National Barbecue Day is Monday, May 16. As if we needed an excuse to dig into some smoked, meaty goodness.
It's hard to beat visiting a restaurant dedicated to the craft, whether you smoke at home or not. You've got choices in Eastern Connecticut to visit, and we chatted with a couple of them to see what they've got smoking.
Curious what wood types are used for the smoker? How long do they smoke different cuts of meat? What's on the menu for National Barbecue Day?
How long does it take to cook meat in a smoker?
"It depends on the cut of meat," said Ozmun. "Our brisket and pork butt, those big meats, we'll smoke all day and rest."
While seasoning such hefty cuts of meat can vary, you'll want a good 12-15 hours for the densest, biggest flanks. It's best to let those smoke overnight. If you're planning on doing ribs or chicken, however, you can manage in an afternoon.
"We smoke our chicken wings for a few hours," said Lusk.
As for wood, you've got a few options.
Some smokers will use pellets, meaning you'll have to order those online or through the retailer. If you're using cuts of wood instead, check around locally.
"We source our wood from the owner's farm up in Massachusetts," said Lusk.
He splits it himself, rotating between what's available.
Ozmun uses chopped wood from local tree services.
"We use a mix of hickory and oak, as well as apple or cherry."
Most importantly, however, is the quality of meat you're getting. Look around for a local butchery and know where your meat is coming from. It'll make all of the difference.
What's on the menu if we don't have a smoker?
Fortunately, Oz'NBones and Noble Smokehouse have plenty to enjoy on site if you're without a smoker on National Barbecue Day.
"Our most popular meats are our brisket and ribs," said Ozmun. "You can get a regular plate with one meat or a combo plate with two, whether its ribs, pulled chicken, pulled pork, brisket, or burnt ends. We even smoke half chickens. Different meats get different rubs, too."
Same goes for Noble Smokehouse, along with a few more unique menu options.
"We have a barbecue sundae," said Lusk. "It's sweet potato, mac 'n' cheese, cowboy beans, slaw, pulled pork, cornbread crumble, barbecue drizzle, and Alabama white sauce."
You can also get sandwiches like their chopped brisket melt, with slow smoked brisket, caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese on a brioche bun, or their smoked turkey wrap, with turkey, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, and fig mayonnaise.
There are plenty of sides to choose from. Noble serves up the classics, like mac 'n' cheese, slaw, collard greens, and more.
"Our most popular side is the bacon mac 'n' cheese," said Ozmun. "It's a baked mac 'n' cheese with pieces of our own cured and smoked bacon. That's our number one seller for sides. We make our own cast iron skillet cornbread with maple butter, baked beans, collared greens, and plenty more."
This article originally appeared on The Bulletin: Tips for smoking meats at home from a pair of CT barbecue chefs