When smoking, before applying any rubs, pat the meat dry with paper towel as best as possible. By removing the extra moisture, it will allow for more smoke to infuse with your product.
If something you are about to cook that has been refrigerated, allow it to warm up closer to room temperature before placing it into your smoker. This will help minimise the strain on your unit which would have otherwise have to counter the cooler temperatures. The overall cooking time will be reduced if you allow this warming time.
Preheat your smoker slightly higher than what you desire to cook at. This way, when you open your smoker to add your product into it, the temperature should ideally reduce to the temperature you want to use straight away.
Some general rules of thumb for wood selection when starting out are:
Delicate flavoured protein (i.e. fish and poultry) = sweeter smoke flavour like alder or apple
Hardier flavourful protein (i.e. beef or game) = a stronger smoke like oak or pecan.
At the end of the day, everyone’s tastes are different. Once you discover a smoke flavour you love, feel free to experiment with it. Ultimately, there are no wrong answers as long as you enjoy the food you produce!
Click here for a general wood pairing guide to help you start out.
Bradley Smokers are a great unit for low and slow cooking, allowing you to create tender and juicy smoked delights. Unfortunately, the unit does have its limitations; due to the moisture and lower cooking temperatures inside the smoker, your food will not achieve the texture and appearance that is often desired.
It is known that something is cooked when a specific internal temperature is met, however this doesn’t necessarily mean that only one cooking method should be used! To get the best of both worlds, think about complimenting your smoker with other cooking equipment, such as a barbeque or a vacuum sealer. Not only will this add another level of flavour and texture to your product, but it can sometimes help speed up the overall cooking time.
Just remember – you still want to finish the product at a set internal temperature (IT) and not go past it. With chicken for example, we know that chicken is cooked when it achieves an IT of 74°C/165°F. To get a crispy skin with a nice bite through texture, complete the initial portion of the cook in your smoker, but only do so until 65°C/149°F IT. Once achieved, brush it lightly in oil, transfer your chicken to a preheated oven or barbeque at 190°C/375°F and cook for around 30 minutes until the finished IT is reached.
This logic can also be applied to other products, such as reverse seared steak or sous vide smoked turkey to name a few possible methods. The rest is up to your creativity!
Whilst it might be tempting to go out and get a large piece of brisket or pork shoulder to feed a large group for your first smoke, resist the urge. So you understand what unit your unit is capable of and how it operates firsthand, practice with something smaller and easier first, such as chicken wings or sausages. This way, if something goes awry, your lesson won’t be as costly one and dishearten your new interest. Once you develop more confidence with your unit, then try out some bigger technical cooks.
The Three P’s – Practice, Practice and Practice
The more smokes you notch, the better your product will become! Not only will your smoker be better seasoned, enhancing future cooks, but your smoking skills will grow too. Once you have mastered the basic smoking process on a particular product, start experimenting with different techniques and recipes, such as dry rubs, brines and cures to add another layer of flavour and texture.
Read the instructions
The instruction manual is often overlooked due to the excitement of your new acquisition. Taking a few minutes to go through the manual before operating your smoker will provide you an understanding of your unit’s capabilities, ensuring you do not inadvertently cause damage to the unit. It will also provide information on regular maintenance, helping you preserve the quality of your unit over its lifetime.
Invest in a digital thermometer
There are a lot of old wives tales about on how to gauge when something is ready to eat, but the only method backed up with science is cooking to a set internal temperatures. Regardless of the size and type of product you use, it will always be ready to eat when a specific internal temperature is achieved. This can only be measured with a cooking thermometer. Digital thermometers often come with pre-set internal temperature guides, allowing you to monitor your cook without opening up your smoker.
In short, smoke should be applied from the beginning of your cook.
Shorter cooks, such as chicken wings or burger patties, can be smoked for the entire duration if necessary.
Longer cooks, such as briskets and pork shoulder, can be smoked for the entirety of the cook, but don’t necessarily benefit from it. Once the meat reaches a certain point, (called ‘the stall’ – usually around 60-70⁰C (140 – 160⁰F) internal temperature), smoke will no longer be able to penetrate inside and add more significant flavouring. By only applying smoke to the first few hours of the cook, you will maximise your smoke flavour without having to use as much of the wood consumables.
To get the best results from any seasonings, apply the rubs the night prior to your cooking. This will allow more time for the flavours of your seasonings to marry with your product, creating a more flavourful result. If time is a factor, seasonings should be applied at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.
Hot smoking means that you are cooking your food with heat and adding a smoke flavour simultaneously.
