Meat Smoking Guide – Everything You Need to Know About!

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If you’re unfamiliar with meat smoking but are looking to learn a thing or two, we know that it can be scary to absorb all the information at once!

We’re here to make the process easier for you. Once you know just enough to start meat smoking on your own, it becomes a rather addictive pastime.

But for that to happen, you need to be walked through the entire process – the right way in the right order.

In this article, we’ll cover all the basics of meat smoking if you’re a beginner, or even if you’re just a cooking enthusiast looking to perfect your meat-smoking skills to impress your friends and family. 

Throughout this guide, We’ll also make a few recommendations of our own. So let’s get to it!

What is Meat Smoking and How Does it Work?

Meat smoking is a cooking method that refers to the low and slow barbecuing of meat. And when we say slow, we really mean it, because it can take as long as 12 to 16 hours at times!

Cooked Fish in a Gas Smoker

But smoking meat doesn’t just refer to the barbecuing of meat. Traditionally, smoking referred to the preservation of meat by drying it out of any moisture through long exposures to heat.

However, today, if you hear someone mention smoking, they most probably are referring to the barbecuing process.

Smoking meat gives you barbecue that is the softest and juiciest you can have.

This flavorful meat is achieved when you slow cook it over indirect heat, so that the smoke can cook the meat for you.

Many people who are unfamiliar with smoking might cook or grill food over a direct flame and call it smoked, but that’s not true at all! In the true essence, only meat smoked indirectly and flavored by the smoke itself should be referred to as smoked meat.

Here are a few details of smoking meat that you should never miss out on.

1. Using Indirect Heat for Smoking

Like we mentioned earlier, there are two main ways to cook your meat: either under direct heat or under indirect heat.

When meat is cooked under direct heat, it’s referred to as grilling and not exactly smoking, hence smoking is essentially a process where you cook your meat under indirect heat.

Grilling is a great way to get your food ready in a short time as it cooks meat fast. And although you might love it, you should definitely try smoking as well.

Smoking is the opposite of grilling – it’s the slowest process ever as cooking in indirect heat elongates the process to many hours.

Although it’s a very time consuming cooking method, it allows you to have a great deal of control over the cooking temperature.

If you have a good smoker, it will ensure that the smoker’s smoke circulates evenly around the meat and cooks it equally from every section. 

This is something that can be messed around in grilling. Because of the direct heat, there is a good chance you overcook the meat from some sections accidentally in the initial tries. 

2. Using a Charcoal Grill for Smoking

If you haven’t yet gotten yourself a smoker, that’s okay! You can even smoke meat on a charcoal grill. 

However, since the main difference between grilling and smoking meat is the use of direct and indirect heat respectively, you need to create a way to provide indirect heat to your meat in order to smoke it on a grill.

This is referred to as the 2-zone setup. The 2-zone setup is achieved by placing the charcoal on one side of the grill, piling them one over another, and placing the meat on the opposite side of the grill.

The way the 2-zone setup works is that it allows the indirect heat coming from charcoal to tenderize the meat and cook it. Whereas moving the meat to the direct heat section will let you brown your meat.

Usually, a temperature of 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit of the charcoal is best to achieve soft and juicy meat. 

This temperature can easily be monitored with a meat thermometer. But also, a little practice can itself teach you what amount of charcoal you need, how long you need to cook meat on the charcoal grill, etc.

3. Using a Gas Grill for Smoking

Gas grills work in the same manner as the charcoal grills when it comes to the 2-zone setup.

The only difference is that in a gas grill you need to turn certain burners on and keep the other burners off, instead of just putting charcoal on one side of the grill.

Even though a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit is also good enough to smoke on a charcoal grill, it still takes a bit of practice and familiarity with the gas grill to understand which burners you need to turn on and which to keep off, and also how high or low you need to set them,

A great tip that you can benefit from in smoking meat on a grill is placing a water pan.

This water pan ensures that the temperature around the meat is regulated, and hence no part is left undercooked or overcooked. It also helps stick water vapors to the meat, preventing it from becoming dry.

Also READ >> Top 7 Propane Smokers

Why Should You Smoke Your Meat?

You must be thinking if smoking a single piece of brisket or a pork shoulder takes up to 16 hours, is it worth the effort that goes into it?

Absolutely! If the process is so widely accepted and used, there should be a worthwhile result that it produces.

