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Want to get into Smoking?                                            
Once a means of preservation, food smoking is now a valuable ingredient in outdoor cooking, infusing foods with wonderful smoky tones and intensifying flavours. And we're all doing it! The humble BBQ has been taken to new heights of cooking sophistication and unrecognisable charred offerings are a thing of the past (unless you are a brisket fan and burnt ends are your thing). Done correctly it should always be a complementary accent, not an overpowering flavour and there's an amazing range of wood flavours to experiment with.

Turn your BBQ into a Smoker                                                  
You don't need fancy kit to achieve stunning smoking results, just a BBQ, gas or charcoal with a lid and ventilation. Of course, if you really get the smoking bug, then investing in a dedicated smoker can take you to the next level. Many of our micro smokery customers started by experimenting with smoke on their BBQs. So all you need are wood chips and some fabulous food, though might be worth testing out a few sausages to start with.

Quick Guide to HOT SMOKING in a BBQ

Prepare your BBQ Bring your BBQ to a medium to low heat whilst you prepare your food. This should be at room temperature before adding to your BBQ. Seasoning for an hour or more before cooking really helps bring out the flavours, using your own mix or one of an enticing array of off the shelf BBQ rubs with various levels of heat and spice.

Add Wood Chips You'll need something to protect the wood product from simply igniting once exposed to heat and a stainless steel smoker box is ideal for this, though you can also create a protective foil pouch. Just fill with a handful of chips and place on your heat source, directly on white hot coals for a charcoal BBQ or above your burners in a gas BBQ. Dousing the chips with water also inhibits burning rather than smouldering and the release of mellower flavours. Whilst opinions are divided on whether to soak, we recommend it. 

And Smoke Cook slowly - your aim is to cook for twice as long and at half the temperature of a conventional oven. To help suppress the heat in a charcoal BBQ, place a stainless or heat proof ceramic bowl to one side of your cooking area and fill with hot water, fresh herbs and perhaps a dash of cider or wine. This will ensure your BBQ smoking chamber will be super steamy and your food moisture infused. Wood smoke flavour is most readily infused during the first part of cooking, just a handful is fine for a one hour cook, but you may need to add more for an epic slow cook such as brisket or pulled pork. Allow food to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before devouring.

Quick Guide to COLD SMOKING in a BBQ

Curing & Drying The first step to successful cold smoking is preparing meats and fish by removing moisture - and the home of bacteria - to stabilise the food. Unless you are planning to cold smoke cheeses, nuts, chillis, salt or oils. These can go straight into smoke mode. Dry cure or brining sound technical but are not beyond reach by any stretch. Create your own cure mix using salt, spices and sugar and either apply as a dry mix or dilute to create a brine. Leave overnight for fish or up to a few days for bacon. You will have reduced the moisture content and the food will shrunk and darkened and it's flavour intensified. After a spot of air drying just on an open rack in the fridge you're ready to smoke.

Cold Smoke Generator ProQ produce just the thing for use in a BBQ, an ingenious mesh maze. Do not light your BBQ - no heat is required for this process! Fill with a fine wood dust, light from an outer corner and the wood slowly smoulders it's way along the maze creating cooled smoke without any heat, for 10 hours. All you have to do is place this in the bottom of your BBQ, set any ventilation to allow just enough air flow to keep the wood smouldering but not too much or it will go out.  Smoke for 6 hours for a fish fillet or up to 20 hours for a lump of bacon. 

Settle and eat  After smoking allow to settle for a few hours before eating. Your BBQ is an ideal smoking chamber for this process. Try smoked salmon, trout, bacon, chorizo, pancetta as well as cheeses for the ultimate smoky makeover.

So that's our quick fire run through on experimenting with hot smoking on a BBQ. Read on for a bit more detail and technical know-how.

