Firing up the smoker or the grill is a great way to bring family and friends together any time of year, but especially in the summertime. Whether you’re a novice griller or a pro smoker, here are five quick summertime smoking and grilling tips.

 

A Clean Grill is a Happy Grill + Get Organized

Proper cleaning habits and maintenance will set you up for success in the kitchen and around the grill and allow you to get the very best result from your grill or smoker. Ash and grease buildup, dirty cooking grates, and creosote can ruin a perfectly seasoned piece of meat. So starting with clean equipment is number one.

Organization and the right tools are just as important as cleanliness. Being organized with your process and having the right tools can make your job easier and more fun, too. I begin by working backwards from the time I want to serve the meal. Then I create a simple timeline based on that. Tools of the trade make easy work of prepping and cooking your meat. A few of my favorites are sharp knives, kitchen scissors, a good-quality meat thermometer, grill gloves or hot gloves, tongs and spatulas, and aluminum foil for wrapping and resting your meats.

 

Let it Sweat

Salting your meat prior to cooking can help develop the flavors of the protein itself. Applying salt to meat creates a chemical reaction that draws out the natural moisture in proteins. This moisture then accumulates on the surface of the meat so it appears to be “sweating.” The proteins will eventually draw the moisture back inside—bringing with it the salt and other seasonings, flavoring your meat all the way through. This is particularly important for cuts of beef and pork. Give them between 30 to 60 minutes at room temperature to allow this process to occur. 

 

When using an indirect cooking method, you’ll want your grill temperature to be between 275 degrees Fahrenheit and 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Consistency is Key

Once you’ve fired up your grill or smoker, maintaining its temperature can ensure an even cook—and a delicious result. When using an indirect cooking method, you’ll want your grill temperature to be between 275 degrees Fahrenheit and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the grill or smoker you’re cooking on, you can adjust the air intake vents to achieve and maintain your desired temperature. If you’re looking for a hot-and-fast sear, you’ll want your grill to be between 550 degrees Fahrenheit and 650 degrees Fahrenheit before placing your meat on the grates. Direct grilling will give you a rich color, beautiful crust and a robust flavor.

 

Don’t forget to rest...

The meat that is. Once your meat has reached the desired internal temperature and texture, remove it from the grill and allow it to “rest.” Depending on what you’re cooking, the rest time will vary. For example, a large beef brisket can rest, or hold, for more than eight hours while chicken breasts may only need 10 to 15 minutes to rest. The process of resting or holding allows the juices to settle and redistribute throughout the meat, giving you a moist, juicy bite from start to finish. When resting your meat, create a foil tent to lock in the heat and flavor.

 

Get Experimental 

This is barbecue, not rocket science. While there is definitely an element of science to smoking and grilling, summertime cooking should be fun and laid back. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different meats and new flavors to discover what you, your family and your friends like best. 

Regardless of what you’re cooking, barbecue is really about bringing people together to share in an experience. So relax, get out there and just start cooking. You may burn something, but you’ll learn something too.

 

Sterling Smith is the founder and owner of Loot N’ Booty BBQ, a Scottsdale-based company that develops seasonings and sauces available at retailers around the world and at www.lootnbootybbq.com. He is a five-time world champion BBQ pitmaster and the 2022 World BBQ Champion. With nearly 50 Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion awards under his belt, Smith has taught more than 135 in-person BBQ classes around the globe and authored two cookbooks. He also has a series of online BBQ classes available at www.bbqchamps.com. Smith was recently the first non-Californian to be inducted into the California BBQ Association Hall of Fame for his achievements in, and advocacy for, the sport of BBQ.