The Ultimate Smoking Meat Guide

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Certain grilling mistakes and misconceptions are rife in the grilling community. Novice backyard cooks, in particular, are strongly afflicted. You should stay sharp and be informed about blunders and myths that have created problems for others before you.

Unfortunately, countless enthusiasts make the same mistakes year after year without realizing what is going wrong. Ignorance, however, is not bliss. It soon shows up in the quality of your smoked meal. You don’t want to end up with tough and tasteless meat at the end of your 12-hour long smoking saga.  

Veteran grill chefs have attained these tips for smoking meat after long years of toil and hard work.  These pearls of grilling wisdom are now yours for the taking. 

Use a Thermometer

Don’t judge the level of doneness by inspecting the color of the meat. This can be very misleading. Even experienced chefs can end up with meat that is tougher or drier than they would have liked if they were to resort to inspection alone. The texture or hue of the meat is not sufficient to judge how well done your meat is. 

You will need an instant-read thermometer to give yourself the precision and control that you will need to cook food with the right level of flavor, tenderness, and moistness. Not just that, an instant-read thermometer will enable you to churn out well-smoked meals consistently. Without these temperature sensing instruments, the quality of your meals will remain a hit or miss affair. 

With an instant-read thermometer, you can take out the uncertainty that is threatening to ruin not just your meal but also your peace of mind. 

Temperature is the best indicator for determining how well cooked your meal is. To give you a better idea, the meat becomes medium-rare at a temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. It does not matter that the meat is mutton, beef, pork, chicken, turkey or even fish. The level of doneness is the same for all meats

You will never overcook your food again. Excessive heating is the leading culprit behind dryness, charring, and blandness. No longer will you end up with tough dried up leather. 

Another essential advantage that you will gain is that you will never undercook meat either. This is a very important facet considering the prevalence of salmonella poisoning and germ outbreaks. An instant-read thermometer is essential for ensuring that the internal temperature of the meat corresponds to USDA safety guidelines to minimize the risk of food poisoning. You will also not end up with meat that is too rare for your liking.  

An instant-read thermometer is hands down the most essential pellet grill accessory. If you had the choice to pick only one accessory then the instant-read thermometer would be it. 

Camp Chef Sear Box

While pellet grills and smokers are great for low and slow cooking they do have one crucial drawback. They are not as good as gas or charcoal grills for reverse searing. 

But this worry is now a thing of the past with the advent of the Camp Chef Sear Box. It is essentially a gas grill in its own right that sits right next to your pellet grill. This is just the sidekick that your pellet grill needed to extend its functionality. You will now have a two-in-one grilling combo for less than the price of two. 

Although it is not as big as most other gas grills, the Camp Chef sear box is certainly much cheaper. This is an essential pellet grill accessory that will extend the cooking capabilities of your smoker to reverse searing. 

The biggest criticism about low-temperature pellet smokers was that you could not get a deliciously seared crust with these appliances. Thanks to the Camp Chef sear box, pellet grills no longer have to be bereft of the reverse searing function. 

The Camp Chef sear box is designed to extend the power of your pellet grill without interfering or proving difficult to set up. You can set it up with ease simply by seating it next to the barrel that does the heavy work for your pellet grill.  

With this configuration, you will now have the best of both worlds. Your pellet grill can churn out smoked meals with a crispy delicious crust. You will have two of the grilling delicacies that nearly all grilling buffs yearn for: an irresistible crispy exterior and authentic smoke flavor. 

The Camp Chef sear box is just what you need to set up the 2-zone grilling surface. The benefit of such an arrangement is that you can cook your meat slowly over low temperature to infuse the authentic smoke flavor that you relish. You can then use the direct heating zone to turn up the temperature drastically to quick sear your meat for a crispy exterior. 

In the 2-zone system, one zone is for direct heating while the other zone is for indirect heating. The Camp Chef sear box will serve as the direct heating zone. The temperature here will be much higher since most of it comes by way of radiation. This is perfect for reverse searing. 

Your pellet grill grates will serve as the indirect heating zone. As you may know, pellet grills have lower temperatures than charcoal grills since heating takes place by convection. Your pellet grill is already optimized for low-temperature indirect heating. 

Using the Camp Chef sear box in this way, you will have the ideal setup for quick reverse searing. You can now have a well-done crust and a rare pink core.

Say Goodbye to Flare-Ups Once and for All

Getting yourself a pellet grill is the best way of avoiding flare-ups. There is no chance of a flare-up with pellet grills since its flames do not reach the meat directly. 

With a pellet grill, you will not have to contend with the possibility of flare-ups ruining your barbecue. 

Flare-ups happen because of the fat that drips onto the flames below in a gas or charcoal grill. This fat ignites and catches fire to give rise to a grilling conflagration. 

This brings up the next point. Is it necessary to trim the surface fat?

Always Trim the Surface Cap 

The fat on the surface is also known as the subcutaneous fat or the fat cap. 

Some uninformed BBQ enthusiasts do not trim surface fat because they think that the molten fat softens the meat as it drips down. This is a misconception. Not only is this notion simply untrue, but it will also create other problems as well. You won’t be able to use BBQ rubs nor will you be able to achieve a well-seared brown crust.     

Unfortunately, this myth is also peddled in cooking shows as well. Perpetuating this myth through mass media won’t help matters at all. 

The fat cap creates several problems. It hides the silverskin underneath it. The silverskin is the thick connective tissue that can shrink as a result of heating. While shrinking, it will distort the shape of your beautiful steak to give it a cup-like curved shape. To remove the silverskin, you must first remove the surface fat. 

