All good chefs would agree that you shouldn’t let your food go up in smoke and I readily concede that burning your supper isn’t a good idea!
I am, however, all in favour of letting food ‘go up in smoke’ because I am a big fan of smoking your food – a really healthy way of cooking, as no fats or oils are used in the process.
In addition, as your culinary delicacy is placed on a rack over a smouldering fire, it doesn’t sit in its own fat whilst cooking. The fat simply drains away, thereby reducing cholesterol levels.
One of the main methods of smoking is ‘cold smoking’, which is done to remove moisture (as in smoked salmon), or to partially cook the item (like bacon) to finish cooking by another method afterwards.
A quicker and easier method, however, is ‘hot smoking’, which fully cooks the food and it can be enjoyed whilst it’s still hot or cooled and saved for later.
Both methods need a smouldering material (usually sawdust or wood chips) to generate smoke – but you can’t simply nip into your garden and lop a branch off your, or your neighbour’s, tree.
Only wood that has been processed to eliminate resins should be used.
There are several types of wood available, such as alder (delicate); cherry (rich); maple (subtle) and many more, all of which have their own distinct characteristics. You can also combine several to create your own unique flavours.
If you don’t want the expense of purchasing a smoker, however, you can make your own – all you need is a frying pan and some baking foil!
Place two sheets of foil over the pan, put your chosen smoking material between them and position a rack on top. Lay your victuals on the rack, cover loosely with another sheet of foil and ‘crimp’ the edges to the first sheet to seal in the smoke.
Put the pan on the hob over a medium heat – and you’re smoking.
Store-cupboard ingredients, such as uncooked rice, green tea-leaves and brown sugar, can even be used instead of sawdust.
For safety reasons though – don’t leave the kitchen whilst the hob is on!
You can smoke fish, seafood, beef, lamb, chicken, pork, game, vegetables, cheese – the list is almost endless. Oily fish, like mackerel, is particularly good for smoking.
The time required to smoke your provisions is a matter of experience and the size of your portion, of course, but cooking by smoking is simplicity itself as there is no need to constantly turn or stir the food.
Smoking your own comestibles allows you to choose good quality produce rather than manufactured pre-packed products of uncertain provenance.
So let your food ‘go up in smoke’ and you’ll find it healthier, tastier, easier – and more fun!
There is, however, one last thing to remember – leave your wood chips to cool before disposing of them, or your supper may not be the only thing which goes up in smoke.