Cooking with a smoker doesn't give you the precision of cooking in an oven, but it can impart delicious, smoky flavor to your meats. Cooking on a BBQ or smoker is a skill that every cook should learn. Follow our guide to get your meats to the appropriate temperature.
The general principle behind meat smoking is "low and slow," meaning that you cook the meat over a low temperature (about 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit) for a long time. This helps all of the juices to stay trapped inside the meat so it comes out tender. The long cooking period also helps the smoke permeate the meat to break down fat and connective tissue, leaving behind an incredible, sweet flavor.
No matter how you cook your meat, you want to ensure that it has been cooked to a high enough internal temperature to kill any bacteria that may be present. Undercooking your meat can lead to food-borne illnesses and even food poisoning, and no one wants that! Poultry, like chicken and turkey, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Ribs, both spare and baby back varieties, should reach an internal temperature of about 170 degrees. For pork, including shoulder, butt and brisket cuts, need to get up to about 180 for whole chunks of meat, 195 for pulled or shredded meat. If you are smoking produce, you don't need to worry about a specific temperature, as long as the food is cooked through.
The length of time you'll need to cook each type of meat in a smoker depends on a variety of factors, including the configuration and size of your smoker, the type of meat you are cooking, how that meat has been cut, the current weather conditions and more. As you practice, you'll get a better feel for how your grill works. Take the following as general guidelines to let you know if you are on the right track:
- Pork butt, shoulder and brisket - 1.5 hours per pound of meat
- Whole turkey (about 12 pounds) - 6.5 hours
- Turkey leg - 4 hours
- Whole chicken - 4 hours
- Quartered chicken - 3 hours
- Ribs - 5-6 hours
- Meatloaf - 3 hours
Using Meat Thermometers
Meat thermometers are an essential part to smoking and grilling your meat, which is why at Cookshack, all of our units have an internal temperature thermometer and a digital read out to tell you what temperature your unit is at. Also, our residential units include a meat probe and you can purchase purchase this accessory additionally for your commercial smoker. If you aren't smoking or grilling with one of our units, you must have a meat thermometer on hand, and remember this — as hard as it may be, try not to poke the meat with the thermometer until you are sure it's close to done. Every time you puncture it, you're letting the juices escape, so it's best to check it as few times as possible. Make sure the tip of the thermometer reaches the center of the meat for the most accurate temperatures.
For all your meat smoking needs, shop at Cookshack. We have a range of smokers for you to choose from and can help you find your perfect match.