Smoking Meats 101: 5 Different Ways

School may be back in session, but there’s still plenty of time left to have a backyard barbecue. Instead of putting your meat on the grill (which is totally fine), why not try smoking some meat? Smoked meat has become more and more popular over the years and there’s a good reason for it.

“The elemental scent of meats being cooked over fire, dating back roughly 1.8 million years, remains part of our culinary DNA,” writes Food Columnist Jim Shahin for The Washington Post.

Smoking meat isn’t just popular because it’s part of our DNA, it actually makes our food taste delicious. Here’s how (again explained by Shahin):

“Smoking foods creates the Maillard reaction, which occurs when heat on a dry surface breaks down sugars and amino acids. Examples are the sear of steaks and the “bark,” or crunchy browned exterior, of slow-smoked beef brisket. The taste components include sweetness and bitterness.”

Now that we’ve convinced you to try smoking meat, here’s some beginner advice on smoking a variety of meats.

1. Brisket

We went to smoking-meat.com for some advice on smoking brisket and here’s what they recommend:

How to Buy Brisket
Make sure you buy a whole packer brisket in the 12-14 lb range (look for a fat cap on one side, sometimes a 1/2 inch think or more and make sure the brisket is a good red color).

Score the Brisket
To score the brisket, simply make cuts in the fat cap all the way down to the meat in a crosshatch pattern with the cuts about ¾ to 1 inch apart.

Season it
Some folks like to keep it really simple and just use salt and pepper but, do what you like best – if you have a favorite rub, try that. It will probably be delicious!

Smoking Brisket
As long as you keep the smoke light, you can apply smoke to brisket for the entire time. You may find that you like only 30 minutes of smoke and that is fine too. You have to figure out some of these things by practicing your craft.

Take the brisket to 200°F. You can even finish cooking the brisket in the home oven at 225-240°F.

When a brisket is done, the meat will not resist a blunt object being pushed through it.

2. Turkey

Five simple steps to smoking turkey from seriouseats.com

Butterfly the bird
This will help it cook more evenly and develop crisper skin.

Dry-brine
Rub the bird with salt (or a spice rub that includes salt) and let it sit in the fridge for a few nights in order to allow the salt to work its way into the meat and loosen up its muscle structure, thus keeping it juicy as it cooks.

Add baking powder to the dry rub
This causes it to form tiny micro-bubbles on the surface of the turkey as it roasts, adding surface area and enhancing the crispness of the skin. It also slightly raises the pH of the surface, enhancing Maillard browning. *What is Maillard browning? Maillard browning (or Maillard reaction creates flavor and changes the color of food. Maillard reactions generally only begin to occur above 285°F. Until the Maillard reaction occurs meat will have less flavor.

Slow-cook over indirect heat
With the legs pointed toward the heat source (legs can handle higher heat than delicate breast meat can), slow-cook your turkey.

Monitor internal temperature
Carefully monitoring the turkey’s internal temperature to ensure that the breast meat never gets above 150°F. Any higher than that, and it becomes chalky and dry. (Despite government warnings to cook turkey to 165°F, turkey is perfectly safe to eat at 150°F so long as it is properly checked with a thermometer and allowed to rest for at least four minutes before serving.)

3. Salmon

How to smoke salmon from honest-food.net:

Cure the Fish
Mix together the brine ingredients and place your fish in a non-reactive container (plastic or glass), cover and put in the refrigerator. This curing process eliminates some of the moisture from the inside of the fish while at the same time infusing it with salt, which will help preserve the salmon.You will need to cure your salmon at least 4 hours.

Dry the Fish
Take your fish out of the brine and pat it dry. Set the fillets on your cooling rack, skin side down. Let the fish dry for 2 to 4 hours (or up to overnight in the fridge). You want the surface of the fish to develop a shiny skin called a pellicle. This is one step many beginning smokers fail to do, but drying your cured, brined fish in a cool, breezy place is vital to properly smoking it.

Smoke your fish 
Even though this is hot smoking, you still do not want high temperatures. Start with a small fire and work your way up as you go. It is important to bring the temperature up gradually or you will get that white albumin “bleed” on the meat. Start the process at 120°F for 2 hours. Then step up the heat to 140°F for another hour, then finish at 175°F for a final hour or two.

