All posts by Jeff Fidler

low carb snacks for kids

Low Carb After School Snacks Kids Will Love

Satisfy the After-School Hunger of Your Kids with Healthy Low Carb Snacks

School has started up again, and along with the never-ending struggle of making healthy lunches that your kids will eat also comes the daunting task of providing healthy snacks at the end of the day when they come home tired and hungry. The real difficulty comes in making sure the snacks you give your kids strikes a good balance between great taste and healthy qualities that fit with the low carb lifestyle.

In this list of healthy snack recipes, we’ve compiled some great ideas that kids are sure to love. We’ve got some crunchy, salty snacks that will be perfect for kids who crave snacks like chips and cheesies. We’ve also found a handful of sweet treats that are sure to be a great way to satisfy the desire for something sugary. Finally, we’ve also got a fantastic hot snack that no hungry kid will say no to at the end of the day.

Let’s get started with the list with a crunchy snack that is ideal for kids who love to dip!

Ultimate Keto Breadsticks

Do breadsticks sound like a boring intro to this list of snacks? Well, get ready to change your mind because these are the best breadsticks that you’ll ever munch on. Using a simple blend of low carb ingredients like almond flour, flax meal, and coconut flour, this recipe produces a breadstick that is crunchy on the outside and has a nice soft center that kids will love. Dip these in marinara sauce, salsa, queso, or whatever your kids’ favourite dip happens to be. Enjoy!

Low Carb Cherry Cheesecake Popsicles

Even though summer is winding down now that school is back in session, the time is always right for a frosty treat like these popsicles. From just 5 simple ingredients, you’ll be amazed at how great these chilly cherry cheesecake pops taste, and doubly amazed at how healthy they are. You’ll have your kids hooked on these in no time, so make sure you’ve got a decent supply of them in your freezer!

Almond Joy Fruit and Nut Bars

Sometimes the best after school snacks are a crunchy salty snack bar that your kids can really tear in to and scarf down quick before heading out on their next adventure. These fruit and nut bars are packed full of healthy ingredients and are perfectly suited to low carb and keto diets. Your kids won’t be the only ones munching on these though, as they are also a great way to fuel up before heading out the door to work or to get you over those mid-afternoon hungers in a healthy way.

Low Carb Cheesy Goldfish Crackers

Who doesn’t love the salty crunch of a classic goldfish cracker? Parents around the world are all guilty of sneaking a few of these when the kids are out playing, and now you can easily make a low carb version right at home. Using a simple mix of almond flour, sea salt, and a nice hard cheese like gouda or parmesan, cut out with a fishy-shaped cookie cutter, you’ve got the best tasting goldfish crackers ever. You’ll want to make a lot of these at a time, since your kids won’t be able to stop eating them!

Cinnamon Churritos

These sweet, sugary snack bites are simply delectable! If your kids love churros, then these mini little churritos are going to be their new favourite snack. Made from a combination of coconut flour and almond flour, and rolled in a blend of cinnamon and xylitol sweetener, these are low in carbs, low in sugar, and absolutely delicious. They’re also very easy to make and can be on the table, ready to eat in just 20 minutes.

Low Carb Grain-Free Pizza Rolls

What could be better for your kids at the end of a long day at school than a plate full of these warm, savoury pizza rolls? Absolutely nothing! Pizza is always a smash hit with kids, and this recipe makes sure that you’re getting a tasty and healthy pizza snack that your kids will go nuts for. Each batch of this recipe produces about 15 yummy little pizza rolls that will definitely not last long once they come out of the oven. These would also make a great appetizer at any dinner party, so keep this recipe handy for all different types of occasions.

Snack Smart, Snack Healthy

As you can see, it’s not really all that hard to make sure that the snacks that your kids get at the end of the school day satisfy their cravings for delicious food while simultaneously making sure that they fit your criteria for a healthy lifestyle.

