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Tip # 1: Choose the Perfect Type and Cut of Meat
As for the cut of meat, this is actually quite dependent on how you’ll cook your meat. You can read more on this later but smoking meats in low temperature and slowly will be the most beneficial for your taste buds. So, with that information, choose the part of the meat that will be most suitable for the slow-cooking process. The golden rule is, the more connective tissue and fat, also known as ‘marble’, the better. You could always consult your grass fed beef butcher.
Chicken meat is cheap. It’s readily available in the market, too. And of course, if the smoking process is done right, it can very well be tasty and healthy as well.
However, the chicken skin can also be a challenge to cook. If the smoking temperature is too high, the chicken skin will become too crisp. But if it is smoked slowly at low temperature, it may become tough and rubbery.
Nonetheless, if you want to roast chicken meat, then a good chicken should be fresh and plump. Avoid picking those supermarket chickens that are usually shriveled and frozen. Also, choose a big one. About 4-5 pounds of chicken is a good choice.
As for the cut of chicken, this is actually best cooked as a whole.
Turkey is a classic Thanksgiving holiday staple. It has a unique flavor and texture especially when smoked. However, it can be a bit pricier than other poultries.
Similar with chicken, to shop for the best turkey in the market, it’s better to choose a fresh and plump one. Take note of the shape of the turkey. Choose the turkey with a well-rounded breast because this indicates a juicier meal for you.
Avoid turkeys with flat spots. It is an indication that the turkey has been thawed and refrozen. Turkeys such as these are more prone to freezer-burning as well as these may increase the risk for food-borne illnesses.
As for the size, it really depends on your needs. But a smaller one would be a good choice as this is easier to cook and it usually turns out to be more tender when cooked. And again, just like chicken, it is better to have this smoked whole rather than in cuts.
Now, pork is one of the most prominent smoked meats. Pork is a good choice of meat for smoking because its working parts (i.e. the legs, shoulder, and neck) are tough and muscular – both of which are good attributes we are looking for in meats to smoke.
To choose a good quality of pork, opt for the one with a pink to a purplish red colored flash. The meat should also be firm to the touch. Avoid those that are saggy and falling apart and even those that are greasy looking and greyish in color. And as a final tip, choose the pork that is evenly layered with firm, white fat.
Some of the go-to cuts for pork include pork shoulder or pork butt, baby back ribs, front and back hocks, and pork picnic.
Beef is another top in the meats to smoke. It is popular because every part of the animal source is offering a variety of unique flavors and textures.
A quick general rule in choosing the right chunk of beef is to lift it up and see if it bends. The bending is a good sign that the beef will be tender after it is smoked. Also, the more the meat bends, the better and tender. Note also that the beef should not have bruises, broken bones, and discoloration. Stale beef is commonly characterized by its grey or brown color.
As for the beef cuts to choose from, beef brisket, chuck roast, beef ribs, tri-tip, top round, flank steak, and top sirloin steak are some of the good choices.
And of course, lamb meat. Lamb is the usual choice for meats to smoke. It actually has a unique characteristic in that it tends to readily take on smoke. This means that it is easy to fill with flavor. However, it is also a risky attribute because it also means that it is easy to over-smoke.
To shop for lamb meat, remember that a good quality lamb should be rosy pink or red in color. Furthermore, the lamb meat should be fine-grained and covered with firm, white fat.
The best cuts of lambs for smoking include, but are not limited to, the leg, shoulder, and rack of lamb.
Tip # 2: Brining is the Key
This can’t be stressed enough. Brine your meat before smoking! The magic behind brining is that it prevents your meat from drying out during the smoking process. It does so because the salt in the brine helps the meat proteins be more water-absorbent. That is, the proteins effectively retain water and lose less of it during smoking.
Oh! Don’t worry about making your smoked meat too salty. While brine is literally a mixture of salt and water, you can actually add herbs, spices, and other flavorings if you’d like. Some counter the saltiness by adding sugar and molasses.
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Tip # 3: Low and Slow are Good
And now, on to the cooking part! Smoking takes a lot of patience. But believe this, it is definitely rewarding.
The secret to smoking is to slowly and steadily cook the meat using low temperature. Usually, the temperature utilized is between 212 degrees Fahrenheit to 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
The good thing about using low temperatures is that it allows the meat to retain more nutrients. It also helps in making the collagen in the meat to be hydrolyzed while keeping the proteins from overheating. That is, the tough tissues of the meat dissolve into the meat.
Slow cooking also gives the meat time to absorb the flavors in the smoke.
Tip # 4: The Type of Wood Adds Flavor Too
Wood or pellet smokers are the best way to bring out the purest of flavors in your smoked meat. And although almost all smokers use wood, these are harder to keep at a constant temperature compared to other types of smokers such as electric and propane smokers.
Nonetheless, learning to use smoker boxes might help you get the basics. You can check out https://carnivorestyle.com/how-to-use-a-smoker-box/. Then after learning the basics, you can study more to use wood or pellet smokers.
At any rate, here are some of the woods you might use to add flavors to your smoked meat:
- Alder – has a naturally sweet flavor; best partnered with poultry and other white meats
- Applewood – gives a fruity and sweet smoke flavor suitable for pork and poultry
- Hickory – adds a strong and unique flavor ideal for red meats
- Maple – has a sweet and delicate flavor that tends to be blended with alder or applewood; usually used for poultry and ham
Hard work and perseverance to smoke meat
Smoking any type of meat takes a lot of patience and practice. The key is in the details. From picking the fresh and right type of meat to slowly smoking the meat, every choice counts. If you need help picking what smoker is best for you, you can check this article out on the best smokers of 2020.
The good thing is learning the basics will help you have a good foundation. And with hard work and perseverance, and of course, with these tips, you’ll be a pro in no time.
So, what are you waiting for? Go smoke that meat like a total winner!
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