Although many barbecue professionals might urge you to use hardwood logs in a smoker, there are many ordinary people out there that are perfectly fine heating theirs with charcoal. However, there are some proper ways to use charcoal in a smoker, otherwise, you risk jeopardizing the taste of your smoked meats.
Continue reading to learn some recommended methods of using charcoal in a smoker, as well as, some additional meat smoking tips that will have you cooking like a pro!
Choosing a Quality Charcoal Product
Not all charcoals are a good fit for smoking meat. For instance, some self-starting products contain lighter fluid additives that induce and accelerate burning. These are not the type of chemicals you want to be cooking with. Not only are they bad for your health and the environment, they will cause meat to taste bad. So when it comes to choosing a charcoal product, the primary objective is to find one that burns for a long time at a continual high heat, and is free of additives.
Charcoal should be as clean and straightforward as possible for the best results. Beware of cheaper brands that add in anthracite or coal to make them burn hotter. Additionally, you want to avoid purchasing charcoal products that advertise “authentic flavors” of hickory or mesquite; charcoal should not have flavors at all. Instead, you can add some wood to your smoker, in addition to charcoal, to produce added flavor.
Modern,” briquette-style” charcoal is the most common on the market. These are manufactured using a natural, clean-burning, sugar-based binding agent that works well with smokers. Just be sure you choose the most wholesome product possible.
Not only is it highly encouraged to use the cleanest, purest charcoal available, it is strongly urged to keep it protected in order for it to remain this way. Be sure to store your charcoal in a dry, temperature regulated area that is free from contaminants. It is not recommended to store charcoal in sheds or garages, since there is a high risk of contamination. Likewise, if charcoal becomes wet, it can be prone to mold growth; it won’t burn very well either.
Lump charcoal is a great compromise between smoking with hardwood and smoking with charcoal, being that it is the closest alternative to smoking meat with hardwood, but without actually using real wood. Lump charcoal is made from real pieces of hardwood that have been fired into charcoal. When used in a smoker, it can render more authentic smoke flavors. Because it burns longer and hotter than standard charcoal products, it is usually more expensive; however, these attributes allow you to use less, which can make up for the initial cost overtime.