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Smoking Your Catch

By Luhr Jensen, 🕔Mon, Mar 21st, 2011


  


The curing and smoking of fish, game and domestic meats is an art that everyone can now enjoy. Your own old-fashioned, country-style smoked foods are easily and economically achieved with the portable Little Chief and Big Chief Home Electric Smokehouses.

The ability to traditionally smoke-cure beef or venison jerky, fish, wild game and sausage and to easily add delicate hardwood smoke flavors to your favorite cheese, poultry or meat, differentiate the Little Chief and Big Chief Home Electric Smokehouses from other outdoor smoker-cookers and barbecues.



Using a true smokehouse such as a Little Chief or Big Chief is the ONLY way you can produce fully-cured, smoked meats such as jerky and fish. Your smokehouse will allow you to make traditional, fully-cured meats, add smoke flavorings to any food or make your own high-quality sausage . . . three very different processes.

A smokehouse is quite versatile, so don't be afraid to experiment with it. The delicate smoke flavors of the five Chips 'n Chunks fuels (hickory, apple, cherry, alder and mesquite) will add zest to many of your favorite dishes. The aroma of the wood smoke permeates the meat or other food with a distinct, delicate flavor, adding mouth-watering tastes that generally aren't available in grocery store or even expensive delicatessen products.

SMOKE-CURING MEATS

The art and science of smoke-curing is a combination of the controlled infusion of salt into your food products plus the carefully regulated addition of heat to slowly drive a portion of the moisture out of the food product you are smoke-curing. The first part of this process is most easily accomplished by using one of the four "Luhr Jensen Smokehouse" cover-brine mixes, which are mixtures of salt, sugar, water and specially blended spices. The brine solution introduces salt into the food causing it to undergo changes that greatly increase preservation. Then when heat is introduced by means of an even, low-temperature smokehouse (the Little Chief or Big Chief), much of the moisture is removed and the food becomes firm and cured . . . but not cooked.

The brine solution cures and facilitates the infusion of smoke flavoring into the food, the sugar counteracts the natural bitterness of the salt and the water is simply the carrier. Select a glass, crockery, stainless steel or plastic container (don't use aluminum which, in conjunction with the brine, can taint the meat) large enough to allow the brine solution to completely cover the food. Depending on what you are smoking, use Luhr Jensen Smokehouse All-Purpose, Deluxe Fish, Jerky or Upland Game Brine Mix.
Prepare it by following package instructions or make your own brine by thoroughly mixing 1/2 cup non-iodized (iodine can impart a bitter taste) salt, 1/2 cup white, household sugar and 1/2 quart warm water. Once the sugar and salt have dissolved, add the remaining 1 quart of cold water. If the solution won't be used immediately, be sure to refrigerate it.

By introducing natural sweeteners such as honey, brown sugar, herbs or spices into the brine solution, you can obtain flavors limited only by your imagination.

To emphasize the simplicity of the smoke-curing process, it would be fair to say that ALL fish, meat or poultry can be deliciously prepared using Luhr Jensen Smokehouse brine mixes. Only the cycle time in the brine and the smokehouse will vary, depending on the type of meat, its thickness and quantity and your individual taste.

Described below are the simple steps used in the smoke-curing of fish.

1. FILLET:
Section the fish as shown and split it at the backbone. Remove all small bones, blood and ragged edges and cut into easy-to-handle chunks. Rinse them thoroughly.

2. BRINE:
Dissolve the "Luhr Jensen Smokehouse" brine mix following instructions (or make your own) in 1/2-quart of warm water. Once dissolved, add 1/2-quart of cold water and seasonings as desired. Completely immerse the fish chunks in the solution in a glass, crockery, stainless steel or plastic bowl (not aluminum). Soak thin chunks for 4 to 6 hours and thick for 8 to 12 hours in your refrigerator. NOTE: Cut soaking time in half if the fish or meat has been previously frozen. Having been frozen causes it to absorb the salt much more quickly than fresh meat.

