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How To Smoke Meat – Smoking Meat Guides From Beginner To Advanced

Have you ever craved a barbeque meal so bad that it has left your mouth drooling? Or, has the smell of a freshly smoked brisket filled your nostrils till you can almost taste its delicious flavors. If yes, then you will definitely agree that a smoked meat has got that factor X in it’s flavors that can keep you lingering for more. And what if we tell you, we can help you smoke meat at home so you don’t have to rush to your favorite restaurant every time you crave for it. Sounds awesome? Right!

So here we are with this blog, to help you with the information about how to smoke meat, the complete guide, types of woods and much more.

 Achieving smoked meat to perfection is not easy because as they say ‘smoking meat is an art’ but with a few simple tips and tricks, we promise you will master this skill in no time. So go through these 101 tips about how to smoke meat to obtain juicy and delicious meat in finesse. 

Benefits of Smoking Meat

  • If you are still in two minds about smoking your meat, then we will go ahead and list several benefits of smoking which might drive you to actually get up and do it. It has been established that smoked meat tastes much better and has more enhanced flavors. Besides that, there are several other factors.
  • It is very tender and has all the juices in it. It doesn’t get dry and hence the flavors taste better. Cooking the same meat instead of smoking it tends to dry out the juices because of high heat. 
  • It is a low and slow process. Which means that the low and slow heat allows the fat and connective tissues to break down gradually instead of allowing them to burn out. This is another reason why it  is so juicy and tender, and melts in your mouth.

5 Basics of Smoking Meat You Should Know

how to smoke meat

Before actually starting the smoking process, there are a few tips and tricks that might come in handy, especially if you are a beginner. Even if you are an expert smoker, it would hurt to make a mental note of a few things before proceeding.

1. Meat Quality

The first and foremost element that matters is good quality meat. Depending on the occasion, be very sure to choose the meat. For example, Thanksgiving calls for a whole turkey. But a Sunday family dinner can go well with pork butt, ribs. In addition to the type of meat, be very sure of the quality of meat. Needless to say, smoked fresh meat tastes better than a stale one.

1. Best Pork Cuts
2. Best Beef Cuts

2. Quality of Smoke & Combustion

Once you have alighted the woods or pellets, you need to cross-check the quality of smoke. Refrain from smoking in a heavy and dense smoke. A thin blue smoke is considered the most ideal to smoke briskets or else the wrong kind of smoke can affect the after taste of meat.

3. Air Flow

The next thing to take note of is the air flow. For short and intense smoking, you will not need much air flow. But for long and slow smoking, you will be required to create a proper air flow where the ventilation is a must. It gives the meat space to breathe and not burn.

4. Temperature Controls

Start after the grill or the smoker is sufficiently hot, and then smoke on low and slow. Except in a few cases, when the meat requires intense and fast smoking.

5. Intensity

Smoked meats aficionados have claimed that undercooked meat definitely tastes a lot better than overcooked meat. So turn off the heat and let out the smoke before your meat turns bitter with smoke.

Types of Smokers

There are several kinds of meat smokers available in the market. Here are a few listed for your convenience of choosing.

Electric Smoker

Electric Smokers are the most expensive amongst all kinds of meat smokers and also the easiest to operate. These meat smokers operate on a rod or a similar element that gets heated up and heats the wood in turn. Internal temperature controlling is very easy here since you just have to rotate a dial to adjust it. And these smokers also impart the least smoked flavor compared to the other kinds.

Propane Offset Smoker

Propane Offset Smoker is almost the same as the electric smoker and only differs in the aspect of the electric rod. Instead of a rod, propane smokers use a gas fueled flame to heat up the wood pellets. These are also pretty simple to operate and are most preferred for outdoor activities where you don’t have access to electricity. 

Charcoal Smoker

Charcoal Smoker is the most traditional type of meat smoker. Most experts believe that it is also the best type of meat smoker since these smokers infuse more flavors to the meat in comparison to the other kinds. The only downside is you have to purchase charcoal every time you want to smoke. And you have to light it in advance and bring it to the accurate temperature. 

Wood Smoker

The most idealistic meat smokers are the wood smokers which are used most times and promise the purest flavors. But they are a little hard to maintain and require utmost care and attention. It is also harder to maintain a constant temperature in a wood smoker.

