Cooking with smokers uses smoke from coal, different woods, or pellets to cook or preserve food. Traditionally this was done over a fire however, there are now nifty machines that make cooking with smokers easy and fun.
Most of the time, smoking is used to enhance the flavor of the cooked item. However, it is also a handy way to preserve food.
The smoke from different materials infuses the food and dries out any moisture that it contains. This helps to reduce the growth of various bacteria and fungi when you store the food for later use.
In this article, we will discuss the different tips and tricks to use while cooking with smokers!
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Materials Used When Cooking With Smokers
People around the world use various materials to smoke food. This will depend on what is readily available and the flavor required.
Europe – Oak, Beech, and Alder are the most popular woods for smoking.
America – Plum, Cherry, Apple, Maple, Pecan, and Hickory are more common wood smoking pellets.
New Zealand – Sawdust from a tea tree called manuka wood chips is widely used to cook fish.
Iceland – You will see people smoking various proteins using dried sheep dung!
China – Chinese teas are smoked in a wok using a blend of sugar, tea and uncooked rice.
Tips and Tricks For Cooking With Smokers
As with any food preservation method, there is a list of dos and don’ts. Your outcome should always have in mind both the flavor you want and killing any harmful bacteria.
Our comprehensive list will have you safely enjoying a wide variety of foods that can be cooked by smokers.
– Use smoke for a few minutes at a high temperature
While smoking steaks or vegetables with the intention of cooking, use only a few minutes of high heat. This will enhance the natural flavor of the food and give it a nice smokey edge without burning it.
– Do not peak inside smokers while cooking
One of the most common mistakes is to check inside the pot during the process. Doing this allows heat and smoke to escape and reduces the flavor and cooking. You will have to cook for longer or only create minimal flavor. Do yourself a favor, when cooking with smokers leave the process to do its job. If you need to check just look from the outside or wait the required time.
– Pay attention to the color of smoke
Take note of the color of the smoke when cooking with smokers. If the color is pearly white then it means that it is cooking optimally.
However, if the smoke turns black your food is not getting the right kind of smoke and will taste burnt. Most likely, the wood or other smoking material is smoldering and not getting enough air. All you need do is lift the lid and let the smoking material get the air it needs to burn correctly.
Moreover, make sure that the vents at the bottom of a smoker are open and fully functional. This will help to keep the air circulating and in turn, will keep the smoke white.
– Have the right equipment when cooking with smokers
Make sure that you have all of the required equipment before you begin. Different foods require different times to process. Ensure you have enough smoking material and your food is properly prepared. This may mean marinating a few hours or a day before.
Cold smokers need to be fired up to a few hours before the process begins. This also applies to slow-cooked BBQ, so, get organized early to ensure the best outcome.
When it is time to get the food off the smoker, make sure to have tongs or plates around. Leaving food on the grill for longer than required will likely burn and spoil the flavor. So, keep everything handy while you are working on the grill.
– A thermometer is essential when cooking with smokers
Knowing the internal temperature is vital when smoking food. Too high and you may burn it. If the temperature is too low, your food may still be raw or contain harmful bacteria.
When cooking any food with smokers you must know the temperature inside the unit. This is especially true when processing any proteins.
We suggest, if your unit does not have a temperature display, you must use a thermometer. Place it close to the food inside the unit and monitor the heat.
If cooking any type of meat, we also suggest using a thermometer spike to register internal temperature.
It is essential to monitor the temperature inside the unit when cooking with smokers.
Different Ways Of Cooking With Smokers
There are four ways to use smoke to cook and/or preserve food.
1. Cold Smoking
- Temperature: 4°F – 100°F
- Food that you can smoke: Bacon, sausages, roe, fruit, vegetables, hams, beef, and salmon
2. Warm Smoking
- Temperature: 40°F – 104°F
- Food that you can smoke: Sausages and meat.
3. Hot Smoking
- Temperature: 176°F – 302°F
- Food that you can smoke: Meat, fish, nuts, cheese, poultry, and seafood.
- Temperature: Does not require actual fire
- Food that you can smoke: BBQ sauces, meats, nuts, cheese, and hot dogs.
When cooking with smokers it is important that you research the best method for not only taste but safety.
It is vital you have the correct temperature and time for your desired outcome. The risk here is that you don’t effectively kill all the micro-organisms before consumption.
DIY Home Smoker
If you do not want to invest in a smoker, don’t worry! You can use common household items to construct an easy, makeshift smoker!
At Best Home Preserving we strive to bring you techniques that won’t break your budget. Preserving and cooking with smokers won’t always require spending lots of money on fancy machines.
Just follow the steps mentioned below for delicious, smokey tastes right in your own kitchen.
- Get a large pan or pot that has a lid.
- Place aluminum foil on the bottom of the pot.
- Pour wood chips over the foil.
- Place a colander on top of the wood chips.
- Now, put the food of your choice in the colander.
- Cover the pot with its lid.
- Cook at very high heat for approximately 20 minutes (this can vary depending upon the type of food you are using).
- Take it off the heat and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- In the case of proteins, you may need to place them in the oven or a cooking pan and cook accordingly.