Q. I received a meat smoker as a gift and would love to use it, but am not sure where to start. What do you recommend? – Lois, Little Chute
A. The desired outcome of smoke cooking is a product that is both flavorful and tender. Great flavor starts with buying a high quality piece of meat, and everything else flows from what we do to the meat. Brines, marinades, mops, rubs and sauces all make an impact on the taste of the finished product. Charcoal and wood also contribute significantly to the flavor. Great texture is achieved by successfully controlling both the temperature and the humidity inside the smoker. While a higher temperature will help achieve a great bark (crust) on the product, it also can cause your food to dry out. Most cooks wrap their product toward the end of cooking to help maintain moisture. Each smoked food needs to reach its desired internal temperature in order to be optimally tender. For example, beef brisket does best at about 210° F, pork shoulders at about 205° F and chicken legs and thighs at about 180° F. While these temperatures might seem high, they are where maximum tenderness is achieved. Have fun with your new smoker!