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Need answers to some smoking basics

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I became a newbie to this board and to the smoking hobby when my in-laws gave me a Masterbuilt Sportsman Elite electric smoker from Cabelas this past Christmas.  I am a bit overwhelmed and confused from all the info I have got off this message board over the last few days so I'm hoping someone can give me some clarification.  I have I've been doing Jeff's 5 day course and some of the info he is teaching us in his course seems to conflict some of the info I am reading on this board.

 

Yesterday his course had a recipe for his brine but I noticed it did not have instacure #1 added to it.  When should you use instacure #1 on meat you smoke, whether you add it to a brine or a dry rub?  Jeff's brine recipe said to only keep the poultry in his brine for 10 to 12 hours to avoid it getting too salty but Pops says 2 to 3 days for brining poultry.  Yesterday morning (thursday) I added a bunch of chicken legs and thighs to pops brine which I plan to smoke today (friday).  I also added 4 wild turkey breasts to Pops brine yesterday morning which I plan to smoke this sunday (fathers day).  I just don't want to ruin the meat by making it too salty so any input is appreciated.

 

Do you all think its a good rule of thumb to use a cure such as instacure#1 to all meat/poultry/fish you smoke?  Or is there an exception?  I personally like to brine all meat before I smoke it so should I just add the instacure #1 each time to my brine?  Or do you suggest I put it in my dry rub instead?  Obviously I want to make sure I do this right because I don't want to make my family sick from me not following some simple steps to prevent botulism.  I also saw how some were differing in their opinions on rinsing meat but I guess if I make it a rule of thumb to brine all my meat then I don't need to worry about the rinsing issue.  Or is there some meat you suggest I rinse and not put in a brine?

 

Jeff talked about injecting the meat with the brine if you wanted to but I thought I read that you should not inject meat without instacure #1 because if it was contaminated you would be pushing the bad germs into the center of the muscle.  Or is the rule that if you do inject without instacure #1 then you must follow the 40 to 140 in 4 rule to prevent illness?  Others mentioned that its best not to inject the meat until its surface temp gets above 140 F.  Or does that only apply if you did not use instacure#1?  I thought I read some where that using instacure #1 is more important when smoking wild game.  Is that true?  Also, should you add instacure #1 to any liquid you inject into the meat while its being smoked?

 

I'm curious as to what you all do after you apply the dry rub.  If you had the meat in a brine then do you immediately put it in the smoker after applying the dry rub or let it set in the fridge longer for the rub to season it?  Do you rub the meat with olive oil after you apply the dry rub to help the rub to stick to the meat better and then put it in the smoker?  Some had noted to pat the meat dry with a paper towel after taking it out of the brine so its surface will get tacky and thus make the rub stick better and allow the smoke to penetrate the meat better.  However, if you add olive oil or mustard to the surface of the meat wouldn't it remove that tackiness and thus defeating the purpose of patting it dry before adding the dry rub?

 

My smoker came with a built in electric meat probe.  At the touch of a button I can find out the internal temp of the meat without opening the smoker doors.  Would you insert that probe into the meat at the very beginning of the smoking process?  If so you do suggest sterilizing/cleaning the probe first and if so with what?  Vinegar or alcohol?  Or would you wait and open the doors after an hour or so to find out if the surface of the meat is past 140F before inserting the built in meat probe?

 

In the past I had liked to smoke at 180 F so the meat did not dry out from high temps but from what I have read from some on here, they suggested never to smoke below 200 F.  Others mentioned the governments rule that no restaurant should ever smoke meat below 225 F.  Is there a chart you all follow for time and temps of certain meats you smoke?  Do you like to start out high and then go low?  Do you like to raise the temp at the end to finish it off?

 

I know I am going to get some varying opinions from my questions but for right now I am just looking for some good "rule of thumb" answers to follow since I am a newbie.  As I continue to use my smoker and read this board I am sure I will develop my own way of smoking meats but for right now I just don't want to ruin the chicken I am smoking for my in laws 50th anniversary party tonight and the wild turkey breasts I am smoking for my family on fathers day so any input is appreciated.  Thanks in advance for taking the time to answers these questions for me.

post #2 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by motsyball View Post
 

I became a newbie to this board and to the smoking hobby when my in-laws gave me a Masterbuilt Sportsman Elite electric smoker from Cabelas this past Christmas.  I am a bit overwhelmed and confused from all the info I have got off this message board over the last few days so I'm hoping someone can give me some clarification.  I have I've been doing Jeff's 5 day course and some of the info he is teaching us in his course seems to conflict some of the info I am reading on this board.

 

Yesterday his course had a recipe for his brine but I noticed it did not have instacure #1 added to it.  When should you use instacure #1 on meat you smoke, whether you add it to a brine or a dry rub?  Jeff's brine recipe said to only keep the poultry in his brine for 10 to 12 hours to avoid it getting too salty but Pops says 2 to 3 days for brining poultry.  Yesterday morning (thursday) I added a bunch of chicken legs and thighs to pops brine which I plan to smoke today (friday).  I also added 4 wild turkey breasts to Pops brine yesterday morning which I plan to smoke this sunday (fathers day).  I just don't want to ruin the meat by making it too salty so any input is appreciated.