3. RINSE & DRY:
Remove the chunks from the brine and rinse THOROUGHLY in cool water. Place them on paper towels and pat dry. Allow them to air dry for about an hour. When you see a glaze (pellicle) on the surface of the chunks, they're ready to load into your smokehouse.

4. RACK & LOAD:
On your kitchen counter, load the chunks on grills. Then take the loaded grills and rack (if top load model) or grills alone (front load) out to your smokehouse. Slip the rack or grills in, close the lid or door and plug the cord of your Little Chief or Big Chief into a 110V AC outlet.

5. FILL FLAVOR PAN:
Fill the smokehouse flavor pan with the desired fuel and slip it through the handy trapdoor onto the heating element. A pan full of fuel will start to smoke in 20 minutes or less and last about 45 minutes. Flavor smoke is NOT needed for the entire curing cycle. Two or three pans full usually are sufficient. Empty the pan, place it back on the element and just use heat to finish the curing process.

It is important that you understand the difference between the smoking and drying portions of the processing cycle. In many cases, a particular recipe calls for a total drying time of 6 to 12 hours or more, while at the same time saying to use only two pans full of flavor fuel. This means your smokehouse will only be "smoking" for about two hours, but the food will need more drying time to complete the curing process.

SMOKE-FLAVORING FOODS

The second process you can accomplish with your Little Chief or Big Chief Smokehouse is the addition of smoke flavoring to a wide range of foods prior to normal cooking. Note that with this process, meat, fish or poultry will require additional cooking while cheese, nuts, etc. will not.

Smoke-flavoring is NOT a drying/curing process as no brine solution is used. Your foods must be cooked, then refrigerated or frozen immediately afterward in order to preserve their freshness.

When smoke-flavoring, it is recommended that you pre-heat the smokehouse and have a dense smoke already generated before you place the food inside. There are five different Chips 'n Chunks wood flavor fuels available and, as with other seasonings, your personal preferences and imagination should be your guide.

ALDER - The sportsman's favorite. A good flavor for all game, seafood and fish.

CHERRY - Distinctive and delicious. Excellent for all dark meats and game. Combine it with other woods for new flavor sensations!

APPLE - The sweetest and mildest of all flavors. None better for turkeys and other poultry. Its subtle, velvety flavor may make it your favorite!

HICKORY - The commercial favorite and famous for its flavoring of hams and bacon. Zesty and exciting — guaranteed to please!

MESQUITE - Westerner's delight! Hearty, clean, smoky flavors. Great for all red meats and poultry. For both smoking and barbecue use. A classic example of smoke flavoring meat and then finishing the cooking process elsewhere is with steaks. In your preheated Little or Big Chief Smokehouse, place your favorite steak cuts for 10 minutes and smoke-flavor them using hickory or mesquite flavor fuel. Remove and then barbecue as usual. Delicious!

SAUSAGE - The third process you can accomplish in the Little Chief or Big Chief Home Electric Smokehouse is the making of fine quality sausage. In combination with the Home Sausage Kit and Luhr Jensen Smokehouse Sausage Seasoning Mixes, you can easily achieve professional results, allowing you to make several varieties of sausage, completely cured and ready to eat or store away (refrigerate or freeze) for a special occasion. The Luhr Jensen Smokehouse Sausage Seasoning Mixes are available in Polish, Summer, Texas Hot and Venison seasoning blends.

Shown below are the steps used to stuff a sausage casing like those found in the kit.

After the casings are packed with meat (processed using your favorite Luhr Jensen Smokehouse Sausage Seasoning Mix), they are tied off, hung in your electric smokehouse and then smoke-cured for 12 to 24 hours. You should periodically check the progress of the curing process to prevent over drying, particularly when the smokehouse is only partially full. Use two to four pans full of Chips 'N Chunks wood flavor fuel. The remainder of the cycle is for heat-curing and drying time. Also check and empty the drip pan regularly during the sausage-making process.

