Its usually the smell that hits you first. The is usually a smoky aura in the air. Your brain first struggles because normally smoke is bad, but then behind the smoke you start picking up other aromas. Sometimes it’s a hint of sweetness, maybe caused by the wood. Then you start picking up hints of the meat. That’s when you brain kicks into full gear. Your nose has piqued your interest and starts to try and sort out the various signals that start to overwhelm your senses.
English does not have enough word to describe cooking meat. It should have, because there are so many wonderful subtleties that we simply put into the “meaty smell” bucket.
There is the sweet and cloying smell of ribs that have been based with a sugar sauce. There is beefy smell of a well-seasoned brisket that exudes flavor as the far renders our and bastes the tough muscular cut over and over again for hours until it is soft enough to cut with a fork.
There is a relatively mild smell of turkey that tends to pick up aromas from its seasoning and hides its natural smell while cooking, keeping it until you slice it into tender pieces of goodness destined for the plate.
And then there is pork. There is nothing like that salty, porcine smell, with just a hint of fattiness that can drive your taste buds into overdrive.
How wonderful would it be to be able to describe each smell with a single word.
Instead we will lament the limitations of the English language and use long sentences to paint a picture of that which we love.