 

Do you all think its a good rule of thumb to use a cure such as instacure#1 to all meat/poultry/fish you smoke?  Or is there an exception?  I personally like to brine all meat before I smoke it so should I just add the instacure #1 each time to my brine?  Or do you suggest I put it in my dry rub instead?  Obviously I want to make sure I do this right because I don't want to make my family sick from me not following some simple steps to prevent botulism.  I also saw how some were differing in their opinions on rinsing meat but I guess if I make it a rule of thumb to brine all my meat then I don't need to worry about the rinsing issue.  Or is there some meat you suggest I rinse and not put in a brine?

 

Jeff talked about injecting the meat with the brine if you wanted to but I thought I read that you should not inject meat without instacure #1 because if it was contaminated you would be pushing the bad germs into the center of the muscle.  Or is the rule that if you do inject without instacure #1 then you must follow the 40 to 140 in 4 rule to prevent illness?  Others mentioned that its best not to inject the meat until its surface temp gets above 140 F.  Or does that only apply if you did not use instacure#1?  I thought I read some where that using instacure #1 is more important when smoking wild game.  Is that true?  Also, should you add instacure #1 to any liquid you inject into the meat while its being smoked?

 

I'm curious as to what you all do after you apply the dry rub.  If you had the meat in a brine then do you immediately put it in the smoker after applying the dry rub or let it set in the fridge longer for the rub to season it?  Do you rub the meat with olive oil after you apply the dry rub to help the rub to stick to the meat better and then put it in the smoker?  Some had noted to pat the meat dry with a paper towel after taking it out of the brine so its surface will get tacky and thus make the rub stick better and allow the smoke to penetrate the meat better.  However, if you add olive oil or mustard to the surface of the meat wouldn't it remove that tackiness and thus defeating the purpose of patting it dry before adding the dry rub?

 

My smoker came with a built in electric meat probe.  At the touch of a button I can find out the internal temp of the meat without opening the smoker doors.  Would you insert that probe into the meat at the very beginning of the smoking process?  If so you do suggest sterilizing/cleaning the probe first and if so with what?  Vinegar or alcohol?  Or would you wait and open the doors after an hour or so to find out if the surface of the meat is past 140F before inserting the built in meat probe?

 

In the past I had liked to smoke at 180 F so the meat did not dry out from high temps but from what I have read from some on here, they suggested never to smoke below 200 F.  Others mentioned the governments rule that no restaurant should ever smoke meat below 225 F.  Is there a chart you all follow for time and temps of certain meats you smoke?  Do you like to start out high and then go low?  Do you like to raise the temp at the end to finish it off?

 

I know I am going to get some varying opinions from my questions but for right now I am just looking for some good "rule of thumb" answers to follow since I am a newbie.  As I continue to use my smoker and read this board I am sure I will develop my own way of smoking meats but for right now I just don't want to ruin the chicken I am smoking for my in laws 50th anniversary party tonight and the wild turkey breasts I am smoking for my family on fathers day so any input is appreciated.  Thanks in advance for taking the time to answers these questions for me.

Pop's brine is a curing brine. There is a BIG difference between a curing brine and a simple salt brine like Jeff teaches. A curing brine is used for things like ham and bacon. A salt brine is used to help the meat retain its moisture during cooking. Do not use Cure #1 unless you absolutely know what you are doing.

post #3 of 13

As for injecting, the 40-140 rule is that you need to get the internal temp from 40 to 140 in less than 4 hours. When you have a cured item that rule does not really apply but as I said above, curing is a completely different game from smoking. 

 

I would not use the built in probe unless you have checked it in boiling water to make sure it is correct. I always wait until something has been in the smoker for a few hours before inserting the probe so the surface has a chance to cook and eliminate the surface bacteria.

 

You should not be smoking at 180 or less unless you are trying to cold smoke. Jeff's recipes are generally all for hot smoking which is 225 or above.

 

It sounds like you might want to stick to Jeff's recipes for now before you start to branch out and use things like Pop's brine or Cure#1 (or any cure for that matter).

 

There is a lot of good info on here but it can get overwhelming if you try to take it all on at once.

 

Good luck. 

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bmaddox View Post
 

Pop's brine is a curing brine. There is a BIG difference between a curing brine and a simple salt brine like Jeff teaches. A curing brine is used for things like ham and bacon. A salt brine is used to help the meat retain its moisture during cooking. Do not use Cure #1 unless you absolutely know what you are doing.

Bummer.  So I guess I need to get all that chicken and turkey out of the instacure brine right now so its not too salty?  Would you put it back in plain water to try and get some of the instacure out of it or would you just add it to a brine from Jeffs recipe?  Or have I ruined all that meat with instacure and I need to throw it out?  Pops brine mentioned using it for poultry. 


