There are many ways of cooking steak and different recipes have different cooking methods. Those methods can be grilling, cooking in an oven or even on a pan. Possibly the best and the most popular method is the smoking of meat.
What is smoked meat? For those of you who don’t know the method, it is basically a method of preparing or processing food/meat whether its red or white meat that originated from the Paleolithic Era. You simply surround the meat in a smokey chamber while cooking it at low temperature for a very long time.
Smoking adds a distinct flavor to the meat that’s absolutely ravishing and adds to the meat’s appearance through Maillard reaction, making it look even more delicious. When this method is combined with curing, it acts as a preservation method for the meat where it can be preserved for a long time. The drying action of the smoke and the different phenol compounds present in wood smoke is the one that helps in the meat’s preservation.
So, what’s the origin of smoked meat? Where did it all begin?
History of Smoking meat
The origin of smoked meat is believed to trace back to the caveman eras. When fire was discovered, the primitive cavemen didn’t have chimneys or anything to lead smoke away from the cooking area. So, a lot of smoke was around the fire/cooking area. The early man would hang the meat to dry them over fire. The effect of smoking to meat was then discovered when man found out that the smoked meat would have a different taste than the non-smoked ones. And an added advantage was that the meat would last longer since the smoke acted as a preservative.
Sometime later, man would combine salt with the smoking process which would help in the preservation process even more and add flavor to the meat.
Since then, smoking of meat has been continued to be used and over the years, it has become a very important culinary tradition and culture all over the world.
The smoking act as a method of preservation declined during the 20th entry due to the invention or discovery of many other preservation method. A popular method is the use of chemical preservatives.
However, during recent times, it has again become an important culinary practice for many cultures but of course with more creative methods of production.
Examples of regions that uses this method is the Pacific Northwest America and the Scandinavia where smoking of fish is done. Europe and the United States also smoke foods e.g., hams and sausages in large scale by using much more sophisticating modern processes.
Elements of creating smoked foods.
Even though there has been improvement of technology in the modern world in the form of machines and gadgets, the processes for creating a delicious smoked food are mostly the same.
The following are the foundations of a good smoked food:
- Combination of salt and water to form brine or simply just dry salt. During the smoking process, the salt enters the meat’s protein cells and hydrates them. The result is an overall delicious juicy meat. This is the most important part of smoked food. You can add other flavorings to add more flavor if you wish but salt is the most basic/primary of additives.
- Leaving/putting the meat in an open air for about 1-3 hours for a good drying. This act creates a protein coating called pellicle that evenly absorbs the smoke flavor and acts as a protective barrier to the food when you smoke them.
- Choosing of the right type of wood for smoking. Different types of woods impact different flavors and different flavor strength to the meat. For example, hickory, oak maple and pecan are known to add a delicate to medium smoke flavor while mesquite adds a very strong flavor. Additionally, alder is known as the best wood for smoking salmon because of the smooth mild flavor it adds. Oak is best for beef and pork. It is also important to note that the type of soil and climate the wood was grown influences the smoke flavor.
- Heat, time and smoke during the whole process are very important factors to be considered. Different foods require different heat level, smoke level and the duration for the process. Be careful of very high temperatures over long duration because it may lead to excessive loss of moisture and loss of flavors from the meat’s fat content. Over smoking can also overpower the food’s flavor.
You can also check out this video for more information on smoked meat