Hot Smoking - a quick summary                                                 
Using a smoker which generates heat either from a charcoal base, heated element within the smoker or from a stovetop or oven, food is hot smoked by cooking and flavouring with wood smoke simultaneously. The food can be eaten immediately or eaten cold within a few days. Temperatures used are similar to a slow cooking method in a range between 150°C and 200°C, so cooking times are approximately twice as long as cooking in a conventional oven. The massive difference in taste is achieved by the added flavour from placing wood chips onto your smoker heat source where they heat up and release their delicious smoky flavours, the slower the better. Buffering strong heat, using a water pan or ceramics has the dual effect of reducing cooking temperatures for the slow cooking required and generating steam which will permeate the cooking process and keep your food exceptionally tender and succulent.                                                                                                

Cold Smoking - a quick summary
Using only wood smoke flavour without any heat, food is cold smoked. This process is a means of curing or preserving meats and fish and flavouring cheese. It needs to be carried out at temperatures below 20°C to ensure that the food does not begin to cook which would destroy the preservative effect. Cold smoking is achieved over longer periods and often several days, using only the wood smoke to penetrate the skin of the food and create a barrier to bacteria and pests. Food is either dry cured in salt, sugar and spices or soaked in a salt & sugar liquid first to remove excess moisture and to promote the absorption of the smoke flavour before smoking.                                          

Smoking Outdoors
Use your outdoor smoker in a well-ventilated outbuilding or position outside in a sheltered position where possible. You need to be aware of ambient temperatures when smoking and adjust cooking times accordingly. Hot sun will be concentrated by steel smokers and will increase the cooking temperatures whilst cold weather and particuarly snow or wind will impact the internal temperature of your smoker. But the good news is that your smoker can be used all year round. 
       
Smoke Production                                                                              
Unsurprisingly food smokers do produce smoke and much of this is designed to seep out during the cooking process as the smoker construction needs to allow for the charcoal and wood chips to gently smoulder rather than burn up quickly or go out completely and for the smoke generated to renew itself. You may need to bear this in mind when siting your smoker, particularly if you have close neighbours.                                                                                                
                                                                                               
Season Your Smoker
Before cooking in a brand new smoker for the first time, it's important to season your equipment to burn off any chemical residues left over from the manufacturing process and to seal the interior surface. To do this you need to fire up your smoker, allow it to heat for a short period and then allow it to cool again. With a charcoal smoker, light a small charcoal fire in the base unit and wait for this to go white hot before building up your smoker components from the base upwards. Never put your smoker together when charcoals are aflame. Set the air vents to half open and add some wood chips to the fire through the bottom door. Then let the fire burn down till completely cold. This should take about 3 hours and will get rid of any chemical taint as well as sealing the interior surface.                                                                                           
Using Charcoal  
* Buy as pure as you can find. We recommend locally produced lumpwoods or a pure eco-friendly briquette (try those made of coconut shells) Lumpwood will need careful ventilation management to sustain long slow cook-outs, whilst briquettes hold their shape retaining an even heat for longer.    
* Start smoking once coals are fully established and 'white hot'. This may take around 20 minutes. For longer cooking sessions, make use of a charcoal chimney starter accessories to establish your next fuel batch ready to tip into your charcoal basket, minimising interruption to the cooking process. 
* Once your heat source is established you are ready to add your wood smoke product before adding water pans and other smoker sections if you have them. 
                                                                                                                                                                      
Creating wood smoke flavours          smoking flavours                                                                           
There is a vast array of wood smoking products designed for use in food smokers and Hot Smoked offers over 20 different wood smoke flavours. All pure fruitwood or hardwoods, these chips are sourced from sustainable managed resources, are untreated 100% natural and produced specifically for food smoking purposes. Wood size can vary and some smokers are restricted to certain wood forms, so worth checking what is recommended. But for most kit, a regular wood chip in a 1cm size is ideal for hot smoking, whilst our range of dusts is great for cold smoking or stainless tray style smokers. For longer or hotter cooking sessions, wood chunks are a great alternative. You can even use your own wood supplies such as oak, alder, beech, apple or cherry. Season as you would for use on wood burners etc. before chopping into chunks.

