There is something about smoking foods that gives them added depth, flavor, and wonderful fragrance. Whether it's a hotdog roasted over the fire or sausages smoked over applewood chips, adding smoke brings pleasure and variety to the simplest of foods. Never smoked food before but want to try? Here's our guide to simple smoked meats, cheeses, and more.
Simple smoking starts with a container such as a fire pit, drum, grill, soup pot, or box. Then you’ll need kindling, matches, firewood, and damp wood chips, and hooks or racks for suspending the food you'll be smoking.
To hang food, simply place a sturdy stick or pole across the mouth of the fire pit, drum, soup pot, or box, then suspend the food above the smoke with a hook or strong string. You can also set a grill or cooling rack above the smoke by resting them on bricks or stones that you set around the fire.
Stick to woods from fruit and nut trees, or hickory and oak, and you'll always get a good smoke. Do not use resinous or fragrant wood such as pine or eucalyptus because smoked foods should taste like smoke, not cleaning products. Never use treated wood.
All smoking uses either cold smoke (indirect) or hot smoke (direct). Picture a smoky fire. If you want hot smoke, hang or place the item directly above the fire. If you want cold smoke, hang or place the item off to the side in the path of the smoke, but not close to the heat.
For delicate items like cheese or tea leaves, you'll want cold smoke so you don't melt the cheese or burn the tea leaves. I often smoke cheese by binding it in cheesecloth or hanging on a hook and suspending it to the side of my campfire where it gets plenty of smoke but none of the heat.
For denser items, such as bacon or sausages, you can use hot or cold smoke. Hot smoke, if you don't keep an eye on it, may cook the meat while it's smoking. This isn't a bad thing. One of our best smoking mistakes was suspending homemade sausages over hot smoke for too long. The result was heavenly, burnished mahogany skins with beautifully cooked insides. Cold smoking is great if you plan to cook the meat afterwards.
For middle of the road things like chilies and peppers, I like to get them close to the smoky fire so they get lightly roasted while they're smoking.
- Build your fire, and set the wood chips or wood shavings in a bucket of water to soak.
- Let your fire burn down to good coals.
- Assemble the food you're going to smoke and put on hooks or racks.
- Once the fire is burned down, add wet wood chips to the coals, then hang the food where you want it.
Smoking time is up to your palate. I do peppers for about 15-20 minutes, cheese about 1-2 hours, meat 6-8 hours (sausages) with large pieces 12-14 hours. Keep adding wet wood chips to maintain the smoke.