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Why is smoking meat so popular? Well, for one thing, smoking meat truly changes the way the meat cooks and has a dramatic effect on the overall flavor. When smoking meat for long periods of time, the smoke breaks down collagen (a tough muscle tissue protein) making the meat more tender. This is an effect that cannot be achieved simply by grilling. Additionally, smoke from the wood changes and enhances the flavor of the meat and even changes the internal color to a light pink as the smoke works its magic. Farmview Market breaks down some of the best meats to smoke below.
To help you understand more about smoking meats, it helps to understand what smoking the meat actually does, which is to cook large, tough cuts of meat low and slow for a long enough period of time to break the meat down and make it tender, and to cook small, tender cuts of meat just long enough to kiss them with the taste of smoke and give them great flavor.
As long as you understand which type of meat you are working with (big and tough or small and tender) then you can work the magic of a smoker on just about anything. When hunting for the right meat to smoke, try to pick something that will benefit from the slow-cooking process. Don’t shy away from cuts with lots of connective tissue and fat, also known as marbling. A generous marble will make your finished product more flavorful and delicious.
While you may be tempted to toss your best cuts of beef and pork on the smoker, you’ll find that the better choices are, in fact, the cheapest and less desirable cuts. In reality, true barbecue – not hot dogs and hamburgers, but low, slow smoking – is based on cheap, tough cuts of meat.
Pork Shoulder (Boston Butt or Picnic Shoulder) – Generally divided between the picnic shoulder and the Boston butt, pork shoulder is among the least expensive cuts of pig and has a great ratio of fat to lean meat, making it perfect for slow smoking. The result is deliciously moist and flavorful pulled pork without the need for rubs or sauces. Save the juice that drips out of the foil when unwrapping your smoked pork butt. You can mix it back in when you pull your meat apart. Pulled pork is extremely versatile and can be used not only for sandwiches, but for tacos, shepherd’s pie, and even pulled pork grilled cheese. Yum!
Ribs – Pork and Beef Ribs are easy to smoke after you remove the membrane and rub them with your favorite spice rub. Fun to eat, tender, and tasty, ribs are a go-to meat for smoking. The secret to any rib is to cook it low and slow so you get tender meat and great flavor. When shopping for ribs, look for ones that have plenty of meat and a small amount of fat. The fat will keep the meat moist while it cooks, but you don’t want to pay for excessive amounts of it.
Pork Belly – Pork belly becomes bacon when it’s cured and smoked, but when you simply season and smoke it, you end up with something completely different in texture. Smoked pork belly is smoky, meaty, and deliciously rich!
Beef Brisket – Smoking transforms the naturally bland-tasting beef brisket into a juicy and tender slab of meat that’s easy to make, even for a beginner. The secret to creating a good smoked brisket is choosing the best piece of meat. Ample marbling and a healthy fat layer will keep the meat moist. For easy smoking, choose flat-cut brisket and look for the most tender piece you can get. Use a rub on your brisket for ultimate flavor.
Fish – Of all the seafood available, salmon is the best one to smoke. It’s quite a fatty and oily fish and when smoked has incredible deep flavors and makes a wonderful meal.
Sausage – Any grocery store-bought sausage can be transformed by cooking it in a smoker, which gives it a complex layer of rich flavors and is one of the easiest meats to smoke.
Turkey – A whole turkey is a fantastic choice of meat for smoking, and a smoked turkey makes for an incredible Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. Make sure to brine turkey thoroughly (about 24 hours), and smoke it more slowly than you would other kids of meat. Turkey is relatively low in fat, which can cause it to dry out if not cooked and brined well. Watch how much and what type of wood you’re using, as poultry absorbs smoke easily.
Smoking has become a time-honored cooking method for two good reasons: It brings out meat’s tenderness and treats you to an exciting blend of flavors. Find all your grass-fed, pasture-raised beef and Heritage Berkshire pork at Farmview Market, along with your holiday turkey. While you’re there, take advantage of our onsite butcher who can recommend new cuts of meat for you to try.
If you’re just getting started, or even if you’re a pro in search of some new ideas, there are plenty of great resources, recipes and articles online. We’ve included some of our favorite recipes for Smoked Boston Butt, Smoked Brisket, and Smoked Ribs below.
1 8-10 lb. Boston Butt
1 Bottle of Dry Rub or make your own
Fill the water box in the smoker up to the recommended level. Add the wood chips to the chip box. Preheat the smoker for 40 minutes.
Using a knife, make 3 or 4 long shallow slices in alternating directions (6 to 8 total) on the fatty area on the bottom of the butt, like a tic-tac-toe board.
Rub the butt liberally with your chosen dry rub on all sides.
Once preheated, set the smoker for 225oF – 250oF. Place the Boston Butt fat side up in the smoker.
After 4 hours of smoking, remove the butt from the smoker and place on a large sheet of aluminum foil (enough to wrap the butt).
If you are using a spritz, spray a healthy coat of it on all sides before proceeding to the next step. If NO spritz is used, proceed with the next step.
Seal butt tightly with aluminum foil and return the wrapped butt to the smoker, fat side up.
Insert the temperature probe into the butt through the foil. Continue to cook in the smoker until an ideal internal temperature of 200-210 degrees is reached.
Remove the butt from the smoker and allow the finished product to rest for 1 hour before serving.
1 brisket approximately 3-5 lbs.
1 bottle dry rub (or make your own)
Rub the brisket liberally with your chosen dry rub on all sides. Place in the refrigerator while the smoker is preheating.
Once preheated, set the smoker for 225 – 250 degrees.
Place the brisket, fat side up, in an aluminum foil pan and place in the smoker.
Cook until tender, about 6 hours (cooking time will depend on the size of the brisket and heat of the smoker). Brisket is ready when the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. **If you are using the optional spritz, spray the brisket every hour during the cooking process.
Transfer brisket to cutting board and let stand for 10 minutes. Thinly slice brisket across the grain and transfer slices to a plate. Pour the pan juice on top of the meat.
2 racks Baby Back Ribs (about 3 lbs. each)
Rub the ribs liberally with your chosen dry rub on all sides. Place in the refrigerator while the smoker is preheating.
Once preheated, set the smoker for 225 – 250 degrees . Place ribs in the smoker.
Cook ribs in the smoker until the meat reaches 190 degrees and begins to shrink back from the bones. **If you are using the optional spritz, spray the ribs every 30 minutes during the cooking process.
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