10 Tips For Smoking Food
Food smokers are fantastic devices that offer you the freedom and flexibility to flavour your food according to your tastes, and with our tips you should find the experience both effortless and fun too.
Barbecue enthusiasts often enjoy cooking their food using a food smoker, to add a richness and depth to the barbecued meat, fish or vegetables. Whether you grill outdoors on a gas barbecue or traditional charcoal barbecue, you can use smoke to enhance the natural flavour and look of the food – and of course, add that truly delicious smokiness that is a main reason so many of us adore cooking on the BBQ in the first place.
If you’re new to food smoking and looking for some ideas or are keen to find out more and extend your knowledge, take a look at our 10 tips for ensuring you get the most from your smoker, each and every time.
1. You can buy smoke boxes for wood chips and these can be used on any barbecue, gas or charcoal, provided it has a lid.
2. The process for gas and charcoal barbecues differs slightly, although you can always simply place the wood chips in the smoke box and add to the lit barbecue.
3. For charcoal BBQs, you need to make sure the device is hot enough. As a guide, it takes around 30-40 minutes to get the charcoals to the right temperature, and when the flames have died down. How exactly you add the wood chips, is up to you – you can add a few just before you begin cooking your food so that the smoke is released throughout or you can wait until near the end, depending on the strength of smokiness you want. Alternatively, you can pre-soak the wood chips in water and place in a smoke box on the coals.
4. For gas barbecues, soak the wood chips in water first for about 60 minutes as their dampness enhances the smoking process and helps to keep the food moist throughout too. Remove the excess water from the chips by giving them a good squeeze before adding them to your smoke box or to some aluminium foil – if you use foil, be sure to spread the chips loosely round and wrap and pierce so the smoke can escape and flavour the food.
5. You can buy a special smoker and grill barbecue device, which has two cooking grills and supports different cooking methods including smoking. Often, this device will let you smoke, grill, steam and roast your food for extra versatility.
6. When smoking meat, you can leave the fat on as the process is long and this will melt away during the cooking, which helps to keep the meat moist.
7. The wood types each emit a distinctive flavour and effect on the barbecued food. For example, maple works well with ham and seafood whereas hickory is good for smoking beef. To find the wood you like best, it’s a good idea to experiment with the different flavours.
8. Start with a small amount of wood chips for your first use, to see what you make of the flavour, and then you can build from there – but be careful not to overdo it or you may end up with a bitter taste.
9. The heat source on the barbecue should be away from the food, as the cooking process is long and slow, so that the smoke can enhance the food over time. Ideally, pile the coals on one side and grill on the other, and similarly with gas barbecues light a burner and place the food on the grill to the side and not directly above this.
10. A digital thermometer is a great tool as it helps you to know when the smoked food is ready. Because smoking food alters the flavour and appearance, it can be hard to judge when it’s cooked, but a thermometer will tell you – and you can even time it according to how you like your meat to be cooked, be it rare, medium or well done.