I address this not only to you but to all who in good time may pass through these hallowed halls in search of the "Holy Grail" of good BBQ...
I began my search many, many years ago like many of us just wanting to produce a good product for my family and friends to enjoy...That is still my primary objective today. I, like countless millions of American backyard "chefs"(due to misinformaton) began with the premise that "Mo is Betta"(smoke) So with chain saw and ax in hand I found the biggest hickory tree on land behind my house that I could find. With my new treasure(and some charcoal) I quickly fired up the cooker...and started "smokin". That old cooker was belching smoke that was reminiscent of steam locomotives of bygone days! Life was good!
After several hours of "stokin" my cooker to create more smoke(and a couple of neighbors calling to inquire as to whether or not my house was on fire) I carried my creation to the table!...All of a sudden... Life was NOT so good!
The kids ran into the kitchen to cook pizza!! The wife had a strange look on her face...my mouth seemed to be tasting persimmons or maybe quinine?.....In simple terms..TOTAL DISASTER.
The above is fact! Now for some supposition on my part!
I believe that my initial mistake(and there have been many others due to misinformation and misunderstanding) was the term "smoking" being asscociated with the cooking
of meats, fish, etc. A hold over term that came from the process of curing
meats(bacon, ham, etc) in the smoke house behind grand-daddy's house in years past.(which took days) It is my belief that we amatuer cooks would be better served if we eliminated the word from our vocabulary while standing behind the "Throne" of our cookers.(I still let it slip out at times) Using instead terms like bbqing(slow and low,with very little or no visiable smoke cooking) and grilling(fast and hot cooking). I am persuaded that our familys, friends, and neighbors would be much more apprecitiave of our efforts.
More opinion: Where does one go to learn the proper skills to master the art!
That's a fair question. If I wanted to learn the game of golf..I would want Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, etc to teach me! Not the local "Pro" at the country club who hasn't ever possessed a PGA card. Same thing with bbqing and grilling....I want the true "Pit Masters" the real "Keeper of the Coals" to teach me, to learn from. In a world full of misinformation driven by fame and fortune a few do exsit. My advice to all of us amateurs is to seek them out.
Most are more than willing...eager even...to share their knowledge of the art.
I am quoting C. Clark "Smokey" Hale.. a real American and Missisippian.
"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 get marred with cresols and phenols and other noxious volatiles which make good wood preservatives and disinfectants but, (just) don't taste good, even to the unskilled palate"
Wishing you speedy enlightenment and great bbqing!
Uncle Bob (Knights Templar, Jedi Knight and Watchman of the Woods)