Smoked meat tends to be more flavorful, tender, and juicy as compared to meat that is grilled.

Although, since it’s the smoke coming from wood that flavors meat in smoking, the flavors can widely vary. The best one for you is based on your taste preference, and that might take a while for you to truly discover.

To make things easier for you and for you to not run away from smoking just because it’s a long process that needs a lot of keen observation in the initial tries, here are a few things that smoked meat will give you that are otherwise hardly achieved.

  1. Rich Flavor

Smoked meat is said to have a rich and smoky flavor of its own, and that’s completely true. 

The rich flavor of smoked meat comes from the smoke itself. The thick smoke gives the meat a tangy and rich flavor of its own, while enhancing the natural flavors of the meat as well. 

However, this flavor largely depends on the type of wood being used. This is because different wood types have different smoking flavors depending on their factors such as their moisture content, and more. 

Therefore, it’s fair to say that it might take you a little while to try different wood types to smoke your meat to truly discover which one suits you best – unless you already have a taste preference you’re aware of. 

Another thing to remember is that you can over smoke your meat; therefore it’s crucial to know how long you should be smoking your meat before it turns unpleasant to eat. 

  1. Tender and Soft Meat

One of the best outcomes of smoking meat is that the meat will always be highly tender, soft, and juicy – unless you’re doing something wrong in the process. 

This is because smoking is a cooking process that works low and slow. Let’s explain what we really mean. 

When you cook meat under direct heat, the meat’s moisture is quick to dissolve into the air. With the fast dehydration of meat, it’s only a matter of seconds for your meat to turn dry and tough. 

In fact, no matter how closely you observe, meat that is cooked under direct heat will be dehydrated and dry. This is because direct heat also doesn’t allow you to have control over temperature, since it causes the internal temperature of the meat to rise pretty quickly. 

On the contrary, smoking meat essentially requires you to cook meat under indirect heat with the help of smoke. 

This slow and indirect cooking process slowly breaks down the fats and connective tissues of the meat piece being smoked. These together are responsible for giving meat its rich flavor. 

If these fats and collagens are broken down under high and direct heat, they tend to toughen up the dry meat instead of giving it its basic taste. 

Therefore, when you smoke meat slowly under indirect heat, the perfect circumstances allow it to become highly flavorful, tender, and juicy. 

  1. Crust-Like Bark

When meat is smoked, the smoke gives the bark of the meat a crust-like texture that is both tangy and chewy. This is what makes smoked meat one of our favorite foods as well. 

You might think that a crust-like bark might not be a big deal, but it’s one of the best determinants of how good a piece of smoked meat is. 

This texture is a result of a process called the Maillard Reaction. It is what happens when smoke comes in contact with the meat’s moist surface and creates a crust-like bark. 

How to Smoke Meat

Now that you have a better idea of what you’re jumping into, we’re here to guide you on how to smoke meat. 

Of course, the process of smoking meat varies significantly with the piece and type of meat you are choosing to smoke. However, there are some aspects of the smoking process that remain the same. They include the following.

1. Choosing the Correct Meat Type for Yourself

The perfect meat cut for you combines two factors: your taste preference and a good meat cut suited to smoking.

A high-quality smoker alone will not do the job. You also need to purchase a high-quality meat cut in order to smoke meat that leaves you speechless.

A lot of packaged meat cuts tend to contain fillers, such as water. It’s essential to check that whatever meat you’re purchasing does not have fillers in it since that messes with the natural quality of the meat. 

You can also buy a natural and filler-less meat cut from your local, trusted butcher.

Another significant fact to remember is that you don’t need to buy expensive cuts for smoking

Any meat cut that is tender and soft has a higher price than meat cuts that are fatter and tougher.

Luckily, smoking works best on fat and tough cuts of meat. This is because we already learned that smoking makes meat tender and soft by melting its fat slowly and breaking down all of its collagen slowly over time.

In fact, barbecue was invented to find good use of the tougher cuts of meat that were otherwise going to waste.

Thanks to the smoking process, these cuts of meat are allowed to tenderize slowly over time. The multiple fat layers in them melt into the meat gradually, making it sifter and enhancing its natural flavors. A single fat cap is incapable of doing this job alone.

We know of some of the great meat cuts to smoke, and they include the following.

  1. Brisket

No matter how unfamiliar you are with smoking meat, you must have heard of a brisket. 

