When one wonders how do you smoke meat, there are a few things to be considered before deciding which way you will do it. Basically there are two reasons, one is for flavoring meat that is cooked for a meal, and the other is for storing the meat for longer periods of time.
Smoked meat for immediate consumption is more along the lines of barbecuing. Cooking a roast this way for dinner is done by starting in the morning and letting the roast, or whatever is being cooked, slow cook with a low, indirect heat and the smoke somewhat contained with the meat inside the chamber. The end result is a wonderfully flavorful meat that almost melts off the bone. Smoked pulled pork sandwiches are typically made from pork shoulder that has been cooked this way.
If your goal for smoking meat is preservation, there are two ways to do it, cold and hot. Cold smoking does not involve heat, and hot smoking does. Cold does not cure the meat like hot does, so if you’re cold smoking you will want to use a brine to cure the meat.
Cold smoked meat is hung in a smoker, but the smoke is generated in a separate area so the temperature of the chamber holding the meat tends should be between 75 and 120 degrees. The cold process can take much longer than hot smoking since this method does not use heat and relies on the smoke penetrating the meat over time. Cold smoked meat tends to be a little saltier since using a brine is necessary to cure the meat, so careful application of the brine can help even out the seasoning flavor. Cold smoking can be used for all kinds of meats, and, if done correctly, can last for years even without refrigeration.
Hot smoking takes less time to complete and is done in a temperature range of 140 to 200 degrees. Hot smoked meat is typically not cured before hand, but may be slightly brined for flavor if desired. The hot process for meat is more cooked than dried, which also means that it does not have as long of a shelf life as cold smoking does.
For both smoking processes, the meat is usually dried on the surface before smoking. These processes, either hot or cold, help prevent insects from attacking the meat like they might for untreated or only salt brined meat. It is the deposits from the smoke that serve to both dry the meat and slow bacterial growth.
All methods of meat smoking have their place and are a great way to add both flavor and longevity to your favorite meats.
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