The Art of Smoking Meats

The days of 2017 are undoubtedly moving along at break-neck speed, thoughts of a runaway freight train come to mind. With the 4th of July holiday weekend in the past, farmers markets and roadside produce stands are vibrant and bountiful, almost to the point of being overwhelming—in the best way, of course. This is that magical time of year that we develop the uncontrollable urge to be outside every free minute with family and friends, paying homage to the “Backyard BBQ.”

The art of smoking meats is an extremely reliable cooking method enabling one to turn beef, pork, and poultry into a tender, over-the-top flavored dish. Is there a drawback to smoking meats, well maybe…? It takes time, patience and yes, can be intimidating if you’ve never tried it before. With a little education, plus a lot of that time and patience, the rewards far outweigh any concerns. The key to success in smoking meats is the tried-and-true…“Low and Slow”!

Like most aspects of life, one must endure a few rounds of trial and error before any skill is mastered. It is the education that comes from this exercise that improves one’s skill, strengthens confidence using the BBQ/Smoker—and results in exceptional and memorable flavors.

While not an exact step-by-step method to smoking meats, here are the basics:

  1. Always begin with quality meat. This is important; do not compromise.
  2. Start with the meat at room temperature—it is a must.
  3. Season well with a rub. Salt and black pepper never disappoint.
  4. Moisture matters. Use a small pan of liquid in the BBQ/Smoker or baste ritually during the smoking process. Liquids of choice include apple juice, stock, coffee and of course let’s not forget about beer!
  5. Ideal cooking temperature is 225°. For meats that will be smoked longer than 6 hours, I like to bring the temperature down to 180° during those last hours.
  6. Always let the meat “rest.” For larger cuts of meat, such as brisket, first loosely wrap in butcher paper and then rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 125°-130°.

Ok, if you’re like me the wheels are turning and thoughts are racing as to what will be on the BBQ this weekend. Start your shopping list, don’t forget to include some Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz (because you’ll need some for the “time and patience” part, then to enjoy with fruits of your smoking labor) and embrace the adventure ahead.

Good luck and enjoy the process, the tasting, and the smells!

Submitted by Executive Chef, Michael Laukert