It’s one of the most flavorful cuts of meat and, therefore the most popular one as well. However, it does take quite a few attempts to get good at smoking a brisket the right way.

Briskets are tough and chewy, but with smoking, they can be made tender and juicy within 10 to 12 hours.

The only downside is that although they are a cheap cut of meat relatively, they are still the most expensive barbecue cuts.

  1. Ribs

Just like a brisket, ribs also tend to be a hard cut of meat to easily smoke. Therefore you’ll need a few tries before you can achieve that juicy and tender result everyone talks about. 

Ribs are again a tough meat cut, but smoking can tenderize them just enough for them to fall off the bones easily. 

This is because the fat and collagen content in the ribs is high for them to stick to bone, which then melt to become the exact reason they fall off the ribs right away!

  1. Pork Butt

This is one of the best meat cuts to begin smoking because there are fewer chances of cooking it wrongly.

It is also high in fat and collagen content; hence it should end up juicy and moist, just as you would want! It’s also relatively cheap.

Although these remain our top preferences when it comes to smoking meat, we recommend that you keep experimenting with other cuts of meat as well until you’re good enough to pick your favorites. 

The key is to keep practicing because smoking is only fun as long as it yields your desired results.

2. Preparing your Meat Cut

One of the biggest questions that arises in one’s mind when preparing a meat cut for smoking is whether you take the fat cap off or let it be.

The answer lies in your preference. You might like it with the fat cap on, and you might want to trim it off! 

However, we understand that if you’re not familiar with smoking at all, you cannot pick sides yet. Therefore we recommend that you trim the fat cap off.

Many people believe that the fat cap will help make the meat tenderer. That’s not really true. This is because the fat cap is present on the top alone and does not really penetrate through the meat once it melts.

Another reason for this is that the meat contains a lot of water — water and oil don’t mix; therefore this surface fat is not allowed to reach the insides of the meat cut.

Even if you end up cooking your meat cut with the fat cap on, it will end up getting removed because no one wants to eat a huge layer of just fat!

But, if you let it be, it will most likely prevent your meat’s bark from fully developing into the crust-like texture that you want. Hence it is best to work with the fat cap trimmed.

The only situation where we prefer that you don’t trim it is when you’re smoking on a grill, or under some other direct heat.

Although it still isn’t quite the direct heat that grilling takes, it’s still a little harsher for your meat cut as compared to the indirect heat of a good smoker. The fat cap in this case, protects the meat cut from drying out, toughening, or generally being overcooked on the surface.

3. Trussing Your Meat Cut

Trussing is more commonly referred to as tying, and as the term suggests, it refers to the tying up of meat cuts.

This process is undergone on meat cuts that are very unevenly shaped, to turn them into somewhat of a regular shape.

This is because uneven shapes of meat can, very obviously, result in overcooking of some sections while the undercooking of some.

Trussing is most commonly practiced on birds like turkeys and chickens, because their meat cuts are very irregularly and randomly shaped.

In fact, you will see that most of the meat cuts of turkey available in the market already have been trussed to make the customer’s job easier for them.

If you smoke a piece of meat that is trussed or tied up, not only will you be able to smoke it without worrying about uneven internal temperatures of the meat, but also be able to flip and deal with it more easily in general.

You should always look at the meat cut you want to smoke before beginning the process to see if it might benefit from trussing or not, whether it’s a bird or not.

4. Seasoning and Brining Your Meat

It’s only fair to assume that your preferences in seasoning might not match ours since it all depends on what flavors and tastes you would like to enjoy in your meat.

However, no one can deny the importance of salt in seasoning a meat. You cannot possibly achieve an excellent flavorful smoked meat piece if you haven’t seasoned it with salt.

Salt not only helps bring out the natural flavors of meat and prevents it from becoming too bitter, but it also helps tenderize it.

The quality of salt is that it penetrates through the meat cut and locks moisture in it, preventing it from drying out, making it soft and juicy.

If you don’t know how much salt you need to add to the meat cut, just remember that ½ a teaspoon of kosher salt, or ¼ a teaspoon of table salt goes best with a pound of meat.

Then over salt, you can add peppers, oregano, and multiple other spices to suit your flavor.

Now, you should also know that there’s a process that involves leaving salt on meat for multiple hours, called brining.

Brining is a process that allows the salt to evenly penetrate through the meat and help break its fats and collagen down, and also preserve its moisture and make it tender.

