How to Use A Smokehouse | A Comprehensive Guide for The Beginners

Do you know how to use a smokehouse? There’s no reason you can’t do it exactly as a pro would do! Let’s find out how.  

Smokehouses were immensely popular before the refrigerator became a device every house owns. Even though smokehouses are a traditional option for smoking food, people hold on to it for better taste and quality these days. 

If you don’t know what a smokehouse is yet, it’s a room to cure your food using smoke created by fire and woods. This procedure is famous for preserving food as well as creating a smoky flavor.

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Enough with the basics. It’s likely that you already know what a smokehouse is and what it does. Now it’s time for you to learn about using a smokehouse. Let’s get started. 

Step by Step Process of How to Use a Smokehouse 

Even though you can smoke different types of foods inside a smokehouse (cheese, vegetables, fruits, etc.), we’ll stick to the basics for now-meat. We’ll get to using a smokehouse now. Excited? You should be.

Pulling out perfectly smoked food from the smokehouse is a joy that can’t be compared with anything else. Ready?

  •  Step-1: Season Your Meat 

Seasoning is the easiest part of using a smokehouse. This doesn’t have to do anything with your smokehouse. You season your meat using preferred flavors.

What you’re using to season your meat entirely depends on your choice. If you’re only curing your meat for preserving it, only using salt will do. Other flavors can include pepper, paprika, rosemary, etc.

  • Step-2: Light the Fire

No matter how your smokehouse is built, it will have a firebox to create fire. The lowest rack of your smoker is for lighting the fire. 

Use wood and start a burning fire inside the firebox. This step can deviate from person to person. Some prefer adding the meat first and then light up the fire. 

You can also use charcoal as fuel if your recipe demands so. Just lay a bed of charcoal in the firebox and light them up. If starting the fire inside the smokehouse isn’t comfortable enough for you, light the charcoal outside and then transfer them to the firebox. 

  • Step-3: Add Wood Chips 

Once the fire has turned the wood into a bed of burning coals, it’s time to add the woodchips. These wood chips are for creating smoke and flavors rather than keeping the fire alive. Choosing the right wood chips influences the whole cooking process. 

Some wood will make way too much smoke. Many people assume that the more smoke wood produces, the better for the meat. That’s a common misconception. You don’t want that much smoke around your meat, or it’ll get ruined. 

I’ve discussed what wood chips you should go for in a section further. 

  • Step-4: Add Your Meat    

Using a smokehouse is convenient because you can hang your meat using the cords or place them on the grill. Once your meat is ready inside the smokehouse, your smoking starts. 

What you do after this step will vary depending on your preferred recipe. If you are preserving the meat, the process will go one way. If you’re cooking it, it’ll go another way. 

So, this is the final step of using your smokehouse. Close the door, of course. You can’t smoke your food while keeping the door open. 

Warnings

While using your smokehouse, remember that-

  • There should be a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the meat and the temperature inside the smokehouse. 
  • Too much doesn’t make your meat more delicious. Instead, it creates bitterness. 
  • Avoid undercooking your meat if you intend to eat it right away. Cold some of your meat only for preserving it. 
  • Use the right wood chips to create smoke. Different wood chips will create different flavors, so it’s essential to match the flavor with the main ingredient you’re cooking. 
  • Use the right kind of meat to smoke. When you’re using a smokehouse, you won’t need expensive meat cuts. Tougher meat cuts are more appropriate for smokehouses.  

What to Look for When Using a Smokehouse to Get Better Results

Some aspects are the primary determinants of how your smoked food will turn out. They’re also part of using your smokehouse in the right way. 

Meat

You don’t only smoke your meat inside a smokehouse. Salmon, chicken quarters,  vegetables, sausages, fruits, cheese, everything can be smoked using a smokehouse. But it’s better to use meat if you’re just starting out. The rest may need a bit of professional touch to execute with perfection. 

The good news is, you don’t need expensive tender meat to smoke using a smokehouse. You can go for ribs, loins, briskets, etc. These aren’t much expensive but cooks tenderly inside a smokehouse. As for what meat you should use, you can go for any meat, including chicken, beef, lamb, etc. 

Temperature

Remember that there’s two temperatures involved here. You’ll need two separate thermometers to monitor these temperatures. The first one is for checking the internal temperature of the meat. The second one will observe the smokehouse’s temperature. 

Your meat’s optimal temperature is between 195 degrees to 205 degrees. Between this range, the meat won’t get overcooked and won’t stay undercooked either. The smokehouse’s temperature, on the other hand, should be between 225 degrees to 250 degrees. 

Make sure the temperature is never too much higher than this range because too much heat won’t allow the smoke enough time to get absorbed in the meat. How can you adjust the temperature inside the smokehouse? Use sawdust if you want to decrease the heat and add wood chips to increase.

Time

Cooking time is crucial. However, there isn’t any constant time I can give you as a sheet. It depends on many factors. How big your meat is will determine how long it’ll take to cook the meat, for starters. The larger your meat, the more time it’ll need. 

Other determinants include meat type, recipe, etc. Usually, it will take around 6 to 8 hours. If you’re cooking something larger like briskets, it can take up to 12 hours to cook. 