Cold smoking is simply adding smoke to your product, without any heat. By cold smoking, you can add a smokey flavour to more delicate products, such as cheese or olives or create more sophisticated delights such as cold smoked salmon and bacon. See our Recipes section for inspiration on cold smoking.
For food smoking, time is generally not used as a measure of when something is cooked. Instead, it is recommended to gauge the internal temperature of your product to determine when something is ready to consume. That way, regardless of whether you have a 500g or 5kg piece, the internal temperature determining when something is safe to consume will be the same.
Internal temperatures can be measured with a food thermometer inserted into the centre of the thickest part of your meat. Digital thermometers (such as here) often come with pre-set temperature guides and alarms, letting you know when something is ready without having to cut the meat or even open your smoker. Check this link for a guide on internal food temperatures.
If you are unsure on how long something may take, allow ample time to complete your cook. If time becomes limited, consider transferring your meat into an oven or barbeque once the smoke has been applied.
Each of the removable wire racks and trays inside your Bradley should be cleaned after each use to prevent cross contamination. They can be cleaned by either placing them into a dishwasher or soaking them all overnight in a large tub before scrubbing. Keep in mind, if you have used Jerky Racks or Magic Mats, do not use any abrasive cleaning tool (e.g. scourers) for cleaning as this will ruin their non-stick properties.
The Door Seal
After each cook, remember to wipe down the door seals and the area it makes contact with on the smoker cabinet with a damp rag or paper towel. This will help prevent the build-up of the tar like element in smoke, creosote, which if left unchecked will interfere with the door’s ability to seal the cabinet. If your seal is not making good contact, you will likely be losing smoke and heat during your cooks, putting unnecessary strain on your unit.
The Cabinet Exterior
When cleaning the exterior of the unit, it is safe to use multipurpose cleaners to assist in removing general dust and grime. However, do not use any cleaning chemicals on or around the door seal; its contact areas; or inside the cabinet. Water is the only cleaning agent recommended to use on these areas to prevent toxic chemicals from affecting your future cooks.
The Cabinet Interior
Do not wipe the interior of the cabinet back to brand new clean – this will remove the smoky seasoning which adds flavour to your future cook. If you notice a deposit of fat developing on the inside walls of your smoker, either lightly wipe off the grime with a damp rag or dustpan brush after cooking.
The Smoke Generator
If you notice any ash build up on the bisquette burner, remove it with a paint scraper. Do not use any abrasive scourers or brushes to do this as it can cause damage to the burner plate. This will allow the bisquettes to burn properly in future cooks without causing damage to the burner plate.
It helps to clean out the smoke generator of bisquette debris after every few cooks. This will prevent the wood chip from impeding the bisquette pushing arm. A simple method is to invert the generator and gently shake out the wood chips. A better process is the open up the generator and clear out any dust or wood chip present.
The unit is not weather proof – treat it like you would any barbeque. Ensure you are keeping your Bradley protected from the elements when cooking and cover it when not in use. Either invest in a Bradley Smoker cover, use a tarp or pack the unit into storage. Be aware – weather damage is not covered under warranty!
What cleaning your smoker does to the flavour
The truth is that the insides will become more and more “seasoned” by the smoke as you use it. This is good and you do not/ should not clean the smoke stain off at all. The more “seasoning” the more the flavour. In fact we recommend that you smoke your new smoker for at least 3 hours before adding food. This is to rid the unit of its “new” factory fragrance.
What components of my smoker should I clean?
The only items that need to be cleaned are all the loose items such as racks, drip trays, water bowl and bottom tray. These can be done in a dishwasher or if you have been smoking some dish with a dripping marinade then a little elbow work may be required.
I usually spray my racks with olive oil prior to adding food as this makes clean up very much easier. If some of that sauce has made its way onto the inner walls then just use a damp sponge with hot water to clean off. The same applies to any door seals.
This type of smoke can end up destryoing the taste in the food and spoiling the meal. Many people that smoke on BBQ’s or even little fish smokers have to constantly monitor the process. Bradley smokers, on the other hand, have developed a digital process that eliminates this isse by automatically replenishing the wood bisquettes after a given time so that good clean smoke is maintained. This “set and forget” process makes smoking easy.
The second principle relates to large pieces of meat or poultry. Smoke for half the time that it will take to cook. In other words when I took on the Christmas Turkey I estimated that it would take about 5 hours so I set my Bradley to cook for 5 hours but only smoke for 3.
The last principle is the “taste test”. Because you are cooking at low temperatures nothing is going to be a disaster and be overdone. When using my Bradley I quite often open the door to look at, prod or even probe with a thermometer to see how it’s doing.
Finally the more you use it the more you get used to it. I seldom ever use the oven timer section on my Digital Bradley Smoker these days preferring to rely on my own experience.