Hello and welcome to the April 2007 edition of the Smoking Meat Newsletter, our monthly publication. In this edition we are going to look at some very important.. make that the MOST IMPORTANT.. elements in smoking meat.
I am convinced that anyone.. yes.. anyone.. can master the art of smoking if you have the desire and the knowledge to go with it.
I can't give you the desire but the fact that you subscribed to this newsletter shows you must at least have some desire..
What I CAN offer is some knowledge.
I have been smoking meat in a big way for many years now and I am only more than happy to pass that knowledge along to you.
Here is the lineup for this month.. enjoy!
- 4 Important Elements of Smoking Meat
- Smoking Meat Store Information
- Featured Products
- Joke of the Month
I have been thinking recently about what is most important in learning to smoke and in turning out great food consistently and a small list began to form..
- Quality of Meat
- Flavor Enhancements
I fully believe that these are the key elements in learning to smoke and if you can get these 4 things right then you will be truly successful.
You will notice that I did not list equipment.. it just isn't that important. I mean, sure, all of us would like to have a $10k rig but is that really going to mean we are going to be successful? Would that mean the food would somehow always taste delicious?
So.. let's look at the list item by item and see if we can break it down. For some this may be old news but we have lots of newbies that are registering at the forum and I get hundreds of emails in any given week with questions on how to improve or even how to make the food edible.. this should help clear up some of those wonderings.
I placed this at the very top of the list simply because that is exactly where it belongs! Airflow is crucial to the techniques that will produce great "Q". I am not going to give you a physics lesson here (although I do love physics) however, I will give you a good example of airflow and how important it is:
It always amazes kids when they place a straw down in a glass of water and put their finger over the top end of the straw and pull it out.. what happens? The liquid stays in the straw.
If you just have an outlet with no inlet, a vacuum occurs and the liquid just sits there in the straw.
Air and, essentially, smoke are the same way. Without an incoming draft and a place to let the smoke escape, the natural flow of gases and liquids is interrupted and when this happens the smoke will get "stale" and most likely begin to create a nasty chemical compound known as creosote.
This chemical will settle on your meat and on the walls of your smoker making the food inedible. It will have a burny taste and may even numb your lips and tongue if you try to eat it.
The only way to get rid of it is to throw the food away and to scrub down the inside of your smoker with simple green or other degreaser/cleaner and re-season your smoker.
This can also happen with green wood but we will not get into that.. just know that wood should be seasoned in the dry at least 6 months before using it for smoke.
To sum things up and put them into perspective.. you must have a way for air to enter near the fire and a way for smoke to escape once it passes over the meat, usually at the top of your smoker on verticals or at the far end of the smoke chamber if you are using an offset.
So you thought the intake damper on your smoker was only to feed air to the fire? Well it does that but even more important, in my opinion, is how it allows the smoke to flow over the meat, kissing it ever so gently with flavor and then allows it to flow out of the smoker with no further adieu.
One last word of advice on this item.. NEVER use the intake or the damper/raincap to control major heat spikes and NEVER close either of them down all the way.
Temperature is an important item in smoking since smoking is all about low and slow. The low temps are what brings about the awesome unwindings of the protein strands and turns a piece of inedible throw away brisket into something beautiful.
It also allows the meat to cook slowly, giving it more "quality time" with the smoke.
I am not one of those who believes you have to hold exactly 225 for things to taste good but I do believe that consistency allows you to reproduce your "art" and to able to predict when dinner will be ready.
True hot smoking is done at temperatures between 200 and 250 in most cases.. I like to hold around 225 for most things with a few exceptions.. here is a list just off the top of my head on ranges that I personally try to hold.
A temperature spike now and then is not going to ruin the meal but as you practice you will get better at keeping a more steady temp and you will notice the food just keeps getting better as well.
I will say that every smoker is different.. it is up to you to learn the "personality" of your smoker and what is required to make it run like a well-oiled machine.
This is best accomplished by keeping good notes in your smoke log.. (you do keep a log, right?)
If you do not have a smoking log, notebook, something to keep records of what you did, the weather conditions, temperatures, how the meat turned out then there is a good link to one here.
I think it matters where you purchase your meat and what quality they carry. If you start off with substandard meat then guess what you are going to end up with? You guessed it! Substandard smoked meat.
I recommend getting to know your local butcher.. heck, take him some ribs or a brisket "sammich" now and then.. form a relationship and it will pay you back in good eats!
If you must buy at a bigname supermarket where nobody cares what your name is then by all means take the time to pick through the meat for adequate fat marbling and make sure you pick the color of fresh and not something that looks a little blue or gray.
There are some grades of meat that you need to know as well.. let's briefly go over those:
Actually there are 8 grades of meat (USDA Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner) but you will only need to know the top 3..
Prime is usually only sold to fancy restaurants and the chance of you getting some is not good.. it is probably all in who you know so if you have connections then consider yourself extremely fortunate.
