For all you Yankees out there who think that barbecue is something that happens with just burgers and hot dogs: stop it. That’s just nonsense. Time for you to discover smoked foods. Barbecue is the art of marrying smoke and meat in a long ceremony attended by rub and sauce and officiated by a patient priest of the fire god. Smoked foods are the perfect summer meal.
Don’t get us wrong, hamburgers are good too, but nothing is quite like a lip-smacking, drool-inducing, succulent, savory, sweet barbecue. There aren’t many foods out there that are as delicious than a piece of smoked meat.
The smoking process originated as a method to preserve food in a time before the best refrigerators were available. Even though technology has evolved over the years, the traditional methods of preparing smoked foods are still going strong today.
Types of Smokers
If you want to get your own smoker, you should know what options are available. Pick equipment based on what kind of smoking experience you are after.
- Charcoal smokers: This is a popular choice for the avid barbecuer as people believe these infuse the food with more flavor.
- Electric smokers: The electricity heats a rod that causes the wood to smoke. The electric smoker is the easiest way to control the temperature when smoking as all it takes is the turn of a nob.
- Pellet Smokers: These are similar to wood smokers, but the wood has been condensed into convent pellet form to make it easier to use.
- Propane Smokers: These smokers work the same as the electric smoker but are fueled with a gas fumes flame.
- Wood Smokers: This option will provide the food with the best-smoked flavor. However, theyse smokers are the hardest to keep at a constant temperature and require the most attention.
The Importance of Brining
Brining will keep the meat from drying out during the smoking process. The salt in the brine makes the proteins in the meat more water absorbent. The means that the meat can hold onto moisture more effectively and won’t dry out during the smoking process.
Top Tip: For the best moisture retention, soak your meat in a brine for 10-12 hours before smoking.
Cook Slow and Low for the Best Flavor
Cooking your food slowly and at a low temperature will produce the best results for smoked foods. Lower temperatures won’t cause the meat’s cell walls to burst, allowing the meat to retain its nutrients and taste more succulent.
Whether you use a barbeque or a slow cooker, take your time with the smoking process and your food will be packed full of flavor and delicious.
Top Tip: Keep the temperature between 212 degrees Fahrenheit and 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
Here are the best 5 smoked foods to try today.
5. Smoked Turkey
Smoked turkey is a popular choice, especially during the holiday season. Sure, you can pop the Thanksgiving bird into the oven for hours and end up with a dry, but pretty fowl. However, if you brine and then smoke it, the turkey will be juicy, flavorful, and delicious.
You might almost be tempted to agree with Ben Franklin and nominate it as the national bird, but then you’d want to eat more and you’d feel bad about eating the national bird.
Check out these Thanksgiving essentails to help you smoke that perfect turkey.
4. Smoked Bacon
Sure, this is a pig-heavy list, but the porcine species lends itself so well to smoking. Plus, bacon is delicious.
The pork belly, as you may have guessed, is the belly of the pig. In addition to being traded on the futures market, pork bellies also make bacon. Instead of hot smoking that cooks the meat like ribs or brisket, bacon is cured with a cold smoke, similar to fish or ham.
One of the best things about curing your own bacon is that you can make the recipe exactly how you want it. If you’re diabetic, you can mix the sugar in the brine. If you don’t like nitrates — they keep bacon pink — leave them out.
Try smoking the bacon with different wood choices such as apple, pecan, walnut, and hickory. Play around with the different type of flavors, find out what works best for your palate, and enjoy!
3. Smoked Boston Butt
It’s not from the back end of the pig and Boston doesn’t produce them as much anymore, but the Boston butt is one of the great smoked foods. The name comes from the way that Bostonians would cut the front shoulder of a pig and package it into a barrel known as a butt.
It’s a tough, hard-working muscle that needs time to cook well. Smoke provides that time, but it’s usually not enough on its own. A good brine will impart flavor and sass to a Boston butt as it smokes.
Once the cooking is done, pull, pull and pull some more. This is where pulled pork sandwich comes from, and it is delicious. Boston butt is a great way to feed a crowd for little money.
2. Smoked Brisket
While some people think Texans are plumb wrong about eating beef ribs, their brisket is a key reason to not mess with them. The same tough cut of meat is used for corned beef and pastrami. All the methods of preparation tenderize the cow’s pectoral muscle into something not just edible but delicious.
Briskets are flat, wide pieces of meat that take care and patience to cook right. The rub is designed to produce a crunchy bark-like crust on the outside and keep the meat tender and juicy on the inside.
Cooking brisket can be a complicated process because it takes time and can only be learned through practice. The lazy person who doesn’t have the patience for such a dish can use the “Texas Crutch” method, which is smoking the brisket for a couple of hours and then wrapping it in foil to braise until it’s done. It’s easy and quick to do, and the brisket will taste just as delicious.
If you’re interested in the best smoked foods, you may also enjoy reading our Top 5 BBQ Meals for the Summer.
1. Smoked Ribs
There is no finer use for a smoker than making up some ribs. This is one of the best smoked foods available. Depending on where you’re from, the ribs might be pork or beef and they might be baby back or spare and you might use a dry rub or a sauce.
Whatever you do, the ribs need to be tender, moist, and flavorful. Memphis-style ribs use a dry rub that’s more spicy than sweet. The ribs are baby back — also known as loin back — and slowly smoked over a hardwood fire.
These are just five of the many smoked foods out there. If you have the time, experiment with the different types of smokers, woods, and brines to find a killer smoking recipe that will wow your friends and family. Remember the key to achieving the first-rate results when smoking food is to brine, take your time, cook low, and enjoy the results of your hard work.
Read the next article to find out the five super easy BBQ marinades for next-level grilling.