BBQ is all about low and slow, with sous vide being even lower and slower. I feel I've been able to combine the best of both worlds to get the most convenient and consistent results by using my Anova Precision Cooker in conjunction with my pellet grill. I started out with a stick burner and managed overnight brisket cooks before and while it was spectacular, it was a lot of work. So I switched to a pellet grill, which was even easier, because it was temperature controlled. As some may know, smoke doesn't penetrate all the way through things, so a majority of the smoking time is just getting the meat tender, which my Anova does better than anything.
With traditional methods, I could do it, but there's always that accidental moment where the fire was too hot, it was still in for too long and caused it to dry out, or the uneven shape of the meat had one side dry and one said good. Chicken wings which are pretty good grilled come out super moist and so tender when sous vide first. Even with a brisket, everyone loves the point, because of the fat, but for a lot of people, the flat ends up getting to dry. So people do tricks like cooking it fat side down. Well the laziness in me realized that I could combine smoking with sous vide to be even lazier and get better results. With the Anova wifi functionality, I can remotely check the temp and change the temp if I wanted to.
Smoke for flavor, sous vide for precise doneness/tenderness and texture
I tend to smoke first, because cold, moist, raw meat tends to take smoke better and because it's more convenient to me. Being able to smoke in the beginning, ensures that the meat never exceeds my target sous vide temp, because I'm smoking at 150°F-180°F and it takes a while for meats to get above 120°F internal at those temps.The bad thing is, you don't get the traditional bark, unless you finish it properly. If you have time, you can ice chill the meat, then refrigerate after SV, then bring back up to temp by smoking again. This will give you killer bark, and a stronger smokiness, but requires a little more work and timing coordination. I'm usually too lazy by then.
Here are my secrets for sous vide BBQ success:
- Season before smoking
- Smoke as low as possible for 6-8 hours at 150°F-180°F
- Don't let the meat's internal temp exceed the target sous vide bath temp when you're smoking (either before or after)
- Sous vide temp depends on what you're cooking but a good general rule of thumb for tougher bbq meats (brisket, beef ribs, short ribs, etc) - 132°F-165°F for 24-48 hours depending on the texture you want your meat to be like.
- Finish under a broiler to get the crust back
- For more smoke, better crust, ice bath, then chill, so you can smoke again back to SV bath temp, you can season again before this step too if you want.