How To Build A Real Barbecue Pit At Home, According To Pat Martin - Exclusive

Pat Martin headshot
Pat Martin headshot - Continuum

If you're looking to start smoking food at home, it can be hard to decide what kind of equipment to use. You could smoke on something as simple and cheap as a Weber kettle grill or shell out thousands for a fancy electronically-controlled pellet smoker connected to an app. Pat Martin, the pitmaster behind Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint, thinks you should skip buying a smoker and smoke meat the way he does: On a pit.

Martin told Tasting Table in an exclusive interview that building your own barbecue pit is easy and only requires simple materials from a home improvement store. All you need to do is make an enclosure for burning wood and lay a makeshift grill grate on top of it to hold the food. For the enclosure, Martin recommends making the walls with stacked cinder blocks, as the air pockets inside cinder blocks provide good insulation. Just make sure to stack the blocks dry and not mortar them together. "A pit with no mortar ... breathes 360 degrees around. You don't have as many hotspots, you have a more even cook, and it's less work," he explains. Martin prefers this to a pre-built metal smoker, which has less ventilation.

As for the grill part of the pit, you can simply balance some rebar and a section of chainlink fence on top of your enclosure. Build a fire inside the cinderblock walls, and you have yourself a functional homemade smoking rig.

Read more: 13 Underrated Cuts Of Meat You Should Be Grilling

Barbecue Pit Tips

Hogs smoking over pit
Hogs smoking over pit - The Hay Merchant/Instagram

If you leave the top of your pit open while it's smoking, it will take longer for the food to cook because a lot of the heat and smoke will float into the air. Martin solves this problem by covering the food with cardboard or sheet metal to hold in the heat.

What should you fuel your fire with? Nearly any hardwood will do, but if you want to emulate Martin's West Tennessee-style barbecue, you should go with hickory — just make sure it's properly aged. "Hickory, when it's seasoned, almost takes on a sweetness ... when it's not seasoned, it's very bitter and acrid and turns a lot of people off," he shares. Stay away from any hickory that hasn't had a chance to completely dry out.

One thing to pay attention to as your food cooks is to not let it become over-smoked. For Martin, the smoke should accentuate the flavor of the food, not dominate it. That's another reason he prefers pits to smokers, especially for light proteins like fish. "I can get smoked flavor in a fish on an open pit. You can get it in a smoker, but you have to be a little careful because you can over-smoke it pretty quickly," he shares. Since pits breathe more, the smoke won't get as intense.

Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint has locations in Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

Read the original article on Tasting Table