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Smoking Meat - The Secret Recipe!
I am not talking about your 70 year old aunt that smells like an ashtray and has a deep gravelly voice. The smoker in this case is the one you choose to smoke meat with.
- The Fire Fueled Smoker
- PROS - Very economical to use. There is bragging rights with hardcore meat enthusiasts.
- CONS - Difficult to control temperature. Most of the time they must be built at home.
- The Propane Gas Fueled Smoker
- PROS - Temperature control is moderately easy. Somewhat economical.
- CONS - Few models available. Initial start up cost.
- The Electric Heated Smoker
- PROS - Very easy to control temperature. Excellent for beginner.
- CONS - Initial start up cost. Limited size. General operating cost.
For someone starting out, the electric heated smoker is probably the best choice with a gas model in second. I would not run out and buy the most expensive smoker you can find thinking it would be the best because of price. Certainly the higher end models do have more bells and whistles. There is something to be said for starting slow. Buy what you can afford. There are a number of smokers you can purchase for less than $100.
Some friends of mine have made small electric smokers. They are basically a wooden box with a hot plate and thermometer. They cost around $30 to make. I have plans for some of these but that's a different article altogether.
Brinkman Gourmet Electric Smoker
This Brinkman smoker can be had for less than $100 at your local big box store. Its small so you can store it away without too much trouble. The electric heating element has no temperature control. Its basically on or off. You can change the vents to adjust the temperature. It would be a decent starter smoker but if you loved smoking meat you would quickly grow out of it. Its funny that Brinkman calls this their top of the line gourmet model. This is a smoker only, you would have a hard time barbeque/smoking in this unit.
Char Broil Smoker / Grill
Here is another model of smoker you can purchase for around $130. It is a combination of wood and/or charcoal smoker. Charcoal will produce enough heat to barbeque the food you are smoking but it doesn't make much smoke at all. In this offset model the heat and/or smoke comes in from the side. When you grill over charcoal you get a certain flavor that takes most people back to their childhood. It might be that our dad's always used too much lighter fluid and we crave that petroleum flavor in our burgers still today. Actually when the grease drips off the burger and hits those hot embers it produces smoke and flavor that goes back into the food. If you use only the side box for heat you won't get the same flavor. In this model you can fill the side with wood if you like for the smoke and then fill the bottom main chamber with charcoal for that smoked/barbeque effect.
Masterbuilt Electric Digital Smokehouse
Masterbuilt makes a wide variety of meat processing equipment. This is a middle of the line model they offer for around $250. I have one that is a step below this model that I purchased for $175. Its still all digital and is working hard and strong after 3 years. This model would be my first choice for the beginning smoker or anyone else for that matter. The ease of use is off the charts. It has a built in timer and temperature gauge that goes from 100° to 275°. With the range of temperature you have it is easy to smoke your meat for a while and then Barbeque it. The wood chips go in the side of the unit so there is no need to open the front door and lose all the heat. Just a great product overall.
Bradley Digital Smoker
This is a top of the line smoker with a top of the line price. It will cost $464 from amazon but, if you have amazon prime shipping is free. Its great for cold smoking and hot smoking. Until now I haven't mentioned those terms because everything I have written about is hot smoke. During cold smoking you aren't actually cooking the food. But, I don't really want to go there right now. The thing that bothers me about all Bradley products are the smoke briquettes. You need to buy their briquettes if you want to smoke with it. Each one lasts for 20 minutes and a box of 48 costs $26. Sixteen hours of use for $26 plus electricity and the original cost of the unit. It might be an intelligent marketing move on Bradley's part by making their costumers dependent on them. I for one won't be one for that reason alone. The machine is high quality don't get me wrong. The controls are precise and work very well. They have an excellent customer service center also.
All Salt is Not the Same
I touched on this topic a little in some of the other information but I just want to make sure it's clear. Because, if you mix these up it could ruin recipe or make you sick.
There are 2 kinds of curing salts:
- Quick Cure (Other names - Tender Quick)
- Curing Salt (Other names - Tinted Cure, Pink Salt, Prague Powder #1)
- There are more variations but we'll stick to these for smoking meat.
Most people don't know this because they have recipes handed down to them and they know to buy a certain product but never really know the reasoning behind it. My dad was one of these people. He would tell me "you have to buy Morton's Tender Quick, It's the best". I asked him why once and he "it's the best, don't ask stupid questions." My dad was like that. If he didn't know the answer to a question is was stupid. I didn't figure this out until I was around 20 something. Now I just laugh to myself when I think about it.
Honestly there is a huge Difference between Straight Curing Salt and Tender Quick Cure.
- Curing salt has a 6.25% of Sodium Nitrite
- Quick Cure has a 0.625% of Sodium Nitrite and salt
The rest of the Tender Quick Cure is Salt and Sugar. So, with said if you use Tender Quick make sure your recipe doesn't contain any other salts. If you use Curing Salt then you may need some salt added. There is a more important fact that you need to take notice of. The nitrite levels in Tender Quick Cure is 1/10 by volume than that of the straight Curing Salt. You can use these measurements when developing your own recipes to make sure you have the correct amount of nitrites and/or salt.
- 1 tsp Curing Salt for 5 pounds of meat.
- 7 1/2 tsp Tender Quick for 5 pounds of meat.
