The smoker, just like the barbecue, offers of combination of flavors and smells that will surely stimulate your appetite. Contrary to common belief, you don’t need great knowledge or a big investment to enjoy the delicious taste of smoked foods. Here are a few methods and tips on how to try it, once in a while.
The required equipment
The smokers and other appliances
Many types of smokers can be found on the market. The horizontal and vertical smokers are exclusively conceived to smoke meats. Some work with wood, others with pellets, charcoal, gas or electricity.
However, if you don’t want to spend on an actual smoker that will seldom be used, a better choice could be a multi-function barbecue. Whether powered by charcoal, pellets or gas, the grill represents a wise and more affordable choice.
If you don’t want to put in all the work associated to this type of slow cooking, simply add liquid smoke to your marinades. It comes in several species of wood. Smoking on a board is also a great alternative; you can try it on salmon, for example.
To each wood its flavour
Just like with firewood, it is best to choose wood from deciduous trees. They each offer their own particular touch, however:
- Fruit trees such as the cherry, apple or peach trees are perfect for more delicate tasting flesh like pork, fish and poultry. Maple also offers a wonderful alternative.
- Hickory and mesquite are better suited for stronger tasting meats like beef or game.
This wood can be purchased in different formats like chips, sawdust, bits, pellets or logs. It is always best, although not essential, to immerse the chips in water for 30 minutes before use.
Cold or hot smoking: what’s the difference?
Cold smoking consists in injecting smoke aroma in the ingredient which remains raw. To achieve this, the temperature must reach a maximum of 100 oF (38 oC).
Above 104 oF (40 o C), you start hot smoking, so you’re basically cooking as well as adding flavour.
Each meat needs its own ideal temperature. Most of the time, allow a minimum of 2 to 3 hours in order to complete cooking. However, certain pieces require a lot more time, up to 12 hours or more.
On a barbecue, use the indirect method. The principle is similar to grilling, however the smoke originating from wood is healthier than the one emanating from fat.
- On the charcoal grill, separate the lumps (or charcoal) away from meats in order to eliminate any direct contact between them; to each its own side. Just below your foods, place a water filled recipient to collect fat; also use it to enhance flavour by adding a bit of beer or juice. The smoking wood must be placed on the hot charcoal while preheating your grill.
- With gas barbecue, shut the burner off and position your meats on the grill, on the same side.
In every situation, place your wood chips in an open aluminum container. You can also seal them tightly in aluminum foil and then pierce a few small holes to let the smoke out.
Another option is to use specially built accessories offered by certain manufacturers, such as smoker pipes and smoker trays.