Nothing on earth tastes better than smoked barbecue. When a rack of spare ribs or a 10-pound pork butt comes out of the pit with a crisp brown crust and buttery-smooth meat after a half day’s worth of cooking, it’s nothing short of a culinary miracle. But very few of us have the patience to spend an entire day keeping a grill smoldering at just the right temperature to achieve that glorious alchemy. Yes, it does take a serious time commitment to make proper barbecue, but it’s mostly passive time. Plus, many of today’s grills are so reliable that you can practically add a hunk of meat and forget about it until it’s done, six or eight hours later. It’s the time-tested “low and slow” method, which breaks down connective tissue gradually. The key is slow-cooking it in a smoker. The smoke reacts chemically with muscle, browning the exterior and creating the famous “smoke ring,” a band of pink meat on the outer edge that’s the classic mark of perfect barbecue. To get you smoking everything from ribs to chicken to salmon fillets at home, we hit up four of the nation’s top pit masters to share their secrets. No magic required.
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