How to smoke your own meats at home

Try this simple meat-smoking method for your next braai. You’ll need to start early and feed your smoker often, but the results are sublime. 

What you need to know

• The smoke not only infuses meat with a distinctive flavour but also ‘cooks’ it to tender perfection.

• Two energy sources are required: hot coals and moist wood chips, which create prolonged smoke.

• Smoking (‘cooking’) time depends on the size of your original fire and how well the lid you use retains
the smoke. Domed lids allow the smoke and heat to circulate well.

• Flames are not your friend. The coals must be hot enough to sustain heat without creating fire.

• Smoked meat needs to be rested afterwards for a fairly long time, to allow the muscle fibres to relax and juices to settle. If you want to serve the meat hot, carve it and pop it back in the smoker for 10 minutes or heat it up in an oven.

How to build your own smoker

If you don’t have a small Weber braai, you will need:

• a braai drum and grid

• briquettes

• tongs (for moving coals)

• a fitted, domed lid (we used a large stainless-steel bowl). Ensure that the lid covers the meat entirely and can withstand prolonged heat.

The wood

Buy bags of ‘smoking chips’ at any garden or hardware store for around R120. Some come pre-flavoured but we used plain wood chips with our own flavourings.

Smoked chicken

Tip: There’s no need to rotate the bird while smoking. Just ensure the smoker is well ventilated.

The easiest one to master, and it takes the least amount of time. Serves 4–6

• 1 whole (1,2–1,6kg) chicken

• ¼ cup chicken spice rub (see below)

• ½ lemon

• 3 sprigs rosemary

• 2 cloves garlic

• ¼ cup honey

• ½ cup apple juice or water

For smoking

• 4 cups wood chips

• 4 rosemary sprigs

• 2 cups water

To serve

Coleslaw and/or potato salad

Spread the spice rub all over the chicken and leave to cure for 45 minutes.

Soak the wood chips and rosemary sprigs in water for 30 minutes, then drain.

Preheat the braai to medium-coal stage. Scatter 1½ cups wood chips over the coals.

Rinse the chicken and stuff the cavity with lemon and rosemary. Mix garlic, honey and apple juice or water, and use it to ‘baste’ the chicken.

Once the wood chips are smoking, place the chicken on the braai grid, breast side facing upwards. Cover with the lid.

Leave it to smoke, adding extra cups of wood chips, for 1½ to 3 hours, depending on the heat and size of the bird. Poke the breast with a skewer: if the liquid runs clear, the chicken is cooked; if it has a pink hue, return it to the smoker for a further 30 minutes.

How to get smokin’

1 Start with 15 briquettes and light the fire. They should burn to the correct coal heat (when white ash forms on the outside) within 20–25 minutes. If the coals are too hot, you may end up burning your wood chips away!

2 To start off, scatter 1½ cups of soaked wood chips over the hot ashy coals to cover them in a single layer. If you add too many chips, the coals will be smothered and the smoker will die.

3 Once the wood chips start smoking, place the meat on the grid and cover.

4 Add a half or full cup of chips every 20–30 minutes to keep a steady stream of smoke.

5 Take care of your coals. Add one briquette every 20–30 minutes to have a constant supply of heat.

6 If the coals get too hot or the wood chips catch fire from fat dripping, spritz with water to decrease the heat and create more steam and smoke.

Spice rubs

Make these dry rubs ahead of time – they will keep for up to three months in an airtight container. Simply mix the ingredients in a blender and decant into a bottle (the brisket rub can be put straight into a bottle and shaken well to mix).

Sherry-smoked brisket

This one takes a good 10 hours to make but the taste’s worth it. Serves 6

• 1 side of flat brisket, with 2cm fat around it

• 1½ cups brisket spice rub (see opposite page)

For smoking

• 10 cups wood chips

• 2 cups water

• 1 cup Old Brown sherry

To serve

Toasted pitas/panini, cucumber and red-onion salad and BBQ sauce (see recipe under pork ribs, left)

Rub the spice mix all over the brisket and leave it to cure at room temperature for an hour.

Soak wood chips in sherry and water for 45 minutes. Drain.

Prepare the smoker to medium-coal stage. Scatter 1½ cups wood chips over the coals.

Once the chips are smoking, place the brisket on the grid, fatty side up and cover. Smoke it for 4 hours, then turn it over and smoke for another 4 hours. Keep feeding the smoker with wood chips and hot coals as needed. For
the last 2 hours, make sure the fatty side is up again.

Remove from the smoker and rest for at least 45 minutes.

Any leftovers? Tear up bits of brisket and add to couscous to make a salad with grated carrot, braaied onion and parsley, or sun-dried tomatoes and feta.

Five-spice pork ribs

These require some attention and take a little longer than the chicken. Serves 6–8

• 2 sides pork short ribs

• 4T Dijon mustard

• ¾ cup pork-rib spice rub (see opposite page)

For smoking

• 9 cups wood chips

• 1 cup vinegar

• 1 cup water

• 1 cup apple juice

For spritzing

• 1 cup water

• 1 cup apple juice

• 1 cup apple cider vinegar

BBQ sauce

• 1 cup sweet chilli sauce

• ½ cup soy sauce

• 2t red curry paste

• 2t sesame oil

• 6 drops fish sauce

• 1t roasted chilli paste (from Asian shops)

• 1 lime, juice and zest

To serve

Garlic bread/rolls and apple salad

Soak the wood chips in vinegar, water and juice for 40 minutes. Then drain.

Preheat the smoker to medium-coal stage. Scatter 1½ cups wood chips over the coals.

Spread mustard over the ribs, then spice rub.

Once the chips are smoking, place the ribs in the smoker with the fat facing up and close. Leave to smoke for 90 minutes.

Add spritz ingredients to a spray bottle and give it a good shake to mix. After 90 minutes, start spritzing the ribs every 15 minutes.

Smoke the ribs for 3 hours before turning them. Then smoke them for another 2 hours and turn them again. Continue to spritz. Add extra cups of wood chips and coals throughout.

Remove the ribs and rest the meat for 45 minutes.

Just before serving, brush the ribs with BBQ sauce on both sides.





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