There are two main types of methods through which brining is done: through a dry brine and through a wet brine.

A dry brine simply has a good amount of salt evenly rubbed over the meat. This salt is then allowed to stay over the meat for 12 hours at least, penetrating through it.

A wet brine, on the contrary, is a solution of salt, with some other added spices and vinegar or lemon juice at times. All these together allow the solution to become suitable for the meat to be tenderized.

The meat is allowed to sit in a wet brine solution for many hours, sometimes even 24 hours at times. It both helps break the fats and collagens in it and locks a lot of moisture in the salt.

Brining is best for meats like chicken and fish, because these meat types tend to contain the least amount of fats that could be broken down. Hence brining allows them to become just as juicy and tender as any other piece of meat.

If you brine the correct way for the right amount of time, you won’t ever end up oversalting your meat, so that’s not really a problem – unless of course, you overdo the whole process!

5. Using Dry Rubs and Sauces for Your Meat

Dry rubs are the main ingredient in a smoking recipe that give the meat a flavor other than its natural and smoky taste.

Dry rubs consist of many spices and herbs – the most common being salt, pepper, onion, and garlic. However, many traditional recipes include a much greater number of spices and herbs in a dry rub of a smoked meat cut.

Many dry rubs even include sugar in their recipe. This sugar allows them to caramelize the meat a little and give a sweet twist to its flavor.

Dry rubs are only rubbed on the surface of the meat a few minutes right before smoking the meat. They’re not made to sit on the meat surface for so many hours like salt because unlike salt, they cannot penetrate through the meat.

Therefore there really is no purpose behind leaving them to sit on the meat for so many hours ahead of smoking.

The other important element of feasting on a good piece of smoked meat is dipping it in a good sauce.

There are too many sauces available for us to be able to list them here. Whether your taste preference is sweet and tangy, or just sweet, or let’s say spicy, or a little sour, there is no flavor that sauces don’t come in.

When you have a good, juicy smoked meat (like ribs or pulled pork) cut ready right in front of you, the only thing it needs before it can be fully enjoyed is a good sauce of your preference.

Types of Smokers

Of course, one of the biggest determinants of whether your smoked meat will be good or not is whether the smoker you are using is good or not.

Types of Smokers Thumbnail

Although it is true that you can also use charcoal or gasoline grills for smoking different cuts of meat, it’s best to purchase a good quality smoker to experience the best results.

Especially as a newbie, we recommend that you purchase a good smoker to ease the job for yourself and also get the juiciest results.

Check out >> Best Smoker for Beginners

When it comes to smokers, there are several types in it as well.

All of these smoker types differ on the basis of their fuel type, as well as their overall mechanism a bit.

  1. Propane/Gas Smoker
  2. Charcoal Smoker
  3. Offset Smoker
  4. Pellet Smoker (Vertical or Horizontal)
  5. Electric Smoker
  6. Drum Smoker
  7. Combo (Gas and Charcoal) Smoker

If you wish to read more about smokers to figure out which one you should be getting for yourself, you should check our article regarding it:

Check out these guides:

Types of Woods to Add in a Smoker

One thing you should know about smoking with wood as a fuel is that only hardwoods can be used for this process. Some of the best options include cherry, apple, pecan, maple, oak, alder, hickory, and mesquite

Maple Wood Chips

The most common of these include hickory, oak, and apple. They’re readily available and will never ruin your meat cut for you.

All of these woods actually come in three different styles or packaging. 

  1. Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are the most defined wood type that is used today. In fact, they’re becoming the most popular type of wood fuel used as smokers are gaining higher and higher popularity.

They’re of a cylindrical shape that actually comes from sawdust being pressed together really tightly. So yes, they’re merely sawdust. 

This is why they’re not supposed to be left wet; they have no glue holding the sawdust together and no other fillers either, which is why contacting water would simply change them into sawdust again.

Wood pellets are convenient to use because they can easily be taken out of a packaging and tossed right into the pellet hoppers of smokers. 

Most recent smokers even have an automated system installed that allows you to add all the wood chips together in a smoker, from where the smoker itself keeps filling the fire with the required amounts of wood pellets.

  1. Wood Chips

Wood chips are also similar to wood pellets in their ease of use. They can easily be tossed right into the fire right away. Sometimes they can also be loaded altogether if the smoker can fill the fire itself according to the requirement.

