Friday, June 9, 2017

Getting started in smoking meat

A couple of people who follow me on facebook and see my blog have asked me recently about how to get started.  "It seems so complicated, but you really like it!"

Well, that is exactly what I said for years before I took the plunge and tried my luck with it!

I am no expert.  What I've learned is from internet and cookbook research and the old fashioned "trial and error" method.

Here are just a few basics to get you started.

First, you need a smoker!  After scouring internet sites, I decided on the Weber Smoky Mountain smoker.  I went with the 18.5 inch (their middle one) size.  I found that many professionals use this one.  It is easy to use and even I, a mechanically challenged woman, easily assembled it on my living room floor with my two Labs watching closely from the couch.

Okay, one deep dark secret. . . After it was assembled, I was scared to use it!  I was still in the "this-is-too-difficult" mindset.  It sat in my living room for a week.  Well, okay, two weeks.

My first venture was a whole chicken.  That is the one I recommend for beginners.  It is totally idiot proof!

I made a simple brine of water, brown sugar and kosher salt, enough to cover the entire chicken, and put it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day, I took it out of the brine, rinsed it well and dried it with paper towels.  After that, I rubbed it very generously with a rub.  There are plenty of store bought rubs and recipes for homemade - I've used a variety of both and they are all good.

The instructions tell you to let this sit at room temperature for 45 minutes or so.  Following the instructions with my smoker, I set up the smoker.  I use the minion method for charcoal.  What this means is, place cold charcoal in the base of the smoker and cover this with a chimney full of lighted charcoal when it turns white.  On top of this sprinkle a handful or so of soaked wood chips (I tend to use either hickory or apple chips for chicken).  The water pan goes over the charcoal.  Finish putting the smoker together and place your prepared chicken on the grate.  Adjust the bottom vents to maintain a temperature of about 220 to 225.  You may have to adjust the vents several times during the cooking.  Always leave the vent in the dome shaped lid open.

This is the hard part!  Sit back in a comfy lawn chair with a glass of wine.  Enjoy the warm sunny day while you watch the puffy white clouds go by in the sky.

Take notes of what you did for the first few smokes you do for reference.  After that, you will be an old pro and won't need to do that.  I find if you are using wood chips, you probably need to replenish them about every hour or so.  If you use wood chunks, they usually last the entire smoke and they don't need to be soaked.

A whole chicken is ready anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.  Using a meat thermometer, check for doneness.  It should be 165 degrees.  Truthfully, though, after you've done a few, you learn to tell when it's done by looking at it!

I recommend getting a couple or more good cookbooks by such authors as Steven Raichlen, Jeff Phillips, and others.  These have been excellent resources for me.

So, go ahead.  Just do it!  Soon you will be enjoying the most wonderful tasting smoked meat you could ever imagine!

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