Smokers are amazing, but, unfortunately, they can also be quite costly.
It is for this reason that so many people are turning to pit barrel cooker devices, also commonly known as “barrel smokers.”
In case you are not familiar with these special types of wood smokers, it is basically a DIY smoker, most commonly made from a steel drum of some sort.
Because these devices are homemade, there is technically no right or wrong way to make one, though you should ensure you have a charcoal basket, a sturdy rack, and some meat hooks.
Aside from meeting those basic requirements, if you can make it, you can enjoy great smoked meat, as long as you follow some simple tips.
5. Never Pre-Cook Your Meats
Some people will say that you should pre-cook or at least pre-sear your meats before adding them to a smoker.
However, this is not good advice, especially if you are using a barrel smoker, which is particularly good at holding in smoke flavor and at thoroughly and safely cooking (without overcooking) your meat.
As such, always use raw meat in your barrel cooker. Doing so will ensure that your meat absorbs as much of that smoky flavor you love as possible. Sure, starting with raw meat might take you a little longer, but it’s well worth it in the end for the incredible flavor.
4. Season the Smoker
Most people are aware that, when smoking meat, they should season the meat.
What many people do not realize, however, is that they should actually season the smoker as well. This is especially true with a homemade smoker which is not specifically designed to hold in smoke and flavor in the same way a store-bought meat smoker is.
Fortunately, seasoning a smoker is not a difficult process. Simply coat the grill part of the smoker with a quality cooking oil. Get the fire started and put in your wood chips, allowing the fire and heat to simmer for a few hours. Usually, around three hours is just right.
This process, easy as it is, will do a lot to protect your grill from rusting, teach you the basics of how smoking works, and lock in that smoky flavor so that, when you are finally ready to cook some meat, some flavor will automatically be present and “locked in,” even if you make a mistake or two, which is to be expected with your first couple of times smoking meat.
3. Remember the “Low and Slow” Rule
When you smoke your meats, one of the best rules that you can remember is that “low and slow is the way to go.”
This mantra is popular among meat smokers, and for good reason!
When you choose to cook meat over low heat for as long as possible, you will get the most tender, flavorful meat possible.
So, if you find that a recipe asks you to smoke meat for two to four hours, for example, your best bet is to go the full four hours, if not more.
You want your meat to really lock in that smoke flavor and to be as tender and juicy as possible, and the longer you cook it (though not to the point of drying it out), the better!
2. Close the Lid
When building your own smoker, it can be tempting to skip certain parts and pieces, especially those that might not seem strictly necessary, such as a lid for your smoker. No matter what you may have heard, however, a good, secure lid IS an absolute necessity.
A lid is imperative for locking in flavor and, of course, the smoke, so don’t skip out on this all- important part when building your smoker. Furthermore, keep the lid closed throughout as much of the smoking process as you possibly can.
This tip will help to keep a consistent temperature, which will, in the end, equal tastier, more tender, more evenly cooked meat.
1. Make Use of a Water Pan
One final tip to follow when smoking meat is to use a water pan. When building your own smoker, it is easy to create a built-in pan or a place for one if you want to be able to use different pans as needed.
Water is great for stabilizing the heat in your smoker. Furthermore, it helps to put some moisture into the air so your meat won’t dry out while in the smoker.
You can even add special things to the water pan, like beer or vinegar, to add aroma and flavor to your meat.
As you can see, cooking with a smoker, even a homemade one, is not difficult. Just be sure to follow these tips, and you will make some delicious, delectable meat dishes!