How To Smoke Meat
If you’ve ever seen a cooking show or a TV travel guide, chances are you’ve watched an episode or two wherein smoked meats were the main attraction. However, contrary to what some people might think, smoking meats to pack an extra flavor punch is not anything new. This cooking technique has been around for a long time, with its intended purpose originally being food preservation. Aside from professional chefs and home cooks, survivalists have also picked up on this way of preparing food. If you want to find out how to smoke your own meats, keep on reading.
Types Of Smokers
First let’s talk about what kind of smoker or camping grill you can use for smoking meat. You could get an electric smoker that heats up to its smoking point via a heating element such as an electric rod. Not only is this type of smoker a safe option, it’s also easy to use with only a dial needed to adjust temperatures. The downside to an electric smoker is that it is pricey, but gives off only a small amount of woody flavor compared to your other options. Speaking of which, up next we have propane smokers. These work in a similar fashion to electric smokers, but are far cheaper to operate because of the lack of a need for electric power.
If you have more experience in the kitchen, you may want to try out a charcoal smoker instead. These are a favorite among barbeque experts who say that charcoal helps add more flavor to the smoked meats. Charcoal smoker units are considerably cheaper, but you have to account for the cost of having to use a fresh batch of charcoal every time you want to smoke something. If you’re going to use such a smoker, it’s also important to learn how to start and maintain a fire without much technological intervention.
If you want to get into the territory of the smoked meat purists out there, we suggest you get your hands on a wood smoker. This option will definitely give you the purest smoked flavor in whatever you’re trying to cook in it. However, you’re going to have to work extra hard in order to keep a constant temperature. We don’t recommend a wood smoker as a starting point in smoking; rather, as something you get once you’ve gotten a firm grip on the process. A pellet smoker is quite similar to the previously mentioned wood smoker. However, instead of using larger planks of wood, a pellet grill uses small wooden pellets that are easier to use.
The Best Woods For Smoking
Of course, if you’re going to smoke meat, you should obtain the right kind of wood as well. There are so many options to choose from and each of these has a distinct flavor profile. For instance, pecan gives large cuts of meat such as pork roasts and briskets a fruity flavor. Meanwhile, hickory has a stronger flavor that works well with red meat such as ribs. If you want something that serves as a great accompaniment to white meat such as fish and poultry, we suggest alder and apple wood for their lightly sweet and fruity flavors respectively.
You may also go for oak wood, which is ideal for larger cuts of meat that take a longer amount of time to fully cook. If you’re going to use mesquite, be careful not to use it for too long or to smoke with too much of it. This type of wood can, without much trouble, take over the flavors of whatever you’re cooking. Woods such as maple and cherry are also good options since they can be paired with other woods to create a unique taste. The former can be paired with alder and oak for cooking hams, while the latter can be grouped together with hickory and alder for pork and other forms of red meat.
You can choose to add a small amount of water to your smoking setup, if your smoker allows it. Before pushing through with this, read the labels and instruction manuals of your smoker to ensure that water will not damage it. Don’t worry, we’re only going to be using relatively small amounts. Water can help regulate the temperature inside the smoker, which could be helpful if you are cooking a larger piece of meat. Speaking of which, soak smaller pieces of wood and chips to make them last longer. You can leave the big ones dry.
Similar to soaking your wood in water before putting it in the smoker, you may also want to consider brining your meat to prevent it from drying out, especially during long cooking times. Aside from the additional water content you’re going to be introducing to the meat, the extra salt content will make the meat absorb and retain more of that liquid. This will give you a juicier end and more flavorful end product.
Not to mention that brining meat helps improve its flavor profile as well even if its basically just salt and water. However, you can always add some spices and herbs to add a more distinct taste to your meats. For the best results, we suggest placing the meat in a brining solution at least 12 hours before you intend to cook it. If you can, allow your meat to brine overnight prior to smoking it.
The flavoring technique you will use varies depending on what cut you’re working with. Brining meat works best for thicker cuts of meat with less moisture content such as hams and poultry. When you’re working with cuts of beef, we recommend marinating them instead. Add a few scores on the surface of the meat using a sharp knife to improve flavor absorption. Meanwhile, if you’re going to smoke some ribs, it’s a good idea to rub them down with a combination of some salt and other spices.
So those are the basics of smoking. If you follow these tips, you better get your mess kit ready, since you’re going to be eating a whole lot of smoked meat.