You've heard about the great things you can do cooking low and slow with smoke. Meat so tender it falls apart, with a taste that is impossible to resist. Want to give it a try but all you have is a charcoal grill? Well, you're in luck. An average sized charcoal grill can make some great barbecue. The secret is keeping a close eye on the fire and having plenty of patience.
A smoker contains the fire and keeps the temperature low enough to cook meats at temperatures around 225 to 250 degrees F/120 to 120 degrees C. A grill is designed to cook hot and fast, but the average charcoal grill can do both. If you keep the fire small and to one side of the grill you can generate low temperatures that are the secret of real barbecue.
Fuel: To start off you need a charcoal grill, fuel (hardwood, charcoal, etc.), a way to light the fuel outside of the grill(charcoal chimney), a drip pan, a water pan and an oven safe thermometer. These pans can be simple aluminum pans you can get at most grocery stores and should be a little smaller than half the size of the cooking grate. You will also need plenty of time and, of course, something to cook.
Building the Fire: Begin by removing the cooking grate from the grill and building a fire on one-half of the grill. If there is any wind, it is important that the fire is on the windward side, which is the side the wind is blowing against.
This is important because airflow is everything when it comes to smoking. Imagine that the air enters through the bottom and exits out the top to one side of the grill. The air flow inside the grill should be in the same direction as any wind.
Assembling the Smoker: Next place the drip pan on the other side of the grill, directly opposite the fire.
There should be no charcoal beneath this pan. Now put the cooking grate back on the grill. When the coals are good and hot you are ready to cook. Place the water pan directly over the burning coals and fill to about two thirds full with hot water. This will add moisture to the air inside the grill. Place the meat over the drip pan, the thermometer next to the meat, and then put the lid on the grill with the top vent as directly over top the food as possible.
Airflow: Now this is the important part. Depending on the kind of charcoal grill you have you need to set the vents so that the airflow comes in under the fire and out through a vent over the meat. This will draw the air through the fire, over the water pan and over the meat before it leaves the grill. What you need to do is adjust the vents to maintain the ideal smoking temperature of 225 to 250 degrees F/110 to 120 degrees C.
Running the Smoker: While the food is cooking you need to keep the lid closed as much as possible, but you need to keep and eye on the fire and the temperature.
You will also need to add more burning charcoal to the fire periodically. Once you get the hang of it, you shouldn't have any trouble keeping the temperature in the right range. Now all you need to do is buy some meat and get smoking.