Smoking meat is an ancient and very popular method of preparing red meat or fish. The cooking technique helps preserve these protein-packed foods that would otherwise spoil. Smoking meat allows you to store it at room temperature because the smoke contains chemical compounds that stop the growth of harmful bacteria.
Historians believe the act of smoking meat originated centuries ago with ancient man. Fish was the first meat smoked. The smoke possibly was a way to keep flies away during the drying process, but people soon realized it also doubled as a preservative. In ninth century Poland, there is archaeological evidence showing people smoked large amounts of fish.
In medieval Europe, religious beliefs led citizens to refrain from eating meat. Fish was the alternative. There was a great demand for fish. Fishermen seasoned and smoked the fish in extremely large quantities and shipped it to the interior regions.
Smoked pork became a popular meat on farms in the early 19th century. Farmers slaughtered pigs in the fall and smoked the meat to last through the winter months.