Food smoking is a traditional method of preserving and flavoring meat that has been used for thousands of years. Nowadays, preservatives and refrigeration are used too, but they’re not as much fun or delicious.
Food smokers are still popular because the low and slow approach to cooking tenderizes the food and takes the flavor to another level of delicious. We’ve heard smoking can even make vegetables taste good!
What is Meat smoking?
Meat smoking is the process of cooking meat with low temperatures over a long period in a smoker to add flavor. Wood smoke adds a rich flavor and mouthwatering aroma.
Cold and hot smoking are the two different ways to smoke meat. Here we’ll walk you through both approaches.
In cold smoking, the meat is kept in a smoker away from the heat source and exposed to low-temperature smoke for an extended period. Cold smoking preserves and adds flavor to the meat but does not cook it. The process keeps the meat from going bad and kills microbes found in raw meat that can make you sick. The smoke also dries the outer layer of the meat, which prevents bacteria from growing. This process allows the meat to last for a long time without refrigeration.
Pro Tip: Use the cold smoke adapter for efficient cold smoking with the Bradley! The kit enables you to do a true and simple cold smoke, moving the bisquette burner outside the smoke box, turning your Bradley into a cold smoker unit.
Another method of food smoking is hot smoking, also known as barbecue. This process exposes the meat to hot smoke with temperatures of about 80 to 150°C. In hot smoking, the meat is placed alongside the source of fire that is producing smoke. In this method, the meat is smoked and cooked simultaneously. It’s important to have the right balance of smoke and heat. We created a perfectly balanced article about Food Smoking Versus Cooking Food with Wood!
The hot smoke gives the meat the smoky flavor while the low and slow cooking makes sure the meat is tender and juicy.
Best Types of Meat for Smoking
Since food smoking is a slow cooking process, it is perfect for tougher cuts of meat with plenty of collagen and fat. The fat is essential in preventing the meat from drying during the lengthy smoking process. It maintains the moisture and absorbs the smoky flavor. The collagen components break down into tender gelatin. Some of the best cuts to put in the Bradley smoker are ribs, brisket, and pork butt.
Brisket is one of the premier cuts of beef. It usually has a healthy layer of fat that keeps the meat moist making it an ideal amount for extended smoking. Brisket can be tough and challenging to prepare with other cooking methods. However, it is tender and delicious if you smoke it for 10 to 12 hours.
Pork Butt (Boston Butt)
Boston butt is also known as pork shoulder. It refers to the upper part of a pig front shoulder. It’s made up of muscles with lots of fats and connective tissue making it perfect for prolonged smoking.
Another fan favorite for the smoker are beef and pork ribs. Ribs have the right amount of meat, fat, and connective tissue that holds them together. They don’t as much time to smoke as brisket or pork butt, but they do require a consistent temperature to turn out delicious.
Tools to Get Started Smoking
There are a number of different ways to smoke meat, here the main tools of the trade you’ll need to get started.
#1. The Smoker
A quality smoker is a good place to start. Food smokers generally come in a few different varieties depending on how they generate smoke and heat. The most common are wood, charcoal, gas, and electric smokers.
Wood is burned to produce smoke and flavor the meat. The type of wood you use makes a big difference in the flavor along with how the wood is burned. To start with you should always use hardwood. One of the biggest problems for pitmasters is that when wood turns to ash it releases foul-tasting chemicals. The Bradley smokers are specially designed to give you all the smoke flavor and then extinguish the Bradley Bisquettes before they turn to ash.
#3. Water pan
A water pan filled with water is placed inside the smoker and adds moisture and humidity which prevents the meat from drying out during the smoking process. The moisture also helps the meat to hold the smoky flavor better.
#4. Spray bottle
We suggest that you use a spray bottle to spritz the outer covering of the meat with water. This is important because it prevents some parts of the food from overcooking or drying out.
#5. Drip pan
During the smoking process, meat drips fats on the lower part of the smoker. These drippings can cause flame-ups if not collected and disposed of properly. If your smoker doesn’t have a drip pan, you can place a pan or aluminum foil at the bottom of the smoker’s grate. Also, you may not need one if your smoker has a built-in drain.
Smoking your meat is a great way to add different flavors and take it another level of delicious. Make sure to start with the right cut of meat. We recommend fish, ribs and chicken that are easier as a good place to begin. Next, get the right tools to smoke your meat the right way. Lastly, and most importantly enjoy the delicious, tender, and juicy rewards! Don’t hesitate to check out the Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more juicy food smoking tips & tricks!