                                     
Soak wood chunks and chips in water - the bigger the wood size the longer they should be soaked - to prevent them burning rather than smouldering during the smoking process.      
                                                                                    

*  Allow approx up to 30 minutes for the smoke flavour to develop. Don't be tempted to rush this by adding your wood product too early as if the charcoal base is too hot, it will simply burn producing more heat together with acrid burning flavours rather than the desired smoke flavour.                                                                                                                                                                       
Do not use treated or resinous softwood varieties (such as pine) in your smoker as these release unpleasant toxins which will taint your food. Conversely, the Ocote wood firelighters which are impregnated with resin are ideal for the task of lighting your charcoals because of their high resin content. This will quickly burn away as the charcoals ignite and burn to white hot.                                                                                               
* According to taste you may wish to top up your wood smoke flavour by adding more if you are smoking over long periods or add a larger amount from the outset for a denser smoke flavour.                                                                                        

Using a Water Pan    


Water PanWater pans are a particular feature of the hot water smoker and are something of a secret weapon in generating truly succulent results. Although other smokers may not include a separate water pan component, there is often still a means of injecting moisture into the cooking process, via drip trays or simply introducing a stainless or  heat proof ceramic water bowl. The water pan acts in two ways, firstly it provides a buffer between the food to be cooked and the heat source and suppresses the heat to maintain the required slow cooking temperatures. Secondly, it infuses moisture into the sealed smoking chamber during cooking and this ensures not only that your food never dries out, but is bathed in moisture for extra succulence.                                                                                  
*  Fill the water pan with hot (not boiling) water. This can be perfumed with aromatic fresh whole sprigs of herbs such as rosemary, mint or bay.                                                                                   
*  Use hot water in the water pan as this will not interrupt the heat generated by the charcoal base.                                                                                           
*  You can also use a marinade in place of water in the water pan. There is some debate as to how much these liquid flavours infuse into your food, however, in our experience a marinade will add to the food flavour. We have used watered down versions of marinades used overnight on meats in preparation for smoking with great success. At the very least they create lovely aromas during the cooking process. The marinade can be any concoction of your choice with a wine and herb mix, cider or beer, wine vinegar or any other combination you may wish to try.                                                                                             
*  You can use your smoker without water in the water pan to create hotter cooking temperatures. You would nevertheless need to keep your water pan in place in the unit during your smoking session and line it with foil so that it catches any of the juices running from the food. You may not achieve as succulent a result without it, but the smoke infusion will work just as well and your cooking time will be shorter.  You can also fill your water bill with sand, if you purely need to create a heat buffer but no additional flavours.                                                                                     
*  For longer smoking sessions you may need to top up the water level to promote maximum succulence in your smoked food.                                                                                       

Air Vents                                                                                             
If your smoker has air vents, these can be used to regulate both temperature and smoke production. A top air vent will promote smoke 'turnover' and help the smoke renew itself as well as drawing on a charcoal base to maintain heat levels. A bottom air vent can help establish your charcoal fire in the first place and, if opened fully during the cooking process can be used to increase the burning rate and as a result the temperature.                                                                                                
  Position your smoker so that the bottom air vent is opposite the wind direction so the wind will not penetrate the unit. This will help maintain an even temperature.
The top air vent should be left fully open during the cooking process to promote smoke and steam release.                                                                                        
To achieve a higher temperature and particularly to increase the cooking temperature if it has dropped during your smoking session, carefully turn the entire smoker so that the bottom air vent is facing the wind direction. This will allow more oxygen into your charcoals making them burn more quickly and increase heat within the unit overall.                                                                                          

What foods to smoke                       things-to-smoke                                                               
There are few if any limits to what you can smoke in your smoker. Any meat, poultry, fish or game in any type of meat cut is ideally suited to hot food smoking. You can also smoke seafood, vegetables, nuts and cheese. The smoking process is a very healthy cooking option which does not require the addition of oils and fats and yet still creates very succulent and  tasty food.                                                                                      
*  Don't feel you should stick to smoking foods which are traditionally smoked, such as salmon, ham and bacon. Smoke flavours bring a whole new taste dimension to many foods not usually associated with smoking. Feel free to experiment!                                                                                                

