know, fat? All of that flavorful connective tissue will create the most succulent and delicious end product. Beef brisket is a great go-to choice, as well as pork shoulder, which will just fall apart with tenderness. For smoking a steak, you’ll be more successful with larger cuts. Tri-tip and chuck eye also do great in the smoker. If ribs are your thing you can consider baby backs or spare ribs to try. Spare ribs are a bit more tender and flavorful. And of course, BBQ chicken is always a favorite. 

The Wood
Here is a quick run-down of the wide variety of woods that work best. 

  • Alder – light and sweet flavor, pairs beautifully with poultry, fish, and white meats.

  • Applewood – fruity and sweet, delicious with fish, pork, and poultry

  • Hickory – strong, distinct flavor, great with red meats, especially ribs. Best used in chunks to avoid flare-ups.

  • Pecan – fruity flavor, burns cooler than other woods, so best used with larger meat cuts like pork roast and briskets, also work nicely with fish, chops, and poultry.

  • Maple – lovely delicate, sweet taste, darkens the meat as it smokes. Usually used for ham and poultry, does wonders paired with applewood, oak, or alder.

  • Mesquite – the most pungent wood so easily overpowers your meat if not used correctly. Can mix with other woods to tone down, but it is best used with smaller cuts of meat that require shorter cooking times. 

  • Oak – fantastic for large cuts of meat that require long cooking times, subtle flavor that requires more time to seep into the meat.

  • Cherrywood – pairs well with oak, hickory, and alder work best with red meats and pork.

Rub vs. Brine

There are two strong arguments for brining vs rub. Brining meat helps keeps it from drying out in the smoking process. Brining for 10-12 hours prior to smoking yields the best results. On the other hand, some believe that brine runs the risk of making the meat too salty and are of the belief that the low and slow cooking process does the job of the brine. Low and slow breaks down the collagen inside of the meat which is what creates the silky texture that we all love. A good basic rub is: 1/2 C kosher salt, 1/2 C brown sugar, 1 T lemon pepper, 1 T black pepper, 2 t chili flakes. Lots of smokers use brine and rub! See what works best for you.


The Equipment & the Smoke
If you haven’t yet invested in a smoker, you can use a charcoal grill. Here’s how:

  1. Pile lit coals inside of the bottom damper. Be sure to keep all of the coals are on one side. 

  2. Slowly add more coals until it you get it up to 250 degrees – the hottest the grill or smoker should get. 

  3. Place the wood on top of the coals. Once your grill is at 250 degrees, replace the grate. 

  4. Place meat on the grate, opposite side from the coals.

  5. Put the lid on the grill with the lids open damper just above the meat. That is key.

  6. Don’t open the lid!! 

  7. Four hours later – you can open it! Your meat should be juicy, tender and amazing.

The Finish

Get your favorites BBQ sauce and either sauce up your smoked meat and let it smoke for another 15-20 minutes, or sauce it up and dig in!

Sound like too much work? Come on into Southbank Original Barbecue. We offer the tastiest favorites such as pulled pork, drummies, wings, ribs, and much more. Mosey on down to 129 E Hydraulic Street, Yorkville, IL 60560. We’re open late every night look forward to serving you. Take a peek at our menu, you’ll be running in! Call (630) 385-2477 for questions and reservations.