4 basic barbecue techniques to master

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4 basic barbecue techniques to master

You asked me for more bbq techniques on how to cook on a barbecue. If techniques are what you want. That’s what you get.

I am going to teach you the four basic bbq techniques. When you master these, you will be able to cook anything you want on a barbecue.

All the methods I am going to show you apply to all the charcoal grills there are. Maybe you need another set-up than the one I will show you, but the technique will be the same.

Cold smoking

The first technique I want to talk about is cold smoking. It’s the most delicate way to cook because you don’t want to go over 24°C (75F).

If it’s possible, you’ve got to take out the insulation in your grill. This is why this technique works best with the classic kettle grill. Next, you want to clear the grill off all the left-over charcoal and ashes. If you light up the new charcoal, the small parts will also light up and create energy. And that’s not what you want. Because we want to have as little heat as possible, this cooking method is only about the smoke.

You start a fire with a handful of charcoal in a firestarter outside of the grill. When it’s all lit up, you take one larger chunk of charcoal and drop it carefully in your grill.

Next, you need smoke wood. For cold smoking, I use wood chips soaked in water. The water is going to absorb a lot of energy from the heat of the charcoal. So if you stack the soaked woodchips on this single piece of charcoal, it’s going to create smoke without the extra heat.

Now you close the lid and keep a rather large gap at the top vent to let the air flow. You need this air because there is not a lot of fuel. If you close off the air too much, the energy is gone, and there will be no smoke.

If the charcoal is glowing too hot, so the temperature rises, you can place a tray with cold water next to the charcoal. This way, the temperature will go down in the kettle.

With the cold smoking technique, you can cook smoked salmon, smoked sea salt and other spices. But what about cheeses or whisky. If you can eat it raw, you can cold smoke it. The possibilities are endless.

Low and slow smoking

The second technique I want to show you is low and slow smoking. This method is for temperatures from 24°C (75F) and higher. But not higher than 140°C (284F).

For this method, you need more charcoal, but you are not lighting it up all at once. You start with a small amount of charcoal and light it at one spot. This way, the fire is slowly walking from one side to the other. You have to work out the amount of charcoal you add to your grill that creates heat that reaches the food.

With this technique, you have a higher heat than cold smoking, but you are not unleashing it all at once. It burns slowly so that you can control it with the airflow you adjust with the vents. You start with a small amount of charcoal because you can always add more when the temperature is too low. But taking away heat with already lit charcoal is a lot harder.

Now you want to deflect the direct heat to reach the food. I’ve talked about the different kinds of heat before. Maybe you should check that out to know what I’m talking about.

How you deflect that direct heat differs with the type of grill you have. In a kamado, you use the plate setters or maybe a SloRoller. In your kettle grill, you can use a big log of wood or a simple sheet of aluminium foil.

With this technique, you can smoke for many hours. You just have to add smoke wood. At these temperatures, I use the larger chunks that I put on the lighted charcoal. If you need to smoke for longer, you just add more chunks. This way, you can add smoke flavour throughout the whole cook if you want.

This method is the basis for authentic bbq. You use it for smoking brisket, spareribs and pulled pork. This is the technique you want to master if you love real bbq.


The following technique is the easiest is all of barbecue. But at the same time, it’s the technique that reminds you the least of barbecue.

For this method, all you need to do is put more charcoal in your grill than the first two methods. We require that fuel to reach roasting temperatures. These temperatures are between 140°C and 180°C (284 to 356F).

We light up the charcoal with three firestarters to get the whole pile of charcoal fully lit. At this heat, you’ve gained total combustion and clean hot air without smoke. This is perfect for crispening up the outside of the meat.

Roasting in a barbecue is the closest to cooking indoors in an oven. Because with roasting, you still cook with indirect heat but without smoke. Smoke wood will just burn without creating smoke flavour.

For deflecting the heat, I use a heat deflector and a grill grate. How this looks on your grill depends on your grill. As long as you’re blocking the radiant heat from reaching the food, it’s okay.

With roasting temperatures, you cook prime rib roast, tri-tip and picanha. You get juicy meat with a fantastic crust.


The final technique I am going to show you is grilling. It’s the easiest set-up because it’s just like roasting but without the deflector to create direct heat. Just create a bed of glowing charcoal and place a grill grate, and you can sear.

This is the technique farthest from barbecue because of the high temperature and the flames. The fat of the meat renders down onto the charcoal and creates flames. It gives you flame-kissed flavours that you otherwise would not get. This is the way our ancestors cooked.

If you master grilling and create the perfect amount of distance between the flame and your food, you make a crunchy layer on the outside of your meat while the inside will still be juicy and tender.

With this method, you can grill steaks, pork chops, chicken wings and fish with the charred flavour everyone loves.

Master all these techniques to become a pitmaster

When you know how to use all these methods, you can cook anything you want on your grill. And if you want to learn more, just let me know, and I will teach you all I know.


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