Why should I smoke meat?
There are several reasons why it is desirable to smoke meat or sausage. First, smoked meat has a distinctive color. The combination of cure and smoke elicits the signature mahogany color that smoked meat is known for. Smoking also gives meat a much different flavor than fresh meat. Hard woods, such as hickory sawdust, emit a delicious flavor when used to smoke. Similarly, flavored wood chips can be used to give a cherry, apply or mesquite flavor to your meat.Your favorite fresh sausage recipe can be completely transformed by adding cure and smoking the sausage rather than preparing it fresh. Finally, when compared to fresh meat, smoked meat is given additional preserved qualities. The smoking process emits acids in the meat which create a skin on the outside layer of the meat. These acids prevent the growth of surface mold or bacteria in the meat.
How do I know when the smoking process is complete?
Sausage is typically smoked at temperatures between 165° and 170° F. Sausage is done when the internal temperature of the meat reaches 152° F. This temperature may vary depending on the product you are smoking. For example, smoked turkey requires an internal temperature of 160° F before it is safe to eat. The amount of time required to smoke sausage varies depending on the size of casing you are using and the amount of sausage loaded into the smoker.
Using a smoke generator makes this process even easier. These units will pump smoke into the smokehouse for 5-10 hours so you don't have to continually refill the sawdust pan. The meat will virtually smoke itself while you sleep!
What is the difference between hot and cold smoking?
The main difference between hot and cold smoking is the temperature of the smoke. When cold smoking, the temperature of the smoke may be as low as 60-70° F. This can be acheived by distancing the source of the smoke from the interior of the smokehouse and adding cold air to the hot smoke. Expensive units are available which have a cooling mechanism built into the smokehouse, allowing the conditions for cold smoking to be reached. Similarly, if you are using a smoke generator on the outside of your smokehouse, distancing the generator from the unit will help cool the smoke before it reaches the product.
Cold smoking, unlike hot smoking, isn't a continuous process. Intermittently throught the smoking process the smoke is stopped, exposing the product to smoke-free air. The result of cold smoking is a drier, saltier product with a stronger smoked flavor. It is common for fish, such as salmon, and cheese to be cold smoked.