Texas Smoking

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Smoking of meat and fish has been practiced for ages. Indigenous cultures around the world may have used smoke during the drying of fish to drive away the flies. They soon found that the absorbed smoke acted as a preservative. IN EUROPE AND BRITAIN DURING THE MIDDLE AGES various heavily smoked and salted foods were relied upon to carry people over the lean times of late winter and into spring. Fresh fish could not be transported any distance from the port of landing unless they were preserved. Two of these products were Red Herring and Salt Cod. Red Herring was made with heavily salted herring that was smoked for up to three weeks in a kiln To smoke something you need a container to hold in the smoke, a source of the smoke, and something to smoke. A smoker can be anything from a hole in the ground to an expensive smoker. The source of the smoke is typically hard wood. There have been people who assert that what you burn to make the smoke really doesn't matter. Traditionally hardwoods like Hickory, Oak and Apple, not only penetrates the meat, but leaves a lingering flavors. History records that people all over the world from all cultures have relied on the smoke-curing of fish and meat products for long-term storage solutions. Once animals were slaughtered and butchered, either by the farmer or a butcher, the meat needed to be preserved until it could be eaten. During the pre-electricity, pre-refrigeration days, people had to devise ways of keeping meat. Butchering of cows was done in the fall and winter months because the natural cold helped to keep the large amount of meat fresh. Chickens could be butchered anytime. Neighbors would share a hog, each taking half, at the beginning of summer and before harvesting time. Some confusion remains of what is SMOKED, or GRILLED, or BBQ? See definitions above.

Smoking for preservation is used in less developed countries where transportation is limited and climate impact food spoilage. In most developed countries where transportation is increasingly efficient, smoking remains popular for texture and flavor.

What to smoke is purely a matter of taste. You can smoke just about anything, from cheese to nuts to meats. Smoking has grown around cuts of meat that traditionally don't come out well in any other cooking method. A good example of this is brisket, which is very tough, especially if you attempt to cook it in a hurry.

Reasons to keep the temperature low during smoking is to give the smoke enough time to sink in and to naturally tenderize the meat. Slow cooking gives the natural fibers in meat time to break down and become tender. Another basic rule of smoking is to place the meat inside the smoker so that it is surrounded by smoke. You want a good movement of smoke around the meat at all times to give it the kind of exposure you need to develop the flavor. In early years, the method of smoking and curing was a means of preservation for meats. The early Americans would dry venison, buffalo and elk meat. Some would rub berries on the meat and let it dry in the sun to create "Pemmican" jerky. The early trappers and explorers would build smoke huts and hang cuts of meat over a fire. --> The smoke would cure and the heat dry the meat. Jerky was created when the meat would be cut into strips, flavored and then cured. Smoked meats became a staple for settlers living in the Rocky Mountains. Perhaps the oldest of all food preservation techniques is "salting." Early pilgrims discovered that treating meat liberally with salt slowed down the putrefaction process. Salt serves as a "dehydrating" agent, sucking water out of bacteria, destroying them.

The smoking process isn't really "smoking." In the old days, meat used to be hung in a smokehouse, exposed to all the elements generated by burning wood. This cooked the meat, added flavor and also served to preserve the meat. Chemicals in smoke, such as formaldehyde, are highly toxic to bacteria. The truth is that today there isn't all that much worry about the wood smoke because "smoking" is commonly done in a gas fired oven where the meat cooks by convection and the only smoke it is exposed to is generated by the fat that drips down from the meat and burns.

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Updated 01 Feb 2016

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