Cooking & Smoking Tips

First and foremost:  All the information here is from hands on experience and trial and error.  I LOVE to cook, whether it be grilling, smoking or in the kitchen and everything stated is exactly how I do it time after time, so please, if you have any suggestions feel free to reach out to me as I am always eager to learn new techniques and information from more experienced cooks than me. (Rich)
 
IMPORTANT:   Bring the meat to room temperature. This is an important step to take before you begin smoking or cooking any type of meat. It will ensure that the meat cooks evenly and reaches the right internal temperature by the end of the cooking process. Depending on how large your cut of meat is, set it out on the counter 1 1/2 hours to 6 hours before you begin smoking or cooking it, whether it be  Steaks or Briskets.  PLEASE NOTE–This does NOT apply to Poultry or Pork–Only Beef!  Pork or Poultry-no more than 30 minutes
 
Second,  season your meat the day before.  This will allow the seasonings or rub to really penetrate the meat and add a lot of flavors and assist in tenderizing the meat as well.   Simply apply the seasoning or rub, generously, rub in and wrap your meat with saran wrap or aluminum foil and place in refrigerator.  This is especially important if you are smoking Ribs, Briskets, etc.
 
Third,  You’ll need to monitor the temperature of the meat with a meat thermometer to determine its doneness. Poultry should reach 170-175 degrees.  Ground meats should be 170 degrees. The internal temperature of steaks should be 120 (Rare), 130 (Med Rare), 140 (Done) & 155 (Well Done), Roasts should be 140, and chops should be 145-150 degrees.

Grilling "Do's and Don'ts"

First of all, grilling is a lot like broiling.  NEVER COOK A COLD PIECE OF MEAT–Take out of Refrigerator and let warm up to Room Temp.  It will cook more evenly this way–(Chicken, and Pork let sit out Maximum 30 Minutes) Both use direct heat, but when grilling the heat source comes from below and when broiling the heat source is from above.  Both methods are great when cooking tender cuts of beef, chicken, fish and vegetables. Make sure whatever you are cooking isn’t too thick or it will burn on the exterior by the time the inside is done.
Although grilling is considered a healthy way of cooking because much of the fat will drip into the fire, be careful to avoid flare-ups from the fat.  Not only will you potentially burn what you are cooking and give it an acrid flavor; you can create a nasty fire hazard.
 
Seasoning the Meat:
Our GRILLING SPICE & New ALL AROUND SEASONING SALT    are very well rounded and perfect blends for Steaks, Chicken and Pork Chops.  Also our SOUTH OF THE BORDER or CARNE/POLLO ASADA SEASONING are both wonderful on any meat. Whatever seasoning you like, we certainly recommend applying it at least 12-24 hours or more prior cooking, to your meat.  for Steaks that are 1 1/4 inch thick or more, we recommend INJECTING too (you will still season the outside as usual)Simple mix  1-2 TBSP of your seasoning with 3-4 oz of water and dissolve.  Inject your steaks in 2-3 different locations, wrap up in Saran Wrap tight and place in Refrigerator.  This will make a huge difference in the overall flavor.
 
Clean Grill:
It’s critical you start with a clean grill. There’s nothing worse than grilling a beautiful Filet Mignon and having it taste like red snapper. The time to remove all the residue with a wire brush is right after you finish cooking while the grate is still hot. If you wait until it’s time to start cooking, some of the scrapings can fall into the flames and cause a flare-up. Before you begin heating the grill, brush it or spray it with a little vegetable oil to prevent food from sticking. This is especially important if you are using a sugary basting sauce.
 
Hot Grill:
It’s also vital that your grill is hot well before you start. Many of us, especially with gas grills, wait until right before we start cooking before we crank up the heat. Mistake. Preheat that grill 15 to 30 minutes before you intend to start cooking. Have all your cooking tools ready and standing by. This not only includes apron and utensils but be sure to have a spray water bottle on hand in case of flare-ups.
 