As for the myth that molten fat penetrates the muscle tissue to soften it, it is simply false. Molten fat does not penetrate muscle tissue. Fat molecules are simply too big to squeeze their way past the muscle fiber. Second, the fat is oil and the content of muscle tissue is mostly water. Oil and water don’t mix. But what about the protein? Is it soluble in fat? No, it’s not. So molten fat does not affect protein- it won’t even reach it in the first place.

Also, fat and muscle tissue are separated by a layer of tough connective tissue. Since this connective tissue is largely water, it too is impermeable to melting fat. 

Additionally, muscle meat is saturated with water. During the grilling or smoking process, you will notice that juices drip out of the muscle meat. It is largely water. Fat can’t penetrate muscle meat by going against the flow of water. Fat is immiscible with water, to begin with.  

With the fat cap on, salt penetration will slow down substantially. This is detrimental to the dry brining process which is great for tenderizing meat and keeping it moist. Dry brining is known to improve the flavor of the meat. The only feasible way to carry out brining is to inject the brine solution into the meat via syringes.

The fat cap will also not let your expensive rubs and sauces penetrate the muscle meat underneath it. Even if you smear sauces and rubs in abundance on the fat cap, it will simply melt away along with the fat. This is not good for cooking because sauces and rubs are often the biggest secrets to a delicious recipe. 

A quarter-inch thick layer of fat will not allow smoke to penetrate the muscle meat at all. You will not be able to create smoke rings in your meat.   

Fat also tends to prevent moisture from escaping. As a result, the surface of the meat will not sear to a crisp dark layer known as the bark. This is one of the tastiest parts of the barbecue. It also gives your meat an authentic appearance. 

Use Salt

Salt is one of the best-kept secrets of smoking. Applying salt on the surface of the meat and leaving it to rest will tenderize the meat, make it better at retaining moisture and develop the flavor. 

Contrary to what you might hear about table salt, the fact is that much of the sodium comes through processed foods. So you can reduce your processed food consumption substantially to limit your salt intake. Also, the number of people whose blood pressure is sensitive to even small amounts of salt is a small fraction of the population.  

In case you are thinking that dry brining will increase your salt consumption, then you need not worry. The amount of salt spread on a pound of meat is so small that it will not exceed your daily recommended intake. You probably won’t eat a pound of meat. 

Suppose you eat a lot of BBQ and end up consuming half a pound of smoked and salted meat. Since the rough guide is for half a teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat, the equivalent table salt amount is a quarter teaspoon. Half a pound of meat will carry about 1/8 of a teaspoon of table salt. Each teaspoon of salt weighs about 5.69 grams. The amount of table salt consumed will be 0.711 grams. This amounts to nothing more than a third of your recommended daily intake.  

An amazing transformation takes place when you rub salt on your meat and allow it to rest. Salt penetrates the muscle tissue to attack the protein in meat. The proteins unwind and become denatured. This tenderizes the meat. The modified protein is also better at retaining water. So salt-treated meat will retain moisture better and will be more succulent. 

Boneless is Best

The bone-gives-better-flavor notion is another myth that needs to be dispelled. Make no bones about it. Bone does not affect the flavor of the meat. Grilling folklore suggests that meat closer to the bone is not only tastier, it is also more succulent. These are just myths that you should not take seriously. 

Before going any further, it is worth pointing out that the meat between ribs is indeed extremely delicious. Once might be deceived into thinking that the bones are somehow behind it. However, it has nothing to do with bones. This meat has a lot of connective tissue which can melt and impart an amazing flavor to your barbecue. There is also plenty of fat which is responsible for most of the great taste in a smoked barbecue. The bones have no role to play in any of this. 

There is no way that bones can add to the flavor of meat because most of it is calcium which does not melt with the heat or dissolve in water. So bone is inert and it won’t react with the meat in any way. 

Removing the bone can open up room for flavor because the exposed area can now be seasoned for extra taste. The most that bones can do is leak some of that delicious bone marrow which has a truly rich and buttery flavor. 

Use the Right Pellets

Your pellet grill smoker is designed to generate a lot of smoke. That’s possible only if you have the right quality pellets, to begin with. If you use low-quality pellets just for the sake of saving a little money, then your pellet grill may not produce much smoke at all. The problem with cheap pellets is that they have a high amount of filler material which inhibits combustion. 

You should, therefore, look for high-quality pellets that do not have filler material. 

Bear in mind that the smoke that you are looking for is light blue and wispy. It is not like a thick white cloud. Light blue smoke does not add an acrid taste to your meal as white smoke does. 

When you fire up your pellet grill, the ignition rod lights up the wood pellets to generate copious amounts of heavy white smoke. This is the kind of smoke that your neighbors might suspect to be a house fire. But don’t worry, it will pass soon. The pellet grill will then start producing the faint blue smoke that will impart the authentic smoke flavor to your meal. 

However, the kind of wood that you use also impacts the level of smoke that your firebox produces. Some wood blends simply cannot create as much smoke as others. For instance, apple pellets do not make as much smoke as hickory pellets. So if you are interested in generating a large amount of smoke then you can try mixing apple with oak or hickory. 

The other thing to consider is the firebox. It should be clean. A firebox clogged with ashes will produce less smoke from your wood pellets. That is a pity because it simply means that your wood pellets and precious money is going to waste. It is best to vacuum the firebox after using the pellet grill for about 20 hours. 

A clean firebox will also greatly reduce the possibility of the flame getting extinguished. This phenomenon can ruin the timing and quality of your smoking session. 

Just make sure that you get the best quality pellets to infuse the richest smoke flavor in your meals. 

Conclusion

You can use these tips for smoking meat to perfection. You will get unmatched flavor, juiciness, and tenderness. 

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