The only difference is that they’re not made of sawdust and don’t appear to be cylindrical.

They also burn quite fast.

See also: Wood Chips versus Wood Pellets

  1. Wood Chunks

Wood chunks are by far the least defined version of wood that can be thrown straight into a pit of a smoker. They’re just bigger in size as compared to wood chips.

Although one might assume that this isn’t possible, whole logs of wood can also be used for smoking meat. 

This is the way it initially used to be. Today, only a few of the very professional chefs mostly use this method, except for a few other habitual smokers. Normally, wood logs are first pre-burned into embers that are then used to smoke meat.

The key to using wood logs for smoking is a lot and a lot of practice. So we don’t recommend that you jump straight into it.

How Does Wood Produce Smoke?

We know that wood isn’t the only fuel that can produce smoke for your meat – it can also come from gasoline or charcoal, etc.

However, using wood for producing smoke is one of the best ways to smoke meat because wood has its own complimentary flavor as well that enhances and improves the flavor of your meat.

Either way, smoke is produced as a result of combustion. And combustion is produced as a reaction between the fuel you are using and oxygen.

Now of course each fuel type will contain a different combination of chemicals in it. The best combination of chemicals will give you the best tasting smoke (yes, every smoke has its own unique flavor!).

We recommend that even if you are using fuel types like gasoline and charcoal, etc., you also add wood too because woods give the best tasting smokes.

Also READ >> Best BBQ Charcoal Smokers

But when we say woods give the best flavor to smoked meat, we only mean hardwood. Softwoods contain a lot of extra materials like sap and air that causes the food to not taste the best.

Another important thing to remember about smoke for cooking meat is that if you are producing white smoke, you’re doing it wrong! 

White smoke is a result of incomplete combustion, and incompletely combusted smoke will make your meat taste bitter.

The best way to counter white smoke is by leaving your vents open and letting maximum oxygen contact fire. What you need is a light blue, clear, and almost invisible smoke that can smoke your meat and make it tastier.

Also READ >> Gifts for Grillers and Smokers

How Do You Prepare Wood for Smoking Meat?

You will hear a lot of people say that the best way to burn wood for smoking is by first soaking it in water. Their logic is that the water will help burn the wood slower and result in a better smoke overall. We don’t think so!

When you soak wood in water before burning it for smoking meat, you’re just making things hard for yourself.

The wet wood will not only take longer to burn and ignite the right way, but it will also end up producing uneven smoke, which is the last thing you want to deal with.

Normally, wet wood is only soaked on the surface. The inside of the wood is just as dry as before. This causes a temperature difference between the surface and the internal dry wood.

In other words, wet wood will simply let the water on the outside evaporate and smolder before getting to the dry part and burning it normally.

TL;DR

So, yes, the best way to use wood chips and pellets is by just grabbing and throwing them in the smoker’s pellet hopper or fire.

The case of grills would, of course, be a little different since they don’t have a separate firebox to help produce indirect heat for meat.

Also READ >> How to Use Smoker Box on Gas Grill

Whether you’re using gas grills or charcoal grills, all you need to do is place all your required wood chips or pellets in an aluminum tray or simply an aluminum foil and wrap it up.

The next step would be to poke holes in the foil for the wood and fire’s breathability. These holes allow the air to enter it and smoke to leave it.

These wood chips wrapped in foil or placed in a tray are then just placed above the burning charcoal or gas burners to give off the smoke needed for the smoking process of meat.

Amount of Wood Needed for Smoking

Another important question that arises when it comes to smoking meat with wood is the amount of wood that is necessarily needed.

As you must be thinking to yourself, this is a question that cannot be answered without taking in consideration the smoker, the meat cut, and everything else that is needed in smoking.

TOP TIP

You just need to keep adding wood as long as you think your meat is not smoked fully.

The only thing to remember here is that any meat cut will not stop absorbing and taking in more smoke even after it is fully cooked, which is why you need to observe it keenly and decide yourself when the meat is cooked or not. You definitely don’t want to be feasting on over smoked meat!

If we talk about the most meat cuts for smoking, which are brisket and pork butt, then both these require at least 10 ounces of wood chips or pellets at the beginning of the smoking process. You can then keep adding more to the fire as it decreases over time. 

When it comes to meat cuts from chickens and turkeys, etc., then they need less than 10 ounces of wood for smoking since they don’t require being smoked as thoroughly as a pork butt or brisket.

