How to Smoke Meat
Culinary Institute of America
Smoke has been intentionally applied to foods since it was first recognized that holding meats and other provisions off the ground near the smoky fires did more than dry them more quickly or prevent animals from getting to them. The hanging foods, treated to a smokebath, took on new and enticing flavors.
Today we enjoy smoked foods for their special flavors. By manipulating the smoking process, it is possible to create a range of products, both traditional and nontraditional. Besides such perennial favorites as smoked salmon, hams, bacon, and sausages, many unique smoked products are being featured on contemporary menus: smoked chicken salad, smoked tomato broth, even smoked cheeses, fruits, and vegetables.
Several types of smokers are available. The basic features shared by each type of smoker are a smoke source, a smoke chamber where the food is exposed, circulation, and ventilation.
Hardwoods such as hickory, oak, cherry, walnut, chestnut, apple, alder, mesquite, and wood from citrus trees, are good choices for smoking. They produce a rich, aromatic smoke with proportionately few of the particles that make smoked foods taste sooty or bitter. Soft woods, such as pine, burn hot and fast with too much tar, making them unsuitable for smoking foods. In addition to various hardwoods, other flammable materials can be used. Teas, herb stems, whole spices, grapevine clippings, corn husks, fruit peels (such as orange and apple), and peanut shells can be added to the smoker to give a special flavor.
Wood for smoking can be purchased in chunks, chips, or sawdust. If you use a wood-burning oven to create smoke-roasted specialties, you can use larger pieces of wood, available for purchase by the bundle, truckload, or cord. Make the effort to purchase woods from a reputable source. You should be certain that the wood is free of contaminants such as oil or chemicals. Never use pressure-treated wood under any circumstances—it is deadly poisonous.
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