If you really want to infuse deep aromas and flavors into meat like chicken, pork, beef, and lamb, smoking is the best way to do it. There is something heavenly about the smokiness of hardwood that gives all meat an edge that can’t be replicated with other forms of cooking. Thanks to the development of the commercially available pellet grills, smoking meat at home have never been easier, even when working with tricky but rewarding cuts like beef brisket.
If you are new to smoking, there are some basic tips you should be aware of that will ensure you produce the smokiest, tastiest meat.
Table of Contents
Tip 1. Familiarize Yourself with the Meat You are Cooking
You need to learn as much about the meat you intend on smoking as you possibly can, so you can understand what you need to do to really bring out all those flavors while retaining the cut’s moisture.
When choosing meat to smoke and cook with, make sure you understand the following:
- Its texture (the grain structure of the cut)
- Color (Dark, white, or mixture?)
- Composition (The cartilage, bone, muscle, and of course, the fat content of the cut)
Not only do different meats need to be handled and smoked differently but different cuts of the same meat need different treatments. For example, if you smoke chicken breasts and other leaner cuts of meat, in the same way, would pork butt and fattier cuts, you are going to have the most unpleasant and dry meat you’ve ever tasted.
Tip 2. Familiarize Yourself with the Wood You Intend on Using
Along with the meat and the cuts you intend to smoke, you need to familiarize yourself fully with the wood you intend to use for the smoking. You can’t just head out into the nearest woodland area and pick any old wood. If you are going to smoke food, you need to use hardwood that has been approved as food safe. Although a surefire option is 100% food-grade hardwood, if you intend on using raw wood, you should consider one of the following:
When smoking, different kinds of hardwood produce different aromas that can enhance or spoil the flavor of your meat. Check out the pellet smoke flavor guide here.
Tip 3. Leave Salt Out of the Rub
An easy way to get more flavor into your smoked meats is with a delicious herby and spicy rub. Remember to take care, as certain meats require a certain amount of rub. Some only need a little sprinkle, whereas others need a full coating. One thing you should always avoid is adding salt to the rub. It should be sprinkled on your cut of meat during the preparation stage before adding the rub.
Adding the salt separately during this stage is referred to as dry brining, which means salting thick cuts of meat the day before you smoke or cook them and thinner cuts of meat about one or two hours before. It is also best to do it at this point because it melts into the meat’s wet surface and penetrates deep into the flesh.
Tip 4. Keep the Lid Shut
Remember, that smoking meat is a type of indirect cooking. Just as you wouldn’t necessarily open an oven door, you should leave your smoker closed for the cooking time, because the last thing you want to do is lose the heat and create fluctuations in the cooking temperature. Make sure you use a temperature probe and only open the smoker door if you are going to mop a brisket to keep it moist.
Tip 5. Always Refer to the Thermometer, Not the Clock
While we’re on the subject of temperature, you need to get away from the habit of cooking following a clock. When you are cooking meats like pork or poultry, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been smoking them, they need to reach a specific internal temperature before they are ready to eat.
Times vary greatly based on various factors when you are smoking meat, from the amount of meat to the exterior temperature, smoker, grill, or wood you are using. It can all have an effect on how quickly or slowly your meat cooks. If you do not have the benefit of a smoker with an internal meat probe, invest in a high-quality digital thermometer and stick it right into the middle of the thickest part of your meat cut.
Tip 6. Smoking Ribs? Remove the Membrane
If you have big plans for smoking baby back ribs, we don’t blame you. There’s nothing quite like biting at a rib and easily tearing the flesh away from it. Well, that is unless you leave that incredibly thin layer of membrane on the side of the bones. That is not very palatable at the best of times, but when it has been smoking for hours, trust us, it gets worse – all rubber, no flavor, no joy.
It’s not hard to remove, either, as you simply need to make a slit at one end of your rub rack and then using a piece of paper towel to grip it with, pull the membrane away from the rack and dispense it appropriately. There, once your ribs are smoked up, they will be delicious and melt in the mouth.
Tip 7. Use a Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill
Last, but not least, if you are going to smoke some meat up and haven’t already invested in a smoker, it’s important to choose a good quality product. The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill is one of the best, if not the best. Although founded in 2016, Z Grills has become a noteworthy name and highly renowned brand in the world of pellet grills and smoking meat. Before branching out on its own, Z Grills used to produce pellet grills for a number of the bigger brands in the country. Part of what makes us so good is that we deliver the same quality you would expect from the bigger and more popular brands in the business, but for a more affordable price.
Which are your favorite meat smoking tips? Let us know in the comment section below!