Smoking meat is an age-old meat preservation method originally practiced to prevent growth of maggots. Smoking involves indirectly heating the meat which reduces its water content without completely ridding the meat of moisture. The chemical compounds in smoke contain antibacterial properties that preserve the meat. Smoke from wood chips gives the meat its flavor and aroma.
It’s true that smoking adds rich flavors, aroma and texture to the meat but, a perfect smoked meat is always guaranteed by meat preparation. The two commonly-used methods in preparing meat prior to smoking are liquid brining and dry-rubbing.
Soaking your meat in brine (a mixture of salt and water) not only preserves the meat, it also gives the meat flavor and softens the protein to tenderize the meat. Brining the meat before smoking keeps the meat moist and tender during the whole cooking process.
Sugar, salt, herbs and spices are what make up a good dry-rub mixture. Dry-rubbing tenderizes the meat since the salt and sugar crystals alter the protein structure of the meat which allows the protein channels to retain more moisture and the flavor that comes with it.
Smoking Meat at Home
A good recipe to try at home with your gas cooker is Smoked Country-style Pork Ribs. Smoking takes long but since country-style pork ribs are loin chops, they don’t have bones in them so they’re going to cook faster.
If brining, mix a cup of table salt with 16 cups of water. Brine the meat for at least overnight. If dry-rubbing, mix salt, brown sugar and spices (such as garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin and etc.). Coat the meat with the dry-rub mixture and let them sit, covered for at least a few hours in the refrigerator.You can adjust the portions depending on how much meat you have and which flavor you’d like to stand out.
The most popular types of wood used for smoking meat are: apple wood, cherry, mesquite, maple, alder, hickory, oak, and plum. Each type of wood gives off flavors unique from each other.
Since smoking means slow-cooking, set your propane smoker to 220 to 275 degrees Celsius and maintain the temperature within that range. That requires adding the coal in increments every 30-45 minutes. You know your smoked meat is done, once the meat is golden brown and has become really tender but not falling apart when poked.
Smoked meat has been considered gourmet and artisanal; but, the invention of modern grills and gas smokers made meat smoking easy for home cooks. Smoking, as a cooking method, truly stood the test of time.