Pellet Smoker

Pellet Smoker is also similar to a wood smoker. But except, in a pellet meat smoker, the wood is condensed to a pellet and hence the name. They are easier to operate than wood smokers because you are spared the hassle to split and stack firewood, and you can just load the wood pellets in a microwave like compartment. The only downside is that pellet smokers are a little expensive. 

How to Smoke Meat?

Smoking meat is a two part process. We have explained the same process of how to smoke meat in an easier manner below-

The Prep

  • Remember that smoking is a low and slow process. So keep a day aside in case you are planning this. 
  • Get the right meat before you start smoking. You can learn all about the different kinds of and best meats to smoke from here
  • Also make sure to get ready with the right kind of wood or maple wood chips. Usually most meats have different kinds of woods to compliment the taste. You can check out the best meat and compatible wood type here.
  • Smoking coals is the next important step. Make sure after you have lighted your smoker, you still have a few charcoals handy while smoking so you can add those when your smoker runs out of charcoal. This also helps in maintaining the temperature at the same time.
  • A rub is generally not required. But even then, if you want to use a rub, you just add a pinch of salt and pepper. If you brine, there is a risk of making the meat too salty.

The Smoke

  • Know your smoker. A charcoal smoker or a wood smoker is usually considered more feasible. But if you are smoking meat for the first time or a beginner, it is advisable to be sure of the anatomy of your smoker, the temperature controls and other functions, before you actually place your meat to smoke.
  • Once you have set the temperature (in an electric smoker) or set the desired temperature (in wood or charcoal smoker), be sure to maintain that temperature. Varying heat doesn’t react too well to meat. The temperature should be constant at all times. And for that, you will have to sit and watch it. 
  • Barring a few kinds of meat, there is also no reason to flip and touch the meat every few minutes. You can let it rest and just focus on the meat temperature and heat. 
  • In about a few hours, you will have to open the lid and check if the meat is cooked, well smoked and is tender enough. If the meat is just jiggly enough, then that means that it has been smoked perfectly. But if the ribs are cracking, then it means it’s overcooked (which is not really a problem). But you have to be sure that it is not undercooked.
  • After the smoking is done, do not forget to glaze it with BBQ sauce. You can either take the meat off the smoker, glaze it and smoke it for 2-4 more minutes to let the flavors infuse. Or, you can also glaze it while it is still there on the grill. 

Different Methods of Smoking

There are majorly two types of smoking processes- Fast Smoking and Slow Smoking. Fast smoking process uses direct heat, smaller smoking chambers and higher temperatures. Likewise, a slow smoking process uses indirect heat, larger smoking chambers or areas and constant low temperatures. Here’s a guide to both Fast Smoking and Slow Smoking.

1. Fast Smoking- Direct Heat

Fast Smoking can be done in a few simple steps-

  1. Prepare meat.
  2. Prepare the smoker and make it hot.
  3. Heat the smoker on high until the smoke starts becoming visible.
  4. Place the meat on the smoker and close the lid.
  5. Turn down the smoker and smoke further for 5 to 10 minutes on a relatively lower constant heat.

Types of Smokers for Fast Smoking

Portable Smokers

Portable smoker is a small compact device that is most useful when you want to carry your smoker around. A small metal grill separates the smoking wood combustion chamber from the meat in addition to a sliding lid. Most of these are suited when you want to go camping or fishing trips. You can use this smoker on a direct camp propane burner, side of the grill, or outdoor stand propane burner. Sausages may take up to 5-10 minutes to smoke while fish can take 7-20 minutes.

Wok/ Pot Tea or Wood Smoker

You can use a wok/ pot tea or Wood Smoker in the kitchen or anywhere where you can find a stovetop. You can use the regular wood or or wood chips or sawdust and mix it up with the wok smoking ingredients. Just like a portable smoker, this smoker also uses direct heat. But unlike the Portable smoker, here the meat is placed in a tin foil on a cooling rack above the smoke mix. 

2. Slow Smoking - Indirect Heat

Slow smoking can be done either on a gas grill smoker or any advanced fuel type smoker. In this process, indirect heat is transferred in a low and slow process which infuses with the meat to bring out delicious flavors.

