Tenderness is equally as important as flavor when smoking meat. If your smoked meat isn't tender, it will have a not-so-pleasant chewy texture, making it difficult to consume. By following these six smoking tips, however, you can increase the tenderness of your meat.
#1) Choose a Fatty Cut of Meat
Certain cuts of meat are more tender than others. For smoking, you should choose a fatty cut so that the marbling will keep the meat moist as it cooks. Beef brisket, pork ribs and pork butt (shoulder) are all loaded in marbling, making them an excellent choice for smoking. As the fatty marbling melts, it will moisten the meat, thereby preventing it from drying out and subsequently increasing its tenderness.
#2) Marinate Before Smoking
Marinating your meat can also make it more tender. Just mix your ingredients in an appropriately sized bowl, after which you can submerge your meat inside the marinade solution. After placing a lid or cover over the bowl, stick it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. During this time, your meat will absorb the liquids and ingredients from the marinade. Not only will this make your meat more flavorful; it will make it more tender.
Furthermore, marinating offers countless new ways to modify and enhance your smoked meat. There are literally thousands of marinade recipes, each of which uses different ingredients to offer a unique flavor. Feel free to experiment with different marinades to see which one works best when smoking meat.
#3) Keep the Heat Low
The internal temperature of your smoker can affect the tenderness of your meat. If your smoker gets too hot, it will dry out your meat. Heat forces the moisture in the meat to evaporate. It's normal for some moisture to be released during the smoking process, but if you lose too much moisture, your meat will be dry and tough. For moist and tender meat, you must maintain a consistent, low temperature inside your smoker. For most smoked meats, about 220 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit should suffice. Once your smoker has reached this temperature, add your meat. Next, keep an eye on your smoker's temperature and make the necessary adjustments to stay within the 220- to 250-degree range.
#4) Don't Cut Into It
Avoid the temptation of cutting into your meat while it smokes. Regardless of what type of meat you are smoking, cutting into it will release some of its juices. As the juices drip out, it will cause make your meat drier and less tender. For the highest level of tenderness, avoid cutting into your meat until you believe it's done cooking. Even then, it's recommended that you allow your meat to sit at room temperature for at least five minutes so that the juices can "settle." When you finally cut into your meat, you'll discover that it's both juicy and tender.
#5) Use High-Quality Smoking Chunks
Using the right smoking chunks can increase the tenderness of your meat. You can technically smoke meat using nothing but charcoal. Unfortunately, though, this doesn't offer the same delicious flavor or pull-apart tenderness as using smoking chunks. Smoking chunks, such as those offered here at Cutting Edge Firewood, produce lots of smoke that helps break down the fat and connective tissue within your meat.
All meat has fat and connective tissue, the latter of which creates a rough and chewy texture if it's left intact. All forms of cooking will help break down the connective tissue, but smoking with high-quality wood chunks is more effective at breaking down the connective tissue than grilling or smoking meat using only charcoal. The thick plumes of smoke produced by the wood chunks will slowly melt your meat's fat and connective tissue. Assuming you smoke it at low heat -- and for an adequate length of time -- it will offer an out-of-this-world tenderness.
#6) Keep Your Smoker Closed
After adding your meat, try to keep your smoker's lid closed as much as possible. You'll obviously have to open the lid on occasion to check your meat or add new smoking chunks -- and that's okay. But the more you open it, the more smoke will escape. As a result, opening the lid too frequently could lead to meat with a chewier, less-tender texture.
By keeping your smoker closed the majority of the time, your meat will be exposed to more smoke. And with greater exposure to smoke, your meat will become more flavorful and more tender. Just remember to add more smoking chunks to your smoker to maintain a smokey environment. If your smoking chunks burn to ash, they'll produce little or no smoke.
Find the best deals on premium smoking chunks by visiting our online store today. Cutting Edge Firewood offers a variety of high-quality smoking chunks, including white oak, hickory, cherry, pecan and whiskey, all of which will allow you to smoke delicious meat.