Use of Smokers

  • Cold smoking can be used as a flavor enhancer for items such as chicken breasts, beef, pork chops, salmon, scallops, and steak. The item is hung first to develop a pellicle, they can be cold smoked for just long enough to give some flavor. Some cold smoked foods are baked, grilled, steamed, roasted, or sautéed before eating. Smokehouse temperatures for cold smoking are typically done between 20 to 30 °C (68 to 86 °F). In this temperature range, foods take on a smoked flavor, but remain relatively moist. Cold smoking does not cook foods. Meats should be fully cured before cold smoking.
  • Hot smoking exposes the foods to smoke and heat in a controlled environment. Like cold smoking, the item is hung first to develop a pellicle, then smoked. Although foods that have been hot smoked are often reheated or cooked, they are typically safe to eat without further cooking. Hams and ham hocks are fully cooked once they are properly smoked. Hot smoking occurs within the range of 52 to 80 °C (126 to 176 °F).[5] Within this temperature range, foods are fully cooked, moist, and flavorful. If the smoker is allowed to get hotter than 185 °F (85 °C), the foods will shrink excessively, buckle, or even split. Smoking at high temperatures also reduces yield, as both moisture and fat are “cooked” away.

Wild Game special considerations

Smoking wild game is very similar to smoking regular meat from farm produced cattle or pigs, but there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. Before we look at these things, lets just say that wild game includes a couple of different kinds of meats

  1. Deer type animals like: elk, moose, or deer
  2. Wild birds like: geese, ducks, pheasants, grouse
  3. Hog like animals: boar, bear

When you are smoking wild meat, you need to keep in mind a few very important things:

Health wise:

  • meat from wild game has in most cases NOT been government  inspected (especially if you’ve shot it yourself)
  • meat from wild game has not received any kind of vaccinations
  • wild game can carry some diseases and parasites that affect humans

Because of this, you need to pay close attention to how you cook, cure, and smoke wild game. As long as you follow basic safety precautions, you should have very little to worry about, although there will always be some risk. The most important thing to remember is to get the internal temperature of whatever it is you’re smoking up to a safe level that makes sure any bacteria or parasites are killed in the cooking/curing process. This varies depending on the type of meat.

Beyond this there are some additional differences between farm raised meat and wild game meat that will affect smoking.

  • wild game is usually much leaner than domestic meat – less fat can mean that you need to add fat (often pork ) to products like sausage made with wild game. The lower fat content also affects smoking wild game because the fat in meat absorbs a lot of the smoke flavour
  • wild game can be tougher – because of this you will need to carefully watch the amount of time that you smoke wild game as well as the temperature it is cooking at. Low and slow is always good, but be sure to reach a safe internal temperature for the wild game you are smoking.
  • wild game can be ‘gamier’ in taste (stronger) than domestic meats – wild meat often has a much stronger taste than its farm cousins. Personally this is what I love about wild game. It does mean however that you may need to adjust your spice rubs and smoking times to get the flavours and textures you’re looking for

Storage of Smoked Meat

Smoked meat can be kept three to four days in a refrigerator after being cooked. Properly wrapped, smoked meat will last two to three months in a freezer. In neither case should smoked meat be kept or used beyond these recommended times because of the likelihood that the meat will be unsafe for humans or pets to eat.

Safety Starts with Cooking

Good food safety involving smoked meat actually begins with the cooking process itself. Smoking is a method in which meats, poultry, fish and even vegetables are slowly cooked at lower temperatures by indirect heat, namely the smoke and heat that arise from burning charcoal or wood chips in an enclosed container. A standard outdoor grill with a cover or a special covered oven called a smoker is used for this purpose. Smokers shouldn’t be made out of drums or other containers that have held other substances previously because of the danger of contamination.

Food Safety in Four Steps

The recommended food-safe process for smoking meat involves four steps: clean, separate, cook and chill. In the clean step, the cook should wash his hands and working surfaces often. The separate step refers to keeping raw meats separated from other foods to avoid cross-contamination. The third step requires cooking to proper temperatures, which is a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit as measured by a quality meat thermometer for beef, veal or pork. Poultry should be cooked to 165 F. The final step, chill, requires that leftover smoked meat be refrigerated within two hours of serving to slow the growth of bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Refrigeration Is Key

Refrigeration is key to keeping smoked meat safe for consumption. Bacteria grow in temperatures from 40 to 140 F, a range that food safety experts call “the danger zone.” A refrigerator should be set to 40 F or below to protect all foods, but even chilling won’t keep smoked meat edible forever. Neither marinating, cooking, adding sauce or the smoking process itself will give smoked meats any more longevity or protection from bacteria than today’s food safety standards specify.

Pellicle formation

Before cured foods are smoked, they should be allowed to air-dry long enough to form a tacky skin, known as a pellicle. The pellicle plays a key role in producing excellent smoked items. It acts as a kind of protective barrier for the food, and also plays an important role in capturing the smoke’s flavor and color.

Most foods can be properly dried by placing them on racks or by hanging them on hooks or sticks. It is important that air be able to flow around all sides. They should be air-dried uncovered, in the refrigerator or a cool room. To encourage pellicle formation, you can place the foods so that a fan blows air over them. The exterior of the item must be sufficiently dry if the smoke is to adhere.



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