No two barbecues are the same. Some turn out well while others seem to fizzle out. It's baffling to me how I can repeat the exact same process when smoking ribs and yet, get different results each time. So, I decided to start a little discussion about maintaining the airflow, air temperature and meat temperature throughout the meat smoking process. Please add your comments below; we would be happy to hear from you all.
If any of you have tried to make smoked ribs or smoked brisket before by following a recipe or online advice then you know that sometimes it simply does not turn out well. Having a decent thermometer is a good start, but even that is not enough. Professional meat smokers all develop a 'feel' for smoking and barbecue in general. They learn how to tell when that right moment is to flip, foil, mop, or remove the ribs from the smoker. Yes, we have tools such as thermometers, recipes, clocks, etc that help us determine when those exact moments are, but no tool can be substituted for experience.
One of the keys to smoking meat is understanding airflow. Airflow determines the overall temperature of the fire, the path that the smoke travels, the intensity of the smoke, the temperature of the meat, everything. As you know, lowering the air intake will dampen the fire and reduce the overall airflow generated, and opening the intake door will increase the hotness of the fire, the amount of smoke usually, and the temperatures of both the firebox and the cooking section.
In many smoked ribs guides and forums, they tell you to make sure that you maintain a minimun temperature in order to assure food safety. This only applies to smoked ribs that are cooked entirely by the smoking process. You will find that all of the recipes on my site are divided into two cooking sections: one is the smoking process that takes place in the smoker or on the grill while the other is the actual end cooking process that assure the meat is done. The final cooking stage takes place indoors in the oven or slow cooker, where temperatures are higher and more safe. This way, you can use air flow to limit the temperature and the amount of heat penetrating the ribs.