Tips for Smoking Meat


Smoking Meatpic
Smoking Meat

A mental health technician by profession, Todd Belok serves on the care team at Temple University Hospital – Episcopal Campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In his free time, Todd Belok enjoys grilling and smoking meat.

If you are planning to smoke meat at home, one of the first things you will need to do is select a smoker. Charcoal smokers tend to be the easiest for beginners to control, as they typically use easy-burning charcoal in combination with wood for flavor. Pure wood smokers often lead to more flavorful meat, but maintaining an even temperature may be more difficult.

Hardwoods, such as oak, pecan, or hickory, tend to generate the most aromatic smoke. Each wood has its own flavor, from the strong smokiness of mesquite to the sweet and mild apple. Regardless of wood variety, a good hour’s soaking of smaller chips helps to keep the wood wet so that it smokes longer.

Many smokers choose to get even more flavor by using a rub or marinade on the meat. This also tenderizes the cut of meat and improves the texture. After rubbing or marinating the meat, you just need to heat the smoker to 250 degrees before putting the meat on the grill.

Once you add the meat, you can let the temperature drop to 220, but you will need to track it carefully so that it doesn’t fall too low. You will likely need to add new wood or charcoal every 30 minutes, but it is important not to check the temperature by lifting the lid. You should not need to open the grill except to add wood or charcoal until 10 or 15 minutes before the meat is done, as this is an ideal time to add an extra dose of seasoning glaze.


Safety Tips for Hikers on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail pic
Appalachian Trail

A mental health technician by profession, Todd Belok is an avid outdoorsman in his free time. Todd Belok has hiked and camped along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

When you hike along the Appalachian Trail, you may at times be far from medical or police assistance. This requires you to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, particularly if you find yourself in a social situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. Experts recommend that you avoid anyone who seems dangerous or intoxicated, and that you always avoid insinuating that you are hiking alone.

Situational awareness also extends to weather, which can come up suddenly on the trail. Hikers should know how to spot electrical storms and how to seek shelter when one appears to be coming. Similarly, all hikers should know the terrain challenges inherent in the areas they wish to hike, and should plan routes according to party members’ abilities.

Health may also be a concern, particularly as camping often involves communal eating and living. Medical professionals warn hikers to avoid sharing food or utensils, wash hands before eating whenever possible, and filter drinking water. Regular body checks are likewise important, as tiny deer ticks can spread illness to even the most conscientious hiker.

Finally, whether alone or in a group, it is important that you convey your location to someone off the trail. This should be a person with whom you are comfortable checking in on a regular basis, and who is willing to follow a pre-determined procedure if a scheduled check-in does not occur.

Tips for Beginning Home Brewers

Home Brewing pic
Home Brewing

An experienced health professional, Todd Belok cares for patients as a mental health technician at the Episcopal Campus of Temple University Hospital. In his free time, Todd Belok enjoys brewing his own beer.

In order to produce a quality home-brewed beer, the beginning brewer must start with a good recipe. The recipe should be approachable, and as such, should have a minimal number of ingredients. Recipes for beer that include 4 percent to 6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) typically fall within this category, while also supporting better fermentation.

All ingredients should be of high quality, particularly the malt extract. Many experienced brewers choose to save half of this extract for the last 10 minutes of the brew, particularly if the recipe is for a light-colored beer variety.

Equipment should be cleaned with a rinse-free sanitizer, as bacteria can seriously affect the taste of the final product. Poor sanitation can also lead to the growth of unwanted yeast, and one of a home brewer’s most important tasks is the regulation of yeast growth. Temperature control can help immensely with this process, but it is also crucial that the home brewer avoid excessively worrying about minute calculations. Often, the natural process of fermentation corrects most issues.