The Artisanal Kitchen: Barbecue Rules

Lessons and Recipes for Superior Smoking and Grilling


By Joe Carroll

By Nick Fauchald

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 5, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Great barbecue and grilled meats are at the heart of summer cooking, and in this book from barbecue expert Joe Carroll, fire-cooked foods are approachable and downright delicious. With more than 30 mouthwatering recipes and six informational essays in this handy book—adapted from Carroll’s Feeding the Fire—he proves that you don’t need fancy equipment or long-held regional traditions to make succulent barbecue and grilled meats at home. Barbecue Rules teaches the hows and whys of live-fire cooking: how to roast a pork loin (and what cut to ask your butcher for), how to create low and slow heat, why quality meat matters, and how to make the best sides to accompany the main event (the key is to keep it simple). With recipes for classics like Beef Brisket and Pulled Pork Shoulder and more adventurous flavors like Sweet Tea–Brined Poussins and Lamb Saddle Chops with Mint-Yogurt Sauce, there are recipes for every palate and outdoor occasion.



Meat + smoke + patience = barbecue. You need only these three things to make the best slow-smoked meat you've ever tasted. Barbecue is a relatively simple process once you know where to focus your attention.

Choosing the best meat is by far the most important step in achieving barbecue greatness (see here), yet wood should be treated like an ingredient too (see here). Once you learn to select the right meat and wood for whatever you're smoking, you're ready to choose your equipment. The style of smoker you use will automatically inform your choice of primary fuel: gas, charcoal, or hardwood logs. In this chapter, I take you through your options and, I hope, convince you that less is more, both in price and complexity of equipment.

Once you have your smoker, I'll show you how to set it up for barbecuing, and how to monitor and maintain your 'cue throughout the low-and-slow process. After that, you're ready to choose your first barbecue adventure from the recipes that begin here.

Choosing a Smoker

I taught myself how to barbecue in my backyard with a $40 Brinkmann smoker, which continues to turn out some of the best meat I've ever smoked. You can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a fancy high-end smoker, but all you're paying for is convenience and, perhaps, some badass-looking equipment—but certainly not flavor.

Electric Smokers

An electric smoker is the easiest to use: you plug it in, set the temperature, load your meat, and let the machine do its work; all you have to do is add some wood chips periodically. What you'll end up with is, yes, technically, barbecue, but it's almost impossible to create a thick, flavorful bark in an electric smoker, and you can forget about a smoke ring (see here). Simply put, electric smokers don't produce the combustion needed to create the flavor of authentic barbecue.

Propane Smokers

Propane smokers are as easy to use as electric smokers but are much more portable. As with a gas grill, there's no charcoal fire to attend to, and you can achieve something close to barbecue flavor. But, as with gas grills, something very important is missing: wood.

Pellet Smokers

Like electric and gas smokers, pellet smokers offer accurate temperature control and require only minimal babysitting during the smoking process. These grill-like rigs burn small cylinders of compressed sawdust to produce a constant output of smoke. While pellet smokers have their fans and are great for cold-smoking, I've found them to produce less smoke—and therefore less flavor—than even electric and gas smokers.

Charcoal Smokers

Consistent temperature is a convenience, but what's lacking in all of the models mentioned above is charcoal. While fresh wood, whether in the form of chips, pellets, or chunks, adds flavor, carbonized wood—that is, charcoal—is equally essential to achieving maximum barbecue flavor.

Most charcoal smokers fall into one of two categories: offset or bullet-shaped. Offset smokers look like a grill with a small firebox attached to one side. The heat and smoke produced in the firebox flow through the barrel-shaped chamber and out through a chimney. It's easier to build and maintain a fire in this style of smoker, but I've found that they're very inconsistent. It's hard to control the flow of smoke, which tends to float above the meat and exit the chimney before it's done its job. Plus, the side of the chamber near the firebox gets much hotter than the opposite side, so the meat will cook unevenly unless you move it around.

My favorite type of smoker is the bullet-shaped barrel smoker. Most models resemble a kettle grill with a long metal tube fixed between the bowl-shaped bottom and the domed lid. The setup for all of these smokers is basically the same: Charcoal and wood go in a pan on the bottom of the grill and then are added through a small door as needed. A water pan is set above the charcoal and below two or more racks to hold the meat. On top goes the lid, which usually has air vents and a thermometer. The most popular barrel smoker on the market is probably the Weber Smokey Mountain (see Resources), which comes in three sizes. The cheaper Brinkmann smoker is similar in form and function, but it lacks the Weber's adjustable air vents and has a smaller door, which makes adding charcoal and wood more of a pain. It also has a rather vague temperature gauge on the lid (with "low," "medium," and "hot" zones) in lieu of an actual thermometer. (With any smoker, I recommend using an accurate oven thermometer or instant-read probe thermometer to monitor the temperature until you calibrate the built-in thermometer to your desired cooking range.)

But you don't actually need a dedicated smoker to make proper barbecue. A kettle grill can easily be configured into a smoker and will achieve equally great results once you know how to set one up (see here).

My advice: If you're new to barbecue, start with an inexpensive bullet smoker (see Resources). If you catch the barbecue bug after using it for a while, upgrade to something that suits your particular needs (capacity, speed, convenience, etc.). Just remember that if you opt for convenience over charcoal, you're also leaving out flavor.

Setting Up and Using a Charcoal Smoker

If you have a charcoal smoker, congratulations! Your barbecue is going to taste great. Now it's time to start smoking. (See here for step-by-step photos.)

