Smoking adds a rich layer of flavour, increasing the umami effect and making foods like meat even more savoury. Smoke is made of many things, some of which inhibit the growth of microbes, and others that retard the oxidisation of fat. This is what makes it a preservative, usually in combination with salt.
VS COLD SMOKING
HOT SMOKING actually cooks food. Meat is generally smoked at
115°C and the smoke source is positioned close to the food. Hot-smoked foods can be eaten immediately. COLD SMOKING uses temperatures no higher than 29°C, which doesn’t cook food, so it needs to be salted/cured first.
The food is placed far from the heat source, so it’s smoked long and slow. Cold-smoked foods are generally left for 24 hours for their flavour to develop before eating.
THIS IS THE first step in the smoking process. Not only does salting season the food, but it partially dries it out, removing some of the moisture that microbes might thrive in. Salt is critical to the preserving process, so always use the amount of salt specified in the recipe.
Even for cold smoking, where temperatures are low, you need to first salt the food, either by covering it directly with a layer of dry salt or immersing it in brine. This process changes the texture of the meat, making it firmer. The quantity of dry salt or the concentration of salt in the brine required is higher for cold smoking, as the smoking temperature is low and the item isn’t actually cooked. After salting, food is briefly rinsed and allowed to dry before smoking.
WOOD CHIPS & WOOD Hard woods such as hickory, oak, maple, apple and mesquite are all good choices. To ensure the wood hasn’t been treated with chemicals and is food-grade, it’s best to buy woods specifically sold for smoking (usually found in barbecue supply stores). OTHER INGREDIENTS The smoke doesn’t just have to come from smoldering wood. You can also use herbs or, for tea smoking, a combination of tea, brown sugar, rice and spices.
DIY BARBECUE SMOKER BOX
You can use a smoker box to hold the wood chips and follow the instructions for your barbecue, or substitute with a disposable foil pie tin. Add the food to be smoked once the chips start to smoke, either directly on the grill plate or in a separate container, then cook with the lid closed. For charcoal barbecues, lumps of smoking wood are added directly to the coals.