Guide to Smokin’ Meat

Tools and Knowhow to Get Started Plus smok­ing tips for an As­sort­ment of Meats

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Darron Mcdou­gal, Clay New­comb & Michael Pend­ley

Tools and knowhow to get started plus smok­ing tips for an as­sort­ment of meats.

The smoke­stack sent plumes of cherry wood ex­haust air­borne, and as it dis­ap­peared into the at­mos­phere, a love de­vel­oped for the in­tri­cacy of this time-hon­ored cook­ing method. Hours later, juicy veni­son loins were re­moved from the smoker. They turned out beau­ti­fully. Though you may have dab­bled with meat-smok­ing, us­ing le­git­i­mate equip­ment will cre­ate all the dif­fer­ence. Nu­mer­ous meats can be smoked, from de­li­cious wild turkey to ex­quis­ite rain­bow trout, with out­stand­ing re­sults. Per­haps you de­sire to take up meat smok­ing, but don’t know how or where to be­gin. Let’s help with the learn­ing curve and re­quired tools.

Un­der­stand­ing the Con­cept

Some folks mis­take grilling with wood chips tossed over hot char­coal as smok­ing. While this cer­tainly adds smoky fla­vor, it’s not smok­ing. Smok­ing uses in­di­rect heat to cook meat over a long pe­riod of time, where tra­di­tional grilling uses di­rect heat to cook meat within min­utes. Smok­ing is a ver­sa­tile cook­ing method. Some meats are basted or mar­i­nated, and oth­ers are dry-rubbed or saltwa-

When pre­par­ing bear meat for smok­ing, I leave about a quar­ter of the fat on the meat. Depend­ing on the time of year and the bear’s diet, the meat will likely have a re­gion-spe­cific fla­vor. I’ve heard that the only bear meat that doesn’t taste good is from ar­eas where they eat a high pro­por­tion of fish. Bears are om­ni­vores, but 85% of their diet is veg­e­ta­tion. In many parts of their range, a high per­cent­age of the re­main­ing 15% is in the form of in­sects. A bear killed in the fall in Arkansas will have gorged it­self on acorns and hick­ory nuts. I find the fla­vor, even in ma­ture male an­i­mals, to be ex­cel­lent. Bear meat is greasier and heav­ier than what you’re prob­a­bly used to, but don’t let that be a de­ter­rent. It’s great meat for smok­ing. The shoul­der of any wild an­i­mal isn’t con­sid­ered a high-qual­ity cut and can be chal­leng­ing to use. How­ever, it can be put to great use in the smoker. Smok­ing fla­vors the meat and can be used as a preser­va­tive. Bear meat is red with a beef- or pork-like tex­ture. In cen­turies past, when gain­ing lots of calo­ries from food was in vogue, calo­rie-rich bear meat was a top choice. Fatty meats have a lot of con­nec­tive tis­sues called col­la­gen. When cooked fast, col­la­gen shrinks and tight­ens the meat, giv­ing it a tough, rub­bery tex­ture. Slow cook­ing melts the fats, ef­fec­tively rendering it be­tween the mus­cle tis­sues, pro­vid­ing a ten­der tex­ture and juicy fla­vor. When done cor­rectly, a slab of bear meat hot off the smoker has the tex­ture and fla­vor of beef brisket.

SMOK­ING CON­SID­ER­A­TIONS

The smoke ring is an im­por­tant part of all smoked meats. This is a dis­tinct pink sec­tion of meat usu­ally in the first ¼ inch. Don’t let the pink color de­ceive you into think­ing it isn’t cooked; it is. The ring in­di­cates that the fla­vor of the wood pen­e­trated the meat, and it looks great, too. In sci­en­tific terms, the smoke ring is formed by iron mol­e­cules ox­i­diz­ing and turn­ing the flesh pink. The ring will be shal­lower or deeper based upon how long you ex­pose the un­cov­ered meat to di­rect smoke. Good smoked meat will have a smoke ring. I typ­i­cally only leave the meat on the wood smoker for about two to four hours. Why? Con­ve­nience. It’s eas­ier to keep the oven at a steady tem­per­a­ture than to mon­i­tor the smoker con­stantly. The meat will re­ceive its mouth-wa­ter­ing smoke fla­vor during this time, and a great smoke ring will have time to form. Af­ter a cou­ple of hours, I take the meat out and place it in the oven in a cov­ered pan for the re­main­der of the cook­ing time, which also pre­vents the meat from dry­ing out.

