You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the rich, delicious flavor of smoked foods. Traditionally used as a means to preserve meat, a smoker is now used as a way to impart natural smoked flavor to foods, creating succulent meats and tender vegetables.
Preparing Your Foods
Any food can be used with the smoker technique, from red meats to poultry, fish to vegetables, even fruits and cheese! To smoke your meats, begin with brining, marinade or a dry rub. Brining refers to soaking in a saltwater solution to enhance the flavor of the meat, leading to juicy, mouthwatering bites of meat.
Tip: before smoking vegetables, drizzle with oil, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Preparing Your Smoker
While your meat is soaking in a brine, liquid marinade or dry rub, it’s time to prepare your smoker. Before using your smoker for the first time, it’s necessary to burn off any contaminates that may remain from the production process, and to cure the inside. This is a process called seasoning. First, heat your smoker to high heat. If using charcoal, this means heating until the charcoal is white hot. Then lower the heat, and let the smoker run for 3 hours. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions if provided. Once your smoker has been seasoned, you will heat up the smoker until it reaches an ideal temperature of 200-225F (93-107C), so that your meat will reach the necessary internal temperature to be fit for consumption.
Tip: make sure to smoke outdoors in a well ventilated area.
With hot smoking, food is both cooked and imparted with smoky flavor simultaneously. As the cooking is done on lower heat (200-225F, 93-107C) it requires almost twice as much time as using a conventional oven. This slow cooking method tenderizes food and creates a flavorful taste. Adding certain types of wood to the fire, charcoal or a water pan can be used to enhance the flavor of the food.
Tip: use liquids other than water such as wine or marinades to add more flavor to your food.
This process of preserving meats, fish and flavoring cheese requires temperatures below 68F (20C) to insure foods are properly cured. Food is initially soaked in salt and sugar liquid for 24 hours. Then, using only wood smoke, the food is cured for several days.
Tip: meats such as salmon can be cold smoked to create a texture similar to jerky.
Creating Wood Flavors
Seasoned wood, the kind you might use on wood burns, can be used in smokers to add extra dimension to your foods. The wood must first be soaked in water, to make sure it smokes instead of burns. For best results, allow 30 minutes for the smoke flavor to permeate.
Tip: do not use treated or resinous wood as these may release toxins into your food.
Where there is smoke, there are delicious foods! Use these simple tips to get started and enjoy tender, tasty smoked foods.