Smoking Meat: A Beginner’s Guide – Isolator Fitness
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Smoking Meat: A Beginner’s Guide

There is an art to smoking meat. Although it is not a new concept, and has in fact been practiced for centuries to preserve protein-rich red meats and fish, the execution has been tweaked and revised over the years to focus on the production of a more flavorful result.

While you don’t need a meat smoker to smoke your own meat, it is a valuable investment if you plan to engage in this form of cooking frequently. If you’re not ready to buy a meat smoker just yet, don’t worry, you can get away with using a charcoal grill for now.

meatstosmoke

If you can cook/grill it, chances are you can successfully and deliciously smoke it. Some great choices are poultry, pork, lamb, beef, turkey, ham, venison, fish, vegetables, and even cheese! Here are our top meat picks to smoke

Brisket is easily the most popular cut of meat that is smoked. It is often served at backyard barbeques because it is so easy to smoke. This is the also the cut that you will find at most meat smoking competitions.

Ribs are up next in the popularity contest. They are an easy cut to smoke and it’s likely that you’ll find something that everyone will like, with all of the rib varieties available, including:

  • Baby Back Ribs
  • Country Style Ribs
  • Beef Back Ribs
  • Short Ribs
  • Spare Ribs

Bacon is next on the list (for obvious reasons, then there’s turkey, sausage, and boston butt.

wood

The secret to successful smoking lies in the wood choice. While there is no one ‘right’ wood for smoking meats since they all have different compounds, they do all provide a unique flavoring that resonates better with different types of meats.

Wood Type Best Used With Flavor Notes
Acacia Beef and Vegetables Light mesquite
Alder Fish, Pork, Poultry, Light-Meat Game Birds Sweet and musky smoke
Almond All Meats Nutty and sweet smoke
Apple All Meats Mild and Sweet (sweeter than Hickory)
Apricot All Meats Mild and Sweet (sweeter than Hickory)
Ash Fish and Red Meats Light but distinctive smoke
Bay Most Meats and Vegetables Medium floral smoke (spice and cinnamon hints)
Beech Meat and Seafood Mild
Birch Pork and Poultry Medium smoke (similar to Maple)
Blackberry Poultry and Small Game Birds Slightly sweet and delicate
Butternut Beef, Pork, Venison, Game Meats Strong smoke (bitter if too much is used alone)
Cherry All Meats Sweet and Fruity smoke
Chestnut Most Meats Sweet and Nutty smoke
Corncob (not a wood) Poultry, Fish, Small Game Birds Sweet (may overpower if too much is used)
Cottonwood Pork and Ribs Subtle (use with other woods for a stronger flavor)
Crabapple Poultry, Red Meats, Game, Lamb Mild and Sweet (sweeter than Hickory)
Fig All Meats Mild and Fruity
Grapefruit Beef, Pork, Fish, Poultry Mild smoky
Grapevines Poultry, Lamb, Beef, Pork, Game Tart, Aromatic, and Heavy (use sparingly on poultry and lamb)
Guava All Meats Floral and Fruity
Hickory All Meats Sweet to Strong (heavy bacon flavor)
Kiawe (Found only in Hawaii) Beef, Fish, Poultry Sweet and Strong (similar to mesquite)
Lemon Beef, Pork, Poultry Medium smoke (hint of fruit)
Lilac Cheese, Pork, Poultry Subtle (hint of floral)
Maple Poultry, Turkey, Ham, Cheese, Small Game Birds, Vegetables Mild smoky and Sweet
Mesquite Most Meats and Vegetables Strong, Sweet, and Earthy (strongest flavored wood)
Mulberry Beef, Poultry, Game Birds, Pork Mild, Sweet, and Tangy (similar to apple)
Nectarine Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Fish Mild and Sweet (sweeter than Hickory)
Oak Beef, Pork, Fish, Big Game Mild smoke (most versatile)
Olive Poultry Light (similar to mesquite)
Orange Beef, Poultry, Pork Medium, Tangy Citrus, Fruity
Peach Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Fish Mild, Sweet, and Woodsy
Pear Poultry, Game Birds, Pork Subtle, Sweet, and Woodsy
Pecan Poultry, Beef, Pork, Cheese, Mild and Sweet (prefered for Brisket)
Persimmon Beef and Pork Strong, Sweet, and Dry
Pimento Jamaican Foods (Jerk Chicken), Poultry, Fish Peppery (spiced flavors include: cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg)
Plum Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Fish Mild and Sweet (sweeter than Hickory)
Sassafras Beef, Pork, Poultry Mild, Musky and Sweet (root beer after taste)
Seaweed Clams, Crab, Lobster, Mussels, Shrimp Spicy and Natural
Walnut Beef, Pork, Venison, Game Meat Strong and Powerful (mix with lighter woods to avoid overuse and bitter taste)

howto

Now that you’ve decided what meat you want to smoke and you’ve picked out the perfect complementary wood to go with it, it’s time to learn how to smoke that meat to perfection.

With A Charcoal Grill

    1. Pile a few coals on one side of your grill and light them
    2. Slowly add coals to the pile until the temperature reaches 250 degrees F. Use a temperature gauge for accuracy. (Pro Tip: You should be able to hold your hand over the coals for a 2 ‘Mississippi’ seconds when the temperature is just right. Any longer and it’s not hot enough, any shorter and you’ve already overheated your grill.)
    3. Put your wood pieces, or wood chips, into the grill (Tip: Lay them directly over the coals for even burning and flavor)
    4. Put your grate back over the coals and wood
    5. Place your slab of meat on top of the grate on the opposite side of the grill as the coals
    6. Set the lid back on the grill making sure that the damper is open and sitting above the bmeat (Note: The inclusion of cold meat into your grill will bring the internal temperature down to about 220 degrees F)
    7. Maintain an interior temperature of 220 degrees F (Tip: Every 30-45 minutes you will probably have to add more coals to keep the heat elevated.)
    8. KEEP THE LID CLOSED! (Note: The only time you should lift your lid is to refill the coals)
    9. Wait until your meat is cooked (Tip: Each type of meat will need to cook for a different amount of time.)
    10. Test your meat using a meat thermometer. (Tip: Much like cooking time the recommended interior temperature will be unique to the type of meat being smoked.)

With An Electric/Gas Meat Smoker

  1. Turn your smoker on. (Tip: The manufacturer’s instructions might come in handy to determine how to do this.)
  2. Put your wood pieces, or wood chips, into the smoker (Tip: Each smoker will have a specific area to place these. Again, referring to the manufacturer’s instructions will be helpful if you are unsure about where they go.)
  3. Make sure that your smoker is holding its temperature at about 225 degrees F before adding your meat
  4. Place your slab of meat in the smoker (Tip: Make sure that the meat is never over direct heat.)(Note: The inclusion of cold meat into your grill will bring the internal temperature down to about 220 degrees F)
  5. Close the lid of your smoker making sure that the exhaust vent is completely open for smoke ventilation.
  6. Be sure that your smoker is maintaining an internal temperature of 220 degrees F throughout the smoking process. Use a temperature gauge for accuracy.
  7. KEEP THE LID CLOSED!
  8. Wait until your meat is cooked (Tip: Each type of meat will need to cook for a different amount of time.)
  9. Test your meat using a meat thermometer. (Tip: Much like cooking time the recommended interior temperature will be unique to the type of meat being smoked.)

colored meal prep containers

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