RECIPE: SMOKED BEAR SHOUL­DER

01 IN­GRE­DI­ENTS AND TOOLS • bear front shoul­der • salt • pepper • onion pow­der • bar­beque sauce • wood smoker • alu­minum foil • dis­pos­able alu­minum turkey pan • 10 pounds of char­coal • 10 pounds of mesquite wood

02 TRIM, SEA­SON AND BASTE Do your fi­nal clean­ing of the shoul­der, trim­ming off any ex­cess fat but leav­ing some for fla­vor. Lib­er­ally ap­ply salt, pepper and onion pow­der to the en­tire shoul­der. Then, gen­er­ously baste bar­beque sauce onto the meat. The charred sauce is what gives the smoked meat the “bark” or crust that makes bar­beque taste so good. If you don’t like bark, then don’t ap­ply sauce un­til af­ter the meat is cooked. Many peo­ple like to mar­i­nate meat 24 hours be­fore smok­ing. This is a good idea, but I typ­i­cally don’t wait that long. 03 SMOK­ING THE MEAT For a bear shoul­der that weighs ap­prox­i­mately 10 pounds, I like to cook at 225°F for up to 10 hours. Lower tem­per­a­tures for longer pe­ri­ods of time typ­i­cally mean more ten­der meat. Us­ing a for­mula of 1 to 1 ½ hours of cook­ing time per pound of meat is a rea­son­able guide­line. How­ever, it’s much bet­ter to use a ther­mome­ter to test the in­ter­nal tem­per­a­ture. Bear meat should be cooked thor­oughly be­cause of the risk of trichi­nosis. How­ever, it’s killed at 145°F de­grees and is no longer a prob­lem. The USDA sug­gests cook­ing pork and chicken to an in­ter­nal tem­per­a­ture of 160°F, just to be safe. I’d sug­gest the same for bear meat. How­ever, the fi­nal cooked tem­per­a­ture of the meat should be around 190°F. Af­ter the meat has been rubbed with the in­gre­di­ents, place it in a smoker that’s been pre­heated to 225°F. I typ­i­cally use a full 10-pound bag of char­coal—5 pounds in the first two hours and 5 pounds the sec­ond two hours—to keep the tem­per­a­ture sta­ble. If you’re us­ing an elec­tric smoker, this won’t be an is­sue. I put gen­er­ous amounts of wood on top of the char­coal to cre­ate good smoke. 04 BAK­ING THE MEAT I let a shoul­der cook in di­rect smoke for four hours at 250°F. Then take it out, cover the pan with foil and place it in the oven pre­heated to 250°F for an­other four hours (eight hours to­tal). By this time, the smoke has done the fla­vor­ing; now the meat sim­ply needs to slow cook. On larger cuts of bear, I’d sug­gest cook­ing at 200-225°F for longer pe­ri­ods of time. 05 SLICE AND SERVE Af­ter the meat has cooked, let it sit for at least 20 min­utes be­fore you be­gin to slice it. The meat can be sliced against the grain like brisket and eaten with bar­beque sauce. When you cut into the meat, you’ll see a beau­ti­ful, pink smoke ring around the out­side of the meat. It should be cooked all the way to the bone. Some parts of the shoul­der are tougher, and I like to chop it up into smaller pieces for other uses. Every­one who’s eaten bear meat cooked this way has been de­light­fully sur­prised; many peo­ple think it’s beef. It’s a great way to spend a Satur­day that ends in a truly Amer­i­can meal.

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