Cooking times                                                                                     
*  The longer you cook and the lower the temperature, the better the taste. Cooking temperature in a unit such as the ProQ will be around 110°C and generally temperatures should not exceed the 150°C mark. The lower the temperature the less moisture is lost from the food.                                                                                               
A medium whole chicken should take about 3 to 4 hours to cook whilst a 'cut', such as a chicken or duck breast will cook in approximately 1 and a half hours. These times will vary depending on how much food you cook at the same time and which smoker you are using. A large joint of meat may take over 5 hours to cook. Most smokers are supplied with detailed owner manuals as well as a selection of recipe ideas, giving you full information on cooking times and temperatures.                                                                                              
*  Make sure the food to be cooked is at room temperature before placing in your smoker, otherwise there will be some heat loss as the smoker compensates for the cooling effect of the food.                                                                                             
* To be completely sure that your food is cooked - particularly if you are cooking larger joints of meat or whole poultry - we recommend the use of a meat thermometer or temperature probe.     
                                                                                        
Before eating                                                                                       
* When first removed from your smoker, allow your smoked food to rest, particularly large joints and whole birds, bearing in mind that the meat will continue to cook. Resting allows the juices to redistribute themselves creating a more tender result.                                                                                        

Storing your smoked food
Hot smoked food is best eaten immediately, but it can be stored for consumption later on, either for eating cold in salads, such as chicken or salmon, or by freezing or by vacuum packing. We would not, however, recommend freezing hot smoked fish as the texture tends to deteriorate - though would be fine for use in smoked fish cakes! Cold smoked food has already been given the preservation treatment. A cold smoked cured side of ham can be stored in a refridgerator for several weeks. Other meats or sausage can be hung in a cool, well ventilated cold store. Cold smoked fish can be vacuum packed and tastes just as wonderful when you are ready to eat it.

Maintaining your smoker                                                                                              
* If possible keep your smoker under cover in a garage or outbuilding when not in use. Covers are available for most models which will provide protection from the elements if kept outdoors.                                                                                              
* The interior of your smoker will become browned from the smoking process, this coating will help to seal and protect your smoker. Clean the food grills, other cooking accessories, the water pan and the base unit after each use with hot soapy water, ideally when still warm, and do not use abrasive materials as this will damage the finish. You can put your Camerons smoker in the dishwasher!                                                                                            

Troubleshooting                                                                                               
Depth of smoke flavour - depending on the meat, the particular cut of meat and the wood smoke intensity you have been able to create, you may find that the smoke flavours do not permeate to the very inside of the meat, but remain in a halo around the surface. This is most likely the result of too high a cooking temperature and too short a cooking time. For larger joints of meat, the smoke flavour will not penetrate right through to the centre, but the halo flavouring will be sufficient to give the full smoked effect.                                                                                      
* Heat Loss - this is commonly caused by removing the domed lid to take a peek a the food. This causes loss of both heat and smoke build-up and will set your cooking time back by around 15 to 30 minutes. If you want to view the food, use the access doors if you have them, but don't leave open for long.                                                                                        
* Pink colour to meat - the smoking process makes meat appear to be pink whether cooked or not. The only way to be really sure this is a by-product of the smoking process and not that the meat is undercooked is to use a good quality meat thermometer.                                                                                      
* Temperature decrease - if the cooking temperature sinks down before your food is successfully hot smoked you may need to top up the charcoal pan. This may be particularly required when cooking over longer periods. The best way to achieve this is to use a Charcoal Chimney Starter (available as a separate accessory) in which charcoal is established remotely from your smoker and, once at the required white hot/no flame level, can be tipped into the charcoal pan via the bottom door.                                                                                                

Any questions?                                                                                     
If you need any further help with the operation of your smoker, please don't hesitate to call or text 07973 739053 or email us at info@hotsmoked.co.uk and we will be happy to help.