Also note that grills tend to take a slightly higher amount of wood chips and pellets as compared to actual smokers.

Once you start smoking, you will gradually learn when it’s best to add more chips or pellets to the burning fire, and so on. 

It’s also essential to remember that the best smoke is the one that is almost invisible – it should be light blue in color and thin. If your smoke is too thick and white, you’re just making your meat bitter with it!

Other BBQ Fundamentals

Your smoking experience can be made much better with the help of a few accessories. Some of the must-haves include the following.

  1. BBQ Gloves
BBQ Heat-Resistant Gloves

Your safety should always be your utmost concern. Therefore, wearing gloves during smoking is essential since without them you are always at the risk of burning your hands by either touching the smoker somewhere hot, or by contacting thick smoke.

Barbecue gloves are made of several different materials, all of which protect you from burning yourself but are also comfortable to wear.

The most traditional types of gloves are made of leather. They’re reliable because they are really thick and can easily be used to pick hot grates and pans etc. 

One thing you should avoid is touching food with your leather gloves because they are very hard to clean.

Then there are also fabric gloves, but the fabric they are made of is specifically Aramid or Kevlar, which are heat-resistant materials. A good pair of fabric gloves will protect you from heat just as much as the conventional leather gloves. 

Just make sure they don’t contact water as wet fabric gloves are good heat conductors, and hence highly dangerous for use.

One of the best gloves to use today are silicone gloves. They’re a little less insulated as compared to the other types of gloves. 

However, they are made of silicone and hence do not ever slip. This makes them highly convenient for handling food without the fear of dropping something.

There’s also another type of material that makes gloves that have both the qualities of silicone and fabric gloves – the synthetic gloves.

Synthetic gloves are made of fabric on the inside and silicone on the outside. 

The fabric allows them to be very insulated and hence suitable for lifting any hot grates, pans, food, etc. Whereas the silicone on the outside gives them the non-slip quality that will help you handle food without any chance for mishap.

Also READ >> Top Traeger Smoking Accessories

  1. Meat Thermometers
BBQ Digital thermometer

Throughout the article, we kept mentioning how you need to be able to tell whether your meat is smoked or not yourself. Since smoke is not an indicator of whether your meat is cooked or not and the number of cooking hours only come in estimation.

However, as a person new to smoking, it can be hard and almost impossible to tell when your meat is completely smoked.

To remove this hindrance, we use meat thermometers. Meat thermometers help us check the internal temperature of meat in order to check for its doneness.

However, a meat thermometer has an extra job during the smoking process. It also helps us keep track of the temperature of the pit other than the meat itself.

Together, these two observations can help us decide within seconds whether our meat cut is ready to be served or not.

These two are just great examples of what a necessary job some of the barbecue accessories hold. 

We highly recommend that you purchase them as soon as you plan to smoke meat, because they’re almost necessary to avoid all mishaps.

There are many other accessories of smoking as well that you would highly benefit from based on your need.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it Safe to Smoke Meat?

Yes.

Smoked meat is just as safe to consume as meat cooked through other methods.

As long as the internal temperature of meat reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, all the pathogens and bacteria that are harmful are killed.

For meat to be cooked fully, the internal temperature should be 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Since this is quite higher than 165 degrees Fahrenheit, it means that all pathogens have been killed and meat is safe to consume.

Do You Need a Smoker to Smoke Meat?

No, not necessarily.

It’s best to smoke meat in a smoker. However, that’s not the only way to do it.

You can also smoke meat on a gas or charcoal grill. 

The right way to do it on a grill is by converting the grill into a 2-zone setup – that is dividing it into separate zones for direct and indirect heat, since smoking can only be done in indirect heat.

Also READ >> Guide: Smoking on Electric Grill

What is Direct and Indirect Heat?

Direct heat is when meat is cooked by placing it right above the heat source of fire. This is a cooking method that is used in grilling of meat.

Indirect heat is when a heat source or fire is used to produce smoke, and that smoke then helps cook the meat.

Indirect heating cooks meat at a much slower pace as compared to direct heat, which is why it can take as long as 12 to 16 hours to smoke a single cut of meat!

Should Meat be Covered in a Smoker?

Yes, but not necessarily.

It’s said that covering meat during the smoking process can result in more tender and juicier results, which is true. Wrapping a meat cut up in a foil allows you to preserve its natural juices and moisture and hence give us a juicy and soft smoked meat as a result.