Baste the Fish
After an hour in the smoker, baste the fish with birch or maple syrup; do this every hour. This is a good way to brush away any albumin that might form. In most cases, you will get a little. You just don’t want a ton of it. Even if you can’t control your temperature this precisely, you get the general idea. You goal should be an internal temperature of about 130°F to 140°F.

Cool and Store the Fish
Once your fish is smoked, let it rest on the cooling rack for an hour before you put it in the fridge. Once refrigerated and wrapped in plastic, smoked fish will keep for 10 days. If you vacuum-seal it, the fish will keep for up to 3 weeks. Or freeze your fish for up to a year.

4. Wings

This is a great recipe to try from howtobbqright.com:

Make Marinade
Put your wings in a large zip-top bag. In a large mixing bowl add 2 cups of your favorite Hot Sauce, 1 bottle of Zesty Italian Dressing, ½ cup Soy Sauce, and ½ cup Worcestershire Sauce. Mix these ingredients and pour into the bag with the wings. Squeeze as much air out as possible and toss the wings around so the marinade covers everything.

Place the bag of wings in a cooler on ice. It helps if you have a layer of ice on bottom and a large pan on top just in case the bag leaks. Let the wings marinate for at least 3-4 hours but overnight won’t hurt.

Season the Wings
After marinating, take the wings out of the marinade, let the excess marinade drip off, and arrange them on the rack. If you don’t have a rack that’s ok too, just lay them on a platter or flat pan. Season each side of the wings with your favorite rub.

Smoking Wings
Once the pit is up and running at 275⁰, it’s ready for the wings. Throw a chunk of Cherry and Hickory wood on the hot coals and place the wings in the cooker. You can use any smoker or grill, just maintain your temp in the 275 range for the entire cook

After the wings have smoked for 1 hour, it’s time to take a look at them.You want to see a reddish- caramelized color. Go ahead and flip the wings over at this stage and hit them with a little extra rub so they cook even.

They’ll need another 30 minutes to an hour to finish cooking. If you’re not sure you can always stick them with a meat thermometer. The Internal Temperature needs to hit 165 at least, but it won’t hurt to overshoot it a little bit. Wings are pretty forgiving, and even if they’re cooked slightly over 165, it makes for a softer wing.

5. Ribs

For fall off the bone ribs, we found some great advice at smoking-meat.com.

Trim Fat and Silver Skin
Use a sharp knife and spend a little time doing the best you can to remove the silver skin and most of the fat on the top side of the beef short ribs.

Dry Brine
Sprinkle coarse kosher salt on the top side of the beef ribs. Then, with the ribs laying in a shallow pan, place them in the fridge for about 2-4 hours. 4 hours is best but if you’re in a hurry, 2-3 hours is better than nothing.

Season With a Rub
Remove them from the fridge and get ready to add some of delicious Texas style rub to compliment and help bring out that big beefy flavor.

Set up your Smoker
Set up your smoker for cooking at about 240°F with indirect heat using pecan wood or even hickory or cherry. If your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up.

Place the beef short ribs onto a large shallow pan. Set the pan with the beef ribs onto the smoker grate and close the door/lid.

Make the Basting Sauce
This is enough for a couple of 4-bone racks of beef short ribs.

2 cups root beer (cheap stuff is fine)
1 cup soy sauce (low sodium is best)
1 cup Worcestershire
Stir to combine.

Finish Smoke Cooking
Pour the basting sauce over the top of the meat and let it drain off into the shallow pan.

Let the beef ribs cook with smoke and about every 30-45 minutes, use a turkey baster or a spoon to get some of the juices up onto the meat. Do this quickly so heat loss is minimal.

After about 5-6 hours, they’ll start getting a really nice color.

The beef short ribs are done when they get fork tender and this can happen at different stages. Usually this is around 190-200°

When the ribs are tender as you like them, remove them from the smoker, tent some foil over them and let them rest for about 10 minutes.

This article is brought to you by Moe’s Original Bar B Que. Find Moe’s at 901 Columbia Ave and 9050 Carothers Pkwy #9050, both in Franklin. Moe’s Original Bar B Que features award-winning Bama-style pulled pork, ribs, wings, turkey and chicken smoked over hardwood served with two unique sauces in addition to Catfish and a Shrimp Moe-Boy sandwich, and 8-10 traditional Southern sides to choose from.See their menu here.

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