Quick Recipes and Easy

How to Cure and Smoke Your Own Meats

In the days before man had refrigerators, curing meats guaranteed a supply of meat throughout the summer months when food poisoning from spoilage was a constant and ever-present danger. Even today, where proper refrigeration methods are readily available, cured meats are still an brilliant and wonderfully tasty way to make your very own restaurant or deli quality meats.

In order to cure and smoke your own meats, you will need a few things first. Obviously you will need something to hold everything in, so get a container made of stainless steel, glass, or plastic. Additionally, it must be large enough to hold the brine solution plus the meat. Aluminum, tin, or copper can react with the salts used in curing and cause the meat take on an off flavor and color. Food safe plastic buckets are perfect for this method.

The brine curing process takes a number of days, so if you are in more of a rush, the next item on your list should be a meat Injector or pump. This is essentially a huge syringe, or a pump system, that allows you to distribute pickle ingredients evenly throughout the interior of the meat to help in protection from harmful microbes. This process also allows the curing to start on the inside of the meat and work outwards, while the brine will cure from the outside in. Together these two elements will provide an even cure even with the the required wait times reduced significantly.

A smoker is obviously something that you have to obtain as well. Without it, it is pretty much impossible to smoke a piece of meat!

Now that you have everything you need, lets make our cure.

Ingredients for 5 Gallons Of Brine/Curing Solution – If you will require more than 5 gallons, this recipe is easily doubled and tripled. If you don’t need a full 5 gallons, you can cut this recipe in half or even one-quarter. You can brine as much product as you can submerge in your brine (without overcrowding).

A GOLDEN RULE OF CURING YOU MUST REMEMBER: DON’T SAVE OR RE-USE THE BRINE – IT SHOULD ONLY BE USED ONE TIME!!! THE RISK OF CROSS CONTAMINATION AND ILLNESS IS TOO GREAT TO EVEN THINK ABOUT RE-USING YOUR BRINE!!!

5 Gallons Water1 Lb. Canning Salt 1 Lb. Cure 1-1/2 Lb. Dextrose or Corn SugarChill the water to 38 F and dissolve all of the ingredients listed above in the water to make the brine/curing solution. Thoroughly trim the meat of stout and waste. Once trimmed, wash the turkey, chicken, bacon or ham with very cold water in order to keep the meat chilled and as close to 38 F as possible.

After washing, submerge the meat in the brine solution for 4-5 days, keeping the meat and brine at a steady 38-40 F. To keep the meat from floating above the brine, place a heavy plate on top to weigh it down. Larger cuts of meat, such as turkeys or hams, should be submerged for 5 days. Make sure you account for the weight of the meat and the level of brine in your container to prevent overflow and a mess.

As mentioned earlier, if you are in a time crunch and can’t wait 4 or 5 days, you can inject the turkey, chicken, bacon or ham with the brine/curing solution using an amount equal to 1/10th of the meats weight. For example, a 10 lb. ham would require 1 pound of brine for proper injection. After injecting the meat, place it in ice-cold water for 3-4 hours. Remove the meat from the water and submerge in the brine solution, keeping both the brine and meat at 38-40F for at least 48 hours.

Once the curing process has completed, thoroughly wash the meat in cold water. If your smoker is large enough to allow for hanging, such as in a vertical smoker or in a smokehouse, take the meat and place it in a smoking bag or hang it with hooks.

Tip: To prevent the bag from sticking and for simple removal, pre-soak the smoking bag in vinegar.

Place in a smoker which has been pre-heated to 130 F and heat at this temperature for 1 hour with the damper open. Close damper and apply smoke for 4 hours at 130 F. Raise temperature to 150 F and hold for 4 hours.

When cooking bacon, remove it from the smoker when the internal temperature reaches 135 F. For ham, turkey or chicken, raise the temperature to 180 – 185 F and hold until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160 F. Measure the internal temperature of the turkey or chicken by inserting the thermometer into the breast or the ball and socket joint of the thigh, making sure not to come into contact with any bones. Measure the internal temperature of your ham in the thickest part.

Once the meat has reached temperature, remove it from the smoker and immediately wrap in foil to rest. This resting period will allow the juices within the meat to distribute themselves throughout so they do not simply pour out when you cut the meat. Let the meat cool until the internal temperature drops to 100 F, then cut into parts for freezing or serve.

Using cures will cause the meat to turn pink in color, which is perfectly normal and safe. If this change in color is not desired, or you do not wish to use curing products, they can be eliminated from your ingredients. We recommend using the cure, as this will enhance the flavor of the meat, as well as better prevent bacteria and help in the smoking process.

HOWEVER, if you omit the cure you must preheat the smoker to 180 F and hold the product at this temperature for 1 full hour. After an hour, raise the temperature of your smoker to 200 F and cook the meat until the internal temperature reaches 170 F. Without using curing products you must cook the meat to these higher temperatures to prevent food poisoning. Once the meats have reached temperature, remove them from the smoker and wrap in foil. Place in a cooler to rest until the juices have had a chance to redistribute throughout the meat, and then cut into parts to freeze or serve.

Joe Johnson is a proud Texan and founding partner and chief pit-master with

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