Smoking Meat: Everything you Need to Know

The only thing better than being on a shoot all day is bringing back your fresh catch for a rewarding meal. But a decision still remains… how do you cook it?

We think you’d struggle to find a cooking method more satisfying than smoking – it’s healthier for a start, let alone the wonderful taste it gives the meat.

Smoking meat originated as a method of preserving food before fridges and chemicals were invented. Modern techniques of food preservation have now taken over, but the sheer deliciousness of smoked food has meant the tradition has withstood the test of time.

It can be intimidating to know where to start – that’s why we’ve put together everything you need to know so you can dive in and start smoking meat like a pro in no time!

Smoking meat
Image credit: Chuck Norton

1. Finding the best meat smoker

As you would expect, choosing a smoker is the first step to smoking meat. Historically, all you needed was nothing more than a hole in the ground.

While technically that still may be true, using equipment designed for smoking will make the process go a lot smoother, give you more reliable results, and save you from getting your spade out! If you want to give smoking meat a try but aren’t sure if it’ll be a regular thing, we recommend simply turning your home barbecue into a home smoker.

However, if you’re dedicated to making it a habit, it’s definitely worth investing in one of the following types of smokers:

  • A gas smoker – You don’t have to monitor the temperature of it all day, meaning it’s very easy to use. Unfortunately, the smoke meat won’t have as much smokiness as other methods.
  • An electric smoker – An electric smoker is even easier to use than a gas smoker. You can put your meat inside, turn it on, and forget about it until it’s done hours later. However, as with a gas smoker, the flavour isn’t as good as it could be and they tend to be expensive.
  • A wood smoker – If you want maximum flavour, this is the smoker for you. But, if you’re a complete beginner make sure you get advice! You need to monitor wood smokers carefully and keep feeding them wood to keep the temperature steady.
  • A charcoal smoker – This will give you the best of both worlds: taste and simplicity. Charcoal burns longer and steadier than wood without sacrificing flavour.

2. Picking your wood for smoking

If you thought choosing a smoker was the only tough choice you’d have to make, you thought wrong!

You can smoke meat with a wide variety of wood types, with each type giving the meat a unique favour. You can even mix up the types of wood to mix the tastes meaning the possibilities are almost endless! For game we recommend the following wood types:

  • Maple wood chips – Not only is maple wood great for smoking small game, it’s sweetness also lends itself to both steak and cheese.
  • Pear wood chips – The subtly sweet flavour is perfect with both poultry and pork as well as game.
  • Walnut wood chips – This wood creates a much heavier smoky taste which is delicious with both red meats and wild game.
smoking meat
Image credit: My Recipes

3. Preparing the meat and wood for smoking

If you’re smoking a lean meat like pheasant or wild turkey it’s recommended you soak the meat in brine for at least 8 hours before smoking, as this will keep the meat from drying out while it smokes. For fattier meats such as duck, brining isn’t necessary, but it will help preserve the bird for slightly longer.

We also recommend smoking the wood chips in water for around half an hour. This will make sure they will smoulder and smoke instead of burning up quickly within a few minutes.

Smoking meat
Image credit: Shared Appetite

4. Cooking up a storm

Working out how long to smoke your meat for is, arguably, one of the most important steps. As you’d expect, this massively depends on the type and weight of game you’re smoking.

For game birds, the recommended smoking time is how long it takes for the internal temperature of the bird to reach 165°F – usually around the 3-hour mark at 250-275°F. Before cooking, be sure to bring the meat to room temperature to ensure it cooks evenly.

Resist the urge to look at how the smoking is coming along every five minutes. Every time you open your smoker to look, it lets out both the heat and the smoke. This could mean not only a longer cooking time but also less flavour – definitely not what you want!

smoking meat

5. Time to serve

Once the meat is done, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for 25 minutes. This allows the juices to distribute themselves through the meat.

Now all that’s left to do is add your delicious creation to a recipe of your choice and enjoy! Anyone else feeling hungry all of a sudden?

Do you have experience smoking meat after a hunt? What’s your favourite wood? Let us know in the comments below!

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