Barbequing is the process of cooking food by indirect heat which is similar to convection cooking. Hot smoky air cooks the food imparting a rich smoky flavor to it. Smoking is perhaps the earliest method of barbequing food and it is popular even today. Earlier, people used to cook food in smokehouses that were located on the outskirts of the residential areas. With the evolution of barbequing, portable grills and electric smokers have become an integral part of most households.
Compared to smokehouses that were used for smoking food for an entire community, modern grills and smokers are used to serve a small crowd at a house party. The heat that is generated in smokers and grills is limited to a certain degree. This is why some tricks are required to heat up the barbeque to get the desired result. Preheating is one such technique to get perfectly cooked, tender, and succulent steaks.
Benefits of Preheating the Food Smoker/Grill
Many of us might think that preheating is limited to an oven only, but no, your grill and smoker also need to be preheated before cooking. Read further to find out why.
Prevents food from sticking to grates: When you place the raw meat on a cold rack or grate, it will stick to it during the barbeque. This can damage the steak when you try to flip it or remove it. Hot grates or racks prevent the meat from sticking and allow you to flip it easily.
Create convection: Without preheating, the food will start cooking only on the one side that receives the heat initially. When the inner chamber is heated well it creates a convection mode for uniform cooking of the food from all sides.
Ensures clean smoke: Wood or wood chips need to reach complete combustion level to emit clean smoke. It takes some time for the wood chips to be heated to that degree. This is why the barbeque should be preheated for a few minutes to avoid having foul smoke anywhere near the food.
Stabilizes temperature: Preheating helps the smoking chamber or grill to reach the required temperature for cooking. This enhances the color, flavor, and texture of the food after the barbeque.
Faster cooking: When the food enters the smoker or grill that is already heated, it starts cooking immediately without waiting for any warm-up time. This ensures uninterrupted and faster cooking.
Prominent sear marks: Who doesn’t love that clear grill or sear mark on the steak? However, placing the raw meat on a cold grill or rack will never get you that sear mark. The marks are formed when the sugar in the food caramelizes instantly when it touches the heated grill. It also enhanced the smoky flavor.
How to Preheat Food Smoker/ Grill
After learning the six major benefits of preheating your barbeque, we know what your next question will be. So, here is a small guide to know how to preheat your barbeque before cooking.
Conventional smokehouse/ Grill: For barbeque units that are manually operated, it becomes difficult to assess the temperature without a thermometer. For instance, if you are smoking pork butt that needs to be cooked at 225 to 240 degrees F (107.2-115.6C), then try to preheat the smoker to 220 degrees F (approximately) (104.4C). As the smoker starts cooking, it will automatically reach the desired temperature. This might take about 15 minutes.
Electric smoker/ Grill: Modern electric smokers/grills come with an automatic preheat option so that’s a great advantage. With advanced smokers like Bradley Smokers, you can set the timer and temperature to preheat the smoker before adding the food. The same function applies to setting the cooking temperature and time as well.
How to Get the Intense Smoky Flavor
It is the rich smoky flavor of barbecue foods that has created a separate fan base. Although there are different methods to barbeque food, smoking imparts the most intense smoky flavor. The reason is obvious. When the food is cooked in hot smoke rather than flames, it will absorb a more smoky flavor than grilling or roasting. However, the fuel for food smoking is the real star here.
The right fuel will produce clean smoke to enhance the flavor of the food while bad fuel can ruin it completely making it bitter and foul-smelling. You need to take care of the temperature as well because food smoking is a low and slow process. Using large wood pieces will generate more heat that can spoil the flavor by overcooking or charring the food. Here are two fuel options that pitmasters use to serve rich smoky flavored and succulent steaks.
Bradley Bisquettes: These are specially designed wood pucks that extinguish immediately after they burn out before converting to ashes. Bradley Bisquettes are available in oak, pecan, apple, alder, hickory, cherry, maple, and many more flavors.
The article was intended to show the benefits of preheating barbeques before cooking.
We also added some easy-peasy Bradley tips & tricks for preheating and intensifying the smoky flavor to help beginners ace the art. For more great Bradley tips and tricks along with how to get the most of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog.