By Karen Sheviak

Meat smoking, is a practice that was developed long ago as a method to preserve beef before the era of refrigeration. Today, we have the comfort of easy preservation, but meat smoking is still popular. Why? Because it creates unmatched flavors. Although, meat smoking is a time consuming process, it's not a difficult one. Whether you have a smoker or are adapting an outdoor grill, start by choosing wood chips to flavor your meat. Different wood chips, such as apple, cherry, pecan or maple, impart different flavors to the meat.

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If this is your first-time trying out meat smoking, boneless rib-eye steak is a good choice for a novice. They are tender to begin with, and because they are boneless, the smoking time will only be an hour or two at the most.

You'll Need:

  • Smoker or grill
  • Charcoal
  • Metal or foil tray with water
  • Wood chips

Prep Work:

Thaw it Out:

If they are frozen, thaw steaks thoroughly before cooking. Because meat is smoked at relatively low temperatures, it will not thaw quickly enough to keep the meat at a safe temperature. Bacteria grows in the "danger zone," between 40 F and 140 F, so meat should either be stored below that temperature, or cooked at a higher temperature. Thaw meat in the refrigerator, in the microwave or in a sink of cold water, replacing the water every 30 minutes.

Marinades & Rubs:

The acidity in a marinade can tenderize meat and help the other flavors infuse into the steak. Marinades typically contain an acid, such as vinegar, wine, beer or salad dressing, along with oil, herbs, and other spices. Tender steaks such as rib-eye don't require marinating, but it won't hurt to add it. If you are using a marinade, when finished leave the steaks to marinate in the refrigerator. Another option is a dry rub, which usually contains a variety of dried spices, herbs, powdered garlic, and other seasonings. Using your hands, rub the spice mixture onto the steaks and refrigerate until ready to smoke.

Meat Smoking:

Use approved equipment for smoking steaks. Purchase a smoker or adapt your grill to use as a smoker. In the smoker, preheat the charcoal until it is hot and covered with gray ash. Then separate the coal into two piles. Place a pan of water between the piles and place the steaks on top. Add briquettes every hour to maintain the temperature. You can also add soaked wood chips, such as apple, maple or hickory, to the charcoal to improve the flavor. Keep the lid closed and the vents open.

Stay safe by frequently monitoring both the meat temperature and the grill temperature. If yours doesn't have a built-in thermometer, buy one and ensure the cooking temperature stays between 225 and 300 F. Use either an oven-safe thermometer that can stay in the steaks while they smoke or check them after you remove them from the smoker. The steaks should reach a temperature of 145 F, which takes between one and two hours.