The History of Smoking Food

Smoked Meats

I didn’t really know much about smoked food until my husband recently bought a smoker BBQ from America. This thing is like a cast iron train! It took four guys to ease it off the ramp coming off the truck! You should’ve seen how happy hubby was! Anyway, I enjoy the usual smoked salmon and even some kinds of smoked cheese but it wasn’t until we started smoking our own foods that I really came to appreciate the process, flavour, texture and variations in smoking materials that can be played with.

Smoker BBQ

Here at EHA we have a range of different pellet flavours for you to enjoy. Check out our Cooking Pellets page for more info.

What is smoking: The History of Smoking Food

Smoking is the process of flavoring, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering material, most often wood. Meats and fish are the most common smoked foods, though cheeses, vegetables, and ingredients used to make beverages such as beer, smoked beer, and lapsang souchong tea are also smoked.

A range of different woods can be burnt to create the smoke. European varieties include alder, oak and beech to a lesser extent. In North America, hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan, alder, maple, and fruit-tree woods, such as apple, cherry, and plum, are commonly.. Other fuels besides wood can also be employed, sometimes with the addition of flavouring ingredients. Chinese tea-smoking uses a mixture of uncooked rice, sugar, and tea, heated at the base of a wok. Other materials used include burning corncobs, peat, sawdust from tea tree and even dried sheep dung!

Historically, farms in the Western world included a small building termed the smokehouse, where meats could be smoked and stored. This was generally well-separated from other buildings both because of the fire danger and because of the smoke emanations.

There are three main types of smoking:

  • Cold smoking can be used as a flavor enhancer for items such as chicken breasts, beef, pork chops, salmon, scallops, and steak. The item is hung first to develop a pellicle, then can be cold smoked for just long enough to give some flavor. Some cold smoked foods are baked, grilled, roasted, or sautéed before eating. 
  • Hot smoking exposes the foods to smoke and heat in a controlled environment. Like cold smoking, the item is hung first to develop a pellicle, then smoked. Although foods that have been hot smoked are often reheated or cooked, they are typically safe to eat without further cooking. Hams and ham hocks are fully cooked once they are properly smoked.
  • Smoke roasting or smoke baking refers to any process that has the attributes of smoking combined with either roasting or baking. This smoking method is sometimes referred to as “barbecuing”, “pit baking”, or “pit roasting”. It may be done in a smoke roaster, closed wood-firedmasonry oven or barbecue pit, any smoker that can reach above 250 °F (121 °C), or in a conventional oven by placing a pan filled with hardwood chips on the floor of the oven so the chips smolder and produce a smokebath. However, this should only be done in a well-ventilated area to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.


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