This book starts and ends in my backyard, with my wife, my two brothers, and me sitting around a fire, cooking dinner. In between, we will travel around the globe; touch on the history of Homo sapiens; talk about chemistry, biology, and physics; describe simple building techniques; and breathe in a lot of smoke. But, in the end, this book is about being in your backyard with your loved ones, eating delicious food you’ve smoked in a smoker you built.
To be successful at smoking meat, you must consider the three main elements: the meat itself, the temperature at which you smoke the meat, and the source of the smoke. These elements can be brought together in different ways to create myriad delicious smoked products. It’s important to consider the structure of the meat itself: Is it fatty or lean? Tough or tender? Also think about what kind of cure you’ll be applying, whether it’s a rub, a brine, or a full cure. Another decision is whether to hot smoke — fully cooking the meat — or cold smoke, which preserves and cures the meat. The smoke can come from sawdust, woodchips, or split logs — or from nonwood sources like straw or tea. Once you have a firm grasp of these three elements, as well as the way in which they interplay, you’ll have the knowledge you need to experiment freely and produce delicious smoked products in your own backyard.