Components of a Good Recipe
A good cook never uses the same recipe twice. This is so true in my house. I don't know if I'm a good cook or not but, my wife sure is an excellent baker. She never measures too much and changes thing constantly. And most of the things she bakes are to die for.
What I am trying to say is experiment. I will give you a few basic recipes but allow yourself to reach past that and come up with something you love. Don't be afraid to mess up. The best inventions were accidents.
Here is a good list of elements to think about when experimenting with your own recipes.
Red pepper flakes
Ground Black Pepper
Basic Jerky Recipe
- 10 pound nearly fat free meat
- 1 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbs brown sugar
- 1/3 cup quick cure (contains nitrites @ 0.65%, sugar, and salt)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
Cut the meat to about 1/4 inch thick pieces. If your meat is partial frozen this will be a much easier task. If you cut with the grain of the meat the jerky will be very tough. If you cut against the grain of the jerky will fall apart. I cut diagonally or on a bias. It's a nice mix of the two. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl and add the sliced meat and place in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure you cover it tightly.
Place each piece of meat on the rack of your smoker of choice Make sure it is preheated to 150° The cooking time should be around 7-8 hours. Don't allow the pieces of meat to overlap.
After the jerky is done it should be dry and pliable like thick leather. You don't want it to be brittle and crack or still wet inside.
This is next step is very important. Place your jerky in your kitchen oven at 200° for 30 minutes. That will ensure the internal temperature reaches 160° ,which enough to kill any bacteria. If your smoker has a temperature gauge that is easy to control, then by all means use that instead of the oven.
Whole Turkey - for Smoke/Barbeque
Beef Eye of Round for smoked jerky
Ground Venison/Beef for snack sticks or "Boloney"
Whole Chicken - for Smoke/Barbeque
Venison Loins for smoked Jerky
Pork Butt - for Pulled Pork Barbeque
Snack Stick Recipe or Boloney
8 pounds ground venison
2 pounds ground beef
1/3 cup quick cure (contains nitrites @ 0.65%, sugar, and salt)
1 cup water
2 Tbs Black Pepper
2 Tbs Garlic Powder
2 Tbs Onion Powder
1 Tbs Ground Celery Seed
1 Tbs Dry Mustard
4-5 Non-Edible Collagen Casings that are 2 1/2" x 18"
75 Feet of 16 MM Edible Collagen Casing (16mm is about 1/2")
Premix all the spices and cure with the water and set it aside. In a large bowl mix the meats together and get them well incorporated with each other. Add the spice mixture to the bowl and mix it well. If you have never stuffed sausage before please refer to the video below for help. If you want to make a boloney type snack use the first set of casings. They are non-edible and will easily peel off the finished meat. If you would like a snack stick type product use the second casing. It is edible and they both will take smoke easily. I don't use pig casings ever. They break constantly and you never know how long they will be. Natural casings is the only thing my dad ever used but I'm not even sure these collagen casing existed back then.
After all the meat is stuffed allow the casings to rest in the refrigerator more than 4 hours but no more than a day. This allows the meat to cure. Start your smoker at about 170° and place your sticks or boloney in for 2 hours to start. Make sure the smoke is constant the entire time. From 2 - 4 hours increase the temperature to 190° and smoke the whole time. From 4 - 8 hours increase temperature to 200° and depending how smokey you like your meat, you can decrease the smoke. After 8 hours total test the internal temperature to make sure it is above 156° . When you remove the meat and rinse under cold water to bring the temperature down quickly to around 100°. Allow to rest and dry for 30 minutes on the counter and then refrigerate. These will last in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or frozen for 6-8 months. Actually they last about 2 days if anyone finds out you have them.
Using the LEM Sausage Stuffer
Barbeque Smoked Baby Back Ribs
These ribs are excellent if I say so myself. They are easy to prepare too. Baby back ribs are pork ribs that come from the top end of the pig near the spine. St. Louis style ribs come from the side of the pig more or less under the bacon.
3 Full racks of Baby Back Ribs
1/2 cup seasoned salt
1/2 cup onion powder
1/2 cup garlic powder
4 Tbs Paprika
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup bottled barbeque sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs black pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbs Crush Red Pepper Flake (optional)
Mix the dry rub ingredients together. Then mix the wet sauce ingredients together. Set them aside. There is a skin on the cavity side of the rib that you should remove. The easiest way to do this is get a few pieces of paper towel and use it to grab the edge of the skin and peel it away. You won't be able to do it with just your fingers since its so slippery. After the tissue is remove moved coat both sides of the ribs with the dry rub. Like the name implies rub it in good. You will put these in a cold smoker and add chips right away. Place a drip pan in the bottom with about 2 cups of water in it. You do not want to make jerky so keep it moist. Set your temperature to 275° and time should be 3 to 3 1/2 hours. This is considered Real Barbeque. People from Pennsylvania think barbequing is grilling and I'm sure its that way in different parts of the country. Its doesn't matter much since its all delicious. I like to baste my ribs with the wet sauce about every 1/2 hour. This keeps them from drying out and also builds the flavor. Make sure you set some wet sauce aside before hand to dress the ribs with when you serve them.
Pork Butt can be made much the same way. Just increase the time to 8 hours.
Now go try it yourself!!!