10 Things You Didn't Know About Smoking Meat
- Not all wood smoke is created equal. It’s said that hardwoods from deciduous trees, such as hickory and apple, create the best-tasting smoke. Beware conifers, however, which contain pitch and can leave your meat with a bitter flavor.
- You can smoke nearly any type of meat, including fish. The most popular cuts of meat to smoke are fatty and tough, such as ribs, brisket, and pork shoulder.
- Vegetarian? You can smoke non-meat items such as cheese, nuts, tomatoes, berries, peaches, potatoes, and olives.
- Unlike hot smoking, which cooks as well as flavors the meat, cold smoking only does the latter, making it dangerous if done incorrectly and best used on foods that do not need to be cooked before being consumed.
- Using salt to brine your meat prior to smoking it keeps the meat from drying out and makes it more water absorbent.
- Smoking is one of the oldest food preservation methods due to the smoke’s drying action, as well as the natural preservatives in wood itself, such as formaldehyde and certain alcohols.
- You don’t need a fancy smoker to get the job done; the internet has plenty of DIY articles for making your own, in-ground smoker. You’ll need a shovel, some twigs and newspaper, woodchips, hardwood branches, brown paper sacks, a great slab of local meat, and about 12 hours’ cooking time.
- Look out for commercial meats that claim to be smoked; they may have undergone an artificial process that involves being painted with preservative chemicals, which actually have minimal preservative effect.
- Know the risks and practice moderation. Consuming large amounts of smoked meat on a regular basis due to the cooking process and often high amounts of sodium involved is not the best thing for your health, but indulging once in a while never hurt anyone.
- If you’re using a dry rub, apply it just before smoking your meat (unlike salt, which needs time to penetrate the meat prior to smoking it).