Introduction to Hot Smoking
Hot Smoking is the most common cooking method for authentic American Style BBQ. It is commonly referred to as "Low 'n' Slow". LOW because you are cooking at temperatures between 200°F - 250°F (95°C - 120°C). SLOW because by cooking at these lower temperatures, it takes quite a bit longer to cook your food. The beauty of Low 'n' Slow is that you can cook just about any cut of meat, and if done properly, will result in a delicious, succulent and tender meal.
The ProQ range of BBQ Smokers are designed to be used primarily for "hot smoking", but can be used for other methods of outdoor cooking with ease (we'll cover these further on). Think of your ProQ™ as an outdoor oven (some people even bake on them) and you'll be fine.
Good quality BBQ smokers are efficient. When the smoker is set up in the low 'n' slow configuration, one full basket of good quality charcoal will give you around 8 hours of cooking time, so there's not a lot of fiddling, other than to toss a few bits of wood on every now and then for smokey flavour, so sit back and enjoy.
Use a good quality Lump-wood or charcoal briquette, avoid using the instant lighting stuff, as these are impregnated with chemicals and as you are cooking in a closed environment, the chemicals may be transferred onto your food. In the UK, we've found that it's best to use premium briquettes or restaurant grade charcoal.
You can light your charcoal directly in the charcoal basket/pan or you can use a charcoal chimney starter (an excellent tool that makes starting a fire easy).
The amount of charcoal to use for each cook will depend on what's cooking, but if you find that you're running out of fire during a cooking session, don't panic, as the ProQ's unique design makes refilling the charcoal basket a breeze.
Next up is the water pan, the real secret to this way of cooking. The pan acts as a buffer between the fire and the food and the liquid within helps regulate the temperature inside the unit, by absorbing and then slowly releasing the heat from the fire.
To start with, remember to use warm water in the water pan, as this will bring the unit up to the desired cooking temperature quickly. Topping up of the water pan can be done through one of the access doors, using a watering can.
In some cases such as when cooking poultry to get the skin crispy you may want to run the unit at higher temperatures (350°F/ 180°C), this is achieved by cooking with a dry water pan. With the 'dry pan' approach, it can sometimes be trickier to stabilise the internal smoker temperature, so make sure you keep an eye on it.
Handy Tip: foil the pan so it's easier to clean once you've finished.
This is the most important part - it is essential that you choose good quality meat to start with. The food should be completely defrosted and will absorb smoke better if it is at room temperature when it's put on to cook.
Preparation is equally important and this is where you get to to put your signature on the dish, by using blends of spices and herbs (Rubs) or Marinades (often injected deep into the meat by means of a marinade injector) to enhance flavours.
Place your food on the cooking grates above the water pan (near the middle if possible, as hot air comes up around the sides). Once the food is on, put the lid on, remembering to open the vent on the lid and adjust the vents in the base until the unit runs at the desired temperature of between 200°F - 250°F (95°C - 120°C).
Now open the lower door and place your chosen wood chips or chunks directly onto the charcoal. Use wood chips, chunks or dust, as you would a spice, to add flavour to the food.
Handy Tip: A word of caution to those of you not yet addicted to smoking (food that is) - start off with a small amount of wood for smoke, as you may end up getting too much smoke flavour for your taste.
If you need a hand matching the ideal smoking wood to a food, then check out our useful smoking woodguide.
One thing you will notice about smoked food, is that the smoke causes the flesh to turn pink (this is known as the "Smoke Ring"), which makes it quite difficult for the novice to determine whether or not the food is cooked. The best and most accurate way of testing this is by using a good quality probe thermometer which will measure the internal temperature of the food being cooked, a list of the desired internal temperatures and a guide to cooking times can be found here.
Once the food is cooked, take it off the heat and let it rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes, and may be more for larger cuts of meat.
Need some Inspiration? Take a look at our tried and tested recipes here.