Certified Angus Beef Grillmaster Explains What Happens When You Over-Smoke Your Meat

For meat lovers, few things are more satisfying than smoking ribs or brisket in your pellet grill or smoker. The challenge, of course, is reaching the Goldilocks effect where you avoid over-smoking your meat but still hit that perfect flavorful essence.

Chef Michael Ollier, Senior Brand Chef for Certified Angus Beef, offered Mashed a few exclusive tips to ensure you achieve your meat-smoking goals. First, always remember that smoking beef is more than simply a cooking method. "It's best to think of smoke as an ingredient," Ollier told Mashed. "And like any ingredient, too much of a good thing can ruin a dish." Just like salt and pepper, smoke is a flavor enhancer used to amplify the meat's natural properties — and if you use too much of it, you'll overpower your dish.

Next, skilled pitmasters always start with high-quality cuts of beef, like Certified Angus Beef cuts, which Ollier says "offer great marbling to take on the smoky flavors while still being juicy." Finally, decide if you're going to do anything else to the meat besides smoke it. When making strips, sirloins, and ribs, Ollier is a fan of first smoking them briefly and then searing them over high heat for crispy edges. But how do you avoid overdoing it with the smoke?

Think of the full picture when smoking meat

Ollier says the first step in the smoking process is to "give the wood time to burn and for the smoke to run clean" before adding your meat. If you put the meat in the smoker too early, you could be adding it to "dirty smoke," which tastes bitter. Choosing the right wood to smoke is also important. Ollier recommends whatever is local to your region, whether that is hickory, maple, pecan, apple, mesquite, or oak. The chef is partial to mesquite, which he said is known for smoking very hot and imparting a bold flavor — meaning you don't need a lot of it.

Knowing your wood and its smoke helps you better showcase the meat's flavor, whether you're using sausages or shoulder clods. When you balance the smoke with the right seasonings and sauces, your friends and family will see you as the ultimate pitmaster. Ace Hardware chef and 5280 Culinary owner Jason Morse agrees. "Many people err on the side of too much smoke," he told Allrecipes, explaining that smoke should be a "complement" to everything else on the plate. Combine these experts' advice with a guide on how to smoke almost any kind of meat, and you'll take your meat-smoking game to the next level.