Surprise your kids the next time they walk in the door after a busy day at school with one of these fun and healthy snacks, and we’re sure you’ll get to see some smiling faces and maybe even some high-fives!

halloween treats sugar free

Sugar Free (and Low Carb) Halloween Treats

Scare Up Some Fun with Spooky Low Carb & Sugar Free Halloween Treats

Soon everyone’s house will be creatively decorated with cotton spider webs, inflatable pumpkins and creepy plastic skeletons, you’re probably getting in the mood for some fun and spooky Halloween treats to enjoy with the family. That’s why we’ve gathered up this eerily excellent collection of tasty Halloween-themed snacks that are perfect for low carb dieters, and still tons of fun for kids of all ages to enjoy!

Whether you’re planning a big neighbourhood Halloween party, or just want to serve up some fun surprises before the kids head out the door for some trick-or-treating, these recipes are sure to put a smile on everyone’s face. You’ll find some sweet sugar free candies, scarily savoury baked goods, and even some creatively creepy foods that are perfect for a lunch or dinner meal on Halloween.

Let’s get this list started with some cute cookies that are sure to set the tone for a fun Halloween party!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Spider Cookies – You’d never guess that cookies this cute are so easy to make, but they are! Starting with a simple low carb peanut butter cookie recipe, along with some creative use of chocolate, this recipe makes mouth-watering cookies that are every bit as fun to eat as they are to make. We especially love the way these cookies look when you add silly candy monster eyes to them. Definitely yummy and very fun!

Paleo Witch Finger Cookies – These incredibly creepy cookies are almost too spooky, but that’s part of the fun of Halloween! These sweet and crunchy Witch Finger Cookies look totally eerie and are actually quite easy to make. The recipe is not only low carb, but also gluten free, paleo, and can easily be altered to be vegan as well. Hardcore Halloween fans will absolutely love the silliness of dipping a delicious witch’s finger in their morning coffee!

Stuffed Jack-o-Lanterns – This idea is so brilliant, we wish we’d thought of it ourselves! Taking a large bell pepper, carving a jack-o-lantern face on it, and stuffing it with low carb pasta and meaty filling is a super fun way to add some scary flair to your Halloween dinner. Kids will love helping prepare this meal, as they can get creative with the face designs on the peppers and make each one a little different. These are a great way to get everyone fueled up for a night of trick-or-treating!

Sugar-Free Yummy Gummy Candy – You don’t typically think of gummies when you picture a sugar-free candy, but this homemade version of sugar-free gummies is perfect for creating a wide variety of spooky shapes and fun treats to enjoy on Halloween. Using your favourite Halloween-themed candy molds, have a gummy-making party in your kitchen and get the kids involved. Keep things fun by putting on a playlist of their favourite Halloween tunes and let the laughter flow!

Halloween Deviled Eggs – We just love creative ways to use classic foods that everyone loves, and this recipe definitely fits in to that category. These Halloween-themed deviled eggs look fantastic and are amazingly easy to make. Aside from the regular deviled egg ingredients, all you need is a couple of different colours of food dye and some creative inspiration. This recipe shows you how to make spiders, pumpkins, and eyeballs as just a few examples of how to get creative, but you can always come up with your own designs too. You can definitely have a lot of fun with this one!

Low Carb Halloween Chips – To round out your table full of Halloween-themed treats, this recipe for homemade chips is sure to be a hit with everyone at your party. Using fun Halloween cookie cutters, and your favourite low carb tortilla shells, you can quickly and easily create a heaping bowl full of crispy seasoned chips that are extremely tasty and perfect for dipping. This recipe shows you how to make them with a sweet cinnamon seasoning, but you can always change it up and use all kinds of low carb seasonings for a variety of different flavours.

Low Sugar & Sugar Free Candies

If time is short and you’re in need of some tasty sweets that aren’t loaded with sugar, you can always pick up some packs of sugar-free gummies and hard candies at The Low Carb Grocery. We’ve got a wide selection of candies and sweet treats that are ideal for low carb and sugar-free lifestyles. Shop online or in-store today and enjoy!

