Many preparations are required to begin with this traditional cooking process. You may have to ponder: How to smoke meat? How to smoke on a grill?
Picking an excellent meat smoker and following specific meat smoking recipes can yield you the best-tasting food you are looking for. Let’s see more about cuts and types of meat that are ideal to be smoldered.
Before refrigerators and chemicals, people used ‘smoking’ as a way to preserve food. Preserving, cooking, and flavoring the food by exposing it to smoke from burning wood has a long history. Even though some modern methods of cooking have become rather global, the taste of smoked meat is keeping this tradition alive.
This process is accomplished by placing the meat on racks or hanging it in a chamber that traps smoke created by burning hardwood.
Flavor changes based on the type of wood used since each fuel source produces its unique combination of flavors. When wood is burned, it produces nitrogen dioxide. Once that nitrogen oxide gets in contact with meat, it loses its oxygen molecules and becomes acidic. Myoglobin (a protein), which is present in the flesh, pulls the acid inside. As a result, food gets those delicious smoky flavors that we all love. It sounds geeky, but it’s delicious.
This delicate yet mysterious cooking process can be done in two ways: Cold and Hot. Let’s see more about each type.
The cold cooking process opens a world of tastes. This method’s aim is not to cook your food. Its purpose is the preservation and enhancement of flavor. Meat is carefully placed in a specific way inside an unheated chamber, and smoke is pumped from a firebox. Inside the chamber, the temperature should be maintained somewhere between 60 and 120 F. All meat should go through a curing process before being cold smoked. Depending on the product type, this process takes hours to days to get completed. People usually follow this technique to preserve food during chilling winter days.
2. Hot (Also known as BBQ Smoking)
Here, the temperature is maintained between 225 to 300 F. Food is directly exposed to smoke, being cooked in the process. By doing so, flavored compounds are immersed in the food’s surface while slow cooking makes cuts tender.
Smouldered, Grilled, and Barbequed foods are all different!
Many people confuse grilled meat with smoked meat. Both are entirely different, with distinct tastes and aromas. Smoldering is an incredibly slow process as temperature revolves around 225 F. While grilling; you are cooking meat at a whopping 550 F, a relatively quick process. BBQ comes close with a few commonalities, being a slow and indirect heating method best suited for massive cuts. An ideal temperature is usually higher than 225 F.
How to Smoke meats?: All you need to have!
Always make sure that your setup ideally has two chambers: one for burning wood and one for food storage. This helps to maintain temperature around 200 F, and you can be sure that meat is not cooked by direct radiation. Smoking meat requires the following.
Once you have chosen a cooking method and your wood is ready, you should pick a top-rated smoker that suits your requirements. Depending on how they generate heat, smoldering devices can be classified into several types. Total capacity, portability, fuel type – they all can influence your choice. Let’s see some examples of smokers.
- Electric: It includes a rod that heats up electrically and kindles the wooden pellets. This method is super convenient to use as an automation system. After time elapses, this device turns itself off. Pork and beef ribs, beef brisket, and pork shoulder are ideal types of meat to smoke in an electric smoker.
- Gas-fired: This method works pretty much the same as electricity. It uses butane, propane, or natural gas to ignite the wood though. Butane is generally preferred due to its low cost. A significant advantage is that these devices come with a water pan, which helps to retain moisture of cooked meat.
- Barbecue Pit: Here, charcoal is used as a fuel. You need to light the charcoal and wait until that grey ash covers the coal. Next, dampened wooden pellets go over the ash while meat goes over the racks. Once the smoke starts to emerge, close the chamber and leave it as such until it is done! The best charcoal smoker will always yield amazing results, so choose wisely!
If you are a beginner, browse for the best smoker available out there and consider this as an investment.
Wood: Different types of smokers need different types of wood. Common types of wood include the following.
- Alder: Goes well with fish and poultry
- Apple: Pairs good with ham and poultry
- Hickory: Best with red meat and ribs
- Oak: Great choice for massive cuts
- Cherry: Goes good with pork and beef
Water pan: Placing a water pan inside the chamber can add moisture and humidity. This preserves any meat from drying out. Usually, disposable aluminum pans are preferred.
Spray Bottle: During cooking, sometimes you need to spritz the meat’s outer side to prevent overcooking and desiccation.
Drip pans: While meat is getting cooked, grease and fat drips and settles at the bottom, messing up the setup. It is a smart idea to have a shallow aluminum drip pan installed at the bottom.
Stages of Burning Wood
Burning wood is a process that involves four stages. Let’s see them.
- Dehydration: When the temperature rises to over 500 F, water in the wood evaporates so it can burn.
- Pyrolysis and Gasification: When the temperature rises further, another process starts. All wood’s compounds begin to break down into gas, liquid, and tar.
- Burning: At this stage, the temperature hits a maximum of 1000 F. Flames occur, and combustion produces carbon dioxide, water vapor, and ashes. Aromatic compounds necessary for smoking are released at this stage.
- Char burning: Charcoal still burns with little to no flame.
Best Cuts of Meat to Smoke
Do you want to know the best meats to smoke? You have multiple choices to put on your pit. This cooking process is fun yet challenging as certain meats have distinct traits that make them the best meats to smoke. This process is not rocket science when done right, but remember that you can smoke anything, even if you are a novice. In other words, there are specific cuts of meats that are religiously meant to be smoldered.
Have a look at the best cuts of meat to smoke during your next party. We listed them below.
