Curing and smoking are age-old practices of food preservation. Whether living off the grid or mastering this new technique for fun, learning how to cure and smoke meat will result in some seriously tasty meals.
Curing Your Meat
Simply put, curing means to preserve meat in salt. The salt removes moisture from your cut, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and other pathogens. It also keeps the meat from rotting. For a more enhanced flavor, you can even add sugar, herbs and spices to the mix.
You can rub the mixture of salt and other ingredients on the meat--dry curing--or brine your meat in a salt solution--wet curing.
Smoking Your Meat
You can smoke your meat in a digital electric smoker, charcoal grill or gas grill. Once your smoking method is determined, you can choose the wood that will offer the best flavors to complement your meat:
- Mesquite — Bold, producing a full smoky aroma. Best used only for beef brisket.
- Hickory or oak — Less assertive than mesquite, offering moderate flavors that pair well with a wide range of meats.
- Alder, apple, cherry or pecan — Delicate flavor additions that offer a subtle complement to complex seasonings.
You can also use fruit peels, herbs and cinnamon sticks to add additional flavors to your smoked meats.
Guide to Temperatures for Smoked Meats
According to the USDA, meats should reach the following internal temperatures in order to be considered safe for consumption.
|Type of Meat||Internal Temperature|
|Veal, Beef, Lamb, Pork|
|Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb:
|Poultry breasts, roast||170°F|
|Poultry thighs, wings||180°F|
Pre-cooked (to reheat)
|Fin Fish||Cook until opaque and flakes easily.|
|Shrimp, Lobster, Crab||Exterior should turn red, meat should turn an opaque pearl color.|
|Scallops||Cook until milky white to opaque, should be firm.|
|Clams, Mussels, Oysters||Cook until shell opens.|
As a quick note, before you begin curing and smoking your meat, make sure that it’s been thoroughly washed and refrigerated at the right temperature to prevent illness.