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween

Whether you’re planning a big Halloween party with friends and family or are excited to hit the neighbourhood for some serious trick-or-treating time this year, we hope that you end up having a safe Halloween full of good times and spooky fun.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

low carb kale chips by solar raw foods

Ultimate Low-Carb Kale Chips from Solar Raw Food

Kale Chips – Taste the Difference of All-Natural Solar Raw Food

The word ‘superfood’ gets thrown around a lot these days, and not all of them really live up to the hype. However, there’s one superfood that definitely delivers a superior level of nutritional value, and that superfood is kale. Renowned as one of the healthiest of all the greens, kale is simply a perfect part of any low carb diet.

You might be thinking that, although kale is obviously beneficial to your health, there are only so many ways you can use the leafy green as part of your weekly meal plan. Well, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that there are other ways to get more kale in your diet that offer a different taste experience, and that’s where Solar Raw Food comes in with their line of Ultimate Kale Chips.

The Story of Solar Raw Food

Solar Raw Food was founded on simple but powerful principles that have guided everything they make and do. Ultimately their mission is to produce fresh and nutritious natural foods in a sustainable way. Their focus has always been on the types of foods that deliver superior levels of nutrients, vitamins, and health benefits.

All of Solar Raw Food’s kale is grown right here in Canada on their sustainable organic farm. They use solar energy as the method of powering their kale kitchen and drying out their ingredients without baking or frying. This is the origin of their name, as their approach to using solar energy in preparing healthy raw foods is truly unique to Solar Raw Food.

Why Kale?

Although we all know kale is exceptionally healthy, many people don’t realize just how beneficial kale is as part of a nutritious diet. While it may look a lot like other leafy greens, kale truly is a wonder of nature in just how many different vitamins and nutrients it contains and how dense the values are.

Kale is an excellent source of many different vitamins including Vitamin A, B6, C, and K. It’s also rich in minerals such as Calcium, Potassium, Manganese, Copper, and Magnesium that help maintain a healthy and strong body. In addition, kale is an excellent source of dietary fibre, helping to promote proper digestion.

Anti-oxidants are also found in abundance in kale, which are beneficial in counteracting oxidative effects of free radicals in the body. Beta-carotene, vitamin C, polyphenols, and flavonoids are all found in kale.

How Ultimate Kale Chips Are Made

The process of making Ultimate Kale Chips begins with the 100% organic kale grown on the Solar Raw Food farm in Castleton, Ontario. Once harvested, the kale is then shucked to remove the leaves from the thick stems. The kale is then washed, coated in a special seasoning blend, and then it moves on to the dehydrator.

After 14 hours in the dehydrator, the kale chips are then separated and packaged, at which time they are ready to ship to you. This simple process reinforces the Solar Raw Food commitment to natural foods, and the freshness of the final product is evident in each and every bite.

Take a look behind the scenes with this great video overview from Solar Raw Food that shows just how they make their Ultimate Kale Chips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j6doyC7NUk

Flavours to Suit Any Taste Preference

Of course, Ultimate Kale Chips aren’t just wholesome snacks with a great crunch. They’re also available in some of the tastiest flavours you’ll ever snack on. If you’re a fan of trying lots of different tasting chips, the variety from Solar Raw Food will keep you busy for a while. Here’s the full list of delicious flavours you can choose from.

Hemp Cream & Chive – This savoury blend of seasonings is a classic taste for a new kind of snack chip. One handful of these is simply not enough!

Spicy Curry Lime – Curry fans will absolutely love these. The vegan curry seasoning is very rich, and perfectly complimented by the citrusy zest of lime.

Better Than Cheddar – An all-time favourite of snackers all over the world, cheddar flavour is simply delicious on a snack chip. This cheesy seasoning is vegan-friendly, and extremely addictive!

