Smoking, the new way to barbecue

Over the eight years I have been lucky enough to live in the Algarve, I have cooked in many ways on my charcoal and gas barbecues and have had a few disasters and some spectacular successes. From ribs to cake, from fish kebabs to pizza … all tried and enjoyed.

However, I came home from a business trip to the UK to find a new BBQ toy (or gift), wrapped and shiny, purchased by my wife for our Pearl Wedding anniversary to take my barbecue culinary skills to another level!

I am now the proud owner of a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) Smoker which I used for the first time last weekend – and what a treat it was to use as well!

Smoking is an age-old process of cooking meats over a low smoky fire. To properly smoke a piece of meat will require that you can place it in a controlled environment where the temperature holds at a relatively stable 110 to 120 degrees Celsius. Because of the low-cooking temperatures, smoking will take a very long period of time.

Of course the true ingredient of smoking is the smoke. A low smouldering fire made from hard, resin-free woods or charcoal is required to produce the smoke that causes the smoking process.

Smoke contains nitrates which start a chemical reaction in meats that enhances the flavour and breaks down connective tissues like collagen. Collagen breaks down into sugars and gelatine giving barbecue its naturally sweet flavour.

So last weekend I used my WSM and was amazed with the results. After 12 hours of slow-cooking, I produced pulled pork from a 4kg shoulder of pork or, as they call it in the USA, “Boston Butt”, which I had smoked over charcoal briquettes and hickory wood.

There seem to be barbecue restaurants popping up all over the UK at the moment and “smoking” meat, fish or vegetables certainly seems to be the trendy food, with restaurants like Pitt & Co, Bodean’s BBQ and The Blues Kitchen, getting rave reviews from food critics. The common denominator being they all vow to have the best ribs and pulled pork in the world.

Most of them seem to start in vans and pop up restaurants before taking the plunge to work from permanent premises and having clients queuing out the door.

I for one welcome this trend as the depth of flavour generated from true smoked food is amazing. I will use this column over the next couple of instalments to give you tips and recipes from my successes and failures.

I’m going to cook a brisket of beef this weekend and will let you know how it goes. Happy smoking!

Article supplied by Chris Winstanley from Moveison outdoor living store near Lagos