Consistent, dependable, even-temperature heat such as that provided by the Little Chief and Big Chief Home Electric Smokehouses is extremely important in the sausage-making process, especially in the consistent production of high-quality sausage.

STUFFING INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Slide sausage casing over 2" plastic tube.
  2. Water rinse to soften USDA-approved casing.
  3. Spoon sausage mix into tube.
  4. Tamp sausage mix into tube using packer/plunger.
  5. Casing on other end of tube stretches and fills.

PROPER TEMPERATURE

Your Little Chief or Big Chief Home Electric Smokehouse has been factory-tuned to provide exactly the proper temperature and air flow to remove excess surface moisture, raise the internal temperature of your food to approximately 165 degrees where it becomes pasteurized (one hour at 145 degrees or higher [internal temperature of the meat ), and finally, to provide an efficient and reliable smoke generator that will supply those old-fashioned smoke flavors to the various foods you are processing. The smoke not only marvelously flavors these foods, but also provides certain natural chemicals that penetrate the surface and assist in controlling the growth of various decay-causing organisms.

CARE, CLEANING & STORAGE.

Your Little Chief and Big Chief Home Electric Smokehouses have been quality-designed to give you years of trouble-free enjoyment. With normal care, the lightweight body, rack and grills should last a lifetime.
The grills and drip pan should be regularly cleaned. Simply brush off the residue and slip them into the dishwasher. A light coating of "Pam" or other non-stick coating is helpful. While the rack and inside smoking chamber do not need cleaning, an occasional wipe-down to remove smoke residue won't hurt.
Hard-curing of meats, smoke flavorings and professional sausage . . . they're all yours with the Little Chief or Big Chief Home Electric Smokehouse. It's a fun-filled adventure in culinary artistry and one which is sure to be enjoyed by yourself, family and friends.

IMPORTANT SMOKEHOUSE SAFEGUARDS

Read all operating instructions thoroughly before using. Little Chief and Big Chief Electric Smokehouses are designed strictly for outdoor use. Place on a well-ventilated patio or carport with a non-combustible floor, out of the wind. Maintain a minimum of two feet clearance between the smokehouse and any adjacent combustible material.

Do not touch the unit's surfaces with your bare hands when it is in use. It can be hot. Maintain close supervision when it is used near children or pets. Don't allow the cord to contact the edge of a counter, table or any hot surface. Plug only into an approved, grounded outlet. Never immerse the cord, plug or heating element in water or other liquids. Keep it out of the rain, and don't expose it to moisture. Unplug your smokehouse when it's not in use. Never operate it with a damaged electrical cord or outlet. If an extension cord must be used, ensure it is a heavy gauge, UL-approved, 3-prong (grounded) type of the shortest possible length.

Don't move the unit unless you have first emptied the drip pan, and don't place it on, or near a hot gas or electric burner. Start each smoking session with a clean, empty drip pan. Check it every two or three hours (more often if smoking foods with a high fat content) to ensure it doesn't overflow on to the heating coil, possibly causing a fire. Unplug the unit and allow it to cool before cleaning or performing any maintenance on components. Never leave your smokehouse unattended while it's in operation. Improper use, or use of attachments or accessories not recommended by the manufacturer, including any use of the Smokehouse in the shipping carton, may cause fire or other hazards and negate any warranties.

RECIPE BOOKS

Copies of the "Home Electric Smokehouse Recipe Booklet", which contains dozens of recipes and other helpful information on smoke-curing with the Little Chief and Big Chief smokehouses, or copies of Lue & Ed Park's 211 page "The Smoked Food Cookbook" are available. Call Luhr Jensen Customer Service at 1-800-535-1711 for price information or to order. Copies of the "Home Sausage Kit Recipes" booklet are also available.

For more about Luhr Jensen Smokers visit the Chief Smokehouse Page at: http://www.smoke-house.com

To contact dealers carrying these products visit:

Berry's Bait and Tackle
Fishing Pro Shops
Island Outfitters


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