Pink Salt – For those snackers who prefer a lighter taste, Pink Salt kale chips are the perfect choice. These chips are gently seasoned with the classic Solar Raw Food dressing, and then dusted with a touch of salt.

Red Peppercorn Ranch – The big, bold flavour of ranch comes home on these chips, along with a spicy kick that you’re definitely going to love. Try a bag of these to snack on with your next movie marathon.

Cucumber Dill – The newest flavour from Solar Raw Food is a brilliant combination of fresh cucumber flavour and the savoury taste of dill. Regular dill flavoured chips can’t compete with these tasty bites!

Taste the Solar Raw Food Difference

Once you try the fresh, wholesome taste of Ultimate Kale Chips from Solar Raw Food, you’ll never snack the same way again! Their dedication to quality, nutritional content, and great taste shines through in each and every bag.

Give them a try today and taste the difference that natural, organic kale can make.

protein bars and more by grenade carb killa

Grenade Carb Killa High Protein Bars, Spreads & Brownies

Discover the Explosive Taste of Carb Killa Low Carb Bars, Spreads & Brownie Snacks

If you’re getting tired of the same old protein bars, then it’s time to learn about the awesome low carb high-protein bars and active living foods from Grenade.

It can be a challenge to find a great source of protein that works for the low carb diet and still has the great taste that you want to enjoy, but the Carb Killa line of products from Grenade solve that problem, and then some.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the inspiring story behind the Grenade brand, and how their mission has propelled them to the top of the list of innovative low carb companies around the world. We’ll also explore some of the excellent low carb products from Grenade, including bars, spreads and even brownies.

First, let’s get up to speed on how Grenade got started.

The Story of Grenade

Grenade’s story begins in 2009 in the UK, when sports supplement distributors Alan and Juliet Barratt got tired of the plethora of health food and supplement brands that all seemed to look and sound the same, with little or no differentiation between them. Their mission was a simple one, but a big challenge; to create a brand of quality health food products that would be instantly recognizable and very memorable.

Drawing inspiration from the very positive early results of a weight-loss formula product, the name ‘Grenade’ was chosen to represent the dramatic impact that their products would have on the lifestyles and healthy living of their customers.

Since its inception, Grenade has quickly risen to become one of the most well-known brands in the world of low carb products and active living foods. Their line of products has expanded to include a wide range of low carb high-protein bars, delicious high-protein spreads, and even an amazingly tasty high-protein brownie that you’ve just got to try.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the most popular products from Grenade that you can find right here at The Low Carb Grocery.

Grenade Carb Killa High-Protein Bars

This is the product that catapulted Grenade in to the spotlight. Their line of high-protein Carb Killa bars are made from only the finest of ingredients and are the perfect alternative snack for chocolate bar lovers who want all the great taste without the extra carbs or high sugar content.

Carb Killa bars are packed with protein and deliver long-lasting energy to keep you powered up for whatever adventure you choose, or as a pick-me-up snack to satisfy your hunger. Choose from delicious flavours like White Chocolate, Peanut Nutter, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Banana Armour, just to name a few.

Check out the complete line of Carb Killa bars here and shop now.

Grenade Carb Killa Protein Spreads

You’ll never look at a protein spread the same way after you try the amazing Carb Killa Protein spreads from Grenade. Made with whey protein for long-lasting energy, and extremely low in sugar, these tasty spreads are a fantastic way to boost your breakfast and add some great flavours. Spread them on low carb waffles, toast, or muffins for a taste experience that will get you fired up and ready for the day.

Choose from delicious spread flavours like Hazelnut, Jaffa Quake, Milk Chocolate, and White Chocolate Cookie. All Carb Killa spreads are 20% protein and have over 80% less sugar than other chocolate spreads. Pick some up today and change up your breakfast routine with some new tastes and extra protein.