Edited by motsyball - 6/19/15 at 7:23am
post #5 of 13

You can cure poultry but you end up with a different finished product than standard smoked poultry. The cure in the brine will not make it too salty but like I said it is a different product. 

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

I guess my finding out about instacure was when I was searching online for smoked wild turkey breast recipes and I found this one online that said to use instacure.  That is when i decided to do a search on this message board about it and it took me to Pops brine recipe.  So do I need to get it out of the brine with instacure and put it just in plain water?  Its only been in it for 24 hours.

 

http://honest-food.net/2014/04/28/smoked-turkey-breast-recipe/

post #7 of 13

I think you may be falling into the "I read too much" trap.  There is a lot of information and opinions on this site,  And a lot of it is not clearly stated or it is in reference to something else.   You also may be trying too hard.  Its "Q," relax, it will be good.

 

I do a dry brine these days by just rubbing salt on the meat, letting it sit overnight, then washing it off.  If you brine, make sure your rub doesn't contain salt, or the food may be to salty.  

 

I jam my meat probes into the meat when I put it on the smoker.  Other sanitise their probes with alcohol and not insert them until at least 4 hrs have gone past.  I figure that with the meat going all the way to 205 ( for pulled pork ) that any nasties that survived the salt brine and 205 temps won't be killed off by a little alcohol rub on the probe.  But that is just me.  I would never tell somebody else to change what they think is safe.

post #8 of 13
Leave the chicken and turkey where it is. It'll be fine. As has been mentioned, what you'll end up with is cured smoked chicken and turkey. Nothing wrong with it, but it will have a different flavor and texture. The white meat won't be all that different, it'll be more moist and the flavor will be more intense. The dark meat will look and taste like ham.
As for "rules of thumb":
1. Cure #1 or instacure is primarily used as a safety measure for meats that will be cold smoked to avoid the growth of botulism spores. It does also change the flavor and texture of meat so some use it strictly for that reason even when hot smoking.

#2 the 40°-140° rule is a safety measure to avoid the growth of bacteria in the "bacterial danger zone". It's a good idea to follow it but the rule itself has a safety margin built in, so don't obsess over it.

#3 there are a lot of opinions about injecting. It's generally accepted that whole intact muscles are "sterile" inside, but will have bacteria on the surface. Therefore people tend to advise to avoid piercing the muscle before the interior is at 140°. In reality, the surface bacteria will be killed off within a very short time in a hot smoker. In addition, the salt in just about any rub you apply will kill off most bacteria before the meat reaches the smoker. If you're worried, wait 30 minutes before inserting your temp probe. And if you inject, follow the 40°-140° rule. Simple as that.

#4 it's a good practice to smoke uncured meats at 225° and over for reasons stated above about the bacterial danger zone. It's been proven time and again that you can get a quality finished product at smoker temps as high as 350° or more, so using ultra low temps below 200° is not only unnecessary for things like pork butts, brisket, chicken and ribs, it's putting those who will eat the food at a higher risk of food poisoning.

The most important "rule" is that you have fun, enjoy the process and spend quality time with family and friends. Following basic food safety guidelines will keep everyone safe.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 

Do you all add water to the drip/catch pan in the bottom of the smoker when smoking chicken or do you only add water to it when you are smoking meats for several hours such as ribs, butts and brisket?

post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by motsyball View Post
 

Do you all add water to the drip/catch pan in the bottom of the smoker when smoking chicken or do you only add water to it when you are smoking meats for several hours such as ribs, butts and brisket?

Most people on here using a Masterbuilt Electric don't use any water. It turns the cooking chamber into a steam bath. 

post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bmaddox View Post
 

Most people on here using a Masterbuilt Electric don't use any water. It turns the cooking chamber into a steam bath. 


Makes sense.  Last night I smoked the chicken without adding water to the pan and it was great.  The instacure made meat a bit pink and you could taste the instacure a little but over all it was great chicken.  I am finally learning all the acronyms everyone uses on this site.  Yesterday in day 4 of his BBQ course, Jeff mentioned that MES is for Masterbuilt Electric Smoker.

post #12 of 13

Glad your chicken turned out great.  

 

Around here, if you ask one question, you'll get 10 different answers (all of them right).  You've gotten some good advice here already.

 

Like they said---relax and enjoy.

 

Gary

post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by motsyball View Post
 


Makes sense.  Last night I smoked the chicken without adding water to the pan and it was great.  The instacure made meat a bit pink and you could taste the instacure a little but over all it was great chicken.  I am finally learning all the acronyms everyone uses on this site.  Yesterday in day 4 of his BBQ course, Jeff mentioned that MES is for Masterbuilt Electric Smoker.

When I had an MES I learned from this site to use sand instead of water in the water pan.  It seemed to help stabilize temperatures.  I do the same thing in my current propane smoker.  

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