Smoking meat has been a favorite of many for generations and this continues into our modern day. Smokers come in all shapes and sizes and are a great addition to any home. Not everyone is familiar with the smoking process and when it comes to smoking meat for family and friends, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way.
Smoking meat is not difficult and all it really takes is a smoker, wood chips, cuts of meat and a desire to enjoy smoke flavored food. While each specific recipe is different, there is some commonality that can help with any smoker or cut of meat.
Types Of Smoking
There are essentially two types of smoking meat. One is the cold smoke method and the other is the hot smoke method. Importantly, the big difference is the temperature in which the meat is smoked. Hot smoke cooks the food as well as adds the smoky flavor and can be accomplished in a shorter span of time than cold smoke. Also hot smoking is less dangerous and in many cases more flavorful than cold smoking. In fact, doctors and food professionals recommend that no one should cold smoke meat or fish for any reason.
How Smoking Works
Both types work on the same basic principle but hot smoking has the added benefit of heat. Smoke is generated by smoldering hardwood pieces and the resulting smoke is channeled into the food area where it inserts itself into the meat. The smoke surrounds the meat and seeps into the tissues by natural action and by the fact that the tissues have been expanded due to the higher heat. Not only does the heat kill any residual bacteria, but the smoke functions as an antimicrobial agent as well by taking up the spaces inside the tissues with smoke particulates thus removing space that would allow bacteria to grow. This same process and fact allow for that smoked flavor that we all love and enjoy.
Understanding Your Cuts Of Meat
Different meat has different abilities to absorb the smoke. The rule of thumb is that the thicker or more dense the meat, the longer it may take per pound for the smoke to fully manifest in the meat. Importantly, meat with a high fat content is going to produce significant drippings and thus you need to monitor the dripping pan for excess on a regular basis. Smoking cured meats are are different due to the fact that most of the moisture has already been removed by the curing process. The same with heavily salted meats such as bacon.
How To Smoke
While all smokers are different, they work along the same principle. First, you light your smoker and allow it to reach operating temperature. During this raising of the heat level, place your wood chips in the correct area. Some smokers use a dry smoke and some a wet smoke. A wet smoke is the most common and it is a smoke pan filled with water and wood chips. Not only does this facilitate the smoke but helps add some moisture into the meat to make it juicy and tender. With the wood pan in place and the temperature at the correct level you can begin to add the meat. What is significant is the different timing that might be required. Meat that needs a higher temperature should be placed closer to the heat source, typically the bottom, with meat that needs a cooler temperature and that will be smoked longer towards the top. Ribs, sausage, and jerky are some of the types of food that should be placed towards the upper portion of the smoker.
Some smokers come with temperature probes that will be inserted into the meat and will be read on a digital display. Even if your smoker doesn’t have one, it is a good idea to have one on hand to check the internal temperatures of the meat. Depending on the internal temperature, you will need to regulate the heat to allow for maximum smoke production while not overcooking the food or cooking it too fast to allow the smoke to fuse with the meat.
There are numerous video guides for smokers online and often manufacturers will post videos and other tools online to help get you started and to help turn you into an experienced meat smoker. Additionally, your smoker should also come with a recommended guide on how to use your smoker effectively. Also there are many specific smoking cookbooks available to also help get the best results.
Smoking meat isn’t hard and as long as you have a quality smoker, chances are you are going to be enjoying delicious smoked meats in no time. Finally, it is important that you take any and all safety precautions as recommended by the manufacturer so that you can enjoy your tasty smoked meat with safety.