With Memorial Day coming up this weekend, chances are you're looking to barbecue something.
Sure, you could always just throw some burgers and hot dogs on a grill. But that's not really barbecuing (it's grilling), and you've done it a million times before.
Try something new.
For anyone looking to jump into the pit of smoked meats, we have some tips for you. For part two of our two-part Q&A, we chatted with Blue Willy's Barbecue Market's Will Banks about tips and tricks for smoking.
Clean Plate Charlie: First off, what's your advice for someone looking to get into smoking?
Banks: That's a big thing right now. TV surged home barbecuing. "Barbecue" in my world is a noun, that's how you differentiate by what it is. Smoking food in the barbecue world is a thing. "Barbecuing" is a verb; you do it on a grill. The best thing to do is to go to a barbecue store like Culinary Concepts in Pompano Beach; it's big in the Green Egg and have clubs of guys who like smoking at home. But it's an expensive entry point [the Green Egg].
What's a more affordable way to get into barbecuing?
In Texas, people use brick cinder block pits. But you can go to Home Depot or somewhere like that and buy an off-set smoker. It's inexpensive, and it's a popular way to start. A lot of my customers are home-smoking.
What's the best way to start? Are certain cuts easier than others?
Don't cook brisket! Make pulled pork, because pork cuts (shoulder and Boston butt) are very forgiving. You could overcook the living hell out them or undercook them a bit and it could still come out OK. Beef is unforgiving; it has a little to do with the fat content, but brisket is the hardest to learn to cook.
What are your recommendations for getting started?
Your average home smoker isn't going to have wood to use around here. I have to bring in hickory or oak; you can buy it in barbecue stores or even walk into Home Depot to pick it up. I'm a hickory guy myself. Traditionally, Texas barbecue is oak and mesquite, because that's what was around. People use the wood that's located where they are. There's an abundance of Hickory in the Dixie states, like Tennessee and the Carolinas. Florida has three different kinds of oak; live oak is the only good one for barbecue, but it's protected. And definitely don't cut down your mango tree and smoke it: It's poisonous.
How long does the smoking process take?
It depends on the cut and the meat. A shoulder takes 15 to 20 hours. An eight- or nine-pound butt (the top of the shoulder) takes about ten hours. And you should never cook a boneless cut, because the bone helps cook it. It's time-consuming and you have to pay attention; there's a narrow cooking range. That's why people who are really into it buy more expensive smokers, like the Green Egg. The concept is based off a style of Chinese oven; it's made out of ceramic. The difference between a $2,000 smoker and a $200 one is the ability to hold the heat. With an off-set metal thing, you need to check the temperature every ten minutes or so.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.