Why It's Crucial To Completely Thaw Your Meat Before Smoking

Smoked meat is a living testament that good things take time. After what often feels like endless hours of your best cuts of meat sitting in a smoker, the result is the juiciest, fall-off-the-bone-tender meat dish you've ever eaten — not to mention the rich flavors imparted by the smoke and charring process. You can even vary the taste according to the type of wood you use for smoking. However, to enjoy delicious smoked meat, you must get the process right, and it starts with completely thawing your meat before smoking.

Food safety is the main reason for thawing the meat first. Due to the low cooking temperature in a smoker, placing a frozen cut of meat there to defrost would take too long. As a result, there's a high chance the meat will linger at the "danger zone" temperature of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for too long hence risking bacterial growth and proliferation. This means the meat could get contaminated before it starts cooking and that would potentially lead to food-borne illness on eating the finished dish. Furthermore, meat that's completely defrosted will cook better and more evenly than when starting from frozen.

How to thaw the meat before smoking

The safest and recommended method of defrosting meat is in the refrigerator since the temperature will remain at a safe level throughout (less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit), therefore preventing bacterial growth. First, place the cut of meat in a bowl or a plate that'll catch the melting water or juices from the meat as it thaws. Pop it in the fridge making sure to place it on a separate shelf from the ready-to-eat foods. After an overnight stay or 24 hours, depending on the size of the meat, it should be fully thawed and ready for smoking.

Another thawing method is using cold water. Submerge the frozen meat in a bowl of cold water and keep changing the water every 30 minutes or so until the meat is defrosted. Remember to keep the meat in a sealed plastic bag during this process to prevent the meat from getting waterlogged and diluting its flavor. After about one to three hours, your meat will be ready to smoke.

The fastest way to thaw meat is by microwaving. This can take just a few minutes using the defrost setting. Rotate the meat frequently to avoid uneven heating. And once the meat is completely thawed, cook it immediately since some spots will have started cooking during microwaving.