Grenade Carb Killa High-Protein Brownies

As if the Carb Killa bars and spreads aren’t indulgent enough, Grenade kicked things up a notch by introducing Carb Killa High-Protein Chocolate Fudge Brownies that are the ultimate low carb high-protein snack treat. Featuring a triple-layer of chocolate, fudge and frosted topping, these are sure to satisfy even the most hardcore of chocolate addicts.

Carb Killa High-Protein Brownies contain a whopping 15g of protein and only 2g of sugar per bar, making them perfect as a guilt-free treat for low carb dieters.

Enjoy the Great Taste of Grenade Carb Killa Products

There’s no need to settle for a mediocre-tasting protein bar just to keep the carb counts low. Grenade proves that you can stick to your low carb diet and enjoy fantastic taste at the same time with each and every one of their unique Carb Killa products.

Give them a try today and we’re sure you’ll agree, Grenade totally delivers on their promise of making delicious low carb high-protein foods that are definitely memorable!

low carb cheese recipes

Cheese Recipes: Low Carb and Keto-Approved

5 Sure-fire Low Carb and Keto-Approved Cheese Recipes

If you’re not lactose intolerant, cheese can be a many-splendored thing. But a unique problem faces low carb cheese lovers. We live in a world that seems obsessed with dishes that pair our beloved cheese with those dreaded carbohydrates.

But not to worry. Cheese can be yours to enjoy again. To prove it to you, we’ve put together a few recipes to get you started. Give them a whirl and see where they take you. We’ve engineered each one with a bit of wiggle room, so you can get creative and put your own cheesy spin on it. Bon appetit!

1.      Cheese and egg pizza dough

Pizza is one of those dishes that people miss when eating low carb. They often assume there is no room for all that bready pizza dough in the LC lifestyle.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and pizza is definitely a necessity.

We’ve talked about making pizza low carb before. But here’s a new twist—making the crust out of nothing but cheese and eggs.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 6 oz. shredded cheese (mozzarella, provolone)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Make your crust by cracking the eggs into a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the shredded cheese. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the cheese and egg mixture on with a spatula. Form the mix into a thin circle.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. The pizza crust should just be turning golden. Remove from the oven and let stand for two minutes.
  5. Turn the oven up to 450°F (225°C).
  6. While the oven preheats again and after the crust has had a moment to cool it’s time to top your pizza. Spread a low carb pizza sauce (see link above) on the crust. Add some herbs like dried oregano to kick it up a notch. Top with cheese, pepperoni and anything else you love to top pizza with (and is keto friendly).
  7. When the oven is ready again, bake another 5–10 minutes. It’s done when the cheese on top starts turning a golden-brown colour.

2.      Cheese chips

Instead of snacking on a bag of chips when you’ve got the munchies, try this cheese chip recipe—an adapted version of which follows below—with only 2 grams of carbs.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces of hard cheese, sliced (cheddar, provolone, edam)
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika powder

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange your cheese slices on it.
  2. Sprinkle on the paprika. Bake for about 8–10 minutes. The time will vary depending on the thickness of the slices. Play it safe by setting a timer. If you forget about this dish, it won’t be long before it burns. Ideally, you want to get the chips out of the oven as they just start to brown.
  3. Let the chips cool before taking them off the tray.

These chips are great on their own, or as a dipping device. And you can eat them now or later. Put your leftovers in an air-tight container, refrigerate, and enjoy later at your leisure.

And this recipe is really nothing more than a simple guideline. You can use shredded cheese if you want. Blend your favourite cheeses together—especially if you’ve got some Parmigiana Reggiano lying around. And you can sprinkle any seasoning you want on top. Put some jalapeno slices on top to make it pop. Follow your heart—your gut will thank you later.

3.      Mozzarella wrapped in bacon (you’re welcome)

Nothing says ooey-gooey like hot mozzarella. But all that breading should mean there’s no place on a low carb menu for mozzarella sticks, right?

Actually, thanks to bacon, mozz is back on the menu!

Ingredients

  • Bacon
  • Mozzarella, cut into sticks

Do one stick of mozz for every slice of bacon.

