Illustration for the article titled Master Temperature Control by Smoking a Cabbage FirstPhoto: Irina Rostokina (Shutterstock)

If your smoking experience is limited to inhaling stimulants, you could be intimidated by a cooking method of the same name. If that sounds like you, I have a recommendation: Before smoking a pork shoulder, ribs, or other meat, first smoke a cabbage.

Throwing in a big old cabbage can help boost your confidence. This is especially useful if you’re using a charcoal grill or other smoker that doesn’t have precise temperature controls. Capturing and stabilizing the ambient temperature inside your smoker can be quite tricky if you’re used to the numbered dials on a stove (and who isn’t?) With your simple charcoal smokers, you have to manipulate the temperature by opening the vents on the top and bottom Open and close to your smoker. It’s not difficult, but it takes some getting used to.

Why a cabbage? Cabbage is cheap. A whole cabbage costs less than a pound of meat – even the most slimmed-down pork shoulder doesn’t match the low cost of cabbage. You are unlikely to run into so much trouble the first time you try smoking that you ruin your cabbage – or even a pork shoulder – but if you ruin your cabbage it is not a huge loss. All you’ve “wasted” is a few hours of your time and maybe $ 1.50 worth of ingredients. (The sting of destroying a pork shoulder? Devastating.) Smoking a cabbage instead of an expensive cut of meat will reduce some level of stress from your first smoking experiment, which means your brain will be more likely to learn and you will be more likely to enjoy the learning process.

Smoked cabbage is also very tasty. Soft and hearty (and obviously smoky), they make a perfect summer side, especially when you dress them up with something cool and creamy. There are many recipes for smoked cabbage, so pick the one that you like the most. (I like This one herewhich is filled with butter and bacon.) However, I would choose a recipe that keeps the cabbage whole – the point of smoking cabbage is to get you used to keeping your smoker’s temperature constant over a long period of time. And it’s a point you’ll miss out on if your quartered cabbage is done smoking in just 60 minutes.

Another thing I would recommend – no, command – is that you get some kind of probe thermometer to monitor the temperature. The small dial that sits on your grill or smoker is very inaccurate, especially when positioned directly over the coals. (Mine was about 150 degrees off!) I have that Dual probe thermometerwhich allows me to measure the temperature of the food and the smoker at the same time which is very helpful. Whether you’re smoking a cabbage or a large piece of meat, temperature control is an important part of the equation, and equations may not work as well if your numbers are wrong.

G / O Media can receive a commission