A Meaty Matter

Smokers enhance flavor of steaks, chops and chicken
Professional Kitchen Appliance Meat Bbq Smoker
Photo by Svetlana Monyakova / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Smoking, while discouraged by the surgeon general, is one of the best ways to prepare meats — especially when it comes to imparting deep flavor.

From Boston butts and briskets to salmon and squab, smoking gives meat an incredible tenderness and a flavor profile unlike anything that can be achieved in the oven or even on the grill. The trick is in knowing the right cook times and temperatures to adhere to and the best wood chips and rubs to use.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s explore the steps to achieving the best results from a smoker.

First comes prep. Preparing the meat can often be the most important step; it’s a time when you can impart a lot of flavor. Some people prefer complex rubs, while others lean on salt and pepper and perhaps the addition of another spice or two.

Naturally, different types of meat will call for different seasonings. Sweetening things up will require a bit of sugar, while spicier profiles may need the addition of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika. Get creative, and think about the flavor profile of the meat. For instance, dry mustard rubs complement the flavor of pork, and coffee goes great with beef. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your rubs, and try both wet and dry versions.

“Dry rubs are great for fattier meats, but I tend to use a wet rub for leaner meats like poultry,” offers Rachel Jane Fleming, a seasoned home cook who spends her days working at Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar on Pensacola Beach. “Butter and spices are a go-to for wet rubs.”

If you can, rub your meat the day before, and leave it to marinate overnight. This allows the salt to infuse flavors of the rub deeper into the meat — especially ribs or large cuts of red meat. In the absence of time, rubbing the meat shortly before it goes in the smoker will still bring about great flavor.

Grill Restaurant Kitchen Chef Smoked Pork Ribs

A rack of smoked pork ribs is enough to make any pig-consuming carnivore salivate. The use of apple wood in a smoker lends a mild sweetness to pork; its use is also recommended for poultry. Photo by Golubovy / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Wood is the next consideration. Wood types can largely be left up to personal preference, but there are some general guidelines to follow.

For instance, hickory is great for imparting strong flavor to the meats. However, too much hickory smoke can cause meats to taste bitter. For hardwoods, red oak is best for smoking meats. Oak is strong but does not overpower the taste and texture of meat — it’s ideal for smoking beef or lamb. Apple wood gives a mild sweetness to meats and is best used for barbecued pork and poultry. Cherry wood is also perfect for barbecuing pork and also complements beef.

“Apple and cherry woods are great for meats that need a milder flavor,” says Frank Dubec, a frequent smoker who lives in Fort Walton Beach.

Pecan wood is great for low and slow smoking, as it burns slowly and gives meats a more delicate flavor than other woods. However, because pecan tends to be pungent, it is best used in moderation. Other woods popular for use in smoking meats include maple, alder ash, pear and plum. Mesquite wood, while a great source of flavor, is not ideal for smoking because it burns hot and fast. Whatever wood is used, you’ll want to soak the wood chips.

“Soaking the wood chips helps them from burning too quickly, which is crucial to smoking meat,” Fleming said.

Naturally, smoking time and temperature are also crucial to achieving the best results. Cooking temperatures vary depending on what type of meat you are cooking. Higher fat meats like a pork butt or brisket require more cook time and a slightly lower temperature. Chicken, by contrast, doesn’t require as much time and needs a slightly higher temp.

Fattier, bigger cuts of meat generally need a temp of 225 degrees, with a cook time of about 1.5 hours per pound. For a chicken, set the smoker at 250 degrees, and plan at least four hours in the smoke. Naturally, cook times depend on the level of doneness desired in the meat. The higher the internal temp on fatty cuts such as a pork butt or brisket, the easier the meat will fall apart, so determine whether you want to slice or pull the meat.

Ever heard of mopping meat? For smoked meats, mops are a great way to keep things moist and infuse flavor while you’re cooking. Mops are added while meats are smoking and are most often used for red meats such as ribs, briskets, butts and shoulders. They are applied regularly in layers to retain moisture. Mops works in tandem with the barbecue rub to build a crusty surface on meats.

Finally, let the smoker do its work. Sit back, relax and dream smoky dreams.

Choosing the Right Wood

Flavor: Medium to heavy
Burn: Hot and slow
Color: Dark mahogany
Common Food Pairings: Beef and lamb

Flavor: Sweet and strong, similar to bacon
Burn: Hot and slow
Color: Dark mahogany
Common Food Pairings: Pork, beef and lamb

Flavor: Sweet and light
Burn: Hot and slow
Color: Darkens meat
Common Food Pairings: Beef, lamb and poultry

Flavor: Very strong
Burn: Hot and fast
Color: Red/pink-ish
Common Food Pairings: Beef and lamb

Flavor: Light, fruity and sweet
Burn: Hot and slow
Color: Red/pinkish
Common Food Pairings: Pork and poultry

Flavor: Fruity and sweet
Burn: Slow and cool
Color: Golden brown
Common Food Pairings: Pork and beef

Flavor: Light, fruity and sweet
Burn: Hot and slow
Color: Mahogany
Common Food Pairings: Poultry, ham and salmon

Tip: Apple and cherry woods have similar flavor profiles to peach and alder, however alder burns cooler.
Source: northshorefireplace.com


Categories: Dining Out