Making mouthwatering smoked and barbecued meats in your backyard is easy, so long as you don't mind being a control freak.
Tender, flavorful barbecue is all about slow cooking at low temperatures. That's why it is essential that you be able to carefully control the heat in your grill or smoker. The good news is that no matter what equipment you have, it's possible to get great barbecue.
The trick is knowing how to use your grill for indirect cooking, which is just a fancy term for not cooking directly over a flame or bed of coals. By cooking to the side of the heat source, the meat cooks more slowly and won't burn. How you do that depends on the type of grill you have. Here are some tips on making the most of what you have.
AP Photo - - Low and slow is the mantra of backyard barbecue gurus, and this Chili- and Coffee-Rubbed Smoked Chuck Roast is perfect for a first-timer or a seasoned BBQ chef.
+ Classic charcoal grills with a cover, such as a Weber kettle, work well when you use the special baskets they make to keep the coals contained to one or both sides of the grill. This allows you considerable control over the temperature at which you cook the meat.
It also helps to place a pan filled with liquid (water, wine, cider, beer, whatever) under the meat to add moisture. Vents at the top and bottom of the grill will need to be adjusted often, and fresh coals added in order to maintain a constant temperature.
+ Cookers that are more specifically designed for barbecue are made by companies such as Brinkmann. They offer vertical models that have a heat source at the bottom with a water pan above it, as well as horizontal designs that have separate sections for the coals and the food (which reduces drying). Both varieties will produce tender results, but still need coals added to them regularly and must have the vents monitored to keep the temperature stable.
+ One of the most efficient (and expensive) styles is a ceramic, barrel-shaped grill/smoker, such as The Big Green Egg. These have a vent at the bottom along with a chimney on the top that allow them to burn coals extremely efficiently and maintain steady temperatures over a long period of time with little or no adjustment. The ceramic materials these cookers are made of hold plenty of moisture, which helps keep meats from drying out.
+ But if ease is essential, consider a common gas grill. Some barbecue purists may scoff, but gas grills have advantages for making good barbecue. They hold their temperature well without any adjustments, have separate burners to facilitate indirect cooking, and gas heat is less drying.
The downside of gas is that you miss out on the flavor that charcoal adds to the meat, though you can get decent smoke by putting wet wood chips in a foil packet or a smoker box directly on the heat source.
This chili- and coffee-rubbed smoked chuck roast came out equally moist and tender on a gas grill and a Big Green Egg. The flavor was undeniably more complex from the ceramic cooker, but the intense, sweet flavors of the rich coffee and toasted chili-based rub made the beef a treat even when cooked with gas.
Chili- and Coffee-Rubbed Smoked Chuck Roast
Start to finish: 5 to 7 hours (15 minutes active) plus at least 1 hour marinating Serves 6 to 8.
1 dried whole Anaheim or New Mexico chili
1 dried whole ancho chili
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup water
4-pound chuck roast
1 cup apple, hickory or oak chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, toast both chilies until fragrant, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cutting board.
Add the cumin seeds to the skillet and toast, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 60 to 90 seconds. Transfer the seeds to a blender or the bowl of a mini food processor.
Remove and discard the stems from the chilies and cut into 1-inch pieces, then add to the blender or processor. Add the vinegar, brown sugar, garlic powder, espresso powder, salt, pepper and water. Process to a smooth paste, adding water, a teaspoon at a time, if necessary.
Place the chuck roast in a large bowl or baking dish and coat completely with the chili paste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.
Meanwhile, light a smoker, charcoal grill or gas grill and prepare for indirect cooking. Place a drip pan below the cooking grates and stabilize the temperature at around 250 F.
Drain the wood chips and scatter them over the coals (or place them in a smoker box and set over the heat source in a gas grill or electric smoker).
Place the chuck roast on the cooking grate over the drip pan. Cover the grill or smoker and cook, maintaining the temperature at 250 F, until an instant thermometer registers 180 F at the center of the roast, about 3 to 4 hours.
Wrap the roast tightly in heavy duty foil and cook (with the grill or smoker covered) until fork tender and an instant thermometer registers 200 F to 205 F, about another 1 to 2 hours. Remove the roast from the heat and let rest, in the foil, for 30 minutes.
To serve, shred the meat using forks or slice across the grain.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 373 calories; 175 calories from fat; 19 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 147 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 44 g protein; 0 g fiber; 416 mg sodium.