Your Guide To Smoking Food At Home

·3-min read
Photo credit: Kanawa_Studio - Getty Images
Photo credit: Kanawa_Studio - Getty Images

Hot smoking might seem intimidating but it’s definitely worth a try if you enjoy the flavour of smoked salmon, brisket and ribs. Here’s how to smoke food at home with little more than wood chips, a wire rack and either a hooded barbecue or pan with a tight-fitting lid.

Do I need a BBQ to smoke food at home?

A heavy pan with a lid, a wire rack that fits inside, tin foil and some wood chips are sufficient for stovetop smoking. For barbecue smoking, you’ll need a barby that has a hood or a lid that fully covers the grill.

How do I choose the best wood chips?

Hickory, applewood and oak lend a deep smokiness to beef, pork and game, while softer woods, like beech, imbue a milder fragrance to chicken, cheese and even nuts. Let your palate guide you.

Woodchips are ideal for recipes with short smoke times and hardwood chunks are better for lengthier smokes (soak both varieties for 30 minutes in water first to prevent burning).

Do I need a smokebox?

A reusable smoke box – a metal container with a few holes in the top – is useful if you smoke food regularly but not a must. A disposable homemade pouch made of tinfoil is perfect to stow your woodchips in for one-off smokes. Seal the sides of your pouch so it looks like a packet of crisps and make some holes on the surface to allow the aroma of the smouldering wood to escape and diffuse into your meat.

Photo credit: mokee81 - Getty Images
Photo credit: mokee81 - Getty Images

How do I get my BBQ ready for smoking?

Light your barbecue as normal and move the hot coals to one side once they’ve turned white. Place your meat and foil pouch on the opposite side, distanced from the fierceness of the heat, before putting the lid on. Keep the temperature of your BBQ between 80-120° depending on what you’re smoking; low, slow and mellow is the name of the game. Too cold and the chips won’t smoulder and release their fragrance. Too hot and your ingredients will cook too quickly and won’t be in the smoky environment long enough to absorb the flavour.

How do I smoke fish on the stovetop?

Cover the base of a heavy pan (or a deep baking dish that can go directly on the hob) with foil, lay over some wood chips and place a wire rack on top that has your fish on it. Turn on the heat and put the lid on top to trap the building smoke inside. Switch the heat off as soon as the smoke appears to allow the scent of the chips and residual heat to gently imbue your fish with a smoky flavour.

Can I use an oven instead?

Oven smoking is better for large joints of meat if you don’t have a BBQ – simply prepare your baking dish or pan in the same way as above, cover and bake at a low temperature.

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