Directions

  1. Cook your bacon, but don’t crisp it. Use your favourite bacon technique; in a frying pan, in the oven, however you like to cook the bacon.
  2. Drain the bacon and let it cool.
  3. Warm up a frying pan with a thin layer of oil in the bottom.
  4. Wrap mozzarella with bacon.
  5. Fry sticks until bacon crisps up but before the cheese melts all over the place.
  6. For an enhanced gooey-mess factor, finish off in the microwave.

For another take on mozzarella sticks, try breading mozz with the pork rind breading in this recipe and bake it to see how that goes.

4.      Bacon-wrapped cream cheese-stuffed chicken breast

This recipe—adapted from completerecipes.com—shows off the true versatility of low carb cooking. You could serve this chicken entrée to any guest and they’d have no idea they were getting a low carb meal.

Ingredients

  • 4 x 4-ounce portions of boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 4 tablespoons of soft cheese like cream cheese
  • ¼ cup of shredded hard cheese such as pepperjack
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped green onions
  • 4–8 slices of bacon

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Pound out the chicken until it’s about ¼” (6.35 mm) thick.
  3. In a bowl, mix the soft cheese, shredded cheese, and green onions together. Spoon this mixture onto the flattened chicken in quarters, keeping it in the middle.
  4. Roll up the chicken breasts, starting at the long side. Take care to still keep the cheese mixture to the middle.
  5. Wrap bacon around the chicken breast, one to two pieces per breast. Hold the works in place with a toothpick.
  6. Put the assembled chicken on a baking sheet; bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Broil for roughly 5 minutes to crisp up the bacon. Turn the chicken and broil the bottom sides for another 3 minutes.

Serve immediately.

The recipe allows for a fair bit of wiggle room, cheese-wise. Feel free to mix and match flavour profiles to your heart’s content.

5.      Taco soup

If you’re missing the taste of tacos and you’re tired of wrapping stuff up in lettuce leaves, we’ve got a slow cooker taco soup that might just do the trick. And it’s only got 5 grams of carbs per bowl.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground meat (pork, beef, sausage, turkey)
  • 2 x 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (a versatile thickening agent)
  • 2 x 10-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning
  • 4 cups (960 mL) of chicken broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese for garnish optional
  • Fresh chillies (to taste)

Optional garnishes

  • Shredded cheese (cheddar, pepperjack, queso fresco)
  • More chopped cilantro
  • Radishes, sliced thin
  • Green onions, chopped

Directions

  1. Brown meat in a frying pan.
  2. While it browns, throw the cream cheese, diced tomatoes, and taco seasoning into the slow cooker.
  3. Drain excess grease from meat, then put the meat in the slow cooker. Mix to combine with the other ingredients.
  4. Pour in chicken broth to cover everything.
  5. Cook: 4 hours on low 2 hours on high.
  6. Stir in cilantro a few minutes before serving.
  7. At the table, let people garnish as they will.

Make cheese your dish again

You can eat low carb and still have cheese in your life. Hallelujah!

Sure, we still haven’t figured out a keto grilled cheese sandwich yet, but until we do these recipes will help show you just some of the cheesy possibilities open to you.

Need more inspiration in the kitchen?

If you’re ever stuck for what to eat and still keep low carb, visit our low carb recipe blog. With over thirty-five posts and counting, we’ve got low carb recipes for just about everything—from bison to sushi and all points in between.

how to smoke great meat

Smoke Amazing Meat: Low and Slow Barbecue

Low and Slow: How to Cook Amazing Meat in a Smoker

Life whips by at light speed these days, and somehow this need for haste has insinuated itself into the way we cook and eat. Even when we attempt to get back to our ancient roots and cook over a live fire, we resort too often to the blistering heat of the propane grill.