1. Pork Butt
This is one of the cheapest cuts available for sale and also a lump of excellent meat to smoke for a beginner. Pork butt comes from the upper side of the hog’s shoulder while the cut weighs anywhere between 5 to 10 pounds. Generally, the shoulder bone runs through the butt, but you can get rid of it and smolder if you wish. However, this works better with the bone in. A bone acts as a thermometer, which tells you when the pork butt is ready to be served by gradually sliding out.
- Required time: 10 hours
- Temperature: 195 F
- Wood: Pecan
2. Beef Brisket
It’s the best beef roast to smoke, being termed as the king of BBQ smoking. Beef brisket offers everything that you want from smoldered food. Smoking beef brisket transforms bland beef cut into a tender and delicious slab enriched with intense flavors. If possible, go with organic beef as farm-raised cattle provide their flesh with a more subtle and creamy taste when smoked. Choose a brisket that is tender and flat for a better taste.
- Required time: 10-14 hours
- Temperature: 205 F
- Wood: Oak, Cherry
3. Chuck Roast
Chuck comes from a region above the brisket and towards the animal front. Its shape gave the name “7-bone steak”. Usually, it takes more than 10 hours to smoke steak, but chucks can be cooked in a shorter period. This has a fantastic amount of collagen, which imparts a strong flavor.
- Required time: 5 hours
- Temperature: 190 F
- Wood: Pecan, Hickory
4. Pork Ribs
Smoking a rack of pork ribs is a complete pleasure, and also one of the cheapest meats to smoke. Pork ribs are easy to find and are rich in fat. But how do you achieve those enticing tender pieces of beef with a combination of amazing flavors? They do need a little preparing before going into the smoker. Peel off the membrane and season the rib, so that they won’t dry out while smoking.
- Required time: 6 hours
- Temperature: 180 F
- Wood: Applewood, hickory
Smoked goat is not just yummy but also healthy. Cholesterol, fat, and calories are lower in goat than in other types of red meat. Brining is imperative as it keeps the cut moist and brings in a hidden sweet savor. A 6 to 12 months old goat offers a fantastic taste.
- Required time: 7-8 hours
- Temperature: 250 F
- Wood: Mesquite
6. Beef Ribs
People often go crazy for pork ribs. However, beef ribs are as good as pork ribs when smoked. When it comes to the best beef to smoke, ribs come second after beef brisket. They are challenging to acquire, but it’s worth the effort.
- Required time: 5-6 hours
- Temperature: 203 F
- Wood: Pecan, Oak, Cherry, Pecan
What Is The Hardest Meat To Smoke?
Beef brisket is challenging to smoke, while pork butt is the easiest one to do! Brisket is lean and doesn’t have a lot of fat. So, most of the time, people end up over-cooking the meat. However, following a perfect meat smoking guide and the recipe can get you right!
What Meat Can You Smoke In 4 Hours?
Usually, it takes a few hours to days to smoke certain types of meats and cuts. The following types require less than four hours to get cooked.
A cool thing about deer is that you can smoke almost every part of it. Deer meat is lean; so prior meat preparation and brining are essential to achieve that desired taste. You can brine for 8-10 hours, which will provide extra moisture. Keep in mind that shoulders and tenderloins offer the best savor, as this will furnish a phenomenal experience to your taste buds.
- Time: 3-4 hours
- Temperature: 165 F
- Wood: Cherry, applewood
Of all the seafood available, salmon is fantastic to smolder. It can be cold-smoldered, too! As salmon is oily and fatty, it offers a unique flavor when smoked. This is a versatile meat that provides a wide range of flavors depending on how you cook it.
- Time: 3 hours
- Temperature: 145 F
- Wood: Alder
3. Top Sirloin Steak
This type of cut comes from the cow’s hip. This is tender and lean, so it takes less time to smoke when compared to other cuts of beef. It’s highly recommended to marinate the sirloin for a few hours prior to tossing it into meat smokers. This prevents drying out when you smoke steaks and help them stay juicy.
- Time: 1 hour per pound
- Temperature: 225 F
- Wood: Mesquite.
4. Chicken Quarters
Who doesn’t like chicken? Smoked chicken is mouth-watering and can drive you crazy. Chicken cuts are cheap, readily available, and versatile. However, the skin will turn like an inedible piece of leather when smoked, so it’s highly preferred to pull off the skin before cooking. You can toss the meat with your favorite sauce to enhance the flavor and look.
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Temperature: 180 F
- Wood: Pecan, Oak, Cherry
5. Turkey Breast
People prefer smoldering turkey breast over the whole bird. Turkey skin isn’t worth eating as well. Brush butter over the breast and smoke for a short period. It’s good to leave it a bit moist to enhance the taste level.
- Time: 2 hours
- Temperature: 160 F
- Wood used: Apple
Is Smoked Meat Healthy?
Smouldered and grilled meats are tempting and addictive. The food’s woodsy flavor makes you go mad. However, over-indulging in such delicacies can cause adverse effects on your health. Meat prepared this way is high in sodium and puts you at risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. During smoking, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed, and they are proven to be carcinogenic.
Indulging in smoked meat from time to time is great, but making it a part of your everyday diet is not advisable.
We hope this mykitchenadvisor guide will help you cook great-tasting meat. We’ve done our best to put together the absolute best information out there, summarizing the key points. That was it! Do you have any smoking meat tips and suggestions to enhance taste and flavor? Leave a comment below. We also want to improve our cooking!