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Suddenly, those in whom there arose an inexplicable, instinctive yearning
for meat cooked over wood coals and, thereby, imbued with the essence of
purified flavors of the wood, lacked the lore to create it. Into this
Dismal Swamp of ignorance rushed the demons of disinformation.
Unveiling their newest buzz work, they flung meat into the ghastly gasses
of burning wood; blackened it in the phenolic resins of wood smoke and
pronounced it "SMOKIN!" They flooded television and magazines with
depictions of meat lapped by flickering flames and created nonsensical but
appealing phrases like, 'Flame Broiled!' Palates dulled by generations of
feeding on fast food burgers, tv dinners and prepackaged pap rushed to join
the frenetic frenzy believing, with the ardor of innocence, that "BURNT
Like a virulent, swiftly moving plague, the misologyous message swept the
land. Even those with more competence than confidence became seduced by the
idea of SMOKIN! So for a dark period, cooking technique regressed hundreds
of thousands of years. Good meat was burnt upon the altars of ignorance.
Children, who formerly could eat from their father's grill, were forced to
eat pizza. Those allergic to phenols or not wishing to embrace benzene were
driven from the patios.
But, even the dullest palates and most naive minds began to question.
Slowly, the latent instincts, which have guided mankind from the savannahs
of Africa to the mares of the moon, became aroused. Among the more
discerning, the first reaction was, "What am I doing wrong? Good meat is
not supposed to taste bitter. Dare I doubt the priests of PR!" But,
gradually, the truth became unavoidably obvious, "Over-smoked meat does not
Recovery, like the taste of over smoked meat, is harsh. It requires that
one accept responsibility for a temporary loss of critical thinking, a
susceptibility to the herd instinct and an uncertain palate. The outlook
for individual recovery, however, is excellent.
Fortunately, the lamps of enlightenment have been relit and coals of
sanity have been rekindled. More and more people are relearning a verity:
meat cooked in the smoke stream of burning wood gets marred with cresols
and phenols and other noxious volatiles which make good wood
preservatives and disinfectants but don't taste very good, even to an
Besides unbounded enthusiasm, spurred by abject ignorance, what permitted
this travesty to good taste even to start was the development of the
horizontal cooker with an offset firebox. When meat was cooked directly
over the heat source, the results of flames and wood smoke were immediately
apparent to even the dullest pates and palates. Even users of the tin can
water smokers quickly deduce that it is very easy to turn what was a fine
piece of meat into a mummified creosote fossil, unattractive even to flies
and maggots with taste.
In the sidewinder cookers, the heated air, however baffled and directed,
still flows in strata according to the temperature. This means that the
hotter air flows up to the top of the cooking chamber and out the stack
without necessarily coming into contact with the meat on the grate.
Although some cookers are designed so that the heated air must exit below
the meat, the flow is up and over, rather than under, around and through,
so that the meat does not normally come into intimate contact with grossly
excessive smoke. Rather, as the smoke cools, some of it is deposited on
the sides of the cooker and builds up layers of creosote. This shiny black,
acrid layer is an indication of an inexperienced cook. Sometimes, however,
even this serendipitous air flow cannot prevent too much smoke being
deposited on the meat. Eventually, even to those whose reasoning is as
dense and the smoke they produce, there comes an awakening "Less is more
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Smoky's 5th basic position for really great barbecue'n.
'According to Smoky' is © by C. Clark Hale
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