If you’re new to using a smokehouse, which I’m guessing, you are, try to stick to a recipe specifically instructed for smokehouses. This way, you’ll get the information particularly applicable when using a smokehouse, including ingredients, temperature, and cooking time. 

Wood

Some wood created way too much smoke that can ruin the meat’s taste with bitterness. You can take pine, for example. Avoid these types of wood. Then comes taking flavors into consideration. Did you know that different wood can create different flavors? 

While wood chips like hickory remind you of smokey chicken, wood chips like maple will grant you a sweeter flavor. So, it’s really up to your preference. Now, will you use dry wood or we ones? Dry wood chips will burn fast and increase the heat. They don’t create much smoke either. 

So, use wet ones. They’re moist and take time to burn while creating a satisfying amount of smoke. 

Is Smokehouse Safe for Smoking

No matter what method you use for smoking your food, too much smoke absorbed by the food will harm your health. It’s crucial not to over-smoke your food using the proper way. Keeping the temperature optimal is very important. 

Another thing to consider is precooking or further cooking when you’re smoking meat. If the meat isn’t properly cooked, well, you know the danger of eating raw meat. 

Avoid eating directly without further cooking when you’re cold smoking. This method is mainly used for preserving meat. Some foods can be eaten after being cold-smoked, but those recipes are only suited for professionals. 

So, unless you are a professional cook, avoid eating cold-smoked foods. It’s always safer to go for hot smoking, and even then, you should pre-cook your meat to avoid any risk of getting sick. 

If you’re building a smokehouse, remember that smokehouses are not suited for enclosed places. You should always use open space to build a smokehouse like a yard. 

And, check with your landlord if it’s permissible to use a smokehouse or not if you are a renter.  

Cold Smoking and Hot Smoking with Smokehouse

You can use your smokehouse for both hot smoking and cold smoking. What’s the difference between these two? Let’s find out. 

Cold Smoking

Cold smoking is mainly for preserving the meat, not cooking it. You’ll need to use low heat and create more smoke to cure the meat. The process prevents any chance of growing bacteria that lets you preserve your meat without using a refrigerator. 

The optimal temperature for cold smoking is lower than 90 degrees. And that’s your meat’s temperature. Create enough smoke to cure the meat but avoid increasing the temperature. Other than curing meat, you can also cold-smoke salmon, cheese, vegetables, sausages, etc. 

Hot Smoking

Hot smoking uses high heat to cook the meat. It’s used when you want to finish cooking your meat using the smoking method and get directly to eating. The optimal temperature for hot smoking your meat is between 195 degrees to 205 degrees. 

Hot smoking can help you get diverse meals. But, preheating your food or further cooking is extremely important in this matter. It can be dangerous to eat the food right out of the smokehouse if it’s not cooked properly. 

How a Smokehouse Works 

If you want to utilize your smokehouse without ruining it, you should know how a smokehouse works. Because these aren’t so common nowadays, many people don’t know much about their function and operation. 

A smokehouse is an encapsulated room built to cure or cook your food. When you create a fire inside the smokehouse and add wood chips, it creates flavored smoke that whirls around the meat you put inside. Then, the muscular tissues of the meat absorb the smoke, get heated, and get smoked. 

The reason why I always emphasize monitoring the temperature precisely is that the whole outcome depends on it. You deviate a bit, and you’ve got yourself undercooked or burnt food inside. 

Not only this, but there’s also a chance that you’ll ruin the taste of your meal. So, take care of the temperature balance.  

What to Smoke in Your Smokehouse – Some of The Most Popular Recipes for You

Sometimes you wonder, what should I prepare inside the smokehouse? You can cook a variety of foods using your smokehouse. I’ve included a few examples below to make your job easier. 

  • Sausages

Sausages are a popular breakfast item if you’re considering cold smoking. Not all food can be eaten directly after cold smoking because there’s a chance it’ll stay raw. Sausages, however, are safe to eat even after cold smoking. 

  • Vegetables

Another smart choice is to do vegetables for any of your meals. You already know raw vegetables contain more vitamins and minerals than cooked ones. SO, cold smoking can be a great idea in this regard.

  • Briskets 

If we move towards hot smoking, briskets are a sensible choice to cook inside a smokehouse. You won’t need many spices either. Just stick to the basic ingredients, and don’t forget to add a water pan inside the smokehouse to keep the meat moist

  • Cheese

Another popular choice to smoke inside a smokehouse is cheese. You can make an addition of cheese to any of your meals. Smoked cheese makes everything better, doesn’t it? 

Conclusion

SO, there goes your complete guide on how to use a smokehouse. Did you get everything you wanted? If you inherited a beautiful traditional smokehouse or decided to build one, get everything straight before jumping into using it. Some people make the silliest mistakes while using a smokehouse and end up ruining their very first experience. Using the thermometers, for an instant. They don’t think the whole thing through, and halfway through the recipe, they realize that they don’t know how to monitor the temperature. Trust me, I’ve heard stories like this. I guess what I’m trying to say is get your instructions first before preparing the food exactly as you imagined. 

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