'Even bad barbecue is delicious': Why not take a chance on smoking meat?

Revival Chef Thomas Boemer offers tips to smoke meat at home

A platter of smoked meats
Revival Smoked Meats serves up smoked brisket, pork shoulder and chorizo, with various sauces and house-made pickles.
Eliesa Johnson, The Restaurant Project
Portrait of Chef Thomas Boemer
Chef Thomas Boemer
Eliesa Johnson, The Restaurant Project

It's a great week for barbecuing, but maybe you've played all your greatest grilling hits and are looking for something new. Chef Thomas Boemer joined Appetites this week to help. The chef and co-owner of Revival and Revival Smoked Meats suggests turning that old Weber into a smoker.

To hear the conversation, click play on the audio player above. Or you can read the transcript below. It’s been edited for length.

Why should listeners consider trying a smoker over an old fashioned Weber grill?

Well, when you're smoking meats, that slow and low gives you a longer period of time to expose the meat to this beautiful wood smoke. So it helps really build and develop that part of the flavor. In addition to that, when you take a piece of meat and you cook it for a long period of time, you start to tenderize that piece of meat. You're breaking down the connective tissues, you're starting to melt those fats within it, so every slice or every bit that you get is going to be juicy and flavorful.

Tell me a little bit about one of your smoked dishes.

I would go for the pork shoulder first. The beautiful thing about pork shoulder, compared to the brisket, is pork has a higher moisture content. It also has the perfect fat-to-meat ratio. So you get a beautiful bark, but it can also withstand that long cooking time without, you know, losing all of its fat. It’s just great for people who are seasoned barbecues and beginners alike.

What what sauce do you recommend that I pair with pork shoulder?

The traditional sauce for this would be what we call dip. In the western part of North Carolina, dip is a vinegar-based sauce with spices and a little tomato added to it. This is a perfect balance for the fat and richness, and the intensity of the smoke.

So if you do want to give it a try at home, what's a quick beginner's guide?

When I cook at home, I use a traditional Weber grill. I love the flavor of charcoal, but you can supplement those grills with a little woodchip or a hardwood.

I like to use a larger chunk or full logs of hardwood when I smoke in a Weber grill. And the trick to that is to use an indirect heat. So you're going to put your charcoal on the one side and then put the wood directly over that charcoal once it fully burns down and gives you that nice consistent heat. Then on the other side you can put your meat and let it slowly cook at that lower temperature.

And I think ribs are a great starting point. The cooking time is you know anywhere from three to five hours, unlike the 14-hour brisket.

I could see myself waiting 10 hours and then it just doesn’t go very well. It's probably something that you have to perfect over time and not be too hard on yourself, right?

Absolutely. I mean, even bad barbecue is delicious. And you know, make the best chili you've ever had. If it doesn't turn out right, there's things you can do — chop it up, throw it in a soup or make a chili. There are a lot of great things you can do with it. But it is a thing that takes a lot of time, a lot of attention, a lot of practice. Don't be afraid to go after it. Try it. You can do it better next time.

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