Tips to Master the Art of Smoking (Meat)
Smoking meats and other types of food is a low and slow process of cooking that uses smoke to add flavor and tenderize meats.
It is seen as an art by BBQ experts, but also seen as intimidating by people who are new barbecue enthusiasts. However, smoking foods does not have to be intimidating.
Chef Tony Matassa over at BBQGuys®, the nation’s leading online grilling retailer, has given us the low-down on how to get it right. BBQGuys® have helped people host barbecues since 1998 and pride themselves in carrying high-quality products that help consumers perfectly smoke food and enjoy their outdoor living space.
Chef Tony joined the team with relentless energy and incredible knowledge of food science that originated in his family’s New Orleans restaurant.
After running his own restaurant in the early 2000s, he joined BBQGuys® as a jack of all trades and master of many – including smoking meats.
Chef Tony now has more than 10 years of experience test-driving every possible type of grill and smoking all sorts of meats.
For those that are looking to get into the world of smoking meats and need a starting point, here are ten of Chef Tony’s secrets to getting the best smoked foods:
- Go indirect! Most of the items that you’ll want to smoke should be cooked over indirect heat. Don’t forget that you can still add smoke flavor to items that normally get cooked over direct heat by cooking with wood or using wood chips.
- Never, ever rush the process!
- Use a water pan. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to use water in it. When whatever you are cooking starts to dry out, it absorbs less smoke. Keeping it moist helps it absorb smoke flavors easier, and water pans help with this. However, I also like to mist the food every couple of hours with equal portions of cider vinegar and water to create even more moisture.
- Don’t overdo the smoke. Too much wood can make the food taste bitter.
- White smoke is the objective. Black smoke means you’re probably burning the juices and overcooking your food.
- Many smokers today employ automation and even smartphone apps to help you keep track of your progress. That doesn’t mean you can go out dancing while your food is cooking – stay nearby to ensure you’re staying on top of any needs as the meat smokes.
- Low and slow means don’t try to speed things up – let the meat take its time. We assure you, you’ll be happy you did when you taste the finished product.
- Be sure to manage your airflow properly to maintain a stable temperature. Too much air flow will result in too hot of a fire and the fire will spread too fast to unburned wood and larger particulates and more of them will be released into the air allowing moisture to adhere to them as well as creosote.
- A dark crust on your meat isn’t a bad thing. This “bark” is the result of fat and spices combining with smoke to give you a caramelized crust.
- Open the lid only when you need to tend the fire or the food. “Peeking” can cause your temperature to drop significantly, and it will have to be built back up.
But where do you start when purchasing a smoker!? With so many types of smokers on the market today, we know picking the right one can be tough.
Through 20 years of testing and selling barbeque smokers, BBQGuys® knows there are key factors to consider when you’re looking for a smoker to create that tender, fall-off-the-bone goodness everyone strives for.
Here are the three important categories we consider when compiling the best of the best in smokers:
- Value – A smoker’s value shouldn’t be based solely on price. It’s one of the factors to consider when determining value, but you should also look at each smoker’s features, design, functionality, engineering and quality of materials.
- Durability – Some smokers are built with more economic, lower-quality components like painted steel or low-grade parts that’ll eventually be broken down by the elements. That’s why it’s important to consider smokers made of durable materials such as 304 stainless steel or cast aluminum that will never rust or corrode. You may pay more up front for smokers like these, but you’ll enjoy better performance and longevity in the long run.
- Performance – Smokers that cook the best have wider temperature variances, more even heat distribution and are sealed tight to hold in smoke. The smokers that we prefer excel at retaining heat, creating smoke and producing tender, delicious barbeque.
With all these tips in mind, we have no doubt you can become the best smoker on the block just in time for prime barbequing and smoking season!