But meat tastes better when we slow down and cook it over low heat. The way they did it in the paleo days. While early man seared off small strips of meat for immediate gratification, they slow cooked the bigger chunks. This allowed the connective tissue in tougher cuts time to break down and release their savoury flavours. It also helped preserve the leftovers, the invention of the Frigidaire still a long time coming.

Primitive man honed and refined these techniques for centuries. Millennia, even. This cooking style can still be found in places like Mexico and Hawaii where it’s not uncommon to slow roast whole pigs in smoky underground fire pits. And this same spirit lives on today in backyards across North America as people eager for a deeper connection to the food they consume rediscover the joys of barbecuing the old way; low and slow.

If you want to join the ranks of backyard pit masters but don’t know where to begin, read on. We’ll have you up and running in no time. Because as far as barbecue’s concerned, it’s never too late to take up smoking.

A brief history of American barbecue

What we often think of as American barbecue predates the arrival of Europeans on these shores. Early explorers like de Soto and even Columbus recounted meals of barbacoa prepared by their indigenous hosts, the meat cooked slowly over indirect heat.

As settlements took root in the South, pigs ran wild in the forests, their meat becoming lean and tough. But people hunting these pigs soon figured out that low and slow cooking made the pork palatable.

Today, barbecue has evolved into a tradition with four major geographic styles; Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, and Carolina. KC is known for its sweet sauces that can easily burn if cooked too hot. Memphis sauces are thinner and tangier. In Texas, it’s primarily about the beef. But in the Carolinas, the meat of choice is pork—shoulder, ribs, or whole hog.

Wood—what to look for

Low and slow barbecue distinctively relies on cooking with wood. Real burning wood. A propane flame won’t cut it here. You may as well try to make pulled pork in a microwave.

Real barbecue cooks over the most primitive fire possible. Most smokers on the market work with a mix of lump charcoal—already burned up wood—and chunks of dried wood. Hard wood, too. Woods, like alder, apple, cherry, hickory, maple, mesquite, oak, and pecan.

It can’t be stressed enough. Hard wood makes a cleaner flame. The resins in softer woods can leave a bitter aftertaste—and sometimes, toxins. Resist the temptation to use deadfall from softwood trees on your property like pine and cedar.

If you don’t have a hardwood orchard on your property, you can buy prepackaged bundles of wood from barbecue stores. And since each tree imparts a unique flavour to the meat, using packaged wood lets you enjoy the taste of non-native species when you smoke at home.

Conversely, you could check around with local farmers to see if they sell wood from their orchards. It’s a great way to put a local spin on recipes adapted from other regions. Put a Canadian twist on Memphis barbecue by smoking with maple. You won’t regret it.

And if you get caught up in the whole-chips-versus-chunks debate and whether you should soak your wood, follow this advice: chips only go on the grill (more on this later) and chunks shouldn’t be soaked. Why not? Because hardwood doesn’t absorb water. That’s why they build boats out of it. Trying to soak it wastes valuable time.

The other kind of smoke rings

Another thing unique to smoking meat is the smoke ring, a pinky layer of flesh where the smoke literally changes the colour of the meat. Barbecue newbies sometimes panic when they notice their eating pink meat, especially if it’s chicken. But the meat’s not raw, it’s just smoked.

When meat is raw, it’s the meat on the inside you need to worry about. If your drumstick is pink around the bone, beware. But if the pink meat wraps around the outside, that’s a smoke ring.

As Steve Raichlen explains, burning wood creates nitrogen dioxide gas. This gas binds with the surface of the meat, penetrating in a few millimeters, too. And this bonding creates myoglobin, giving the meat that distinctive pink hue.

Some barbecue bosses pride themselves on the depth of their smoke rings, and even resort to cheating to enhance them. But if you don’t get rings on your first few cooks, don’t worry. You can make great tasting barbecue without them.

More art than science

Like many things these days, many people over-complicate smoking with gadgetry. But the guy who cooked for Columbus didn’t have any thingamajigs, gizmos, or doodads. The whole idea of smoking is to keep it primitive.

