What is smoking meat?
Most of us are familiar with the BBQ and most cooking done on a barbecue is actually grilling.
Smoking involves cooking food low ‘n’ slow in a smoky environment, either a barbecue or a smoker for several hours, allowing the smoke to penetrate throughout the meat and impart an unmistakable smoky flavour, whilst also preserving.
Although a certain level of finesse and knowledge is required for smoking, with a little practice anyone can do it. Here are some top tips to get you smoking!
Smoking can be a long-term commitment, but the results are worth it. Real barbecue is cooked low ‘n’ slow normally over an indirect heat source. The wood smoke is a traditional way to make meats (often cheaper cuts) moist, tender and flavoursome. Be sure to set aside sufficient time, at least 4 hours (but often longer) to get the best results.
Get the heat right
You can use lump charcoal, quality briquettes or gas as your heat source, although stay away from lighter fluid as it just adds a chemical taste to your food. Use a chimney starter to get your coals nice and hot (approx. 120c or if you can’t hold your hands for more than 2 Mississippi’s above the coals)
Set the coals at one end of your BBQ or smoker, add your smoking wood (dry not wet) directly onto your coals, and then put your meat on the opposite side of the grill. The ideal temperature to maintain is around 105c and you can regulate your temperature using air flow or a water pan to stop it from getting too high.
Clean smoke good - dirty smoke bad
Clean smoke, which is normally fairly clear and whitish, imparts an unmistakably beautiful flavour to your food, however a blackish dark smoke can really taint the food. Make sure the fire is well ventilated, most BBQ’s or smokers will have vents for this. And whilst the process can be semi-autonomous, never stray too far away from the fire. Stay safe and check on your temperature every hour or so.
Pick the right foods to smoke
Not all foods are necessarily as suited to smoking as others (I’ve tried most things). Poultry can work well but doesn’t take as long as meats and brining can help from drying out. Fish and seafood can work but pick oily fish like salmon as hot smoking does not lend well to delicate white fish. Meats like beef, pork, lamb and anything gamey work very well. And don’t forget the veggies! Aubergine, peppers, tomatoes all taste amazing smoked although need a lot less cooking than meat.
Use a Rub
I use a dry rub with pretty much all the meats I smoke, although it is important not to over complicate or overcrowd flavours. Strong meats such as beef and lamb only need very simple flavours such as a classic SPG (equal parts salt, pepper and garlic), chicken and pork work well with a few more flavours.
Most importantly of all, have fun! Experiment with different woods (hickory, apple, cherry and oak are some of my favourite), different foods and different flavours!! Give your friends and family something to talk about at your next summer get together!