The way mob bosses sit facing the door, Steven Raichlen sits at a barbecue restaurant eying the wood-burning grill.
The Coconut Grove resident — a New York Times Bestselling author for his grilling books, such as the recent “Project Smoke” — always has his eye on the flame. His newest focus is smoking meat.
We recently profiled Raichlen, 63, in The Miami Herald, where he shared these “10 Commandments of Smoking.”
1. Know the difference between barbecue and smoking. All barbecue is smoked, but not all smoked foods are barbecue. Texas brisket, Carolina pork shoulder and Kansas City ribs are barbecue. Virginia ham, Irish smoked salmon, and Wisconsin smoked cheddar are smoked, but they’re not barbecue.
2. Understand the flavor of smoke. Think of it as the umami of barbecue. Smoke has a unique ability to endow familiar foods, from sausage to steaks, with an otherworldly quality that is simultaneously familiar and exotic.
3. Smoke everything. Really. Meat, poultry, and seafood, of course, but also cocktails, vegetables, cheeses, fruits, and desserts.
4. Buy organic, heritage, heirloom, grass-fed and local. What your meat eats and how it’s raised matters as much as how you smoke it.
5. Low and slow is the way to go. Ribs, shoulders and briskets need a slow cook at a low temperature to achieve smoky perfection.
6. Wrap it up. Wrap brisket and beef ribs in unlined butcher paper the last two hours of smoking. This seals in moisture without making the bark (crust) soggy.
7. Give it a rest. Once brisket, pork shoulder and other large cuts of meat are smoked, transfer them to an insulated cooler to rest for 1 to 2 hours. Your meat will be juicier and more tender.
8. It’s OK to overcook your meat. It’s essential to overcook your meat. Shoulders, bellies, brisket and ribs need to be cooked to 195 to 205F to achieve the proper tenderness.
9. Remember this simple rule: More air equals higher heat; less air equals lower heat. Adjust the vents accordingly to control the airflow and thus the cooking temperature.
10. Remember this other simple rule: Lower heat produces more smoke; higher heat produces less smoke.
Read more in The Herald: Why Grillmaster Steven Raichlen is Smokin’ Hot