To do it right, you’ll need:

  • a cooker (see below)
  • a water pan to keep the cooking environment humid, and
  • maybe a drip pan

although sometimes the water pan serves double duty catching drips.

You’ll need a small, relatively cool fire, usually between 250–275°F (120–135°F). And that heat needs to be consistent. Don’t let the fire die!

Also, keep an eye on the smoke itself. Wood smoke basically falls into two categories; thin, blue smoke and thick, white smoke. You want thin and blue. Thick and white can have an acrid aftertaste. But the smoke will get thicker and whiter when you refuel the fire. There’s no winning, sometimes. Ideally, the smoke is almost invisible, showing itself only in a shimmer of heat distortion around your smoker’s vent.

And try to resist the temptation to check in on your meat too often. You loose heat every time you open the lid. If you absolutely must know the doneness of your meat, see if your barbecue store has a remote thermometer. The new ones even have phone apps, so your cook can be high tech and primitive at the same time!

Health concerns! What health concerns?

Some data suggest eating smoked food leads to intestinal cancer. But this was just one study involving a small sample group in Hungary. Why is that important? Because the laws regarding smoked food are very different there, and the concentration of contaminants is roughly eight times higher there than in North America.

Smoking has also been linked to promoting the growth of Listeria bacteria. And even though it rhymes, it can be serious, especially when passed from mother to unborn child. However, this primarily pertains to cold smoking, such as the curing of sausages and ham. Smoking over a live fire in a smoker will get the meat warm enough to neutralize all bacteria.

Types of smokers

You can make a smoker out of almost anything metal—from old oil drums to wood stoves—if you can weld. Barring that, there are also several commercial options.

  • Converting a propane grill: many propane grills get way too hot to consider as smokers. But if your grill can cook at low heat, try turning the gas off on one side. Put a drip pan under the grate on the cold side. Otherwise, you could have a nasty grease fire on your hands when you try using the grill in its standard configuration again. Over the heat, fill a smoker box with soaked wood chips (and don’t use them anywhere else). The meat goes on the cold side, over the drip pan. A foil lasagna pan works well for this. Keep the lid closed. This method isn’t great, but it beats adding liquid smoke to a slow cooker.
  • Converting a kettle grill: To smoke on a classic kettle grill, put a drip pan full of water to one side under the grate. On the other side, bank a small pile of burning charcoal and wood chunks. Again, the meat goes over the pan.
  • Bullet smokers: Units like the Weber Smokey Mountain put everything you need in a convenient vertical stack. The fire burns under the water/drip pan and two racks of meat cook above. A great entry level smoker for someone looking for a dedicated device.
  • Offset smokers: An offset resembles an oil drum laid sideways. With a fire box to one side, some of the heat naturally escapes, keeping things from getting too hot.
  • Cabinet smokers: These units look like old filing cabinets and can be powered by propane or electricity heating pellets of compressed sawdust. Many cabinets can also do cold smoking. These smokers tend to require less oversight as well.
  • Pellet smokers: The ultimate in set-it-and-forget-it smoker technology, auger-fed pellet smokers do a lot of the work for you. Sure, this limits your craftsmanship. But there’s a perfect brisket waiting for you at the end of the day, which helps reduce the sting.

Slow down and enjoy your food

Discovering the joys of low and slow live fire cooking makes life go at a more dignified pace. Smoking frowns upon speed demons. It demands concentration, mindfulness, and—above all—patience. Plus, a certain degree of humility.

If these facets have been lacking from your life lately, some time in the yard turning food into art could work wonders.

Need a hand keeping that barbecue low carb?

What’s the great thing about smoking meat? It’s pretty much no carb. Even if you’re doing pulled pork, there’s no law saying it has to be a sandwich. But when in doubt, we’ve also put together a convenient guide for keeping your barbecue low carb.

And if you’re smoking meats, you will need spice rubs. Some blends can have hidden carbs, though. But have no fear, we’ve got you covered.