Hunting is one of the oldest forms of harvesting food for your family. It is a grand tradition and a fun hobby, but while many turn to freezing, grilling, or roasting wild game, they are missing out on one of the oldest and tastiest ways of preserving a successful hunt – Smoking! No matter if you built your own mega-smoker or are smoking on the grill, it is important that you do it right to get the most flavor out of your wild game. If you want to season your wild game with smoke, there are a few tips that you can use to be successful.
1. Weigh Your Meat
Successful smoking starts well before you put it in the smoker. After trimming away any fat on your cut of meat, it is important that you weigh your meat so that you know exactly how much seasoning and cure you will need. All quality recipes should have a seasoning recipe that is by the pound so that you can both successfully preserve and flavor your wild game.
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2. Try the Brine
If you are smoking a lean meat like pheasant, wild turkey, and yes, even venison, you should highly consider giving the meat a dip in a solid salt brine for a couple of hours before putting it in the smoker. If you are smoking the meat and don’t intend on storing it very long, a brine can give extra moisture to a lean meat.
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3. Low and Slow
Like a tender roast in the oven, the key to smoking is to do it low and slow. A higher temperature does mean a short smoke time, but it also means shorter shelf life. The longer a piece of meat spends in a smoker, the more moisture it loses and the saltier it becomes, both are key to a well preserved piece of meat. If you plan on eating it right away, than by all means you can cook at a higher temperature. However, if you want to make it last, keep it low and slow.
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4. Let it Rest
If you are eating meat right out of the smoker, like a piece of meat cooked elsewhere at a higher temperature, it still needs to rest. Let it firm up on the counter wrapped in foil for about 20 minutes before slicing. This allows it to absorb any juices left on the inside, gives the great-tasting smoke bark time to harden and you will still have a great hot piece of smoked meat.
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5. Jerky Done Right
If you are making jerky in the smoker and aren’t sure how to tell if it is ready, there is one simple trick – properly smoked jerky should bend without breaking while still feeling firm. If it is squishy like raw meat, than it needs more smoke time. If it breaks, then your jerky was cooked in the smoker rather than dried. You need to do the next batch on a lower temperature. If it does break when you bend it, you need to eat it right away. It will be less chewy than jerky and it won’t keep for long, but it will still taste pretty good.
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6. No Peeking
Follow the recommended cook time for your recipe, and definitely resist the urge to look at it every five seconds. Every time you open your smoker to look, it lets out both heat and smoke. This results in a longer cook time and less flavor on your meat where it should be. Check at the end of the recommended cook time and adjust as necessary after that.
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