Beginner’s Guide to Food Smoking
So you’ve just joined Bradley Smoker family. Congratulations! Now that you have your smoker assembled and in the backyard, let’s smoke! But how to start? Here are some helpful tips on how to get started smoking:
1. Choose the right product
First things first, picking the right food to smoke. Now when most people think of smoked food they think bacon, chicken wings, pulled pork, ribs, etc… but there is more than just meat to smoke. Think smoked cheeses, nuts, vegetables or even fruits. There are so many possibilities when it comes to smoking food, but you can’t smoke everything (no matter how hard I try!). In order for the smoky flavor to adhere to the food it needs to contain moisture. For example when smoking things such as nuts you will need to soak them in water before smoking them to ensure that the smoke has something to cling to. Throughout a long smoking process it is important to brine your meat beforehand to ensure that it doesn’t dry out.
When selecting the cheese, meat, fruit or whatever it is that you plan to smoke choose high quality ingredients. No technique, sauce or seasoning can turn processed cheese slices into aged English Cheddar. Choose high grade, grass-fed, free-range meats when possible, the quality in the end result is well worth the extra dollars.
2. Kindling for your smoking
Just as choosing what you will be smoking is key, it is vital that you choose the right bisquettes to smoke with. Check out this blog on all the bisquettes Bradley has to offer for some tips on choosing the right bisquettes.
3. Flavor, flavor, flavor
The food you smoke and the wood you use will all of course add flavor to the end dish, but there are a few other ways to bring in some zest and spice before heading out to the smoker. Consider brine your meat (as mentioned under #1) beforehand to impart extra flavor and help retain moisture for a long smoke time or for foods which dry out easily such as poultry. Or you could always use a rub or marinate your meat beforehand, to give it a unique flavor all your own.
4. How long? How hot?
Ideal smoking is low and slow. Keeping low temperatures will make your meat more succulent and tender while giving the smoke time to absorb. How long you smoke for depends on the product. With meat one must reach the safe internal temperatures. As well as considering whether you are smoking chicken or beef you have to take into account the end product. If you are simply smoking a whole chicken breast then smoke it until an internal temperature of 165°F is reached and remove it from the smoker immediately, but if you want to make something like pulled chicken then you should smoke at a lower temperature for longer even passed what is considered the safe internal temperature. Each recipe you use will give you a guide for smoking times and temperatures and eventually you will get the hang of proper times and temperatures.
5. Other tips and tricks!
- Sometimes no heat is the best temperature. When smoking raw bacon, dry cured sausages or cheese you don’t want to cook the product (or melt it!) so in these cases you want to keep your smoker on low or set up a cold smoker attachment. Check out some more tips on cold smoking when you’re ready to branch out.
- When hot smoking meat there is a tell-tale sign that you have succeeded. The smoke ring! When slicing your meat check for a pink ring (which comes from the formation of nitric acid; a product of proteins infused with smoke) just underneath the surface of the meat.
- With ribs and brisket it is sometimes recommend to cover the meat in foil halfway through the smoking period to tenderize the meat and warm it internally then finish it uncovered to develop a crust like exterior.
- Basting with a “mop sauce” is a great way to add flavour to a dish that will be smoking for a long period of time.
- Experiment! With a bit of knowledge and experience under your belt of how to process works you should experiment with new flavors and recipes. Not everything will work (smoked oranges…not a success…but now I know for certain!), but some things will (smoked ice cream, it can be done and deliciously!) and you’ll be all the wise and smoker-savvy for it! Happy Smoking!
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