Got some frozen ribs or frozen meat that you want to smoke without thawing? Then there are a few things that you need to keep in mind!
Can you smoke frozen meat? Can you smoke it? Yes. Should you? Probably not. Frozen meat will not take on as much smoke as thawed meat and even though frozen meat will thaw on its own in a smoker, it is better to use an adequately thawed piece of meat in the smoker than something that is rock solid.
Learn more about working with frozen meat, how to smoke it and how to thaw frozen meat fast!
To Defrost Or Not To Defrost?
We’ve all been there! How many times have you wanted beautifully smoked ribs only to find that they’re completely frozen? Well, it turns out that there is something that you can do about it!
While frozen meat is difficult to smoke because it is insulated with a layer of ice crystals that make it almost impossible for the flavors to seep in, you can try a few steps to make things easier.
If you are starting with ice-cold meat, then we recommend going for the 2-3-1 method instead of the usual 3-2-1 method.
For those of you who don’t know, the 3-2-1 method is a common smoking technique where you smoke the meat with a spice rub at 200-210°F for about 3 hours.
Then, you wrap the meat in foil with additional seasoning and smoke it for a further 2 hours.
For the final hour, the meat is smoked without the foil until tender.
However, in the case of frozen meat, you may need to change things up. See, frozen meat will not provide a reliable surface for the seasonings to adhere to.
If you apply the rub to a rock-solid piece of meat then it will likely wash away as the meat thaws.
This is why it is highly recommended that you first thaw the meat to some degree before smoking it for the best experience.
How To Thaw Meat Fast
Don’t worry, though. We will go over various scenarios for smoking frozen meat. Let’s begin with adequately thawed meat and then we will discuss smoking rock-solid meat.
The first method involves a hard piece of solid meat and a microwave. This is the best way to quickly thaw the meat and get a basic rub on it.
Remember, the aim here is to not go for room temperature. Rather, the goal is to thaw the meat enough to apply a seasoning rub to it.
As explained above, if the meat has a superficial layer of ice on it, then it is not going to adhere to any type of seasoning!
Pop the meat in the microwave and set the appliance to the defrost setting. Defrost the meat for a few minutes or until the top layer is soft and thawed.
Since we are working on the clock, we are going to ignore the internal temperature of the meat for now.
Another way to quickly thaw the meat is to use the oven. The oven is probably the “slowest fastest” way to superficially warm a frozen piece of meat but can come in handy when you can’t fit a large piece in the microwave.
Put the meat on a baking tray and thaw the meat in the oven at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes.
Make sure to keep the meat on the middle rack and don’t forget to keep an eye on it as it thaws. You wouldn’t want to cook the top layer just yet!
Optional method: Another method to quickly thaw the superficial layer of the meat is to wash it down with some warm water. This will help melt the ice over the surface and will also provide some moisture for the seasonings to adhere to.
Smoking Frozen Meat
If you are in an emergency and you don’t have any other choice then there is a way that you can thaw and smoke the meat at the same time.
For this method, we will be using the 2-3-1 method.
The first step will be to just add the frozen block of meat to the smoker. We know, it sounds ridiculous but trust us, this is the best way to get the most out of the frozen meat without compromising much on the flavor or texture.
For this step, we are not going to be adding any moisture to the water tray because the frozen meat has plenty of moisture that will accumulate down to the tray as the ice melts.
Load the smoker with woodchips and fire it up! Smoke and defrost the frozen meat for about 1 hour. Now take out the meat and inspect it for tenderness. The meat would have been completely thawed by now.
Apply the seasonings and rub them into all the crevasses of the meat. If the meat had wrinkled or folded while it was frozen then it would be a good idea to straighten it out during this step.
Make sure that you get the flavor rub into all the folded corners for the best flavor.
Now put the meat back in the smoker and smoke it for the remaining 1 hour. Once the meat has smoked with the rub for about an hour, take it out and put some foil on it.
You can also add more seasoning or any flavored soda (orange-pineapple works great) to retain moisture and to add flavor to the meat. Cover the meat with foil and pop it back in the smoker for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, open the foil and check for doneness. By now, you will see a bit of reduction near the edges of the meat, especially over the bones. This indicates that the meat is pulling away from the bones and is tenderizing.
Apply your favorite seasoning, like BBQ sauce, and then continue to smoke it without the foil for 1 final hour.
Once done, use a cooking thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should read around 150-160°F. Let the meat rest and recollect all its juices and then cut it up and enjoy!
Tips And Tricks
- When smoking frozen meat directly, you will notice a less prominent “smoke ring” layer. Don’t be alarmed, this is normal when directly smoking minimally thawed or frozen meat. The important thing is to have all the intended flavors – which the meat should have if you did everything right.
- When thawing meat, keep a close eye on the ambient temperature so that you don’t cook the top layer instead of thawing it. Using a thermometer will come in handy during this step. If you can’t stick the thermometer into the frozen meat then wrap an onion in foil and stick the probe into it to create a quick ballpark reference point for the ambient temperature.
- Ideally, you would want to cook the frozen meat at the same temperature as regular thawed meat but if you don’t have the time then you can crank up the heat. However, make sure that you spray down the surface to keep the meat from drying.
- Use a butcher’s paper with tallow to create an insulation layer when working with high heat. This method can be used for a smoker or when cooking the meat in the oven. The butcher’s paper will keep the meat from burning while the tallow will keep it hydrated.
- If you notice that the meat isn’t tender enough then you can let it smoke or cook for an additional 20-30 minutes with the foil on. This step isn’t recommended since it can dry out the meat but will come in handy when you don’t have any other choice.
Smoking frozen meat can be very challenging but if you get it to thaw or follow the right technique, you can get a lot out of it without compromising on the quality or the flavor of the meat and seasonings!
Can you smoke frozen meat for 8 hours?
Frozen meat will thaw in about an hour if you add it to a smoker or an oven. This means that if you add more cooking time then you might risk burning or over-drying the meat.
We recommend keeping the cooking time to about 6-7 hours for the best results.
Should you refreeze thawed smoked meat?
Ideally, you would want to use the smoked meat ASAP without refreezing it. Although you could refreeze smoked meat before fully cooking it, it can drastically affect the texture and flavor of the final product.
Always try to finish cooking the meat the same day and consume it within 48 hours for the best experience.
Can you use any woodchips for frozen meat?
Yes. The type of woodchip will have very little effect on frozen meat. You should stick to the tried and tested options if you want a familiar flavor. We recommend going with simple hickory chips to get started!
If you’re looking for a new way to smoke your ribs, here’s a great video on the subject!
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