How Long Do You Cook It?
I guess the most frequent questions I’m asked are “how long do you cook it for?” and “how can you tell when it’s done?” Although every cookbook you pick up has guidelines for each ingredient, it once again comes back to experience and touch. I would suggest you start touching the foods at different intervals to get a feel for firmness and texture.  Be sure and get your grill hot to a temp between 375-400 degrees
For example, as a general rule, I like to cook a 1 1/4 -inch thick New York Strip steak OR Rib Eye for a total of ten minutes. I start by grilling for 2 1/2 minutes, then turning it 90 degrees and cooking for another 2 1/2 minutes, flip the steak over to its other side and repeat the process thus giving the steak the classic grill marks.  Once steaks have cooked the correct time, remove and cover and let rest for 10 minutes.  (HINT: Mix Fresh Chopped Basil with butter and place 1 TBS of mixture on top of steaks right before covering to rest)Remember–your steak are still cooking so be sure and do not cook past the 10 minute mark for Medium.
 
At the same time, I test the steak with my finger to feel for various degrees of firmness. Medium cooked feels like touching your cheek. If you really want to get specific, you can use an instant thermometer.
For steak, 115 – 120 degrees is rare, 125-130 degrees is medium rare and 135 – 140 degrees is medium. Once again, Don’t forget, the meat will continue to cook once you remove it from the grill to rest, so you may want to remove it before hitting your target temperature so you don’t overcook it.
 
This only touches the surface of what there is to learn about grilling as a cooking method. The best advice I can give any home cook is
practice as much as you can and HAVE FUN.  It’s a great way to cook without a lot of mess, especially in the summer when it’s too hot to cook inside.
 
Let’s start with Chicken.  Chicken is probably one of the easiest meats to smoke.  This will discuss how to smoke a WHOLE Chicken. You can do it quickly in about 2 hours or like I enjoy it is Low & Slow.  Make sure your smokers is clean so your Chicken taste like Chicken and always have a good digital meat thermometer.  Cook chicken to 165-175 Internal Temp.
 
Whether you are using the old school smoker or a pellet smoker, Temp is everything.  First make sure you trim and clean your chicken well.  Either marinade or season as long before smoking as possible.  This will make a lot of difference in the outcome.  Spatchcocking is a great way to smoke your chicken or you can smoke it whole. 
 
To smoke a whole spatchcocked chicken, first I recommend getting your grill to temp. High & fast–375 degrees.  Baste often as to not dry it out.  You can spray it with juice, spray oil or water during cooking to keep moist. Check temp after 1 hour, turn and close to finish cooking.  Check Temp at 2 hours.
 
LOW & SLOW–My favorite way.
Prepare Chicken the same.  Get smoker to temp, 225 degrees. Place chicken on smoker for the first 3 hours, then turn 90 degrees and crank heat up to 300 for the final 2-3 hours.  Check temp in breast and when temp hits 165-170, pull and cover for 10-15 minutes.  This will be so moist and tender you will get hooked on this method.
 
BEEF BRISKETS
 
Briskets are so delicious when you know exactly how to cook them.  I will go over the smoking process and if you will follow this, your brisket will be a huge hit.  My Rule of thumb is to smoke them for about 1 1/2 + hours per pound of meat.
 
Preparing your brisket the day before will add more flavor and allow meat to absorb the rub–See Below.
 
First, let’s talk about the TRIM.  Very important that you trim any fat away that will NOT render down.  When trimming, try to get as much film & fat off the top of the brisket.  NOTE: do NOT trim all the fat out from between the cap(point) and the flat.  You will also need to trim the edge that is discolored and round off the flat on both sides a little.  Next on the back side–this should be trimmed down to about 1/4 – 1/2 inch of fat left and no more.  Depending on the size brisket you have, you could easily trim off 2-3 lbs, but it is well needed for your brisket to turn out great.
 
 
Once trimmed, you will need a “BINDER”.  Yellow mustard is a good one and will not change the flavor, it is only used for the rub to adhere.  squeeze a little mustard on your brisket and rub all over the BOTTOM (FAT SIDE) and sides.  Next, take a liberal amount of your rub (I recommend EZ Mixes BRISKET RUB) and coat the entire BOTTOM (FAT SIDE)  so you do not see any fat.  Pat into meat–DO NOT RUB.  Repeat the same process for the top and wrap and place in fridge over night.
 
