Smoking has been a long-honored foodie tradition for centuries – well before the term “foodie” was even a thing. But, did you know that it actually evolved from a preservation technique that was a necessity to incorporate into the daily management of households the world over. Before the advent of modern refrigerators and chemical preservatives, smoking meats and cheeses developed from the desire to preserve as much food as possible that was needed to carry a family and their nutritional needs through rough wintery seasons. Essentially, it was a way to prolong the shelf-life of much-needed goods, and it just so happened that the technique enhanced the flavor of pretty much everything! The following is a primer to help you understand the nitty-gritty of why this beloved cooking method has been around for so long, and how you can get the same results at home.
What is Smoking?
First off, let’s quickly clear up what we mean by smoking. Nowadays, when it comes to grilling or adding flavor to food with smoke, this is done more to enhance flavor and texture rather than making sure food lasts a lot longer. Smoking transforms even the most humble and less “attractive” cuts of meat into a wonderful meal.
While smoked meats typically bring to mind things like ham or bacon, in the world of barbeque, it can refer to pretty much anything. If you’re grilling, smoking means any food that is cooked on low heat, slow manner, and specific equipment.
Different Kinds of Smokers
A smoker is essentially an open-air cooking tool that can maintain low cooking heat for long periods while releasing smoke and allowing the meat to absorb the “smokiness” emanating from the charcoal or wood. There are all kinds of smokers on the market; you can buy a wood smoker, a coal smoker, or look into offset smokers, electric smokers, pellet smokers, and so on. Each model has its pros and cons, but you will definitely find the best one according to your needs and budget. There are different guides available to help make the process a lot easier and the experts over at Bro BBQ would encourage the perusal of online resources before making the plunge. You can also ask professionals available at your local home goods store; you are bound to find a BBQ aficionado who would love to help answer your questions.
A key element to smoking meat properly is controlling the temperature. It is usually recommended that you have a smoking thermometer inside the smoker to help you accurately gauge how the meat is being cooked, and another placed in the meat itself to inform you of its internal heat. Low temperature is key since it allows for enough time for the smoke to penetrate the meat, and you also want to be sure that smoking is allowing the meat to soften naturally.
The reason why the slow cooking process results in such a heavenly piece of meat is because it helps the natural meat fibers to soften, become tender, and release their natural sugars.
Enhancing Scent and Appearance
The secret to obtaining the beloved scent and taste of a perfectly smoked piece of meat is typically found in the kind of wood used to smoke it. While pellet or charcoal smokers work wonderfully, if you are looking to mimic the particular flavor found in artisanal smoked meat, then a wood smoker might be your best-case scenario.
Different types of hardwoods can be used to enhance the aroma of the smoke such as oak, hickory, maple, pecan, cherry, apple, and so on. When the wood is burned, the chemicals release different scents which eventually infuse the meat as it cooks slowly, adding a variety of delicious flavors.
Truthfully, eating smoked meat should be done in moderation, like all things in life. However, there is an added health benefit that is particularly tangible when it comes to this method of cooking: safety. After the meat emerges from the smoking process, it becomes very dry, which creates a harsh environment for bacteria to survive. The bacteria cannot enter that coating, and if it does, the environment that lacks moisture inside the meat makes it difficult for the bacteria to survive and multiply.
Smoking is one of the oldest cooking techniques known to mankind, and it is a wonderfully intricate art form. It’s fun, and once you start exploring the different types of smoking out there, you will have a blast discovering new flavors. Cooking can be fun again, provided that you have the time and patience to learn this important method.