As you know, if you have read any of my blog posts, smoking is one of my favorite ways to cook meat. I love it because the slow process allows the smoke flavor to permeate the meat.
The longer you smoke the meat, the better it tastes.
It is believed that smoking meat was originally used before refrigerators and freezers were invented. The process was used to preserve the meat so that it wouldn’t spoil. Can you imagine living in a rural environment where you had to hunt?
You wouldn’t be able to eat all of your game in one setting so smoking it over several days even weeks would preserve it for days, weeks or in some cases over the long cold winter months.
Of course, nowadays, we use smokers just to get flavor in our meat. Slow cooked turkey and pork is particularly popular at the moments but, really, you can smoke almost any kind of meat (or fish) and get great results.
One question that I am often asked is whether you still need a meat thermometer when smoking meat. I believe that this question is often asked because with the lower temperature that the meats cook at, people aren’t able to use meat thermometers in the normal way to determine if the meat is cooked or not. The slow cooking process doesn’t require a ton of heat so the meat is often at below the temperature that the FDA suggest for meat.
Now, you might ask, how does the meat cook at all if it never gets to a really high temperature? Well, naturally, the answer is, TIME.
Smoking meat is a slow process and this is what allows the meat to soak in all the flavor. The meat stays raw a long time, which allows it to hold on to its water content and stay porous and permeable. The cell walls stay in a state where the smoke flavor can easily enter the meat. It’s like cooking something on a high setting on a stove vs a low setting. The heat slowly cooks the meat.
So, in my opinion you will need a meat thermometer but you will have to adjust the temperature that establishes when the meat is cooked. This is easy to understand and get once you have some experience of smoking meat.
Initially, your best best is to following a smoking guide that will tell you how long to cook it, at what temperature and what temperature to check with your meat thermometer. It really is an easy process but you would be wise to be concerned about it. When I smoked my first turkey, I had the same concerns. I also had the same questions which were quickly answered by experience.
As I mentioned at the start, the meat thermometer question is one that is often asked when people become interested in smoking meat at home. They often tell me they are worried about serving under-cooked meat because they don’t know how to use a thermometer with the low temperatures of slow cooking.
These concerns are well justified and, when it comes to food safety you can never be too careful but, the truth is that you have to use a meat thermometer and you need to slow cook at a set temperature and for a specific amount of time. You can learn these set metrics in a cooking guide that will give you this information based on the weight of what you are slow cooking.
Thanks and happy smoking!