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When I first started smoking meat, I would always let my meat sit out before going onto the smoker. I was taught to do that with steak and burgers, so I assumed you would do the same when smoking meat.
However, the more that I smoked meat, the more that I learned that letting your meat sit out before smoking is unnecessary, doesn’t give you any benefit, and in some cases can do more harm. Here is why you shouldn’t let your meat sit out before smoking.
Should I Take Meat Out Of The Fridge Before Smoking?
It is not necessary, nor do we recommend taking your meat out of the fridge before smoking it. Letting meat sit out for more than 30 minutes before smoking offers you no benefit and puts you at risk of being in the danger zone too long.
Putting your meat on the smoker straight from the fridge is recommended and even has the added benefit of giving you a more pronounced smoke ring (more on this below).
It is quite common however, for people to prepare and leave their meat out while their smoker comes up to temperature. While it won’t benefit you at all, it is perfectly fine to do as long as you don’t let your meat sit out for more than 30 minutes.
Why Do You Let Meat Sit Out Before Cooking?
When grilling steak or burgers, you are supposed to let your meat come to room temperature before cooking. This allows the meat to cook evenly and uniformly ultimately leading to a juicer finished product.
While this is a great technique to use when cooking meat, it is only used when grilling. The high temps and direct heat cause meat to cook fast. If you throw cold meat on the grill, the outside is going to cook right away while the inside is going to take much longer to cook.
Instead, allowing your meat to sit out before cooking, allows the inside of your meat to cook with the outside of your meat; however, due to the low and slow nature of smoking meat, we don’t have to worry about the meat cooking unevenly.
Why You Shouldn’t Let Meat Sit Out Before Smoking
Letting meat come to room temperature is a great trick to help produce great tasting meat on the grill, but when it comes to smoking it shouldn’t be done. This is because smoking meat is a much different process than grilling.
The “danger zone” is the temperature range between 40° and 140° Fahrenheit where bacteria that causes food borne illnesses grows rapidly. The USDA states meat can be in the danger zone for a maximum of 2 hours before the meat is spoiled.
When grilling hamburgers or steak, we don’t have to worry about the danger zone. Grilled meats are typically much smaller and are able to be grilled in less than 15 minutes. This kind of meat passes through that danger zone quickly.
Meats you smoke on the other hand, like brisket, are larger cuts of meat that take a great deal of time to cook. These large cuts of meat aren’t able to pass through that danger zone like a steak would, so letting these meats come to room temperature just prolongs the amount of time its sits in that danger zone.
In addition to that, smoking meat already takes 8 plus hours, why prolong it even more by letting your meat come to room temp? There is no benefit to letting your meat rest before smoking so why risk giving yourself a food borne illness.
Low And Slow Indirect Heat:
As mentioned above, the only reason you let meat sit out before cooking is to promote even cooking. Because grills use hot and direct heat, the outside is going to cook much faster than the inside. letting your meat come to room temperature, lessens this effect and allows for a more even cook.
When smoking meat, we don’t have to worry about uneven cooking. The low and indirect heat used when smoking meat slowly cooks the meat, naturally creating an even cooking environment.
Is It Ok To Put Cold Meat In A Smoker?
It is perfectly fine to put cold meat in a smoker. The low and slow cooking style of smoking meats promotes an even cook and allows your meat to slowly come up to temperature. In addition to that, putting your meat on the smoker cold will help give you a better smoke ring.
Does Smoked Penetrate Cold Meat Better?
Yes, smoke will penetrate cold meat better allowing for a more pronounced smoke ring. This is because smoke penetrates meat to create a smoke ring until about 140° Fahrenheit. Putting your meat on the smoker cold gives your meat more time in that window to develop a smoke ring.
Should I Let My Brisket Get To Room Temp Before Smoking?
You should not let your brisket come to room temperature before smoking as you put yourself at risk of being in the danger zone too long. You shouldn’t leave your brisket out at room temperature for more than 30 minutes before smoking.
Should I Let My Pork Butt Get To Room Temperature Before Smoking?
You shouldn’t let your pork butt sit out at room temperature for more than 30 minutes before smoking. Doing so would leave your pork butt in the danger zone too long and promote the growth of harmful bacteria. We recommend going straight from the fridge to the smoker.