Smoking your meat is a sure-fire way to arrive at this nirvana of flavour, tenderness and aroma – so here’s how to fire up on your way to becoming a smoking master.
Choose your smoker
Smokers can be broken down into three main types – charcoal, electric and gas.
Charcoal is considered unbeatable for flavour but it’s not the easiest of the bunch for temperature control. For that reason, electric and gas smokers are good options for first time smokers, as you can pretty much set the temp and walk away.
You can also buy smoker boxes that convert your barbecue into a smoker.
Get picky with your meat
The best meats to smoke are the ones that’ll benefit from the slow-cooking process. You’re best to target the fatty cuts with loads of marbling!
Some say beef brisket and ribs are king of the smoker. But pork shoulder and leg of lamb are ideal for smoking, too. If chicken is your preference, go easy on the smoke.
Think about your wood
Google “smoking chips” and you’ll soon realise there’s no shortage of woody flavours to impart in your meat: cherry, oak, hickory, pecan and pear – the list goes on!
It’s a rookie error to go overboard with the smoke so start with a small amount of chips to get a handle on the flavour.
Soaking your chips in water is also a must as you need the chips to smoulder, not burn. Once soaked, place them in the smoker. Scatter them over the coals, if your smoker has them.
Fire that good thing up
It’s time to fire up your smoker. When it’s reached the right temperature (100-120 degrees depending on the cut) and has filled with smoke, place your meat fat side up on the rack and shut the door.
The meat should be constantly surrounded by a thick, moving stream of smoke so keep an eye on this during the cook.
Keep it low and slow
Low temperatures for a long time are key to perfectly smoked meat. So settle in for the long haul with some seriously good aromas to keep you company.
The cooking times will depend on the cut but on average you’ll need to cook for six to eight hours at 100 to 120 degrees. Brisket can take up to 22 hours. It’s a good idea to use a meat thermometer throughout the cook.
Check on the meat from time to time but don’t be tempted to turn it. Add more chips if you need to or baste the meat if you’re using a marinade, working quickly to minimise heat loss.
Extra tip: maintain the moisture
Most smokers come complete with a water pan, which may need topping up during the cook to keep your smoker nice and steamy.