A Brief History
While life has its many delicacies, food remains one of the most exciting and interesting. Between the different cuisines and countless ways to make food, you can really enjoy yourself whether you are making it or just having a delicious meal. Perhaps the most savory technique in cooking food is smoking it, which believe it or not is traced back to the cavemen. It is actually believed that smoking dates back to the Old Stone Age. True, it has significantly developed over the years with the advent of technology and modern techniques, but the basics are still there. And to this day, you can enjoy a delicious smoked meal if you do all the right things.
Here is how to smoke meat in 5 easy steps.
The best way to make smoked meat is by marinating it before all else. A lot of people share the misconception that you should not marinate the meat before smoking it, but you could, and it is in fact preferred that you do it. A marinade would add so much to the flavor, you will eventually enjoy, which is mostly because smoking meat takes a lot of time. Marinades really compliment the woody taste you will get from smoking meat, and you will end up with layers of different flavors.
Marinating is not an exact science, though. You will need to experiment for a little bit until you can find the best combination for your meat, according to your preferences of course. It is often best that you let the meat in the marinade overnight for chicken and poultry, so it could really soak in all the flavors. For steaks, you could just soak the meat in the marinade for a few hours.
Get the right smoker
There are different ways to smoke meat. Some people use charcoal, or even gas grills, but those do not really offer that smoky flavor that you would get with a smoker. This is why it is often recommended that you get a smoker if you want to learn how to smoke like a pro because they can really up to your game when it comes to smoking. You can never go wrong with an electric smoker, and it is perfect for both amateurs and professionals. It does not require the same level of effort and care as with charcoal ones, and it is much easier to operate.
The wood selection
The wood selection is arguably the most important part of your smoking process. In case you are new to all this, you should know that you cannot just pick up any kind of wood and add it to your smoker. Each kind has its own flavor and can add a different taste to your meat, which is why it is important to know your woods and be selective with them –– each type pairs best with certain meats. For instance, mesquite has a strong, overwhelming flavor, so it is best used with pork and beef. Hickory is also a bit of a heavier wood, so it is also best paired with pork and beef. Lighter woods like Applewood, on the other hand, are ideal for chicken and seafood, which do not take long to cook.
Controlling the heat with smoking is a bit tricky. You are not cooking with direct heat here, but rather smoke, which is why this process takes hours for the meat to cook. It is important that you set the heat to lower temperatures, which is around 200 to 250 degrees. This allows the meat to take its time to get cooked, and you will get a delicious, juicy steak afterward.
If you plan to cook your meat for hours overnight, it is often recommended that you change the wood or charcoal every couple of hours. You also have to keep an eye out on the temperature of the steak so it does not get overcooked. Also –– and this is a very important one –– contrary to popular belief, you should not flip your meat when you are smoking it. This is because the meat is cooked indirectly as the lid of the smoker is closed, so the smoke manages to evenly cook the entire steak. So, leave the lid closed unless you are changing wood chips.
Smoking takes some time and effort to master. You will need to try and fail a few times, and you have to check resources and videos to make sure you are on the right track. It is all worth it, though, because the meat you get after smoking is the most delicious you could ever eat.
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For more information, please see…
Auchmutey, Jim. Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America. University of Georgia Press, 2019.