You have landed on the right site if you want to learn how to smoke meat. If there’s one thing humans have enjoyed from the dawn of time, it’s eating. At first, eating was a pure survival instinct and there wasn’t much that a person wouldn’t eat to stay alive. Gradually, humans discovered many delicious ingredients and figured out how to put them together for the best results. We can’t deny that meat was one them. Yes, over the course of time, meat has surely been one of mankind’s favorite meals.
Then mankind discovered s a surefire way to preserve meat for a long time- by smoking it.
Essentially, smoking is a practice of preserving, flavoring, browning, or cooking food, most commonly meat and fish.
There are a few ways to do this, as well as a few tricks to make it easier.
What meat can you smoke?
Any kind of meat can be smoked, basically. If you choose tougher cuts, the smoking will be more effective, though. This is because this kind of cooking process allows for the tissue to break, making the end result very tender.
Meats which are recommended and best for smoking are: chicken, ham, pork and beef ribs, corn beef, brisket, turkey, pork roast, trout, salmon, and lobster.
Types of smoking
You need to be aware that there are certain types of smoking and of the responsibilities they carry:
This method simply exposes the meat to smoke and heat in a controlled environment. The first thing you need to do is hang the desired meat so it can develop a pellicle (a surface of proteins on meat), then it’s ready to be smoked. Typically, the food you smoke with this method is reheated and then eaten, but it’s safe to eat even without the preheating.
Now you have to choose a kind of smoker. There are charcoal smokers which are fueled by charcoal and wood. Regulating the temperature is easy as the charcoal burns fast, whereas the wood gives a nice zing to the meat. Then, you could opt for an electric smoker which is a bit more expensive, but it doesn’t require constant tending and is easy to operate. They work similar to barbecues. This might be the easiest technique, but keep in mind that the flavor won’t be the same. Next, you can go for a gas smoker. Operating these is similar to grilling, which is why you might find the process easier. As far as flavor is concerned, it will be better than with an electric smoker, but still not as good as the meat smoked with a charcoal or wood smoker. That brings us to our last choice, the wood smoker. This is the most challenging smoker, but gives the best flavored meat.
The next thing you’ll need to do is prepare your meat by marinating it or giving it rubs. This step helps enhance the flavor and tenderize the meat. If you opt for rubs, you’ll need to rub a mixture of salts, spices, and garlic into the meat shortly before you cook it. There are premade rubs at the grocery store, but if you prefer it, you can make your own at home. Marinating is a longer process. You’ll need to put the meat into a plastic bag and let it soak for at least eight hours. You can purchase marinades at the local grocery store.
Now that your meat is ready, it’s time to smoke it! The trickiest part about this is keeping the right temperature of the grill. If it’s too cold or too hot, the meat will dry out and you won’t end up with satisfying grub.
Start with 250 degrees to get the process going with the extra heat, then lower the temperature to 220 degrees once your raw meat is added to the smoker. The tricky part is keeping the temperature around 220 degrees. This will require constant tending to the grill.
Finally, keep the lid closed and remember to add extra moisture at the end!
This process is completely opposite to the hot smoking one, as is suggested by the name. Here, food isn’t cooked at all, instead, it is dried. The food takes on the smoked flavor, and retains some moisture. Before beginning the process, it’s important that the meat is cured. In the olden days, this was done to prolong meat life due to no refrigeration, but today it’s a gourmet technique which enhances the flavors.
As it was already mentioned, the most important thing to do in this process is cure the meat. IT may sound like a difficult process, but this is essentially salting raw meat to draw out moisture which would otherwise form grounds for bacteria. And this is why it’s so important. If the process was left out, the meat wouldn’t be safe to eat anymore. Today, curing is also responsible for implementing a richer and deeper flavor.
There are two types of curing, dry curing and binging (which is essentially wet curing). The first of the two implies a mixture of salts, sugar, and herbs which is rubbed into the meat you want to smoke. The meat is then left for around four to five days while the mixture draws out the moisture. You should pour out the drawn out moisture daily, and add more mixture until no more moisture is found.
The latter of the two is easier, as it represents just the mixture of sugar and salts.
The next phase is drying. After the curing has been done, the meat needs to be well washed and put in a sink with water. Although this may seem like a counterproductive thing to do because you just spent all that time getting rid of the moisture, this will just wash away the applied mixture, making the food edible. Now you’ll need to hang the meat in room temperature somewhere where the air freely circulates. This will allow for all the water to be gone before the cold smoke is introduced, as the meat will not be tasty if there’s smoke while it’s wet.
Finally, it’s time for the smoke. The tricky part is that the smoke needs to be cold. You can do this by smoldering the wood extremely slowly, without an open flame. But because this is such tedious work, there are certain kits designed specifically for this, and they can help you achieve your goal with no trouble.
Commonly referred to as “pit roasting”, this method is perhaps the most fun to execute. It can be done in multiple ways, including over a pit in your backyard, or in a closed wood masonry oven. You can even use a smoker, but it needs to be able to reach above 82˚ C (182˚ F). If that’s not suitable for you, try using a plain oven with a pan filled with hardwood chips which smolder and bathe the meat in smoke.
Pit roasting requires a backyard, or at least a safe place where you can dig a hole. You’ll need a shovel, firewood, something to wrap the meat in, and a metal sheet to cover the pit. Next, you’ll have to dig a hole and line it with pit rocks. After that’s been done, build a fire, and prepare your meat. You should flavor it then wrap it in tinfoil or brown paper. Now all you need to do is smooth out the embers and place your meat on top of that. Cover it with the metal sheet, then cover that with the dug up dirt, and finally put a blanket over it. It will take around 12 hours for the food to prepare, so the food will be ready for the day after.
If you want to try smoke roasting in an oven, you can do so simply enough. First you’ll need to let the meat thaw and marinade in the fridge, while you put the hardwood chips in a roasting pan and let them soak with water for an hour. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, seal the roasting pot with tinfoil tightly, but leave room on the top so the smoke can circulate and get to the meat more.
How long you need to leave the meat in, depends on the meat you choose. Chicken and ribs need around 3 hours, whereas beef and pork need eight.
Keep the temperature at 250 degrees, and enjoy the rich flavors.
There you have it. Those would be some useful tidbits on how to smoke meat. As you can see, there are a few ways to choose from, depending on your preference and convenience. In any case, you’ll end up with a fine product.
By following the aforementioned pieces of advice, you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with the process better, as well as carry it out with no hitches along the way.
Remember that this task may seem easy but that it takes a lot of effort and concentration, so be sure not to take it lightly.
Lastly, try to enjoy this new way of eating meat, and be proud of yourself for discovering and mastering it!