Crave: Low heat, smoke and time can transform your food

photo by: Courtesy of Mother Earth News

A smoker can turn ordinary bacon into a luxurious treat.

What’s the difference between grilling and smoking? Both are common outdoor cooking methods, but they work in different ways.

Grilling involves cooking over high heat (350 degrees or more) for a short period of time. But smoking involves low temperatures (200 degrees or lower) over a long time period (two hours or more) amid a cloud of hardwood smoke. In some cases, the intent of smoking isn’t even to cook the food, but rather to impart a smoky flavor to a food that you plan to cook using a different method later.

Here are two recipes for making the most of your smoker as the weather gets warmer.

Barbecued Ribs

Smoke several racks of ribs at one time. Smoked ribs can be frozen for up to a month. Simply reheat in the oven and serve.

Ingredients:

3-pound rack of ribs (labeled pork loin back ribs or St. Louis-style pork spareribs in grocery stores)

Lemon pepper

3 tablespoons cooking oil

Barbecue sauce

Directions:

Prepare the smoker and maintain the temperature at 180 F.

Generously sprinkle the ribs with lemon pepper, rubbing in to coat all sides, then brush or spray them with cooking oil.

Place the ribs on the smoker grate over a pan of water. Insert a meat thermometer probe into the meat, being careful to avoid touching bone. Cook for 2 hours and then turn the ribs over. Continue cooking until the meat thermometer indicates that the meat is nearly cooked, and then turn the ribs again. Mop both sides with barbecue sauce and continue smoking. The sauce is put on late since it will caramelize and darken during the smoking process. Cook for a total of about 4 hours, or until the ribs reach 160 F, the USDA recommended safe minimum internal temperature for pork.

If you want ribs that fall off the bone, take the finished ribs from the smoker and put them in a covered baking dish with 1⁄2 cup water. (For extra flavor, mop with additional barbecue sauce.) Bake the ribs in a 300-degree oven for 1 hour and the meat will pull away from the bone.

Smoked Bacon

Make a smoky, delicious bacon from the least expensive bacon you can buy. No rub or sauce needed.

Ingredients:

2 to 4 pounds unseasoned bacon slices

Directions:

Prepare the smoker and maintain the temperature at 160 F.

Place bacon slices on the smoker grates and smoke until the bacon has a smoky coating. Smoking time will be about 2 hours. The bacon will not be fully cooked, but smoke will permeate the bacon to add a light, smoky flavor.

To serve, microwave 1 minute per slice or fry as usual. Uncooked, smoked bacon can be frozen or refrigerated for later use.

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