It’s BBQ season—okay, well, when you live in Albuquerque, when is it not BBQ season? There are some ground rules that you need to remember about the BBQ lifestyle, though. Namely that, while there may be numerous clever products out there and various meat cooker trends that will try to convince you that you can have the perfect BBQ if you just rest your applewood in an oak cask for 9 months before you light it up in your wood-fired oven, the only truly perfect BBQ is done with blue smoke. Let’s talk about why it’s really just that simple to have the best BBQ in Albuquerque.
What is blue smoke?
Whether you are using wood or charcoal for your BBQ, blue smoke is the kind of smoke you should be aiming for if you are going to get the best results. It has actually been referred to by meat enthusiasts as the ‘holy grail’ of BBQ pit masters, especially if you are going low and slow on a long cook. But what makes your smoke blue and why is blue smoke so desirable?
The color of your BBQ smoke can vary. You’ve probably seen it range from bluish to white, to gray, to yellow, and even black, and you’ve probably seen it do this at various stages of your BBQ session. What makes your smoke change color is the particle sizes within the smoke. These particles scatter and reflect light into our eyes differently, and the differences are perceived as different colors. Blue smoke is comprised of the smallest particles. White smoke has slightly larger particles. Grey and black smoke contain particles that are large enough to absorb some of the light and colors, which makes them appear black.
The thing with larger particles is that you can taste them a little too well. Think of the black smoke you get off of a candle or lantern. It can actually gather on the chimney or glass candle dish, coloring it black. When this gets on your meat, it gives it an ashy or sooty taste—not the smoky flavor you are looking for from your BBQ.
What makes the particle sizes in your smoke change?
Heat and exposure to oxygen. Black and gray smoke is smoke that is starving for oxygen. White smoke is the smoke you get when you just start your BBQ (as long as you’ve cleaned the grill properly).
How do you get blue smoke at your BBQ in Albuquerque?
Follow these tips for getting the coveted blue smoke at your BBQ in Albuquerque:
1. Use wood. If you don’t want to just use wood (it’s a little tricky to get the wood to smolder at the correct temperature and not fully burn), then you can use charcoal, but add wood chips when the charcoal heats to help stabilize the temperature. Remember, charcoal adds heat, not flavor. Only wood can give you the proper blue smoke flavor.
2. Keep your cooker clean. Grease and old food particles will burn off, sure, but they will create black smoke when they do, and that will taint the flavor of your BBQ.
3. Control your oxygen levels. Blue smoke requires a lot of oxygen, so make sure your coals are getting plenty. Knock the ash off occasionally and keep them on a grate above the bottom firebox so they can get lots of air.
4. Control your temperature. You want to see flame, and you want it to burn hot.
5. Make sure you use dry wood to allow that heat to build effectively. The smoke from wet wood doesn’t have a good flavor.
6. Use the right size pieces of wood. You want golf ball to baseball size chunks of wood for the best results.
7. Don’t let your meat drip on the fire. The water and grease can produce dirty smoke, which can cause problems on your low and slow cooks.