Ever since that first culinary genius hung the Brontosaurs meat to close to the fire, we have had the Smoker. This ingenious machine does some really cool stuff. What you ask?
Well how about..
- preserve meat
- kill all the bacteria that wants to kill you
- add flavor to the meat or fish or what ever
It even does a great job of making BBQ out of just about anything you want. Oh did I forget Jerky? Well theres another thing the Smoker can and does on a very regular basis every day every place world wide.
Some history of the Smoker
The history of the Smoker starts with those cultures that fished for food. They first started smoking the fish just to keep the flies away then discovered it added flavor to the saltness of the fish. So once again human nature takes a giant leap into the fire just to eat better than before.
Flash forward to the 1700‘s and the need to preserve pork. Here is where the smoke house was first originated. Having a 1000lb piggy out back that was eating more than everybody else and wanting to save some of the meat for summer time our ingenious friend figured what the heck let’s try smoking the piggy and see what happens. bang! Smoked pork was all the rage of the Victorian age in America.
Choosing woods for your Smoker
Here is where we get into which wood to use for which flavor. With colonial America quickly mowing down every tree in site and the new technology of the smoke house moving rapidly across the colonies some guys started experimenting with lots of different kinds of wood chips just to see what happened. This is what happened, Hickory– pecan– Apple— cherry turned out to be the best kinds of wood for smoking to get flavor. Now don’t think these are the only ones to go with. Just about any kind of wood will work but the flavor is suspect at best. So using pallets is not the way to go unless you want to preserve your mother in law for some reason.
How the Smoking Process Works
The meat traps flavors from the wood smoke into the meat preserving it while locking in that same flavor. Most smokers have a firebox at the bottom where you stack the wood chips for burning that creates the smoke. A good one has a water source that sprays creating the smoke infusing flavor into the meat being smoked. A vent at the top allows oxygen to enter making more smoke.
Types of Smokers
Well you can build a smoke house in the back yard for about $2000 if you have the time and space. So since you are here that’s an option you least want to explore so let’s explore some of the ones you can buy.
Cylindrical Water Smokers
These smokers are the ones that most people start out with until they get to the point where smoking is second nature. These smokers use a water pan above the heat source to keep the meat moist. They come with multiple heat sources like, Electricity– Gas– and the best heat source since ever, Charcoal. With porcelain or powder coated steel inside, hey you can even get one with stainless steel if you want the top of the line version. Here is the best part, lots of racks inside to stack meat and a bottom rack for grilling and stuff. How can you go wrong, right?
Horizontal Dry Wood Smokers
Having a double barrel set up that separates the fire from the smoke. This smoker cooks the meat indirectly at a lower temperature adding flavor as well as texture. There are several kinds that are single barrel types that are constructed of powered coated heavy gauge steel that holds the heat very well. These types are less expensive and do a very good job of smoking meat.
The best version of this Smoker is the Kamado smoker, having a ceramic grill surface it is capable of grilling anything at around 800 degrees or slow cook(smoking) at a constant 180 degrees making it one of the very best on the market.
Using charcoal for fuel this smoker is one of the best on the open market. Costing as much as $1000 or more it can be a little bit expensive but smokes meat like 40 going north.
Cabinet style charcoal smokers
Opening at the front like a fridge that makes them very tight and insulated. These smokers are cool and easy to use.
With many different kinds and styles to choose from these smokers are inexpensive and easy to use. What kinds are we talking about here? Well let’s take a look at some.
Some sell for under $200 and give great results. Being almost set and forget, simple is the watch word here.
This newest generation of smoker uses pellets made from sawdust. With a thermostat built into the lid temp is not a issue. The flavor is not as strong as charcoal but comes through with great taste.
What Can You Make in a Smoker?
Well lets start with Meat, hey this is the reason we have the smoker right?(The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends using the microwave or the stove to precook, but only if you transfer the meat immediately into the smoker. Otherwise, you risk bacterial growth. The temperature needs to reach 145 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit during the cooking process in order to kill bacteria.)
Fish has been smoked for centuries and hasn’t changed since the dawn of the smoker. With Salmon being the fish of choice here having smoked salmon for dinner is just a few hours away.
Cheese? Yes Cheese, the trick here is to place the cheese as far away from the heat source as possible and then set the temperature some where around 90 degrees for best results place a tray of ice at the bottom. Smoke the cheese for about 3 hours then place into the crisper over night before eating.
Now that we know what to smoke let’s explore flavor and how to get it.
Spices and rubs for smoking
Salt & Pepper is the basic rub here that will impart flavor that makes meat and fish taste like the bomb. Need something better? How about:
- Chili powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Pink Himalayan salt
This one is really cool and is in your spice cabinet right now. Taco season mix. What? Yes taco season is one of the best spice rubs ever! Works on beef, pork, chicken, fish, and yes cheese too!
Try this one:
- 1 ½ cup turbinado sugar
- ½ cup onion salt
- ½ cup garlic salt
- 2T mustard powder
- 3T top hat chili powder
- 1T green peppercorns, crushed
- 1T red peppercorns, crushed
- 1 T black pepper
- 1 T lemon pepper
- 2T cayenne
- 1t dried rosemary
- ½ cup paprika
- 1T dried basil
- 1t rubbed sage
So yes you can find just about any kind of spice rub online you are looking for but for my money making them on the fly is the best way to have a really great tasting slab of meat for little to no money.
By now you are wanting to make your own Smoker right? Well let’s see what it takes to do just that. The easiest way is to use a trash can and add an electric burner. Throw in some wood chips, bingo! We got a bingo here. Now there are tons of companies out there on the internet that sell any kind, size, shape of smoker you might ever want and yes all it takes is a simple search to do just that.
Let’s talk about Smoker maintenance for a minute now
It doesn’t take rocket science to figure this one out right? Well for all of you scientists out there the first thing you need to do is season the smoker so that it doesn’t rust and mess up all that meat you are trying to smoke. So how do you do this? First start by rubbing some good quality oil on the inside of the barrel then turn it on to about 275 degrees or so and let it go for about 2-3 hours.
Don’t go any higher than 300 degrees since this can and will damage the paint inside. With this done fire up the smoker and throw in some meat and give it a go.
Cleaning the Smoker
After a few rounds of smoked brisket you might want to clean out the ashes and food bits and season the smoker once again for best results. The thing you don’t want is ash building up inside because it traps the water and oil that leads to the afore mentioned RUST in the fire box. This in turn shortens the life of your smoker and gives the meat a funny taste. (Kinda like ashes and soot.)
So in conclusion having a smoker is a really great way to save money while at the same time making that BBQ party a grand event.