Smoking 102: Get Seasoned and Start Cooking

Smoking is known for being a finicky way to cook, but it’s actually surprisingly forgiving. If you’ve never smoked meat before, we suggest starting with a whole-muscle cut, like Brisket, Pork Butt, or Lamb Shoulder — if you take these cuts too far, you can simply shred, sauce, and repurpose. Ribs and other thin items smoke fast, so you may want to wait to try them until you’re confident in your ability to control the temperature on your smoker. 

No matter how proficient you are, a calibrated thermometer is essential for achieving smoking success. 

Check our Smoking 101 if you need a little guidance on picking the right smoker, and selecting the proper wood.

Seasoning

Your seasonings will vary wildly based on which protein you’re cooking and how you plan on eating it. That being said, Kosher salt is always the most important component of your seasoning. When seasoning large cuts like Pork Butt, remember that when you salt the exterior, it needs to be enough salt to permeate the whole cut, so don’t be scared to have a heavy hand. Before adding additional rubs, go ahead and give your cut a rubdown with salt and pepper, then layer other flavors on top. 

While most classic barbecue rubs are heavy on different varieties of pepper, don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit. Keep in mind what you’re serving with your meat — Lamb Shoulder for tacos will be seasoned differently than Pork Ribs.  

If you’re not sure where to start, here’s our basic BBQ Rub.

Smoking Basics

Smoking is all about cooking low and slow, giving the meat time to cook to the whole temperature throughout. By cooking tough cuts slowly, you are giving connective tissue in the muscle time to break down to create a tender product.

The tricky part of smoking is that muscle starts expelling moisture rapidly at 165°F, and you have a decision to make. If you want a crunchy bark on your barbecue, you’ll need to keep it unwrapped for the entirety of the cooking process. If your focus is on a succulent finished product, you’ll want to wrap your meat at 160°F.  When you wrap, you can also add some extra moisture to the cut. James likes to use a mixture of  ⅓ c apple cider vinegar, ⅓ cup worcestershire sauce, and ⅓ cup apple juice.

We smoke all cuts and types of meat at 225°F-250°F. Be patient when your cut hits  “stalling temp” (around 180°F), and don’t keep opening the smoker. Meat can stall for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, but when it goes, it goes fast.  

For sliceable meat, pull your cut when it hits 200°F. For shredded meat, we like to cook it to 208°F. Regardless of which you prefer, resting is essential. Rest large cuts for a minimum of an hour, keeping the temp above 140°F. We like to warm an oven to 200°F then shut it off (turning back on briefly if the temperature drops). You can also rest your meat in a cooler that has been pre-warmed with hot water.

Tips by Cut

Brisket - Brisket takes 45-75 minutes per pound, which means you’re in for an all day project. Our dry aged Brisket is absolutely fantastic smoked with just Kosher salt and pepper (which makes for a very versatile final product), or heavily spiced. This cut can withstand intense Tex-Mex flavors, so feel free to go heavy on the cumin, chili powder, and onion powder.

Chuck Roast - In recent years, we’ve seen the popularity of smoked Chuck Roast take off! This cut can be treated similarly to Brisket, and smoked until ready to shred.  

Beef Ribs - Beef Back Ribs  take 3-4 hours in the smoker. Watch the temp carefully, wrapping at 160°F, to avoid dry and tough ribs. Dino Ribs and Texas Short Ribs take a bit longer — we suggest cooking the Texas Short ribs for about 4.5 hours, and the Dino Ribs for closer to 6.

Pork Butt - This cut takes 60-90 minutes per pound, so get ready for a full day of smoking. If you’re smoking a Pork Butt as part of your meal prep routine, keep it simple with salt and pepper. For more classic pulled pork flavors, try our BBQ Rub. Don’t go crazy with strong seasonings, and opt for one of the milder woods rather than mesquite. 

Pork Brisket - This cut is quick, easy, and unique. Due to it’s small size, this cut doesn’t take as long as many of our other pork cuts. Smoke for 2-3 hours monitoring closely, and wrapping at 160°F

Pork Belly- Want to make your own slab bacon? Cure your Pork Belly for a week before hot smoking for 2-3 hours. Let it cool, slice, then fry it up and enjoy.

Pork Ribs - St. Louis Ribs and Spare Ribs cook fairly quickly, and typically take under 2 hours. Be sure to watch them closely, wrapping at 160°F.

Lamb Shoulder - Don’t be intimidated by smoking lamb — the process is no different than smoking any beef or pork cut. That being said, we do like to get a bit adventurous with the seasonings, borrowing flavors from mediteranean cooking. Cumin, coriander, and garam marsala are amazing compliments to the flavor of our pasture-raised lamb. Rosemary can also be fantastic, but don’t go overboard as it can easily overpower the flavor of the meat.

Lamb Neck - This cut is going to shred, there’s no getting around it. Make sure to wrap your Lamb Neck well to keep the juicy and flavorful pieces of meat from getting lost to the fire. 

Lamb Ribs - You can cook this cut hot and fast, but we prefer the low and slow approach, giving give the fat time to render. Smoke for 2-3 hours, wrapping at 160°F. Use some of the rendered fat that is captured in your wrap to sear vegetables.

Whole Chicken - Keep the seasonings light to let the delicate flavor of the pasture-raised chicken shine. Black pepper, salt, lemon zest, and a little thyme and paprika are all you need. There’s no need to wrap your bird, unless you want to shred it. Smoke to 160°F then let it rest uncovered at room temperature. The downside of smoked chicken is that it has rubbery skin. If you want it smokey and crispy, we suggest spatchcocking and grilling. To grill, get your charcoal going in a low even fire across the bottom of the grill, and sprinkle with wood chips. Cook skin-side down with the lid mostly closed until it is 80% cooked (about 40 minutes), then flip it over for an additional 5-10 minutes to finish it off.

Smoking 101