Smoke Signal

No, we are not, G-d forbid, advocating smoking, unless, of course, we’re talking barbecue smoking! Barbecue enthusiasts will tell you that the quick-cook methods most of us use on a grill is not true barbecue. Real, old-fashioned barbecue relies on time and smoke to achieve authentic flavor.

Smoke is the ancient and time-honored way to add flavor to anything you can cook. In ancient times, smoke was used to preserve meat for long periods of time. There are records of food being wrapped in leaves and buried in shallow pits filled with smoking coals to cook. The enclosed cooking pit held heat and allowed foods to be completely cooked through.

Today we mostly use smoke to enhance the flavor of meats. Now don’t run out to the local lumber yard and pick up some scrap wood. Though you might luck out and get something good, the wood for smoking meat must be selected very carefully.

Wood can be used to enhance flavor on both charcoal and gas grills. Grilling wood is available in a variety of forms. Planks, sheets, chips, and chunks will all create different levels of smoky intensity.

When using wood chips or chunks you want them to stay moist and not burn up too quickly. This creates intense bursts of smoke that can make food bitter. By soaking wood in water for about 30 minutes you can slow down the combustion and lengthen the time in which the smoke is created. Planks need to soak for one hour to allow moisture to permeate completely. Make sure you let the wood drip dry for a few minutes before you add it to the fire. The wood should be moist, not dripping wet.

Cedar wood sheets are great when you are cooking a variety of foods—some you want to smoke and others you don’t. Wrap fish fillets, chicken cutlets or small steaks in cedar sheets to infuse them with delicious smoky flavor.

When using a gas grill it’s best to put presoaked wood chips in a smoker box under the grate. This keeps your grill from filling up with ash and clogging the burners. Get the wood close to the heat. You need the heat to smolder the wood and this means a pretty high heat. If you are using a charcoal grill you can either put the wood directly on the coals (once they’ve heated up) or place them in a smoker box as well. Experiment and find out what works best for you.

Smoke Brisket

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (4-5 pound) beef brisket
  • 3 cups oak or hickory wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained
  • 1 cup apple juice
    [You will need a spray bottle for the apple juice]
  • 1 1/2 cups your favorite BBQ sauce

Combine all the spices in a bowl and mix well. Pat the spice rub onto the meat, making sure to heavily season the entire surface area of the brisket. Cover or wrap the brisket and let it sit at room temperature while getting the grill ready.

If using a gas grill preheat to high. Turn off half the burners and wipe down the grates with oil.

If using a charcoal grill, arrange the coals on one side of the grill, leaving an area large enough for the brisket to cook indirectly with no coals directly underneath the meat.

When the grill has reached 200 to 225 degrees F., place the chips in a smoker box and place it under the grate. Put the brisket on the side with no coals or flame and close the lid.

Maintain a 200 to 225 degree F. cooking temperature inside the grill. If you are using a charcoal grill add coals every two hours or as needed. Spray the brisket with apple juice every two hours. Try not to lift the lid of the grill otherwise.

After three hours the brisket should have an internal temperature of 165 to 170 degrees F. on an instant read meat thermometer. Remove it from the grill and double wrap in aluminum foil to keep the juices from leaking out. Return the brisket to the grill and cook about another hour or until temperature reaches 190 degrees F. Let rest for 45 minutes, then unwrap and slice. Serve with BBQ sauce on the side.

Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.