Josh Rouse: Check out this expert's tips for using a BBQ smoker, plus a fiery recipe for smoked pineapple

Josh Rouse
Topeka Capital-Journal
A smoker can be a fantastic way to cook anything from a whole turkey to a pineapple, as seen in this photograph. Hydration is key to keeping the food nice and tender.

With Father’s Day this weekend, many of us will be outside by the grill, trying to stay cool as we cook on high heat.

But maybe instead, try going low and slow for a delicious smoky flavor.

If you’ve been paying any attention to my social media accounts lately — not that I recommend you do — you’ve probably noticed I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with barbecuing.

I’ve always loved grilling, but that passion kicked up another notch recently when I was introduced to the fine art of running a smoker. I use a 16-inch Char-Broil Bullet Smoker — and hey, it may not be top of the line, but it certainly gets the job done.

It’s been an entertaining couple of weeks, with projects ranging from something as simple as hamburgers, brats and chicken breasts — for which Lawry's 30-minute marinades are a godsend — to more time-consuming ones such as spare ribs, smoked pineapple and even a whole turkey, which I highly recommend if you still have one sitting around in the ice box from turkey season or the holidays.

Just remember, slather on the butter every hour or so to keep your bird nice and moist and get that perfect golden-brown color.

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One of my inspirations at both grilling and fishing — pretty much life in general, as well — is Olathe’s Kim Burnett.

Burnett runs a catering business called How Low Can You Smoke BBQ and often posts photos on his Instagram of his masterpieces as they come straight out of the smoker. He also has a fly-tying business and is one of the most prolific panfish anglers in the region.

I recently asked Kim for some tips for novice smokers who are just starting to get into the craft, like myself.

“As far as starting out smoking, get yourself a good instant-read thermometer, find you a chart of cook time and meat temps,” Burnett said. “For the most part, cook it low and slow and hit your temperature right, you can’t go wrong. And a good, quality rub for pork and chicken — if you cook a brisket, you want something with some to no sugar, ‘cause it’s a long smoke and sugar will burn.”

Burnett said brisket is one of the biggest challenges for those who are just starting out.

“If you can master the brisket, you can smoke anything,” Burnett said. “I recommend wrapping ribs and brisket up once you get the right color and finish them up. Put some kind of liquid when you wrap. I use apple juice to help the steaming process, and with my ribs I spritz them every hour with apple juice to keep the moisture so they don’t dry out before the wrapping process. 

“Some people use the 3-2-1 process — three hours on the smoker, wrap two hours and one hour unwrapped back on the smoker. That’s the most common when starting out.”

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Burnett — an avid fisherman who sells his hand-tied crappie jigs and flies through his other business, Crappie Stopper Jigs and Flies — said he even uses the smoker to cook up panfish and crappie, as well.

“I have smoked both fish,” Burnett said. “You can blacken it or smoke it in some foil with butter, garlic powder, onion powder and some pepper or lemon pepper with some Old Bay seasoning.”

Anyone wishing to place a catering order with How Low Can You Smoke BBQ can do so by contacting Burnett via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/kburnettic) or Instagram (@Crappiestopperjigsandflies) or by calling him at 913-272-4894. Those wishing to purchase some of his hand-tied jigs may do so online at https://www.crappiestopperjigs.com/.

Pineapple soaked for a few hours in Fireball whisky and topped with butter and brown sugar makes for an excellent item to put on a smoker for a few hours to get a tasty dessert.

Fireball Smoked Pineapple

Perhaps my favorite recipe I've made so far would have to be the Fireball smoked pineapple, which was simple enough even a novice could handle it but packed a ton of flavor. 

The recipe starts with skinning the pineapple and using a knife to score it with X’s to help soak in the “marinade.” Then, I put it in a Ziploc bag and poured about a bottle’s worth of Fireball whisky in to give it a soaked-in cinnamon flavor that is difficult to beat. I let it sit in the fridge for two hours, occasionally turning the bag so it would absorb the Fireball evenly. 

After that, I took out the pineapple and sat it on a plate, then poured the Fireball carefully back into the bottle to use again at a later date — or enjoy a couple shots. Waste not, want not.

The next step was to cover the pineapple in butter — spray butter works OK, but I like the squirt bottles better — and then coat the pineapple completely with brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon for added spice. Be sure to roll it in the sugary syrup on the plate after you get it coated, too.

I kept the core of the pineapple in for two reasons — No. 1, because it will soak up the Fireball flavor and taste delicious, and No. 2, so I could put the pineapple on a skewer through the middle for easier handling.

A plate of Fireball smoked pineapple after a few hours on the grill or smoker is a delicious treat that goes great with ham or even turkey.

I placed the pineapple on the top grate at about 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit with a water bowl underneath to keep it moist. The ends were cut flat, so I stood the pineapple up straight and had great results with that, but you could also rotate it on its side every so often or even use a rotisserie stick if you wanted. That said, you will probably need to keep applying more brown sugar if you do that.

I let it sit for three hours at that temperature and it came out nicely browned with a still-firm but edible core. You could leave it in longer if you prefer a more soft core.

I also sprayed it down every 30 minutes or so with a spray bottle containing three parts water to one part apple juice.

On a subsequent day, I tried it with a longer marinade period and cooked over higher heat on the grill using a smoker box and was pleased with how that turned out, as well. It only took a couple of hours over 350-degree heat to get nice and brown, and the cherrywood chips produced a light, sweet smoke that blended perfectly with the brown sugar glaze. If you're in a hurry, it's a good way to go, but I still prefer low and slow for the best smoke flavor.

Your smoker doesn't have to be top-of-the-line to produce great smoked meat or produce. Outdoors editor Josh Rouse uses a 16-inch Char-Broil Bullet Smoker and has gotten great results with it so far.