1 Remove any ash and debris if the smoker has been previously used and clean the grates.

2 Fill a chimney starter about halfway with hardwood charcoal. Loosely crumple a couple of pieces of newspaper and drizzle or spray them with vegetable oil (this helps the paper burn longer and speeds up the charcoal-lighting process). Stuff the paper into the chimney's lower chamber, place the chimney on the smoker's top grate, and light it. Let the charcoal burn until the coals are glowing red and coated in gray ash, about 15 minutes. Put on a pair of heavy-duty fireproof gloves and carefully dump about half of the smoldering charcoal into the charcoal container. I like to keep a kettle grill or an extra chimney starter nearby and keep a steady supply of burning charcoal in it to replenish the fire—if you're using pure hardwood charcoal, you can throw a couple of unlit chunks into the smoker at a time, but charcoal briquettes must be lighted beforehand or they'll add nasty flavors to the meat.

3 Line the water pan with aluminum foil (this makes cleanup easier), position it over the coals, and fill it about half full with hot water. The water pan's primary function is to catch the fat that drips from the meat to prevent flare-ups, but it also acts as insulation that helps reduce temperature fluctuations.

4 Set the metal grates in place, adding the meat to the grates. If you're not filling up the entire smoker with meat, load it from the top down, as there will be a higher concentration of smoke near the top of the unit. Then put the lid on top.

5 If your smoker has air vents in the top or bottom, open them up all the way. You can adjust the vents later to control the temperature.

6 Open the smoker door and throw a few tennis ball–size chunks of wood or a handful of wood chips on top of the charcoal. Wood chips should always be soaked in water for at least 15 minutes and drained before use, but there's no need to soak wood chunks in water. If you're using chips, keep a ready supply of them soaking nearby.

7 If you have a probe thermometer, insert it through the top air vent to monitor the temperature. The smoker will take about 10 minutes to reach 225°F, which is the optimal temperature for cooking most barbecue. As you get accustomed to your smoker, you'll find yourself needing to check the thermometer less and less.

8 You'll notice that the temperature will fluctuate up and down as the wood chunks or chips ignite and the charcoal burns down. These fluctuations are inevitable with a charcoal smoker and are nothing to worry about. Your goal is to maintain a range between 200° and 250°F: As the temperature nears 200°F, add a couple of pieces of charcoal (keep a pair of long tongs handy for opening the hot door and adding the charcoal and wood). If the temperature spikes above 250°F for more than a few minutes, remove a piece or two of charcoal or partially close the bottom vent (and top vent, if necessary) to lower the temperature. If your smoker doesn't have air vents, you can briefly remove the lid until the smoker cools down, though this lets a lot of smoke escape.

9 When you notice the supply of smoke dying down, add one or two more wood chunks or another handful of chips to the charcoal container. When the meat nears doneness, I stop adding wood to the fire—any smoke created in the final cooking stage adds little to the overall flavor (see How Often to Add Wood).

10 If you're smoking big cuts of meat, the barbecue process can take all day. While it's impossible to "set it and forget it" with a charcoal smoker, you don't need to constantly babysit your barbecue. Check the temperature and smoke level every hour or so, and add small amounts of charcoal and wood as needed. As long as your mean temperature is around 225°F, you'll have nothing to worry about.

Barbecue Times and Temperatures

The following chart gives smoking times and temperatures for the various meats and cuts most commonly used for barbecue. The target smoking temperature for most barbecue is 225°F.

You'll notice that the range of cooking times for any given meat can be quite large; this is because of many small factors, including the temperature of the meat when it begins cooking, the mean temperature of your smoker, the temperature outside of your smoker, and even the breed of animal. I've included a target internal temperature for when the meat is done, but that is far less important than the texture of the meat, which you should check first, following the recipe's directions.


Approximate Weight/Size

Ideal Smoker Temperature

Approximate Cooking Time

Internal Temperature when Done

Beef brisket (whole)

10 to 14 pounds


12 to 16 hours

185° to 195°F

Beef short ribs

7 pounds per rack


5 to 6 hours


Beef tongue

2 to 3 pounds each


6 to 8 hours


Beef cheeks

1 pound each


5 to 7 hours


Pork shoulder (Boston butt)

5 to 8 pounds


7 to 13 hours (1½ hours per pound)

185° to 195°F

Pork spareribs

3 pounds per rack


5 to 7 hours


Pork belly

12 to 15 pounds


7 to 9 hours


Pork baby back ribs

1½ pounds per rack


3 to 5 hours


Pork loin roast

5 to 6 pounds


On Sale
Mar 5, 2019
Page Count
112 pages

Joe Carroll

Joe Carroll

About the Author

Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Joe Carroll didn’t grow up steeped in Southern barbecue culture. With a curious nature and a love of food, Carroll launched barbecue joint Fette Sau in Brooklyn in 2007, luring in equal parts hipsters and barbecue devotees. With his beer garden, Spuyten Duyvil, and his casual American steak house, St. Anselm, in Brooklyn, Carroll continues to expand, opening Fette Sau in Philadelphia as well. Carroll; his wife, Kim; and their twin daughter and son live in Brooklyn, New York.

Nick Fauchald is a Brooklyn-based editor and author. He has worked as an editor at Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, and Every Day with Rachael Ray and was editor in chief of Nick is the publisher of Short Stack Editions, a series of single-subject cookbooks, and cofounder of Little Sous, a culinary media company.

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