Before the advent of electricity, there were no refrigerators or deep freezers. There were no gas grills or microwave ovens. There were smokehouses! Food smoking is one of the oldest methods used to cook and preserve meat and it isn’t going anywhere. If you're keen to create your own smoked delicacies here are some tips to get you started.
Early man learned that smoke would cure meat and help it last longer so that they could have sustenance during seasons of cold and drought. Smoke is a natural byproduct of cooking over a fire, so it’s pretty safe to assume that wherever man cooked with fire, food smoking was used.
The practice of food smoking may very well be as old as the invention of fire itself. Food smoking is a widespread preservation method that has been, and continues to be, used all over the world. Smoke preserves meat by dehydrating it and curing it through its unique chemical properties. Not only does smoke preserve, but it imparts a special flavor to the meat that makes it even more desirable.
Smokehouses were buildings used by either families or entire communities to cure and store meat and fish. Due to smoke emanations and fire hazards, the food smoking process was usually conducted apart from the house. These smokehouses were sealed and secured to prevent animals and thieves from entering. Smokehouses can still be found in some rural areas of the U.S.
Food smoking isn’t done so much for food preservation, but to impart that delicious smoky flavor. It’s what makes smoked meats and fish such a delicacy in homes and restaurants. People will never stop desiring smoked food. It’s just too good! Nor will they stop desiring dried meat like jerky. It’s just too convenient!
We spoke with David Macready from Bradley Smoker Australia who is an expert in home and commercial smoking and distributor of smokers and fuels. He said with the uptake of the smoking trend in Australia he is constantly asked for tips on how to get the best results at home. He shared his advice with us on the do’s and don’ts of hot smoking food.
Most importantly, ensure you get the best quality raw ingredients. This is the same with most cooking styles but a highly marbled piece of beef will give better results, as an example.
Taking your time will produce much better results. This is the key to smoked food. Often people will set aside a full day which sounds like a lot of time but will make a huge difference to the quality of the meal at the tail end.
Many new smokers will come with prepared wood chips or pellets. I’d suggest you buy a few different types to find a flavour that suits your taste profile. There are many resources online to look at the different types of wood and the amount of smoke they produce.
Adding a spice rub to your protein before smoking it will add much needed flavour throughout the cooking process. A dry rub added to meat before it is cooked will penetrate the meat and give it a nice mahogany colour to impress your guests!
A well cooked barbecue meal will be one that is cooked at a consistent temp. Meats are generally smoked at between 110C and 130C so keeping the temperature within that range is really important. If your temp spikes this can cause the meat to cook to quickly
And from above, there are many stories of people open the lid on their mate’s BBQ and getting roused on! There’s no need to open the lid or door throughout the cook. Peeking will make your smoker loose temperature and will affect the cook time and outcome.
For someone just dipping their toe into smoker territory, I think an automated smoker should be considered as they are convenient, consistent and easy-to-use option. However, they are great for beginners and pro’s alike. There are heaps more tips in the Bradley Smoker cookbooks for the beginner smoker and have how-to guides and hundreds of recipes online to help them along their way to smokey goodness!
David Macready is the head of Bradley Smokers Australia.