HOW TO HOT SMOKE LIKE A PRO
TOP TIPS FROM MARCUS BAWDON
With over 30,000 Instagram followers, UK BBQ School founder, author and the face behind Countrywoodsmoke, Marcus Bawdon is one of the most influential barbecuers in the country. Adding smoke flavour is part and parcel of his BBQ technique so we asked him for his top tips for professional hot smoking.
Marcus has every type of BBQ equipment you can imagine at his UK BBQ School venue in Cullompton, Devon, not far from Hot Smoked. In fact he bought his first ProQ smoker about 12 years ago from Hot Smoked and Alyson delivered it to his door! He’s regularly asked to test out the latest product launches, so there’s not much he doesn’t know about BBQ techniques from smokers to kamado to asado style cooking. His advice? ‘To get started you don’t need to invest in any expensive kit, just a basic BBQ with a lid is perfect for hot smoking.’
How much fuel?
‘The more coals you use the hotter the smoking temperature, so go gently. A charcoal chimney starter is a great accessory to bring coals up to temperature before adding to your fire and avoid heat interruption, rather than adding fresh coals to an established fire and waiting for these to get up to temperature.’
How much smoke?
‘Don’t overdo it – subtle smoke is always best, so just one small handful of chips or a couple of chunks should be enough. You can always add more later if you want a stronger flavour.’
Chunk or Chip?
‘I’m often asked what type of smoking wood is best to use. Opting for smoking chips (smaller pieces that burn more quickly) or smoking chunks (larger pieces of wood which smoulder slowly) is down to preference and project. I prefer chunks for long, low and slow recipes as the smoke can be less harsh and chips if I want to add a touch of smoke flavour for a quicker cook such as a seared steak.’
To soak or not to soak?
‘There are multiple ways to use smoking woods and some barbecuers choose to soak the chips in water and place them in a stainless steel smoking box nestled in the coals to generate extra smoke. If you, like me, prefer to scatter chips directly over coals then soaking will help them smoulder for longer, but chunks don’t need any soaking and can be buried in among the coals for long smoky output.’
‘There’s such a huge range of smoke flavours available that it can be mind boggling trying to choose. But my rule of thumb is to band smoking woods into strong and light, savoury and sweet and pair these attributes to the ingredients I’m cooking with and the strength of smoke I’m looking for. Cherry is my favourite as it lends a lovely colour to the food and imparts a subtle, sweet smoke flavour. More subtle light flavours such as Beech are also excellent.’
Recipes – where to start
‘For smoking newbies, I’d suggest starting with chicken as it’s a great blank canvas for smoke flavour. Juicy chicken thighs with a dry rub and my favourite cherry smoke are a delicious combo.’
Thanks to Marcus for his brilliant tips. You can find him at www.ukbbqschool.com or @countrywoodsmoke or check out his growing list of BBQ books including BBQ For All, Food & Fire & Skewered for more outdoor cooking inspiration.