I make few if any new year’s resolutions, but this year I’ve decided that 2016 is the year when I will take up smoking. For some time I’ve wanted to learn how, and since making my resolution I’ve been doing lots of research. As with any other subject, the internet teems with “how-to” information on learning to smoke, and as it turns out smoking is actually very healthy….Oh, I can see now that this all sounds bad. What I mean is I’ve decided 2016 is the year when I will learn to smoke meat!
Last year I bought a nice little Char Broil charcoal grill at a garage sale. The guy said he used it to smoke, but my first and only attempt at using it as a smoker fell flatter than western Kansas and I was ready to declare that smoking meat was just not for me. A couple weeks ago at a Sunday school Christmas party, one guy brought a turkey he had smoked and another brought a smoked pork shoulder. That was it; I had to learn how to do that.
Smoking is the art of slowly cooking with some sort of offset heat, unlike grilling, and adding certain wood, woodchips or pellets to give the meat or vegetables a smoky flavor. Commercial smokers are available in several styles and homemade smokers can be made from old tanks, refrigerators, freezers and almost anything else that can be turned into a fairly airtight structure where the heat and smoke can be controlled to cook the product slowly. The only thing limiting homemade smoker vessels is the imagination.
Smokers fall into one of two styles, vertical or offset, and into one of five categories; pellet smokers, propane smokers, electric smokers, charcoal smokers and wood smokers.
Vertical smokers place the heat source at the bottom and the cooking surface directly above, diverting the heat and smoke somehow to make it indirect. Offset smokers place the heat source off to one side of the cooking surface and draw the heat and smoke in and around the meat.
Pellet smokers have an offset firebox, usually with an apparatus that automatically feeds pellets to the fire; they are noted for their simplicity. Propane heat can be used with most any smoker design and propane smokers are also known for their simplicity. Electric burners can also be used as the heat source, also making for an easily-operated-smoker, and are often used in a vertical cabinet of some sort. Both charcoal and wood can be used as the heat source for either vertical or offset style smokers. Although known as the trickiest to control both temperature and smoke application, wood and charcoal smoked meats are known for their taste.
Pellets and woodchips can be purchased in different varieties. Pellets are the heat and smoke source for pellet smokers and woodchips are added as the smoke source for propane, electric and charcoal smokers. Fruit and nut tree woods of various kinds are used as both the heat and smoke source for wood smokers.
As I said, the internet simply teems with information about smoking meat. A wonderful website is www.smokingmeat.com that has all manner of different links from discussion forums to recipes and even a classified section where you can buy used smokers and equipment. I will either rebuild my little Char Broil grill or start from scratch and build what I want. In the meantime, learn to smoke (meat) and continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]