Salt has always been a primary ingredient in food smoking for ages. Salt was used to cure meat when people used smoking as a process to preserve food. Curing meat prevented the growth of bacteria, increasing its shelf life. Cold smoking was usually the process used to preserve meat. It didn’t cook the meat completely but made the surface of the fleshless prone to contamination. With the wave of modernization, food smoking has evolved drastically. People now use refrigerators to preserve food and don’t rely on having to smoke meat anymore other than for flavor.
This was when hot smoking became more popular among barbeque lovers. The process involves heat and smoke that almost cooks the meat rather than leaving it uncooked, like with cold smoking. This creates tender, succulent meat that can make anyone drool. While salt is no longer an ingredient to preserve meat, it is now used to enhance the flavor of the meat. The sodium content of smoked meat now comes from the brine or rub used to marinate the meat and not from the cooking process.
Adverse effects of sodium
Raised sodium levels in the body can induce high blood pressure. This is especially unsafe for older people whose hormones start to lose balance. High blood pressure can further cause several other chronic diseases like heart problems and even strokes. This is why barbeque lovers must keep their sodium intake in check.
How to avoid sodium in food smoking
With modern smokers, people don’t have to worry about curing their meat to preserve the food. These advanced food smokers like the Bradley Smoker can smoke pretty much anything that is put in it. Bradley Smokers come with digital controls to adjust the temperature and cooking time, offering you the perfect smoking experience without much effort. This is where rubs and brining don’t necessarily play a role. Modern smokers can perfectly smoke meat without any curing as such. Of course, this is where you have to compromise on the flavor of the smoked meat, as salt adds flavor to the meat that would otherwise be missing. However, this doesn’t mean it’s irreplaceable.
Alternatives to sodium in food smoking
We understand that the salt-induced flavoring can be missed majorly by lovers of smoked food if they decide to reduce their sodium intake. This problem can be solved with several options that include both organic and inorganic flavors. Check them out below:
Celery seeds: When roasted and ground to a fine powder, these seeds are used as a substitute for salt in meat rubs. They may not replicate the exact flavor of salt, but they definitely won’t disappoint on a smoked steak.
Potassium-based substitutes: A few potassium-based salts also act as a sodium replacement when smoking food. Of course, only if you don’t have an adverse reaction to increased levels of potassium.
Buttermilk: You can use this wonder ingredient as a brine to flavor meat. It tenderizes the meat and also adds flavor. The added benefits of buttermilk are that it’s nutritious and has no side effects, but be sure to look out for a brand of buttermilk without sodium in it.
Natural marinades: Some natural herbs and fruit juices can be excellent marinades when smoking meat. They not only pump up the flavor but also make the meat more succulent. Try garlic, onion, orange juice, olive oil, and lemon if you decide to go without salt.
Alcohol: While adding a mild flavor, alcohol is also a great meat tenderizer. For instance, stout or whiskey goes best with pork or beef. Lighter-colored alcohols like gin and tequila can complement poultry or seafood. Wine also acts as a marinade for almost all types of meat.
Salt-free seasonings: Many seasoning brands have begun to launch a range of salt-free marinades and seasonings that work especially well for smoking. But be sure to check the nutrition facts label at the back of every pack before buying to make sure you are not consuming sodium in disguise.
Bradley Bisquettes: These are by far the best alternative to salt to flavor meat. The Bisquettes are sawdust pucks of aromatic wood specially made to produce flavored smoke. Bradley Bisquettes are available in a range of different flavors like pecan, oak, cherry, apple, maple, etc., and work best with the Bradley Smoker.
Check your meat options: Meats like turkey or chicken require salt to get the desired flavor during smoking. This may not be the case with other meats that are naturally rich in flavor. Seek the help of your butcher and let them know your concerns before buying that specific cut to smoke.
With that, we have reached the end of this article on sodium and smoking meat. We hope these Bradley tips & tricks on reducing the use of salt in marinades and its alternatives have been helpful to you.