Smoking 101 

Beginners' Technique and Uncommon Ideas

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SMOKED BUFFALO WINGS

Smoked Buffalo wings were hard to find just three years ago, but this "why didn't I think of that" version of the original has appeared on menus at a handful of new places. The smoked wings in this recipe are only par-cooked during smoking, then finished in a fryer, so it's a good way to get started with smoking food: You don't have to worry about monitoring your temperatures so closely, as you're mainly after flavor.

Also see below for uncommon ideas for things to smoke alongside your wings, since getting the fire going is 99 percent of the work.

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Ingredients:

As many chicken wings as you like (we usually do 3 pounds)

4 ounces butter

4 ounces hot sauce (Crystal or Tabasco type)

Seasoned salt (Lawry's or Old Bay)

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Gear:

Charcoal grill

Charcoal

1 cup apple wood chips

Wire rack

Prep:

Separate the drumette (closest to body) from the flap (middle) and tip portion, for more even cooking. Soak the apple wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes.

Smoking:

Start your coals in a chimney. When they're ready, arrange them in the grill for indirect cooking (i.e., not directly below the center of the grill, but off to one side).

Squeeze out the chips as best you can (so they don't put out the coals), then scatter them over the coals.

Place the wings on the part of the grill not over the coals. This will allow the wings to absorb smoke longer without cooking through, as they will still undergo a deep-frying step that finishes them. Close the lid immediately.

Let the wings smoke for about 45 minutes (turning is unnecessary). Monitor the fire so that it doesn't get too high or die, and use the vents to create a nice slow burn. All you want at the end of the smoking stage is for the wings to be between blonde and caramel in color. They should not be cooked, because they're about to be finished in hot oil. A chamber temperature generally less than 250 degrees is safe.

Remove the wings from the smoker.

Frying:

Fry the wings in oil that's 360 to 375 degrees, dropping them in carefully in small batches, such that they can swim freely. The skin tells you when you're done cooking: It should be a rich brown color, with as little yellow as possible. Ours go anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, but remember, these are very hard to overcook. Try a test piece: skin done, or still rubbery? Keep frying.

While frying, melt the butter and hot sauce together in a pot, stirring until fully liquid and blended.

Once the wings are done, let them drain for a few minutes on the wire rack, and then toss them in the sauce, which should also be hot. Salt to taste. If frying in batches, re-warm the earlier batches for 30 seconds or so in the hot oil before saucing.

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STILL SMOKIN'!

If you're set up to smoke, that's 99 percent of the work, so why not throw a few more things in and get maximum use from your smoke? Smoking time on these will vary, depending on the ripeness/doneness/hardness of your ingredient.

1. Hard-boiled eggs, for egg or potato salad

2. Sliced onions, for burgers and sausage

3. Ripe, halved stone fruit, like peaches (smoked fruit pairs ideally with blue cheese and honey)

4. Halved tomatoes, for sauces

5. Lemon wedges, for chicken or fish

6. Jalapeños, for salsa

7. Shelled nuts

8. Pre-cooked yams, for mashing

9. Peeled garlic

10. Whole winter spices, such as cloves, cinnamon, and star anise

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