Why are smoked meats so irresistible for many of us? Some says our love for smoked meats comes from our ancestors who have been smoking meat since before history was recorded. Some say maybe it is an additional taste we’ve learned to love – right up there with umami, salty, sweet, bitter, and sweet tastes. Certainly, my love of smoked meats comes from both childhood and adult memories – smoking meat on the barbecue on a warm summer day and as a chef exploring new barbecue haunts across the nation. Sampling different styles of barbecue is tough work, but someone has to do it!

Smoking meats and other foods is done for preservation and my favorite reason – to enhance their flavor. Enjoy these tips to enjoy smoking your own meats and other foods at home.

Choose hard wood

The most popular types of woods to use for smoking are mesquite and hickory but many other types are available. Soak your wood chips for 30-45 minutes in water and allow them to drip dry before using. Try out different wood types to create new flavors. Other hard woods include pecan, oak, alder, cherry, plum, and peach. Avoid pine or other evergreens as they contain “pitch,” a sticky substance in the wood that when heated will result in a bitter tasting film on your food. Also, consider skipping chemical fire starters which can affect the flavor of the food.

Pick your favorite meat or other food

Smoking is usually done with larger pieces of meat, like brisket, pork shoulder, ham, turkey, ribs and chicken. Remember to cook your meats “low and slow” (low temperatures for longer period of time) for the best results. The time it will take will largely depend on how large your piece of meat is. In general, you’ll want to maintain the temperature at 250-300 degrees Fahrenheit for food safety.

Fire up a grill or smoker

Many types of grills and smokers exist if you decide to really get into barbecuing and smoking foods. Even an inexpensive grill in your backyard can be fixed up as a smoker. You’ll want the heat source on one side and the food on the other. You can use the vents to create a steady flow of smoke.

Experiment and enjoy

Keep in mind that in addition to meat, anything edible can be smoked. For inspiration – you might smoke turkey, fish, cheese, fruit, vegetables and other interesting ingredients. Smoked flavor has even shown up in beer. Take a stroll through the grocery store and see how many smoked items you can pick out that you never thought of before. And write down your experiments and recipes so you know what you’ve tried and can recreate your best results.

We Can Help You Get Your BBQ Fix

Stop by our SmokeHouse 54 restaurant which specializes in delicious barbecue and comfort foods for breakfast, lunch, and an early dinner. Located at the Courses at Andrews and open to the public, we can help you get your BBQ fix whenever you need one. Place your order online for carryout or let us help you feed a crowd with our catering services. We look forward to cooking for you!