Tip #2. Do you prefer cooking on gas or charcoal?
For smoking meat I prefer cooking with a mixture of charcoal and wood. I use the charcoal to get the fire started and to generate some quick heat, but the majority of my cooking is done with wood.
That’s not to say you can throw some 2x4s or construction grade lumber on a fire and cook over top of it, you actually want to use the wood of fruit-bearing trees because they give off a better flavor when the wood burns.
Some common examples in the Midwest would be hickory, or my personal favorite, apple. As you get further down south, you will find people using woods such as mesquite, or even pecan.
When I am grilling on my flat-top grill, I actually use a combination of propane gas and charcoal. While the charcoal and wood provide a good flavor, the propane provides a source of constant and consistent heat, allowing me to cook a bit faster than purely using wood and charcoal.
Sometimes people forget that you can grill vegetables just as easily as meat, and it really brings out a different flavor than most people are used to.
For a complete beginner, I recommend that you start with a gas grill. Until you really feel comfortable with cooking outdoors, a gas grill will give you more control over the heat distribution, which is a building block you have to understand before cooking with charcoal.
If you are looking for that smoky taste that comes from charcoal, you can always purchase a smoker box, fill it with wood chips, and set it on top of your grill grate next to the food you are cooking. This way, you get the benefits of total heat control as well as the smoky flavor from the smoker boxes wood chips. It really is the best of both world.
For pork, I would recommend a boneless loin. For beef, a flat iron roast. It is a bit more expensive that the pork loin, but there will be very little fat in the cut so you will not be wasting much.
Contrary to popular belief, hamburgers can actually be a little tricky. It only takes one flareup to turn your beef patties into charred hockey pucks, so I don’t really recommend starting with hamburgers.
Heat. Most people think that you need half a bag of charcoal and the gas turned up to high in order to grill effectively. Sure, your meat might be brown on the inside, but if you cook it on high heat odds are you will still have raw meat in the middle. The only thing worse than burning your meat is having someone bite into a cold section of raw meat.
Which brings us into our final question: