The Air Drying Technique You Need For The Best Smoked Meat And Fish

Smoking is a cooking method that dates all the way back to our cave-dwelling ancestors, as one of the oldest and most basic ways not just to preserve proteins but flavor them as well. However, modern barbecue enthusiasts have taken smoking to a new level with a wide range of powerful, easy-to-use smokers with features like automatic temperature control, while methods for more delicately smoking fish or other items continue to be refined.

One of the best ways to step up your next smoking session for any type of meat is decidedly low-tech. It's simple air-drying, an easy technique that, according to Food and Wine, requires nothing more than some time. Just pat the meat or fish dry to remove any surface moisture, and set it on a rack in your fridge. As the cool air circulates over the uncovered protein, it'll draw away more water, further concentrating the flavor of the meat. Then, remove your meat, and season and smoke it as you would normally. You may be shocked at the improvements in taste and texture.

The simple secret of better smoked items

If you're wondering how exactly this all works, it has to do with something known as a pellicle. According to America's Test Kitchen, the term commonly refers to a tacky, dry film that forms on the surface of meat or fish as proteins react to extended exposure to air. This film is critical for allowing smoke particles to stick better to the surface of the meat, amping up the flavor and increasing the preservative effects of the process. The amount of time you'll need to air dry your protein will vary, from just a few hours for steaks or smaller cuts to up to three days for larger pieces of meat. When the surface is dry and slightly sticky to the touch, it's ready to go.

No matter what you're smoking or how you're flavoring it, this one simple step is a perfect way to improve your next smoked dish with no equipment or techniques other than patience. Plus, that extra time can be used to whip up a few easy side dishes to complete your perfect meal.