There are also two methods of slow smoking:

Gas Grill Smoking 

In this method, you use indirect heat with the lid on and add smoke slowly while the meat is cooking

1. Aluminum Foil Pouch

The easiest method to smoke on a gas grill is to use an aluminum foil pouch. You can simply put the coals in a foil and seal it all ends. After that, you can punch a hole in the foil to let the smoke come out slowly and smoothly. In a multiple grill smoker, you can let the meat out on one grill and use a different grill to put the foil pouch. Metal box smoker is an advanced kind of foil pouch smoker.

2. Pellet Tube or Maze Smoker

This is a cheap and effective way. For this, you can just light the pellet tube at one end and let it burn till the other end. One tube takes approximately 5 hours to finish so your smoking process is sorted with one. To provide heat to the meat, you can use a direct gas grill or charcoal grill to provide heat to the meat. Even sawdust can be used for this kind of smoking.

3. Smoke Generator

A smoke generator is the most flexible of all since it can let you control the amount of heat that you want to let out. But a smoke generator produces cold smoke so if you want heat for your smoker, you will have to add it separately. You can use a gas grill or a charcoal grill alongside to heat your meat. In both the cases, you will have to adjust the smoke coming out of the smoke generator to maintain a constant and decent air flow. 

3. Low and Slow Hot Smoking 

In this method, you use a dedicated smoker for consistently meat smoking .

1. Pellet Grill Smoker

These are easily the easiest smokers to operate. The best part is that these smokers come with an inbuilt thermostat that means that you can light these and forget about the meat till it’s time and they are done. The hoppers in the pellet smoker are quite huge so you don’t have to worry about refilling in the coals for at least 3-4 hours. Another advantage is that the pellet smokers also allow you to slide a plate for direct heat. That means you can also use these as regular gas grills. 

2. Electric & Gas Smoker

The most common and acceptable kind of smokers that people use are the Electric & Gas Smoker for low and slow smoking of meat. These smokers are considered the most hassle-free and user friendly since the machine does most work while you can sit and enjoy the company of your friends and family while the food is getting ready. The portable size makes them accessible for outdoor trips and picnics. In addition to that, they have an external tube for adding pellets if required. 

3. Kettle BBQ Charcoal Smoker

Yet another kind of a classic smoker is a Kettle BBQ Charcoal Smoker which comes in a simple design and an inbuilt insulation tube. On adjusting the tube, you can control the temperature and heat radiated depending on how much oxygen you are supplying to the coals which results in better smoking of the meat. Some of these also come with an inbuilt thermostat so you don’t even have to worry about the charcoal. Besides, it gives you both the options of either grilling or smoking. You can use direct heat to sear your meat if required. 

4. Pit Barrel Smoker or Drum Smoker

This is the easiest and also a DIY method. You can make your own smoker also- it is basically a drum with holes for airflow. You can hang the meat from the top in a hook and let the fat drip. Or, you can also use a grill pate in between to rest your meat. Either way, your meat is going to come out great.

5. Gravity Fed Smoker & Offset Charcoal Smoker

Gravity Fed Smoker or Offset Charcoal Smoker are an advanced form of smokers that are recommended only for experts. It requires a lot of hands on experience and patience to adjust the temperature and airflow. And are mainly used in competitions and smoking events. 

Useful Smoking Woods

Since wood is one of the most important elements in smoking a meat, it is best to choose your wood chips wisely. Make sure that the woods being used are pesticide free and have been harvested in an organic manner. Also, do not use a half dry wood as it creates dense, dark flames.

For best results and good smoking flavors, it is strongly recommended to use completely dried out wood. Here is a small guide for the right kind of wood. 

Type of Wood

The best considered wood for smoking wood is Hardwood. Any other kind with resin or sap is not advised as it could lead to bad smoking and ultimately inedible food. Any fruit wood or fruit wood chips can be used for smoking. Some examples are apple, cherry, peach and grape wood. Deciduous woods are considered best while it is strongly recommended to stay after from evergreen woods. 

Soaking Wood

Sometimes soaking wood overnight might seem like a good idea to bring out better flavor. But it is best not to do that, because soaking wood delays combustion and smoke creation. 

So, here is all you need to know about smoking meat and the best type of meat to smoke. Try out these ways, tips and tricks and let us know about your experience in the comments below. 

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