What Is Smoked Meat?

A whole chicken can be rubbed with spices and cooked in a smoker.
Charcoal is often used to provide the heat in a smoker.
Sliced pastrami, a type of smoked meat.
Cold smoked foods may include salmon.
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  • Written By: Robert Ferguson
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2014
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Using smoke to cook or preserve certain types of meat and fish produces what is called smoked meat. The practice of using smoke as a method to cook or preserve meat has been around for centuries. To produce the smoke, various types of hardwoods or certain plants are allowed to smolder in a smokehouse, grill or meat smoker. The smoke produced by these hardwoods cooks, preserves and adds a unique flavor to the meat.

There are several types of methods used to prepare meats, poultry and fish when using smoke. The cold smoking method adds smoke flavor to meats without fully cooking them. The smoked meat is then fully cooked by baking, roasting, or grilling.

Hot smoking adds the smoked flavor and fully cooks the meat using a combination of heat and smoke. The smoked meat is then ready for the table or simply reheated later. Hams and ham hocks are a good example of hot smoked meat that is intended for reheating.

Smoke roasting uses a combination of smoke and an oven to cook the meats. Hardwood chips are placed in a pan in the bottom of the oven. The smoldering chips produce the smoked meat flavor while the oven bakes or roasts the meat until fully cooked.


Various fuels are used to heat the hardwood chips, with the most common being charcoal or propane. Types of hardwoods used for making smoked meat are oak, hickory and maple, just to name a few. The chips are typically soaked in water to prevent them from catching on fire during the smoking process.

Some common types of meat smokers are vertical smokers, box smokers and commercial smokehouses. Vertical smokers have a fire in the bottom that heats the hardwood chips that smoke the meat on racks above. Box smokers typically have what is called a two-box method, where the fires are separated from the food. The smoke and heat are diverted to an adjacent box that houses the meat. Commercial smokehouses are large buildings where meat is smoked and packaged for resale.

Popular types of red meat suitable for smoking are ribs, hams and roasts. Poultry products that are typically smoked include chicken and turkey. It is also common to smoke some types of fish. Smoked meat is popular throughout the world and different cultures smoke all kinds of meat and fish, as well as vegetables and cheeses.


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