How to smoke meat

Smoking meat

While  smoking meat  has long been a method of preservation of choice of meat, today we take advantage of this ancient process for the organoleptic qualities it generates: a tender flesh, melting and delicately scented. From the preparation of the smoke to the tasting of the smoked dish, here are all the easy steps to follow for a perfectly smoked meat in a jiffy.

Choose your smoker according to your needs

Choose your smoker according to the use you want to make. Three criteria are to be taken into account.

First criterion: the capacity of the smoker

It exists :

  • of  table smokehouses , horizontal which have a small capacity;
  • of  vertical kilns  that allow horizontally or vertically smoking (with suspended food). These smokers can have a large capacity especially when it comes to smoking rooms.

Second criterion: the type of smoking

  • Some smoking rooms can  smoke cold , that is to say at a temperature below 25 ° C. The food is smoked, dried but not cooked. Ham, bacon, smoked bacon, bacon, dried meats are made in this type of smoker.
  • Some smokers  smoke hot  at over 55 ° C. This allows, in addition to smoking, cooking meat. They are more suitable for large pieces of smoked meats such as beef ribs, large pieces of poultry.
  • Some smoking rooms are  mixed .

Note  : Hot smoked meat can be kept for a shorter time than cold-smoked meat.

Third criterion: compromise between practicality and taste

There are 4 types of smoking rooms. Each has specificities.

  • The  electric smoker  is the most popular smoking equipment for smoking meat. The reason being because it is easy to clean , temperature is easy to control unlike coal smokers , you can set the timer and just let it cook no need for regular checks , it is best for beginners because it is safer to use than other smokers such as coal smoker. You can read our electric smoker reviews to get a better understanding of choosing the right electric smoker.
  • The  traditional wood smoker  is the smoker that allows you to get the most scented meat. The fuel used is wood, with different qualities selected according to the desired flavor. The disadvantage lies in the constant attention because it is a matter of regularly feeding the smoking room with wood in order to maintain a constant smoking temperature.
  • The  charcoal smoker  also provides a tasty meat. The fuels used are primarily coal but also wood. The advantage of the coal smoker, vis-à-vis the wood smoker, is that it requires less attention because the coal heats longer and allows maintenance of a constant temperature more easily than wood alone.The taste and the fact that charcoal can get very hot are the two big differences. None of these are important for smoking, in my opinion. You do not want it to be hot at all and any flavor that the coal has provided is completely overshadowed by the taste of the smoke itself.
  • The  gas smoker  requires little supervision. Wood or coal can be used as fuel. It is enough to read on the instructions of the smoker how to introduce them and in what quantity. On the other hand, smoked meat does not have the same organoleptic characteristics as smoked meat with the wood or coal smoker.

Note  : smoking rooms must be made of stainless steel, the only metal that does not release heavy metal particles dangerous to health.

Choose your fuel carefully

Regarding wood, it is essential to select your fuel carefully. The taste of your smoked meat depends on it.


  • chips for hot smoking;
  • sawdust for cold smoking.

If you use reclaimed wood, be sure not to use green or damp wood to smoke your meat.

Depending on the taste you want to get:

  • For your pieces of  beef , opt for mesquite for the parts that require a short drying time because it gives a very present flavor. The oak is ideal for rooms that require a long smoking time because its taste is more subtle. Hickory or white walnut has a taste between mesquite and oak in terms of intensity. Cherry, plum tree can also be suitable.
  • For  pork , prefer apple, maple, cherry or ash.
  • For  poultry , apple and maple are particularly indicated.
  • For all meat pieces , know that alder is very popular with smoked meat lovers. The charm and maple also but to a lesser extent.

You can also create wood mixes. It’s up to you to play your imagination. The experience will help you there. Specific ready-made mixtures exist for the smoking of various meats.

Note  : The wood chips or charcoal you use must be natural and have not been pre-treated. Treated wood chips are likely to contain toxins that can migrate to your pieces of meat and can be hazardous to your health.

Select your pieces of meat to smoke

The meat must be absolutely fresh and not frozen, thawed or kept in the refrigerator for several days before smoking. If technically speaking, all pieces of meat can be smoked, gustantly speaking, some pieces are more appropriate than others. It’s about :

  • ribs of beef or pork;
  • beef or pork belly;
  • ham and pork loin;
  • duck breast;
  • chicken thighs and drumsticks.

Note  : for hot smoking, the thicker the fat, the longer the smoking time, the better the result.

