The Smoking Process
The modern method of smoking foods has evolved from a process of preserving. Long before refrigerators and chemical preservatives, smoke was used to extend the shelf life of food, particularly meat. Today smoking, as it relates to barbecue, is so much more. Smoking adds flavor, tenderizes, and has the potential to turn any cut of meat into a wonderful meal.
Most people know about smoked ham, bacon or fish. In the world of traditional barbecue, smoking means something else. In barbecue, smoking takes anywhere from 1-2 hours up to 20 or even more. The smoking process requires a container to hold in the smoke, a source of the smoke, and the food to be smoked. A smoker can be anything from a hole in the ground to a $2000 smoker. The source of the smoke is typically hard wood. Each of the woods prevalent in modern smoking creates a different impact on the food smoked.
Types: Unique Smoke & Flavor Characteristics
It has been said that hickory is the King of woods. Care should be used when cooking. It produces a sweet to strong, hearty taste, although milder than mesquite.
This is an excellent wood for smoking large pieces of meat for great lengths of time. Oak is probably the most versatile of all hardwoods; assertive but always pleasant. Generally producing a medium to heavy (but seldom overpowering) flavor.
This wood produces a medium fruity taste and is the choice of many professional chefs. Pecan will burn cool and offer a richness of character. It is perceived as a smoother version of hickory.
This wood produces a mild, fruity, slightly sweet taste.
This wood produces a light, delicate to sweet-mild taste. It is the traditional wood used for salmon.
This wood produces a similar taste to apple wood, producing a delicate, fruity flavor and adding sweetness to the meat.
This wood is mildly smoky, producing a sweet and light taste.
Extra care must be used with this mystical wood. The flavor becomes strong very quickly. It is best used for grilling where the smoke does not actually penetrate the meat. Small portions may be used in smoking, if used as a secondary heat source.
Once the source is determined, proper smoking is reliant upon precise temperature control. Meat smoking is best done in the range of 200-220 degrees. The internal temperature of the meat must be brought to at least 165 degrees to be safe for consumption and shouldn’t go too far above this. For precision, two accurate thermometers for are required: one inside the smoker in the area where the meat sits to test smoker temperature, and the other a meat thermometer in the meat to test the internal temperature of what you are smoking.
There are two reasons for the importance of keeping the temperature low. One is to give the smoke enough time to sink in and the other is to naturally tenderize the meat. Slow cooking gives the natural fibers in meat time to break down and become tender.
The secret of great barbecue and successful smoking is airflow. Place the meat inside the smoker so that it is surrounded by smoke. A good thick stream of smoke must circulate around the meat at all times to give it the kind of exposure needed to enhance flavor. The smoke must always move to maximize exposure and prevent the smoke from making the meat bitter. Smoke that becomes too heavy or stays for too long creates a substance called creosote. Creosote is thick, oily substance left over by fire. It not only causes foods to become bitter but it numbs the tongue. A clean smoker is the start of eliminating creosote. A dirty, crusted smoker actually produces creosote.
Smoking is far more an art than it is a science. Regardless of the varying styles and methods, practice and patience are the true secrets to perfecting the smoking process.
Baldy’s Adventures in Barbecue
Brian Dioguardi, owner of Bend, Oregon’s favorite barbecue restaurant, is truly the Indiana Jones of modern barbecue. Brian was introduced to barbecue by a renowned barbecue aficionado when he was a teen. His youthful interest blossomed into a life-long passion and drove his exploration.
Brian spent the next 20 years working in the business and traveling the United States, tasting and preparing barbecue from Coast to Coast, in order to find the best of the best. Along the way, he learned the secrets of aged, hickory-smoked meats; studied sauce formulas and famous regional recipes; and perfected his own secret methods. His dream was to take the most superb of his experience and create excellence, taking barbecue to a whole new level of perfection.
The result of his journey is the award-winning Baldy’s BBQ, the most succulent barbecue fare in the world. Influenced by the finest barbecue nationwide, yet unrivaled in flavor; Baldy’s BBQ exceeds typical classification. Put simply, there is nothing like it anywhere.