Smoking is one of the most delicious ways to make food, and once you’ve mastered a few basic rules, it is also a breeze to do.
What should you smoke?
The most popular food to smoke is fish. Many people find that fatty fish, such as salmon, whitefish, bream, flounder and vendace, are the best to smoke, but you should also try perch, zander and pike. The tell-tale signs of a fresh fish are clear eyes, springy flesh, which also doesn’t pull away from the bones, a thin coating of slime on the skin and, above all, a clean smell. Small and mid-sized fish can be smoked whole after being gutted, and bigger ones should be filleted. Also, you do not need to scale the fish. In addition to fish, you can also put meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables in a smoker. Brie, for example, makes an impressive treat when given a smoky note, and burgers are raised to a whole new level after being in a smoker.
Salting fish and giving colour to meat
Before smoking, you can cure your fish with, for example, coarse sea salt, or brine it. Depending on the size of the fish and how much salt you use, you can cure your fish with salt from a few hours to overnight, then wipe off any excess before smoking. For brining, you should leave the fish completely submerged for at least 12 hours. The brine strength should be 5 to 10%, depending on your preference. If you want to brine right after smoking, submerge your fish in a hot 10% solution for a few minutes. You can give colour to meat before smoking by searing it in a hot frying pan. You can put chicken, cheese and vegetables in a smoker without doing any prep work, except for adding desired seasonings.
Getting the flavour of smoke from wood
Scatter a layer of smoking chips in the smoker tray, making sure they do not pile up. The wood will give off smoke to flavour your food. Make sure that the chips are wet. If there are too little, the smoke will be too faint, but if there are too many chips, they might catch fire. You can find a happy medium by experimenting with them. You can also try chips from different kinds of wood whose smoke will impart slightly different flavours. Alder is the most classic wood for smoking. There are also chips made from, for example, applewood, oak and hickory, each one giving off its own special aroma. Applewood is light with a sweet fruitiness, whereas American-style hickory is strong and has an intense smoke flavour. Oak chips doused in bourbon bring their own special notes. You will also get different notes of flavour when you use, for instance, juniper branches on top of the chips or by placing some lemon wedges on the smoking grate next to the fish. You can also soak the chips in, for example, strong and dark beer or wine to add extra flavour.
Before the first time using a smoker, you should properly heat it up. Smoking temperatures are rather low, usually under 100 °C, to allow the smoke to form and to make sure the fish inside will not dry out. For example, it will take about 50 to 60 minutes at between 90 and 92 °C to smoke salmon, depending on how thick the fillet is. How fresh the food is, the smoking temperature, the amount of salt, the chips/shavings/pellets being used and the smoking time all factor in to how everything will turn out. Your best results will be achieved through trial and error, as there really is no one true and correct method of smoking. However, Mustang electric and gas smokers have great aids to help give you fantastic results, such as a heat adjuster, a timer, a water container and an adjustable smoke hatch. If you would like to add more colour to your fish or meat, place 1 or 2 sugar cubes on top of the wood. As the sugar burns inside the smoker, your food will naturally get a darker colour.
And then enjoy!
Smoked food is at its best right after smoking, whereupon the flesh will easily pull away from the skin and bones. However, if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat everything right away, remove the bones from the flesh while the fish or meat is still hot, as it is easier to do this way. Next day smoked fish is excellent with pasta or a baked potato or in a sandwich just by itself. Freezing smoked food is also possible, as long as you close your freezer bag tightly, making sure there is no air inside.