However, even if you don’t wrap it up in a foil, there won’t be a damaging difference to your meat and it will not turn dry or tough.

If you’re choosing to wrap it up to ensure even better results, then remember that it can either be wrapped in aluminum foil or a butcher paper. And it needs to be wrapped only for a third after half the cooking time has passed, and then be unwrapped again before being fully cooked or smoked.

Should Meat be Flipped in a Smoker?

No. 

Whether you’re smoking your meat cut in a smoker or on a grill, there is absolutely no need to flip the meat cut or touch it in any way.

This is because in smoking, the meat is being cooked indirectly with the help of smoke circulation. Therefore as long as heat circulates evenly in the smoker or the grill, the meat cut will get an equal ratio of heat on every part at all times.

You don’t need to mess with the smoker or the meat, unless you’re adding wood pellets or chips to it.

How Often Should I Check on the Meat in a Smoker?

You should only check on the meat towards the end of your smoking period.

One of the few things that you might do when smoking meat for the first time is monitoring the meat over and over again.

Since we already know how long the process of smoking can take to fully cook a meat cut, we should be patient and not look at the meat being cooked over and over again.

This is because when you open the smoker’s lid quite a few times, you will also cause a lot of smoke to come out of the smoker. This will then cause many fluctuations in the internal temperature as well as the smoke concentration of the smoker.

Can You Smoke Cold Meat?

No, it’s best not to smoke cold meat.

This is because when the meat is too cold, the indirect heat will cause its external to become of a higher temperature compared to its internal.

Since the internal temperature is lower, it will take quite a lot of time to reach the right internal temperature for cooked meat.

However, if you think you’d be able to wait long enough for the internal temperature to be around 250 to 260 degrees Fahrenheit, then yes you can smoke cold meat.

When it comes to smoking a frozen meat cut, then that’s completely wrong. This can result in both very dangerous and undercooked meat cuts.

Can Pre-Cooked Meat be Smoked?

Yes.

There is no harm in smoking pre-cooked meat. In fact, pre-cooked meat will take less time to be smoked completely, making your process easier and shorter.

The only thing to ensure in this case is whether the pre-cooked meat has been smoked already or not. 

You should never smoke a meat cut that has already been smoked because that will eventually end up making the meat taste too smoky and even bitter at times.

Should You Sauce Meat After or Before Smoking?

We did mention earlier that smoked meat dripped in sauces is one of the best ways to feast on your juicy, tender and smoky meat.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t put sauce on the meat before it is completely smoked. In fact, a few of the most famous recipes even require you to smoke and sauce the meat simultaneously.

The best way to apply sauce during smoking is by either putting it on the meat in the last 10 to 20 minutes. Or by letting the meat fully cook and then put sauce on it and let it sit in the smoker for another 15 minutes.

Can You Only Smoke Meat?

No! Meat is not the only thing that can be smoked.

You can smoke any wide variety of food you want, whether it is vegetables or cheeses, or even mac n cheese!

Vegetables are one of the most common non-meat foods that are smoked.

There’s only one trick you need to be aware of in order to rightfully smoke vegetables and that is to place them in some form of container.

This is because almost all vegetables are too small in size and will always fall through the grates of the smoker or grill, in case they have no other grip.

What is a Drip Pan?

Drip pans are usually present in smokers and help collect any water, moisture, grease etc., that fall from meat that is being cooked.

Drip pans ensure that grease doesn’t fall into fire and cause a sudden flare up. The juices that drip from meat that is being smoked are even sometimes used in sauces.

What Does the Liquid in the Drip Pan do?

A lot of times, water is added to the drip pan.

This water is there to ensure that the temperature of the smoker or the grill remains consistent.

The liquid in the drip pan doesn’t always have to be water, it can also be wine, or apple juice, or just any other beverage.

These drinks can help enhance flavor of the meat by giving it a certain twist that comes from the liquid itself.

Wrapping it Up

Smoking can seem like a scary process, but with the results that it produces, it’s definitely worth a try.

With our help, you are ready to take the initial step and try smoking meat on your own.

TYLER LACHANCE

Tyler Lachance is a cookout professional. His expertise on cooking grilled food, creating marinades, formulating sauces and matching his food with the perfect drink is unrivaled.

Born and raised in a family that has a long history of cookout, he has treated this activity as a part of his culture and who he is.