Smoking Meat

Dehydrators are efficient and come in a variety of models.
Smoking meats is a great way to preserve food and at the same time add flavor.

In handling meat it is always wise to take great care not to spread food-borne illness. To prevent possible tainting of food it is wise to follow the USDA's guidelines which specify:
- Wash hands and surfaces often.
- Keep different animals separate to avoid cross contamination.
- Cook to the proper temperatures to kill germs.
- When process is complete, refrigerate promptly.

If the meat you intend to smoke is frozen, be sure to completely thaw before smoking. As smoking uses low temperatures it can allow unthawed food to produce harmful bacteria. Defrosted meat also has the benefit of cooking more evenly. The USDA also recommends that meats be thawed in the refrigerator. Alternatively meat can be thawed quickly in the microwave.

Marinades should also be done in the refrigerator. Meats at room temperature may spoil quickly. Do not re-use marinade.

People can and do make their own smokers, but commercial smokers are safer when directions are followed. Commercial smokers come with explicit instructions on their use and maintenance. But generally smokers comprise of a metal unit within which charcoal or hickory or some other wood chips are slowly burned to produce smoke. The smoke then heats the meat and infuses it with a smoky flavor.

To safely smoke meat, you will want two thermometers, one for the food and one for the smoker. A thermometer is needed to monitor the air temp in the smoker. You will want the temperature to stay between 225 to 300 degrees (Fahrenheit). A food thermometer is used to determine the temp of the meat. Be sure to use an oven safe thermometer.

The time to cook depends on a myriad of factors including the type of meat, its size and shape, as well as the distance the meat is from the source of heat. It may take anywhere from four to eight hours to properly smoke meat. Use the following table to determine meat's doneness:
- poultry breast: 170 degrees (F)
- whole poultry: 180 degrees
- beef, veal, lamb roasts: 145 to 170 degrees - pork: 160 to 170 degrees

If a sauce is applied use it during the last half-hour of smoking.

Generally, refrigerate meat within 2 hours of removing it from smoker. Best to use smoked meat within 4 days. For later use, freeze.

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Read our review of the Excalibur ED2900 Food Dehydrator.


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