Smoke is ethereal. From wisps to clouds, it’s almost as difficult to harness as it is to pin down. When it comes to cooking with it, some experts know how to properly control it; others let it take the lead. Too many barbecue restaurants apply a heavy waft of the stuff in their cooking. While it lets diners know they’re eating smoked food, this is not how it should be.
In barbecue competitions, “Judges don’t want to taste smoke,” says Andrew Darneille, pitmaster and owner of Smokecraft Modern Barbecue in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood. “As you begin to excel in barbecue, you realize how little smoke makes a difference in the food.”