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Using Your Smoker to Preserve Food

Could you imagine if you transported a pioneer from the 1800s to modern-day America and straight into the grocery store? Anyone from that era would be shocked to see how easy it is for us to get anything we need at any time of year. 

Thanks to modern refrigeration, we don’t need to smoke meat for food preservation anymore, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider trying. With a smoker grill, you can easily preserve meats, poultry, fish and even some fruits and veggies. Preserving food has worked for generations, and it will also help you learn more about the ingredients you work with. 

Cold Smoke vs. Hot Smoke

Before diving into what kinds of food you can smoke, you’ll want to understand hot versus cold smoking. Hot smoking involves choosing your fuel, then firing it up and getting a good smoke going at a low temperature. When your smoker starts consistently venting smoke, you’re ready to add something such as thinly sliced meat. The meat will take up the smoke’s flavor and simultaneously cook at a very low temperature. Back in pioneer days, hot smoking required building a structure called a smokehouse and lighting a fire inside, and then tending it for hours and hours. Today, fortunately, we have tools like Grilla pellet smokers that offer set-and-forget hot smoking for your favorite foods!

Here’s how it works: The hot smoke will add a protective layer to the outside of the meat, while the heat will safely bring the internal temperature up and also remove moisture. By the end of a hot smoke, the smoked meat should feel slightly tough on the outside — but not dry all the way through. 

When kept in a cool place away from moisture, hot-smoked meats can last for a while without going bad. That’s because hot smoking is also a method of curing meat, which means that it kills any bacteria inside and creates an environment that helps prevent further bacterial growth. 

Cold smoking also involves you firing up your smoker grill, choosing fuel and getting a smoke going. However, you must put your ingredient of choice in a small aluminum pan that you place in a larger aluminum pan filled with ice cubes or crushed ice. During the cold smoke, you’ll constantly replenish the ice to keep the ingredient from cooking much or at all. However, this process can be time-consuming, unlike the relative ease of a normal hot smoke on your pellet grill. You can use your Grilla Grill for almost any kind of cooking, but you won’t want to use it if you plan on cold-smoking your food.

Unlike hot smoking, the cold smoking process cannot preserve foods alone. Instead, cold smoking gives items such as tomatoes, butter and even salt a smoky aroma and taste. Essentially, a cold smoke changes the overall flavor profile of a food. 

However, without further preservation techniques such as canning, dry curing or dehydrating, the food will not gain any extra shelf life. That’s why cold smoking meat or seafood only works as a preservation method when paired with nitrate and salt curing or another curing process with antimicrobial properties.

Foods That Respond to Smoking

Throughout history, humans have smoked several types of food products — most commonly fish and meat. If you’re interested in preserving meat, making jerky from lean meat is a key function of a smoker. Fattier BBQ meats, such as beef brisket and pork butt, taste amazingly delicious when smoked — but they don’t gain much in the way of longevity due to their higher fat content.

Other foods that respond to smoking include fruits, vegetables, cheeses and ingredients used to make beverages such as smoked beer and whiskey. Cold smoking is often the smoking method of choice for these more delicate foods. You can also use your Grilla Grills professional pellet smoker as a dehydrator to remove any liquid from fruits or veggies, leaving them less likely to spoil.

Choosing the Right Wood for a Hot or Cold Smoke

Your fuel makes a difference in the ultimate flavor of your preserved items. Even if you rub down the meat with seasonings, spices and sugars, you’ll get something different from hickory wood pellets than from mesquite or apple ones. Almost any fuel that produces a constant stream of smoke will work. Just avoid pine or wood that’s too dry, as both won’t burn correctly and will leave you high and dry.

If you have any more questions about how to preserve meat by smoking, contact us today. You can also check out our recipes to get started on a cold or hot smoking adventure. 

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Holland, Michigan 49423