If you've ever had the pleasure of tasting barbecued ribs cooked in competition, then you know what real barbecue cooking tastes like. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the weekend warriors that fire up their weber charcoal grill to throw on a couple steaks. But for unparalleled flavor and tenderness, there is no barbecue grilling that can match the heavenly fare that comes out of barbecue smokers.

The main difference between barbecue grills and smokers is the time and the temperature the meat is cooked at. In barbecue smokers, meat is cooked all day; until it just falls off the bone. Grilling, on the other hand, is just using a fire to heat meat quickly. The difference is like night and day.

Smoking meat involves cooking the meat in a lower (very controlled) temperature for a longer period of time. In addition, different types of wood are added to the heat source to give the meat different flavors depending on the type of wood used. Examples of woods used are: Hickory (the most widely used), oak, and different varieties of fruit wood; apple, cherry, etc. But DO NOT use any wood from needle bearing trees such as pine or spruce, they will make you sick! For the same reason, don't use scraps from the lumberyard, as they may be treated in some way and give off noxious smoke.

Ordinary grills such as a weber charcoal grill can be used to smoke meat, but it involves incorporating an indirect heat. The charcoal is burned in a ring, and the meat is cooked above the center. This works fairly well with a two burner propane grill, but with a charcoal grill, because of the long cook time, the charcoal has to be constantly replenished, meaning the lid has to be raised a lot; and there is an old saying among seasoned smokers, "if you're looking, you ain't cooking!"

If you are serious about smoking meat, you can pick up a starter smoker grill to try your skill. Then if it seems like something you like to do, you can always move up to a larger, more expensive smoker.

John Phillips is owner of http://www.bbqsecrets.smmsite.com

Learn how to become a BBQ smoking master. All the secrets are contained in the book, BBQ Secrets

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