Before you head outdoors and begin smoking meat, make sure you know the basic safety guidelines to prevent injury, illness and other hazards.
1. Always Sanitize: Use a mixture of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach in a gallon of warm water to sanitize all work surfaces, utensils and equipment. Be careful not to cross-contaminate raw meats and dirty surfaces with cooked meats and sanitized areas.
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2. Don’t Mix Meats: Always separate raw meats away from cooked meats during storage and refrigeration.
3. Mind Your Temps: Microbial growth happens between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Meats need to be stored, cured and preserved in refrigeration below 40 degrees. When cooking meats, the internal temperature should reach 160 degrees to destroy bacteria that may cause food-born illnesses. Temperature abuse will increase risk of food poisoning and spoilage.
4. Use Fresh Meat: Prior to any preservation method, meat should be high quality and fresh. Aging is not necessary. Always thaw meat in the refrigerator.
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5. Understand Curing: Carefully follow instructions on commercially prepared cure mixes. If making your own, adhere to the recipe and measure ingredients accurately.
6. Smoker Check: Confirm the smoker is in proper working order and that your thermometers are calibrated correctly. Start smoking only after the recommended smoker temperature has been reached.
7. Smart Storage: Always store meat in the refrigerator or freezer after it has been properly wrapped.
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This article was originally published in the AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN™ Winter 2016 issue #205. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.