Last month, we helped you prepare for hunting season, and with a successful hunt comes a bounty of meat that you’re eager to smoke! Smoking is a delicate science that requires much more finesse than grilling burgers on a BBQ. Here’s a guide to smoking meat for a tender and delicious cut every time.
It’s a scientific fact that brining your meat keeps it from drying out during the smoking process! For optimal moisture retention and to combat an overly salty flavor, soak your meat in a brine, with sugar, molasses, and herbs & spices, for 10-12 hours before smoking. To make a good base, add three tablespoons of salt to one quart of water then throw in whatever else you prefer.
Choose the Right Flavors
Each type of wood releases a unique flavor and aroma which affects the taste of your food. Mild woods, like apple and alder, are great for foods without a lot of seasoning, while strong woods like mesquite, hickory, and pecan are perfect for more heavily-flavored meats.
Keep it Low and Slow
If you’re smoking over coals, don’t add your protein until the coals have hit their heat peak and developed a coat of white ash. You want the charcoal for its heat, not its flavor. Make sure there’s a gentle and consistent flow of smoke throughout the cook.
For long cooks, cooking over indirect heat is key. The meat juices and fat drippings will cool the embers over time and produce a bitter, dirty smoke, so you’ll want to keep big cuts of meat away from the flames while maintaining a temperature of about 225ºF.
Use a Water Pan
Smoking’s severe process tightens muscle fibers, squeezing out natural juices and drying out the meat. Using a water pan in your cooker can maintain the temperature, limit major fluctuations, and even out hot spots. The water vapor will also allow more smoke to stick to the meat, boosting its flavor and creating a smoke ring. Just be sure to refill the pan as needed.
Finish Off Right
Don’t wrap your meat in foil or remove it from the grill until the crust is caramelized. This is one of the best parts of smoked meat! Also, removing your smoked meat too early can lead to foodborne illness, whereas removing it too late can result in a bitter, dry cut. You want to cook it to the recommended internal temperature, no more or less.
The Recipes to Top It Off
Ground Venison Jerky
- 5 pound ground venison (may substitute ground beef)
- 1/4 c. Tenderquick
- 2 tbs. black pepper
- 2 tbs. garlic powder
- 2 tbs. Marjoram
- 3 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tbs. cayenne pepper
- Mix ground meat and seasoning.
- Roll out on wax paper to fit your smoker to 1/8 inch thick.
- Smoke for 2 hours at 140˚F.
- Remove from smoker and blot excess fat with paper towel.
- Flip meat over on new wax paper.
- Smoke for 1 additional hour at 140˚F.
- Remove jerky and cut into strips and serve.
Smoked Quail or Pheasant
- Sprinkle 8-10 quail or 2 pheasants, spit, with Cookshack Spicy Chicken Rub.
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 chopped sweet red pepper
- 1 can chicken broth
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1 can mushrooms or 1 lb. fresh mushrooms
- ¼ c. cream sherry wine or apple cider
- 1/8 tsp. Tarragon
- 1/8 tsp. Ground lemon peel
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Mix all ingredients and pour over meat in 9X13 baking pan.
- Smoke-cook for 3 hours at 225° with 2 oz. of apple wood.