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A Guide to Curing and Smoking Meats


By: Emily Murray

Before modern refrigeration technologies ever existed, people learn how to brine cured and smoke meat in order to preserve and store them for extended periods of time. These techniques proved to be very valuable during the summer months when heat and moisture spoiled food in a matter of hours. Today, learning how to brine cure and smoke meat curing and smoking is less of a preservation method and more of a culinary preparation. Many people love the taste and flavor of a cured meat such as prosciutto and want to try it themselves. If you want to take a stab at curing and smoking your own meats, follow the steps below to have your own readily-available supply.

The Right Tools For The Job
First, you need to get the right tools for the job. Most importantly, you need a quality container that can hold both the brine and whole slab of meat that you are planning to cure. Stainless steel buckets work great for this process because they are sturdy and don't rub off unappetizing flavors into the meat. Large glass and plastic bowls usually work well too. Next, find yourself a food injector. This is going to be used for injecting the brine into the center of the meat so that it can cure from the inside out. When combined with the effects of the external brine, the curing will progress evenly so that every inch of the slab is covered. This extra step will decrease the curing time greatly. Finally, you will have to purchase a meat smoker for smoking. They can be had for as little as $100 if you know where to look.

Cure For The Common Meat

Once you have all the equipment you need, you will need to prepare the brine. Preparation is one of the most common components when you are learning how to brine cure and smoke meat. Combine 5 gallons of water with a pound of canning salt, a pound of cure, and one and a half pounds of corn sugar. Mix the ingredients thoroughly and chill the water until it hovers around 38 degrees F. Next, cut all of the excess fat off of the hunk of meat and inject it with the brine. Then, completely submerge the meat in the brine for 5 days. If your portions are smaller, cut the brine recipe down but use the same proportions.

After curing your meat, rinse it off with ice cold water before hanging it to dry or placing it in a smoking bag. You will now need to prepare your smoker by preheating it to 130 degrees F for about an hour with the lid open. Once preheated, place your meat in the smoker, close the lid, and leave for 4 hours at the same temperature. Then, increase the temperature between 20 and 50 degrees, depending on how large the piece of meat is, and let it rest for another 4 hours. Open the lid and check the internal temperature of your meat at the thickest part. For most meats, the internal temperature should be about 160 degrees.

If the meat has reached the appropriate temperature, take it out of the smoker and wrap it up in aluminum foil right away. This will help keep the juices inside so that the flesh absorbs all of the flavors. Once the internal temperature lowers to about 100 degrees, you can unwrap the meat and begin to cut it. You can serve the meat immediately or freeze it for later use. Enjoy! Now that you know the basics of how to smoke brine and cure meat you will be able to try more recipes than you ever imagine – and maybe even create some unique ones of your own!

If you are looking for a cooking class to learn more about curing and smoking meats, find information on MasterChef cooking classes here.

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