Smoking food is one of the oldest and most traditional methods of food preservation, dating back to the prehistorical era.
With the evolution of technology and our overall cooking knowledge, we’ve turned the process of smoking meats and other foods into a fine culinary artform.
So how exactly do you smoke food?
If you want to get in on the food and meat smoker game, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for a checklist of everything you need to know and have to get started.
What Are You Smoking?
First thing’s first: what are you smoking? There are two primary food smoking methods: hot and cold. Which one you use will depend on the food that you’re trying to smoke.
Don’t worry, these methods aren’t drastically different! The trick is that if you’re going to cold smoke something, you’re going to use a significantly reduced temperature.
Hot smoked foods include raw foods that need cooking in addition to smoking, like red and most white meats. Cold smoked foods include cheeses, garlic, and fish that are safe to eat raw, like organic salmon.
What Equipment Should You Use to Smoke Food?
If you’re brand new to the smoking game and aren’t ready for any special equipment, you may be able to use what you have on deck. A regular kettle grill will do the trick as long as you add the right wood to the top of your charcoal.
To make this process a little easier, we recommend getting a smoker box. It’s cheaper than most other smoking equipment but will come in handy for set up, use, and clean up. Smoker boxes are small metal cages you fill with your wood and place on top of the coals so that the wood is scorched and releases its smoke upward.
That being said, you should know that buying a smoker doesn’t have to drain the bank. In fact, you can find a quality electric smoker for less than $300 if you know where to look.
If you plan on smoking a lot of your food, invest in specific smoking equipment. They require less work from you during the smoking process and you don’t have to worry about cleaning scorched wood out of your regular grill.
What Wood Should You Use?
The wood you choose depends on the flavors and strength of smokiness that you’re hoping to produce.
Stronger, more pungent woods to use are mesquite, hickory, and oak. Medium-strength woods that are great for strong cheeses or mild meats are cherry, apple, and maple. The mildest of the bunch are beech and alder.
In addition to strength, each of these woods provides a specific flavor profile. Dig a little deeper before deciding which one is right for you or learn through experimentation.
If you want to bring a whole new world of flavor and heat to your culinary skills, it’s time to learn how to smoke food. This method has stood the test of time and will continue to expand over the centuries.
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