USDA Choice grade is the one you will most likely encounter along with USDA Select and both are ok with USDa Choice being the best one if you have an option.
Good beef as well as pork will be vividly red when it is fresh and for best flavor should have pockets of fat within the meat known as "marbling".
A bright cherry red indicates a younger, more tender and desirable animal since the muscle tissue becomes darker red with maturity.
Maturity of the meat as well as the dispersion of fat (marbling) is the test for how meat is graded.
Be sure to look for the shield on packages of meat with the words "USDA Choice" or "UDSA Select".
This delves into things such as rubs, marinades, sauces, mops, etc. and is extremely important in the overall outcome of your meat.
For most folks.. smoke is not enough. I love smoke flavor but I also want it to be flavorful and spicy and bold and sometimes a kick in the mouth. This is achieved through the use of spices, liquids and other mixtures added before, during and/or after the meat is smoked.
A good rub will consist of some type of sugar for the sweet, some pepper for the heat and salt along with any combination of other spices including but not limited to garlic/onion powder, cumin, celery seed, rosemary, chili powder, paprika, etc..
The best rubs will be just the right proportion of these things put together so that it pleases the palate of those who will be eating your smoked meat.
Some years back, I got real tired of mundane rubs and sauces found at the local supermarkets and decided to create the perfect blends of both. 6 years later and after many trial runs, changes, additions, deletions, etc. I was able to produce a rub and sauce combination that is a perfect blend of heat, sweet and flavorful.
If you would like to order the recipes you can do that and you will never have to buy the store-bought stuff again.. after only a few batches they will pay for themselves over and over again.
Rubs are usually put on before the smoke and in many cases a day or more prior to smoking.
My favorite way to apply rub is to put a thin layer of yellow mustard all over the meat to act as a sticking agent. I then sprinkle ample amounts of rub all over the meat and massage it in.
The mustard loses its "mustard" flavor during the cooking and leaves a really nice crust.
Mops are applied during the smoking process to help keep the meat moist and to apply extra flavor. This can be something as simple as apple juice or it can be a mixture of beer, worcestershire, bourbon, soy sauce, etc. to create your very own special mop.
I like to mix a stick of REAL butter into a cup of water with a tablespoon or two of cajun seasoning. This works especially well on brisket.
It is best to wait about 2 hours into the smoke before starting the mopping process to allow the rub time to adhere to the meat.
Once this is accomplished, mop the meat every hour or so for best results.
Tip: You can put mop in a quality spray bottle and spray it onto the meat for quick and easy results.
Sauces are usually applied toward the end of the smoke. They can be thinned a little and used as a basting sauce or put on straight and thick such as you would on "wet" ribs.
I like to apply sauce to ribs about 30 minutes before they are finished if I am serving them wet and allow the sauce to glaze and even caramelize a little.
On brisket, I use my special sauce as a finishing sauce as well and apply it several times all over the brisket during the last hour or two and it works wonders on the flavor.
Be sure to save some warmed sauce to serve at the table as a dipping sauce or for those who like a little meat with their sauce.
Be sure to order my special sauce recipe along with my rub recipe for an instant upgrade to your smoking success.
With these 4 important elements you can make an ordinary meal of smoked meat turn into a fancy feast that your friends and family will still be talking about days and weeks later.
Wanna know how to turn ordinary "pretty good" barbecue into, "WoW, that was amazing!"?
Many of you are starting to see what a huge money saver the Smoking Meat Store can be for you on certain items. The store carries many different types of smokers and smoker supplies and most items over $25 ships FREE!
This could potentially save you lots of hard earned money and help support the website all at the same time.. a WINNING combination.
Be watching for some new products soon and if any of you are looking for certain items and can't find them, let me know and I will see if I can find them for you and add them to the store.
Head on over to the Smoking Meat Store
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If you are truly serious about barbecue and cooking outdoors for family and friends then you need my rub and sauce recipes. It is the two tools that you absolutely need in your barbecue toolbox and the are the second most important investment next to your smoker in my opinion and lots of folks agree.
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A father and son went hunting together for the first time.
The father said: "Stay here and be very QUIET. I'll be across the field."
A few minutes later the father heard a blood curdling scream andran back to his son. "What's wrong?" the father asked. "I told you to be quiet."
The boy, bless his heart, answered;
"Look, I was quiet when the snake slithered across my feet.
I was quiet when the bear breathed down my neck.
I didn't move a muscle when the skunk climbed over my shoulder. I closed my eyes and held my breath when the wasp stung me.
I didn't cough when I swallowed the gnat.
I didn't cuss or scratch when the poison oak started itching.
But when the two squirrels crawled up my pant legs and said, "Should we eat them here or take them with us?"
Well, I guess I just panicked……………"
Submitted by smokincowboy at SmokingMeatForums.com
Thanks smokincowboy, Larry, and all of you who regularly submit jokes into the jokes section of SmokingMeatForums.com .. we all get a great laugh out of them and it makes our days a little better.
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