How to Use a Smokehouse: the Ultimate Guide for Beginners

For a long time, you’ve wanted to try your hand on making some smoked delicacies for your family.

After considering among various types of smokers, you decided to choose a smokehouse. But you have no clue on how to use a smokehouse. Luckily, we are here to guide you through all the steps. 

So what are you waiting for? Jump right in and learn all the tips and tricks to use a smokehouse like a pro!

how to use a smokehouse smoker

Some smokehouse examples

How to Use a Smokehouse? 

how to use a gas smokehouse

A cedar smokehouse

Unlike other smokers, a smokehouse is a small enclosed building located outdoor, usually in the backyard. It is built out of wood, stones, or concrete blocks. 

A firebox, a room to hold the smoke, a place to place the food, and a draft control near the top of the bottom are four major features of a smokehouse that you need to familiarize yourself with.

Basically, a smokehouse’s purpose is to reduce airflow, enclose heat and smoke so that the food inside can absorb the flavor of the smoke itself. The result is the tangy, somewhat ‘smoky’ taste and the dark, crust-like bark of the food.

What to Put in the Smokehouse?

Many kinds of food can be put in the smokehouse. You can smoke fish, cheeses, sausages, vegetables, and even beverages like beer or whiskey.

But newcomers like you should start with the most common ingredient for smoking: Meats

	how to use smokehouse ark

A perfect combination of tenderness and juiciness

The meat can be beef, pork, lamb, or chicken. Which type of meat you choose is purely a matter of taste. Just remember, you don’t have to pick tender, choice cuts for the smokehouse.

Cheaper, tougher cuts will do just fine. The most popular smoking options are ribs, brisket, or pork shoulder.

You should choose the parts with plenty of intramuscular fat and collagen to infuse the moisture throughout the entire piece of the meat (and no, not ones with giant fat caps outside). This will ensure the juiciness of the finishing products. 

After washing and cutting the meat to your desired size, you need to season your meats for some extra flavor.

The two most essential seasonings are salt and pepper. You can also add extra herbs or spices or, in some cases, sauces to spice things up.

Prepare the Woods

You can’t just throw in random logs of wood and hope for the best. In fact, the wood you use will determine the final flavor of your meat. 

The first thing you must know is that hardwood is the right kind of wood to use in the smokehouse. Avoid pine and other sappy woods as they give off undesirable bitter flavor and tend to create too much smoke.  

Different types of wood bring different amounts of heat and smoke, as well as yield different tastes.

For example, hickory has a really smokey taste reminiscent of bacon, while maple wood is sweeter and milder. 

If you’re still confused about what to pick, we suggest using oak as it is easy to find and works well with most ingredients.

Not only the type of wood matters, you must pay attention to the moisture within the wood. Since freshly cut wood has more water in it, it will smoke extensively and burn more slowly. 

Meanwhile, seasoned (air-dried) wood is very low in moisture and thus burns much hotter and faster. 

Finally, before using, the wood has to be cut into chunks or chips. If you can’t do that, simply buy wood pellets from the hardware or grocery store.

how to use smokehouse wood chips

Don’t throw the whole log in

The Smoking Process

This is when you put the smokehouse to good use. Let’s build a good hardwood fire in the firebox, then let it burn to form a bed of red-hot coals.

Add handfuls of dampened hickory or other chips, or any wood that smokes well on top of the coals. 

Hang the food on cords or place them on the grill, then close the door of the smokehouse. You are more than ready to start smoking! 

But during the process, keep in mind the following things:

Temperature 

While smoking, keep an eye on the internal temperature of the meat as well as the smokehouse. You will need two separate thermometers: one placed in the meat, the other in the room where the meat sits. The second one, however, can be installed right on the smokehouse. 

Our target internal temperature for meat is usually between 195°F and 205°F. This temperature range is hot enough to kill dangerous bacteria while not overcooking the meat. On the other hand, the ideal internal smokehouse temperature is somewhere between 225°F to 250°F.

You will have to make sure that the smokehouse temperature is never too high. Why?

Because you need to give the smoke enough time to sink into the meat, allowing it to heat up internally before the outside is caramelized. 

To adjust the smokehouse’s temperature, you can add sawdust into the firebox to keep the temperature down and the fire smoldering. Or you can add twigs and shavings to increase the speed and temperature of the fire. 

Smoke

	how to use a masterbuilt electric smokehouse

Just remember, the best smoke is almost invisible. The goal here is to maintain a light-colored stream of smoke inside the smokehouse.

You’ll need to continuously add more wood to keep producing smoke as long as you need. 

A rookie mistake is creating billowing white clouds of smoke. While the smoke creates the signature smoky taste of smoked dishes, too much smoke will bitter the meat after just an hour. 

To produce more smoke, you can drop sawdust or some green hardwood twigs into the firebox. To reduce the smoke, let the excessive smoke flow out through the smokehouse’s ventilator and only add dry wood.

As some woods create more or less smoke than other types of wood, you’re free to test out and find the right amount of wood – and thus the right amount of smoke – for your preference.

Cooking Time and Other Factors

We can’t provide you with a cheat sheet on which meat needs how much time to smoke. However, you should take into account these factors to calculate the best smoking time:

  • Type of meat
  • Size of the cut (Bigger pieces, longer time) 
  • Temperature of the smokehouse
  • The amount of moisture on the meat (The more moist the meat, the longer the time) 
  • The weather (cold weather requires a longer time)

On average, the duration is from 6 to 8 hours, but some like brisket or pork butt can take up to 12 hours if you smoke a large quantity.

Another thing, you can place a water pan above the firebox. The water helps maintain a stable temperature inside the smokehouse and adds the much-needed humidity to keep the meat juicy.

You’ll need to refill the water now and then if you smoke for a long time.

The Differences Between Ways of Smoking Food 

how to build and use a smokehouse

Using a smokehouse, you can utilize two ways of smoking: cold smoking and hot smoking. But what are the differences?

Well, hot smoking both smokes and cooks the meat somewhere between 225°F and 300°F (or at least 165°F). This is our usual barbecue method, and the food is meant to be eaten right away. 

Meanwhile, cold smoking keeps the temperature around 90°F to 120°F, and only flavors the food without cooking it. The process of cold smoking can last for weeks, but its products can be kept for months after.

In Conclusion 

While smoked food is not healthy if consumed too regularly, sometimes it is still great to make yourself and your family some good old smoked ham or smoked ribs.

And what’s better than to own a smokehouse for that very purpose! And with that, we hope our guide has provided you with useful knowledge about how to use a smokehouse. Now get up and smoke some meat!

Posted in: BBQ

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