As a technique, food smoking has been around for thousands of years, may be discovered around the same time the fire was discovered. In earlier times, food smoking was used primarily for food preservation. Obviously these days the technology to preserve food has improved substantially, so food smoking finds itself useful for flavoring and cooking. A variety of food smoking techniques exist such as wet smoking, dry smoking, cold smoking and hot smoking. To complement the variety of smoking techniques food smoking can be used to smoke meat, fish, poultry and vegetables. Depending on the budget and requirement, one can find a fantastic range of food smokers on the market.
Smokers are similar to food cookers, where the flame is in an offset fire chamber, so that the smoke and heat will go through the food indirectly by travelling around it. The meat has no direct contact with the fire and so it will never actually burn from the fire. Also, food smokers give the food a nice smoky taste.
If you are thinking about getting a smoker yourself, there are a few things you should keep in mind. If you are not exactly patient with cooking or cannot fit into your schedule, then a smoker is not the kitchen appliance for you. Smoking food is a rather time consuming affair compared to say, a barbecue grill. However, smoking food is the perfect way to achieve the best tasting barbeque. With a smoker you are increasing the time it takes to cook but the resulting taste sure is worth it.
There are a few questions you need to ask yourself when deciding on a smoker. Would you prefer grilling, barbecuing or smoking? What kind of budget do you have in mind? What about the space available at your disposal for the grilling equipment? What is the average quantity of food that will be cooked?
Once you have got the smoker and started cooking, remember that the charcoal should be red hot with grey ash. The dripping pan should be surrounded by the charcoal for smoking and consider incorporating perhaps fifteen fresh briquettes every hour. Also, you can avoid risky flare-ups by submerging the chips in water.
Once the cooking is done with, cleaning it is not something you might enjoy doing but something you should do. Food carbonizing forms grease in the smoker which will result in crust buildup. The more you put off the cleaning the harder will it be when you eventually decide to clean the smoker. So, keep the cleaning as frequent as possible.
When it comes to the actual smoking of the food, there are several kinds. Let’s explain the different kinds of food smoking that are available.
The temperature that defines hot smoking is 160 degrees. Hot smoking actually cooks the meat or fish, so that it is ready for consumption right away. How it works is that, the heat produced from the hot smoking as a result of smouldering wood chips, cooks the food. The smoke which comes out of the fire flavours the food, enhancing its taste. The primary concern when hot smoking the food is that it tends to dry out, which may not be something you might like.
An alternative to avoid the drying of the food is to cook food using wet smoking. To achieve the desired results, one could wet the wood chips or you could also try adding a water tray into the smoker. Because of the heat, the water is going to evaporate and that steam will keep the food moist and tasty.
The temperature that is set for cold smoking is 30 degrees centigrade. The idea behind cold smoking is that food is not to actually cook the food. The meat and fish is simply being treated to cold smoking for the purposes of flavoring and preservation. The smoke penetrates rather deep into the food because of the lower temperature in which the smoker is working. Obviously the smoke penetration is not going to happen quickly, so expect this process to last anywhere between a few hours to even days, depending on the food type and flavouring you are planning to achieve.
A suggestion to consider before cold smoking any food is curing the food. This is a fairly straight forward step. You simply rub the food with salt for dry curing or put the food in salted water for what is called wet curing.
Wood chips and dusts give you a new dimension in smoking with available flavours such as cherry, beech, apple, oak and whiskey oak. Using flavours takes some skill and practice but you will love it once you figure how to properly flavour the food.