Start off with good quality meat, preferably pastured-reared and free from hormones. Anything that you would use for stew is good for smoking. Chef PJ believes in tasting the flavour of the meat and keeps spices and basting to a minimum, sticking with brine for pork and a simple salt rub for lamb and beef.
Smoking chips is for cold smoking – when the meat is cured and only exposed to the smoke for a short period for flavour. For hot smoking, wood is traditionally used to cook the meat. When choosing wood, pick something that smokes well and is sustainable like rooikrans (Acacia cyclops) which will give it a sweet, smoky flavour. Kameeldoring also works but gives a harsh intense flavour and is not sustainable. Oak, pecan and apple wood are also great alternatives, however, make sure that the wood you buy is organic, as any pesticides used will inevitably be absorbed by the meat.
A Weber or Big Green Egg works well.
You need a consistent temperature of 120 degrees Celsius to cook your meat and get the smoky flavour without drying it out. Make sure that your smoke is not black (this means that it is still too hot), but is rather blue/white in colour.
The most important thing about smoking is time and patience. The length of time it should smoke for is the same duration it would be kept in the pot if you were cooking it in a stew. A 100g steak should only take about 10 minutes. Obviously the bigger the piece of meat, the longer it will need to cook. Smoking meat too quickly at too high a temperature will result in meat that is tasteless, dry and tough.
Don’t be tempted to open the lid whilst smoking as this will result in temperature fluctuations which will inevitably affect the smoking time and end result. Don’t turn the meat: keeping it on one side is part of the process and is what makes the cooked product so unique and tasty. You can check it after about ¾ of the recommended cooking time has passed. Once the meat is soft and tender, it is cooked.
Use anything pickled to cut through the smoky flavours of the meat. Corn on the cob cooked over an open fire is another delicious option; pair with a glass of Spier wine – perhaps Creative Block 3, if you're serving beef.
Feeling lazy? Let PJ and his team at Hoghouse do the hard work. Head to Spier where the Hoghouse BBQ and Bakery kitchen will be open till 21.00 (last rounds at 23.00) this Saturday.