We’ve all had that disappointing time when the first bite of your glorious smoked creation tastes a bit more bitter than expected! It’s important to identify what went wrong so you can learn from it. Let’s look at what causes this bitterness, and more importantly, how we prevent it. The key is to control the smoke using the vents, fuel source, and wood and develop the best bark and flavor on the meat.
What Causes Smoked Meat To Taste Bitter?
Heat, smoke, and time. The three fundamentals that create delicious barbecue. But, If things go wrong at any stage during these steps the overall smoke and taste of the meat suffers. Not controlling these processes can quickly lead to over smoking, and build up of a bitter substance called creosote.
Over Smoking: What Is Creosote?
The process of over is a carbon residue called which is formed with incomplete combustion. This thick residue travels within the and imparts onto the outside of the leaving that distinctly unpleasant over-smoked smell and taste. comes from the thickness and amount of , as well as the compounds and combustion byproducts within it. One of the biggest contributors to bitterness in
An important lesson to learn as a beginner is to avoid , a sign of clean and properly controlled combustion., even though it looks like it’s going great it’s doing much more harm than good. It’s a clear sign something is wrong with the combustion. You want a very thin, almost
How Do You Avoid Creosote When Smoking Meat?
Common mistakes that lead to more build-up and over are:
- The coal isn’t hot enough or is burning inconsistently.
- The airflow is too restricted not allowing complete combustion.
- Using too much .
- The coal or is burning too hot.
Easy things to do to avoid when :
- Wrap your for example, or when it’s reached your desired smokiness. By wrapping it, it continues the cook without allowing any other smokiness from coals or impact on the . in butcher’s paper or aluminum foil once you are satisfied with the bark, like on
- Don’t go overboard. If you’re using a unit, you only need 2-3 chunks throughout the first 50% of the cook to impart a delicious . Dial it back and you will find your smokiness to be much more balanced.
Don’t be tempted to use just any wood lying around, and always avoid softwoods for smoking with. Softwoods naturally contain much more sap which is very pungent and adds unpleasant flavors in the dirty smoke. All natural hardwood will burn much more cleanly and evenly.
If your smoked meat tastes bitter often it may be that the wood you are using is providing too heavy of a smoke for the meat. This is seen more often when using strong smoking woods like mesquite or hickory. Although great at providing a stronger smokiness in a shorter amount of time, which makes them great woods for smoking chicken wings or smoking ribs, they can overpower a brisket or pork butt over longer smokes.
Avoid using any charcoals with additives as these can contribute to the unpleasant flavor of the meat. If possible, it’s best to use high-quality and all-natural lump charcoal for smoking, as it heats more effectively and over longer periods of time compared to briquettes.
Make sure your pieces are more-or-less the same size and don’t add all the dust that you find at the bottom of the bag, as this can cause an unpleasant, . This ensures an even combustion to help control temperature.
When charcoal combusts it releases heat and compound byproducts which contribute to the smoke and flavor of the meat. One of the key benefits to smoking with charcoal as a fuel source is that it helps provide the traditional barbecue flavor, burns consistently and over long periods of time.
How To Fix The Problem
Salvaging The Remains
If you’ve already got yourselves some over smoked meat the best thing to do is salvage it the best you can. Smoke doesn’t usually penetrate all the way to the centre. Depending on how over smoked the meat is, if you’re lucky the bitter flavor won’t be all throughout. Simply start slicing off the exterior and keep as much of the good meat as you can.
Prevent It From Happening Again
The best way to fix over smoked meats is to learn from it and prevent it from happening again. Identify what caused it and make changes for next time.
The most common cause of bitterness comes from thick white smoke. You need to get a very thin blue smoke, a clear indicator of cleanliness and consistency. Avoid overloading the firebox, and ensure you even size coals and wood. Control the temperature using the vents and slowly bring it up to temperature and start smoking when you have an even blue smoke.
If you suspect it’s the wood or charcoal you’re using that’s causing the over smoking, try changing it next time to test it out. If you’re using a strong smoking wood like mesquite or hickory, try using a more mild smoking wood, like apple, peach, or maple, depending on what you’re smoking. Be sure your charcoal is dry and in reasonably even sized pieces.
If it’s simply that the meat was in the smoker too long simply take note and set alarms or check more regularly on your smoker.