INJECTING BRISKETS:  Yes, you heard me right.  SOMETIMES, I will inject my brisket for added moisture and flavor.  Take some of your trimmings and boil with water and some of the Brisket rub together for about 15 minutes.  Then strain the juice form the trimmings.  Add some ICE to cool it down( do not inject HOT liquid), and inject in several areas before applying the rub.  Wrap brisket and place in fridge overnight until ready to cook.
 
I like to put my briskets on around 10 pm and let smoke all night.  About 4-5 hours BEFORE cooking, remove from fridge and unwrap so it will start to warm up some.  About 30 minutes before you are ready to place on your smoker, get your smoker or Pellet smoker warming up to 200 degrees and add a little more rub if needed.  Once your temp is ready and STEADY, place a bowl of water, apple juice or some type of liquid inside so it will keep your brisket moist.  Be sure and check your smoker for HOT spots and place the brisket closest to the 200 temp side (Fat side Down).  Close your lid and go to bed.   The next morning OR about 8-9 hours later, with a digital thermometer, check the temp on the Cap(Point) (Thick side), when the temp is between 155 -165 ( This is called the Stall Point) AND there is a GOOD BARK formed, Your Brisket may still be a little tough as your slide in your temp probe, that is not a problem as long as the bark is set and the temp is 160 +. Your bark should be pretty set by now which is EXTREMELY important (if your Bark is NOT set good, allow to keep smoking until it is set even if temp gets to 170 or so, that is not a problem) ( Wrapping too early will break down and soften the Bark, too late and your brisket could taste bitter), pull the Brisket and wrap with a double layer of NON-LINED BUTCHER PAPER 1 layer at a time, tuck tight and place back onto the smoker Fat side Down.  Increase temp to 225 degrees and close lid.  Allow about 4-7 hours, depending on the size brisket you have, and check temp periodically.  When the CAP(Point) is between 202-205 degrees and your temp probe slides in like butterPULL the brisket and leaving the butcher paper on, wrap in a towel or 2, and place in a cooler for 2-3 hours.  DO NOT UNWRAP and sneak a peek When you pull the Brisket FROM THE COOLER it should be tender and juicy.  Slice accordingly and ENJOY!
 
ADDITIONAL INFO: Be sure and replenish your liquid at this time.  I do it both ways.  If you choose NOT to wrap it that is perfectly fine, as you will get a really good thick bark and burnt ends.  You will want to watch your temp and check for tenderness periodically.  When the temp probe slide in like it is in Butter and your temp is good–Pull it THEN wrap it in 2 layers of foil and place it in a cooler for 2 hours.
 
STEAKS–Yes Steaks in the Smoker.
 
I LOVE to smoke Rib Eyes, Strips, T-Bones, etc and we are going to REVERSE SEAR them–Yummy!
 
Season steak(s) with your favorite seasoning the day before.  I recommend EZ Mixes Grilling Spice, Winter Texan or our New South of the Border.  Season liberally and pat seasoning into meat good. wrap and place into the fridge.  About 3-4 hours BEFORE ready to cook them, remove from fridge and let warm to room temp (this will allow them to cook evenly).  Get your smoker set to 200 degrees.  Place steaks on smoker and walk away.  Check temp at about 60 minutes.  If you want your steak Medium, pull at about 125 temp.  Crank up the heat to about 400+ degrees and then place steak back on over fire–DO NOT LEAVE.  Once you get a good sear on one side, flip over and repeat to other side.  Pull steaks and place on platter or plate and wrap with aluminum foil for about 10-15 minutes. they are still cooking and when you unwrap them, they should be laying in a bed of juices.  (HINT–before wrapping, place a TBS of Butter on top of each steak ( I like using fresh basil in my butter)  ENJOY!
 
 
 
I will be discussing Ribs and Butts later on.