1 Prepare the meat for smoking

This step is optional but recommended. You can prepare meat in many ways.


The  salting  takes an average of 30 g salt / kg of meat.

  • Use nitrite salt which allows the meat to retain a beautiful color after smoking.
  • Count a salting time of about  1 day per cm of meat thickness , a little more for very fat pieces: 30 hours per centimeter of thickness. Salt inhibits bacteriological and microbial activity.
  • The meat should be dipped several times in water to be rinsed (the number of times depends on the final salty taste you want), then dried with a paper towel and then placed on a rack or hung in a ventilated place before smoking.


The  wet brining  is done with a nitrite salt + water mixture. This brining is ideal for poultry, ham.

  • At least one night of brining in the refrigerator is required.
  • On average 100 g of nitrite salt for 1 l of water, for 2 kg of meat.
  • The meat should be rinsed once with water and then dried with a paper towel and then placed on a rack or hung in a ventilated place, before smoking.

The marinade

The  marinade  : mainly for large pieces of hot smoked meat, which must then marinate an entire night in the marinade of your choice in the refrigerator. Fine cuts in the meat allow the marinade to penetrate well into the meat. The meat should be dried with a paper towel before smoking.

Simple seasoning

The  simple seasoning  : salt and pepper, some herbs or spices, just before smoking.

Note  : Take the meat out of the refrigerator at least an hour before smoking. This allows his juice to flow over the entire piece of meat.

2 Prepare the smoking room

Properly place your fuel:

  • If you opt for  sawdust , ideal for  cold smoking  :
    • Place the U-shaped sawdust in the space provided.
    • Light the beginning of the U with a sawdust lighter or electrical resistance. This allows the sawdust to be consumed little by little and not to heat the smoker. There are cold smoke kits if you are afraid of poor temperature control.
  • If you opt for  wood chips , ideal for  hot smoking  :
    • Moisten beforehand the smallest of them.
    • Then, tamp the chips in the place provided for this purpose.
    • Light them with a sawdust lighter or electrical resistance.

The smoking room must be at low temperature to receive the meat smoking: between 21 ° C and 25 ° C, regardless of the type of smoking you want to achieve: hot or cold. Use an oven thermometer to check the temperature.

Important  : For the charcoal and charcoal smoker, wait until there are no more flames before putting down your food. Put the embers on the side of the smoker before introducing the meat.

Tip flavor  : You can mix with chips or sawdust spices or aromatic herbs to exacerbate the flavors.

3 Place the meat in the smoker

The meat must be in full contact with the smoke. For it :

  • Place the meat directly on the smoker’s rack or hanging (depending on the smoker you have), so the entire surface of the smoking room will be in contact with the smoke.
  • Space each piece of meat with each other.
  • Place the fat part of the meat upwards in a horizontal smoker.

Important  : Cookware used to handle or store raw meat should no longer be used for hygiene reasons.

4 Smoke the meat

Case 1: cold smoking

  • A smoking pass lasts between 8 and 12 hours.
  • The temperature should never exceed 25 ° C. Make several passes of smoking to intensify the smoking taste of the food, but make sure to keep a rest period of at least 2 days between each smoking pass, in the smoker.
  • After each pass, taste the meat to determine if you will do another pass or not.

Note  : Wipe off any moisture on the surface of the cold-smoked food after each smoking pass.

Case 2: hot smoking

  • One smoking pass, more or less long depending on the smoking room: 3 hours to 24 hours.
  • The meat can be moistened during cooking.
  • You can also cover it with cooking paper while smoking to concentrate the flavors.

The smoking is finished when the meat is pink and the internal temperature of the meat is sufficient:

  • For poultry: 73 ° C minimum.
  • For pork and minced meat: 71 ° C minimum.
  • For pieces of beef: 63 ° C minimum.

Note  : the water allows a better maintenance of the heat. Some smoking rooms are equipped with a water container. If this is not the case with yours, simply place a stainless steel container with water in the smoker.

5 Remove the meat from the smoker and consume it

Remove the meat from the smoker with clean, disinfected utensils.

Smoking increases the shelf life of meat due to salting, drying, cooking, bacteriological and bacteriostatic action of smoke and crust that forms on the surface and prevents pathogenic microorganisms from enter. However,  hot-smoked meat is less durable than cold-smoked meat  and must be consumed quickly. The cold-smoked meat can be dried several days before being consumed.

Tip  : Even though it is a tradition that the smoking room is never washed, for hygienic reasons, we advise you to clean it with water and household soap after use.


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