Smoke Meat For More Than Flavor
By Pamela Redwine
Where there’s smoke, there’s well-flavored meat and poultry. Using a smoker is one method of imparting natural smoke flavor to large cuts of meat, whole poultry, and turkey breasts. This slow cooking technique keeps them tender, too.
Smoking is cooking food indirectly in the presence of a fire. It can be done in a covered grill if a pan of water is placed beneath the meat on the grill; and meats can be smoked in a “smoker,” which is an outdoor cooker especially designed for smoking foods. Smoking is done much more slowly than grilling, so less tender meats benefit from this method, and a natural smoke flavoring permeates the meat.
Cook food in smokers made of materials approved for contact with meat and poultry. Don’t smoke foods in makeshift containers such as galvanized steel cans or other materials not intended for cooking. Chemical residue contamination can result.
When using a charcoal-fired smoker, buy commercial charcoal briquettes or aromatic wood chips. Set the smoker in a well-lit, well-ventilated area away from trees, shrubbery, and buildings. Only use approved fire starters — never gasoline or paint thinner, for example.
Follow the manufacturer’s directions for igniting charcoal or preheating a gas or electric outdoor cooker. Let the charcoal get red hot with gray ash — about 10 to 20 minutes depending upon the quantity. Pile the charcoal around the drip pan for smoking. Add about 15 briquettes about every hour. The most satisfactory smoke flavor is obtained by using hickory, apple, or maple wood chips or flakes. Soak the chips in water to prevent flare-ups and add about 1/2 cup of chips to the charcoal as desired.
Use Two Thermometers to Smoke Food Safely
To ensure meat and poultry are smoked safely, you’ll need two types of thermometers: one for the food and one for the smoker. A thermometer is needed to monitor the air temperature in the smoker or grill to be sure the heat stays between 225 and 300 °F throughout the cooking process. Many smokers have built-in thermometers.
Use a food thermometer to determine the temperature of the meat or poultry. Oven-safe thermometers can be inserted in the meat and remain there during smoking. Use an instant-read thermometer after the meat is taken out of the smoker.
Cooking time depends on many factors: the type of meat, its size and shape, the distance of food from the heat, the temperature of the coals, and the weather. It can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to smoke meat or poultry, so it’s imperative to use thermometers to monitor temperatures.
Smoke food to a safe minimum internal temperature.
• Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops may be cooked to 145 °F.
• All cuts of pork to 160 °F.
• Ground beef, veal and lamb to 160 °F.
• All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
If using a sauce, apply it during the last 15 to 30 minutes of smoking to prevent excess browning or burning.
Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature.
Does Grilling Pose a Cancer Risk?
Some studies suggest there may be a cancer risk related to eating food cooked by high-heat cooking techniques as grilling, frying, and broiling. Based on present research findings, eating moderate amounts of grilled meats like fish, meat, and poultry cooked — without charring — to a safe temperature does not pose a problem.
To prevent charring, remove visible fat that can cause a flare-up. Precook meat in the microwave immediately before placing it on the grill to release some of the juices that can drop on coals. Cook food in the center of the grill and move coals to the side to prevent fat and juices from dripping on them. Cut charred portions off the meat.
Recipe of the Week
By Pamela Redwine
Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast halves or chicken tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, cut crosswise into ? inch slices
2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
16 medium mushrooms, stems removed
16 cherry tomatoes
1 cup fat-free reduced sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
2 tablespoons dried mint leaves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon peel
Chopped parsley (optional)
4 cups hot cooked couscous
1. Alternately thread chicken, eggplant, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes onto 16 metal skewers; place in large glass baking dish.
2. Combine chicken broth, vinegar, oil, mint, basil and oregano in small b owl; our over kabobs. Cover; marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning kabobs occasionally. Remove kabobs from marinade; discard marinade.
3. Preheat boiler. Coat broiler pan and rack with nonstick cooking spray. Place kabobs on rack; broil 6 inches from heat source 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is 165 F. Turn kabobs halfway through cooking time. * Stir lemon peel and parsley, if desired, into couscous; serve with Kabobs.
Makes 8 servings
· Or, spray grid with nonstick cooking spray. Prepare coals for direct grilling. Grill kabobs on covered grill over medium –hot coals 10 – 15 minutes or until chicken is 165 F, turning kabobs halfway through cooking time.