Hello dear friends and welcome to the January 2007 edition of the Smoking Meat Newsletter. I am so happy that you have taken the time to read and further your knowledge about smoking meat and while you do have a choice as to what you allow into your home, you chose us and for that I am eternally grateful!
We are growing by leaps and bounds and there is no doubt that this newsletter is no doubt the largest and most subscribed to newsletter of its kind. I try to keep the information fresh and on the cutting edge so folks like yourself can continue to increase in your knowledge about this wonderful sport.
I am pushing for this sport to be added as an event at the world olympics but I have yet to prove the physical aspect of things other than carrying wood, chasing away the hungry neighbors, etc.
All kidding aside.. we have a great issue this month and I for one would like to get right into the juicy details!
I have had so many emails these past few weeks on times and temperatures and how to know when the meat is ready to be pulled out of the smoker. I try to stay in tune with the main questions that are being asked and gear my newsletter topics to cover these in detail.
Many people are used to cooking with regular recipes indoors under preset conditions and are used to knowing exactly how long to cook something but with smoking and almost any cooking outdoors it is not always so black and white as that.
To start with I strongly recommend a good digital meat thermometer.. the kind with a probe attached to a metal braided wire that can remain in the meat throughout the entire smoke.
I have really good luck with two different ones.. the Taylor digital thermometer from Amazon.com and the pyrex version found at my local Wal-mart store.
I have several of each one of these and could not really recommend one over the other.
Using a thermometer does not mean that you cannot guess when the meat is done and get it fairly close but it is a tool that turns your “pretty close” guesses into “exactly knowing” the status of the temperature inside the meat you are cooking.
Just a few degrees can make the difference between just right and juicy and overcooked and dry.
The main thing to remember about smoking meat is that it the temperature rather than the time that denotes when the meat has reached a state of perfection.
Smoking is something that cannot be rushed.. the amount of time in the smoker can be adjusted by raising or lowering the temperature in the smoker however if the meat is cooked too quickly then you may not end up with the nice strong smoky flavor that you are wanting.
I have included a link to a time and temperature table which gives some basic times and temperatures for smoking meat. Please keep in mind that these are only guides and other factors must be kept in mind such as weather, type of smoker, type of wood, wind, etc..
One other thing that must be looked at is the proximity of the meat to the heat. Some smokers namely the horizontal with side fireboxes tend to have lots of radiant heat that enters through a small opening in the firebox end of the smoker. Any meat that is placed near this opening can be burnt due to extreme radiant heat as it enters the smoke chamber even though the temperature readout may be within range.
There are modifications that can be done to this type of smoker to help even out the temperatures but we will cover that at another time. What you need to know is that it is usually a good idea to place the meat in the center or further away from the firebox end to allow the meat to cook properly without offering burnt sacrifices to the family and friends.
Smoked meat should NEVER be burnt. If you are experiencing burnt meat then you need to make some adjustments to allow the meat to cook without being burnt to a crisp on the outside. This can include lower temperatures, foiling the meat for part of the cooking time, and/or moving the meat to a cooler area of the smoker since this may be indicating that your smoker has hot spots.
If you are using rubs and sauces, especially those with sugars in them such as my naked rub or special barbecue/finishing sauce then it is imperative that the temperatures stay low and slow and not be rushed.
These are some basics that will hopefully help a lot of you who are having trouble with times and temperatures.
As always.. if you need further help just shoot me an email and I will do my best to get back with you as soon as possible. For an even faster response you can go to the Smoking Meat Forum and post a question there.