Smoked meat is tender, juicy and super smoky – delicious! Are you ready to take your barbecuing expertise up a notch to try smoking?
Smoking meat yourself may seem a bit daunting but with some advice on the best equipment and simple tips on how to master the process, you’ll be enjoying delicious smoked meals all year long. A gas, electric or charcoal BBQ smoker is perfect to smoke meat in your backyard.
What is Meat Smoking?
Smoking cooks, browns, flavours and preserves the meat which is placed it in smoky environment with low, indirect heat for several hours. This long, low cooking breaks down the collagen in the meat, and while that is melting, water gets into the collagen to create gelatin. The meat fats also melt, which is called rendering and both these processes make the meat tender and juicy. The smoke penetrates the meat for that unique smoky flavour.
There are two basic types of smoking – hot smoking which cooks and smokes the meat at the same time, and cold smoking which enhances the flavour of the food without actually cooking it (the meat must be cooked or cured beforehand).
Depending on your needs and preferences, you can choose from gas, electric and charcoal smokers.
Charcoal smokers are the best for a great smoky flavour but can be a bit tricky to regulate the temperature at first.
Gas and electric smokers are very easy to operate and to regulate the temperature; they can also cook meat slightly quicker. The smoky flavour may not be as authentic as you’d get using charcoal. If you choose gas, make sure your gas bottle is full enough to last the distance of a smoking session.
Which Meat is Best?
Some meats smoke better than others. Pork, beef, lamb and game meats work well so perhaps begin with these varieties if you’re new to smoking. Some good cuts to start with include brisket, ribs and chuck steak. Pork shoulder is ideal to make pulled pork. A ham can be purchased already prepared and then smoked to add more flavour.
Once you’ve had some practice, venture to chicken or turkey, keeping in mind the meat is leaner and can tend to get a bit tough so choose a whole bird and smoke for a shorter time to prevent this. If you want to try seafood, choose a more robust, oily fish such as salmon.
Don’t buy an expensive cut – you want meat which is fatty and tough, as smoking will tenderise it and the fat will keep it juicy.
The Smoking Process
Smoking meat, like lots of good things in life, takes time and patience so you’ll need to set aside at least four hours but the results are worth it! Here is the basic process for smoking meat in a BBQ smoker at home.
Cure your smoker – you need to cure your smoker prior to using it for the first time. This process removes contaminants and will add a layer of seasoning in the smoker. Get the temperature up to 200°C, then reduce it to 100°C and let it smoke for several hours.
Choose your wood chips - wood chips are used with a smoker to provide the smoky flavour. Common types of wood used are oak, hickory, cherry and apple as they have beautiful unique flavours. Only use hardwood varieties as softer woods like pine can create a sooty smoke which will ruin your food. Also, ensure your wood is free from any chemicals – keep this in mind when using charcoal too – as the fumes go directly onto the meat. You can purchase wood chips ready to use. Soak your wood chips in water before using them so they last longer.
Prepare your meat - use a dry rub or marinade and ideally prepare your meat several hours or even a day before you plan to smoke it.
Get your fuel ready - fill your smoker with charcoal, check your gas bottle or simply plug in the power, depending on which type of BBQ smoker you have.
Light your smoker, open the air vents and let it heat up for at least 20 minutes, bringing it up to the ideal smoking temperature which is 105°C – but no hotter than 130°C. Initially, the temperature will be a lot hotter but bring it down by partially closing the vents so the charcoal and wood smoulders.
Put your wood chips in the smoker once the required temperature has been stabilised. If your smoker is gas, you can wrap some wood chips in foil and pierce the parcel with several holes, placing it close to where the meat is cooking. Have some extra wood chips on hand to restock when they burn down.
Fill the water pan with cold water. This creates vapour in the smoker and allows the meat to cook evenly. You can add some fresh herbs into the water if you like.
Place your meat on the grill. Close the lid and resist the temptation to peek throughout the smoking process as each time you do, you will lose heat and smoke. Only open the lid to rotate the meat and to add water or fuel – don’t open it for at least 1½ -2 hours and no more often than hourly.
Smoke meat for approximately 1-1½ hours per 500g of meat. Rotate it every couple of hours, brushing on some more marinade before your turn it.
Regulate the smoke by using the vents. Keep the temperature steady by adding fuel when necessary. Use a BBQ thermometer if your smoker doesn’t have one built in.
Sit down somewhere comfy with people you love and enjoy your meal!
See, it’s not complicated at all. Are you ready to wow your family and guests with a tender, delicious smoky meal? Gasmate offers a large range of gas, electric and charcoal smokers which are economical, easy to use and fun to smoke with! Gasmate also provides a comprehensive user guide so you’ll be smoking delicious meats in no time!
Gasmate products are available in a wide range of stores across Australia. Find your local stockist. Are you keen to receive Gasmate updates? You can join our mailing list below. We look forward to hearing from you!