The early arrival of evening, leaves turning vibrant colors and sparks of fire enclosing around wood herald the arrival of autumn. However, it takes more than a sweater and pumpkin spice to survive fall.
Every season brings change and an urge to do something to occupy your time. Want to know the best way to capture the end of a savoury summer? Smoke meat, and soak in the benefits as you watch the smoke wisp from the grill into the air, driving your neighbours to raging jealousy.
Can Smoked Meat Be Healthy?
Many diets focused on healthy eating point you towards fresh and steamed foods, but depending on how you prepare it, smoked foods can be healthy, too.
But, how do you smoke meat?
People have smoked meat for ages to preserve it. Meat gets exposed to smoke from wood, propane or charcoal, and it acquires the aroma and taste of the smoke — barbecue being the perfect example. This simple method results in a savoury, albeit questionably healthy vs. unhealthy product, but the answer is ultimately up to you and how you prepare your smoked meat.
Are There Any Benefits to Smoking Meat at the End of Summer?
Yes! The community pools shut down, and the nights get longer each week. What do you do with the remnants of summer? Light a pre-fall bonfire, and fire up the smoker to enjoy these benefits.
More Time on Your Hands
During the end of summer, you have more time on your hands to smoke meat and play with the quality and flavour, and pass the tradition on to your family while you spend time together. With the kids off from school, it’s easier to take a few hours out of the day. Host a “smoke-off,” and experiment with the different types of firewood and meat to get the best taste and bond. Here’s a tip: Chunks of cherry wood add sweetness to smoked ham.
It’s Not Freezing
You aren’t shivering over the grill while you test out the latest recipe. The air is warm, and it’s still light out.
Preserved Meaty Treats for the Cold
Smoked foods remind you of the bounty of the summer harvest. You have the perfect items to snack on when you don’t feel like heading to the grocery store in the cold. Smoke a few vegetables alongside your meats to use throughout the winter.
What Makes for Healthy Smoked Meat?
Ready to get started? When smoking meat, you must consider how well the meat will get cooked. Smoked meats take hours — a tenderloin will take about three hours, whereas brisket can take anywhere from 11 to 20 hours to smoke. Want something quick? Seafood can take 30 minutes to an hour, and poultry can take one to four hours. Hello, smoked duck!
Don’t take the meat off too soon, or you may find the same parasites in your smoked meat as you would in raw meat. The smoking process can release nitrates and nitrites into the meat — harmful carcinogens in excess. However, nitrates and nitrites prolong the shelf life and add colour to the meat. Watch the clock when you’re smoking!
Smoked meat contains low fats and high protein, in addition to other nutrients, depending on how you prepare the meat. Leaner meats prove healthier. Make your own marinade, so you can control the content and get better nutritional value, instead of too much sugar or too many calories.
Heat deli meats to steaming temperature before consumption and cook cold-smoked fish. Don’t overheat your meats, or you’ll expose them to harmful levels of carcinogens — a vinegar marinade helps combat that to some degree.
Smoking meat during the end of the summer makes for a perfect time to spend with family and prepare for the cold season. Now, all you need to do is decide on the types of wood and meat you’ll use!
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.