Smoking 101

Smoked and barbecued foods can easily be a part of your summer (or all year long) enjoyment. Don’t be apprehensive to attempt smoking in your backyard. It takes a little bit of trial and error to produce great flavors, but it is well worth it! With a bit of knowledge, you can start enjoying all types of food from a smoker right now.

The smoking process is much different from grilling. When it comes to smoking, low heat and a much longer cooking cycle are the keys to success. Temperatures are usually in the 200 to 275 degree (Fahrenheit) range, while grilling is done at 400 degrees and sometimes higher.

 For large cuts of meat, it takes about 1 to 1.5 hours of smoking for each pound of meat. Cooking time varies based on the exact temperature, type of meat, the type of smoker and how often you open the smoker. 

You will also have to extend the cooking time depending upon how often you open the smoker. When grilling you will open the grill often to turn the meat and make sure its not burning. However, when smoking you want to limit the number of times you open the smoker. When you open the smoker door, heat escapes, and the cooking time needs to be extended. 

Depending on how you prefer your beef, general temperature guidelines are:

  • 140° F  =  Rare
  • 145° F  =  Medium Rare
  • 155 ° F  =  Medium
  • 160° F  =  Medium Well
  • 165° F  = Well

Taking the temperature of the meat can be done manually or remotely with a remote temperature device.

A Wireless Smoker Thermometer tells the cook the internal temperature of the smoker and the internal temperature of the food being cooked in the smoker. There are many makers of these devices. If you want to start by taking it manually, make sure you limit the times you open the smoker.

Remember, you can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it. Any cooked, uncured red meats – including pork – can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature.

After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs.

Please consult the guideline at http://www.foodsafety.gov/ for safe minimum cooking temperatures.