Think of some of the most pleasurable foods: ham, bacon, pastrami. All owe their distinctive flavor to smoke. Not only can you impart smoky flavor to brisket or pulled pork, you can also smoke food you’d never expect, including cocktails, cheesecake, ice cream, mayonnaise, butter, and ice.
Developing that smoky flavor is a process. Grilling is a high-heat cooking method defined by its speed and efficiency. It’s perfect for a quick meal after work. But smoking is grilling’s very antithesis, requiring patience, persistence, and, above all, time. Even relatively fast-smoking foods, such as chicken or ribs, must smoke for several hours. And smoked cured foods, such as pastrami or ham, need to be salted and brined for up to two weeks before you fire up your smoker.
Smoking is practiced by most of the world’s great food cultures, but the techniques vary widely from region to region and dish to dish. Smoking represents a continuum that uses several methods, including cold-smoking, hot-smoking, and smoke-roasting. The recipes featured here take advantage of hay-smoking, a specialty form of smoking developed by cheesemakers in Italy to flash-smoke cheeses with smoldering hay — which you can do relatively quickly. You’ll also see hot-smoking, in which you smoke at a high enough temperature so that food cooks in addition to acquiring smoky flavor (as opposed to cold-smoking, which layers on flavor without cooking). You might start with these ideas and experiment later with a longer-smoking foods, such as brisket or a whole hog, or even expand your range to some of those more unusual smoked desserts or drinks.
Try smoking food with these tempting smoker recipes:
This excerpt from Project Smoke, copyright 2016, is courtesy of Workman Publishing. Steven Raichlen hosts PBS shows, including “Primal Grill” and “Barbecue University.” Find Project Smoke and Planet Barbecue, and Raichlen’s latest book, Barbecue Sauces, Ribs, and Marinades, are available in our online store.