I got an email the other day asking about meat smoking times. Actually it was a little odd in that the email only said:
How long should I smoke meat?
Well this is a question to love and hate. Love becuase it is so simple – “Long enough to get the results you’re looking for”. Hate, because clearly the person didn’t take the time to think about their question first.
Meat smoking times really depend on what you are trying to accomplish with the smoking process. Proper meat smoking times vary from 5 minutes to 5 days depending on what you are smoking, and for what reasons.
You can infuse meat with smokey flavour in just a few minutes on a grill – I do this often with steaks that take 10 minutes to cook. Smoked ribs for eating today can take 4-8 hours, a full brisket or pork shoulder can take 10-16 hours, sausages and hams that you are smoking for a curing effect (preserve the meat) can take several days.
There are three basic levels of meat smoking times – and these are VERY general, and again they will all vary depending on the cut of meat, amount of heat and smoke among other things.
- Long enough to just add flavour to the meat – the meat still needs to be cooked perhaps on a grill, in the oven etc.
- Long enough to cook the meat and add flavour – the meat smoking time is long enough to also cook the meat. This is a typical ‘low and slow’ cook and smoke process
- Long enough to preserve the meat and add flavour – this is a very long process that actually changes the chemistry of the meat and preserves the meat against spoilage.
Most people at home fall into the #1 or #2 group above. You will also need to develop your own prefered level of smokiness which will also influence the overal meat smoking times. The most important thing is to be sure your food is properly cooked before you eat it. The safest way to do this is to use a proper meat thermometer to make sure that the meat you are smoking has reached a good internal temperature. What are the temperatures? I’ll put them in a post in the next couple of days.