Avoid These Ten Mistakes When Cooking Low and Slow


Low and Slow cooking is the soul of American barbecue.  It doesn’t matter if you are cooking on an offset smoker, pellet grill, kettle or ceramic kamado style cooker, you will want to avoid these ten mistakes when cooking low and slow.  

  1. AVOID over seasoning your proteins.  More is always better is not the case when it comes to seasoning meats.  Good barbecue is so much more than sauces and rubs.  Too much seasoning can often make barbecue salty and mask the natural flavors and wood fire smokey goodness we work so hard to achieve.  It’s important to apply seasoning in even coats and layer flavors.  When seasoning your meats hold the bottle of seasoning approximately 12” above and lightly shake the rub from the bottle.  Seasoning from this height will allow the seasoning to flow through the bottle and spread evenly as it falls onto the meat giving it a thin even coating. 

  2. AVOID soaking wood chips.  You often hear about soaking wood chips when cooking low and slow.  This is a barbecue sin.  Soaked wood chips are essentially wet smoldering wood that produces creosote.  Skip the soaking of wood chips and stick to wood chunks.  If you must use wood chips, we suggest you opt for the foil packet method.  

  3. AVOID white and black smoke.  White smoke is a sign of burning wet wood and black smoke is a common sign of improper air flow.  If you see anything other than a thin smoke with a light blue tint, make the appropriate adjustments before placing your meats on the pit.  

  4. AVOID opening the pit too soon and too often. Opening the pit will cause a drastic change in the pit’s internal temperature.  This is especially important if you are using a temperature control fan or pellet grill.  If you are going to open the pit, have a legitimate purpose and do it in a timely manner.  Use time as a guide to take the internal temperature of your meats.  

  5. AVOID large airflow adjustments.  Allow plenty of time to set your pit up and bring it to the proper smoking temperature.  Dial the pit in making small adjustments to airflow over time until you learn the pit.

  6. AVOID crowding the pit.  Crowding the pit prevents proper circulation and can lead to uneven cooking.  Leave an ample amount of space between the proteins.  This will allow even heat distribution and be beneficial when misting, mopping, and saucing. 

  7. AVOID misting or mopping too early. Allow the rubs on your meat to set up before misting or mopping.  How do you know when your rubs have setup?  Perform a wipe test.  You might be thinking, “what’s the wipe test?”  Generally, if you are cooking between 225 and 250 degrees it will take at least an hour for your rubs to setup.  After the first hour open the pit and gently wipe a finger across a small portion of the meat.  If the seasoning comes off, it’s too early to mist or mop and check again in another 30 to 45 minutes.  Misting or mopping before the rubs are allowed to setup will result in the rubs being washed away from the meat.

  8. AVOID saucing too early or too late.  Sauce during the last 30 to 60 minutes of the cook and allow the sauce to tack up.  Your sauce should be tacky to touch and not dripping.  The goal to low and slow cooking is to produce natural wood flavored meats, not meats that are overpowered with barbecue sauce.  

  9. AVOID steam when resting. You often hear people talking about resting their barbecue in a cooler with a towel.  This is not entirely wrong, but most people fail to mention is the importance of resting before placing in a cooler.  Allow meats to come down to 175 degrees before placing them in a cooler with a towel.  When you go directly from pit to cooler you run the risk of causing an excess amount of steam.  This will cause the meat to continue to cook and result in overcooked barbecue. 

  10. AVOID low and slow smoking on a gas grill.  Yes, it can be done, but doesn’t mean it should.  A seasoned Pitmaster can achieve quality smoked barbecue on a gas grill.  Let’s be honest, very few people possess that level of experience.  If you are going to cook on a gas grill, reserve it for quick grilling on weeknights, burgers, hotdogs, and sausages. 

Blog Written By: Derek Perry