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Smoking food: direct fire or no fire?
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Thread: Smoking food: direct fire or no fire?

  1. #1
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    Smoking food: direct fire or no fire?

    Hi guys, I'm trying to smoke food and I was wondering if there's a difference in flavors when smoking without a direct flame (like over a stovetop) or with a flame (like blowtorching woodchips)? I know for woodchips it doesn't matter, but what about smoking using delicate things like hay, tea, or herbs? I'm mostly asking because I do have a "smoking gun", but it smokes by heating via a lighter. I'm scared of getting burnt, ashy taste on my food if I'm smoking using things like teas or herbs, and I know that when using tea, people typically don't get them smoking via a direct fire.

    I just want to know that if I'm making a tea-smoked duck, my flavor will be similar if I'm using a smoking gun or the "stovetop with a cakerack" method.

  2. #2
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    I've never used either, but here's my opinion based on my experience (I do a fair amount of barbecuing/smoking).

    Most things like hay, tea or herbs should not give much of a burnt, ashy taste; they're not woods and you're simply not burning the same quantity of material. Nonetheless, I would imagine that smoldering at lower heat would likely be best so that you're not causing flareups and the dispersal of ash as a result of such flareups - you want smoke, not fire.

    Also, the volume and consistency of smoke have a lot to do with how smoky something tastes (and how burnt, ashy something tastes) in my experience. Consequently, when I bbq/smoke foods, I try to get a nice slow, consistent burn, and almost never close the top vent so that my food doesn't sit in smoke.

    And, if you're really worried, try both ways first. You're going to have to learn how to control your smoking medium anyways, so you might as well give it a controlled shot.
    Michael
    "Don't you know who he is?"

  3. #3
    Senior Member GeneH's Avatar
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    Hey Phan - sorry I forgot to respond a while ago. The technique I learned from my Dad smoking fish and my own exerpence with turkeys, beef jerky, and pork/beef ribs was long, cool smoking and, if I remember correctly nothing about about 120 def F. For fish we used a gutted full size refridgerator and kept smoldering wood chunks in the bottom. I used the same technique for making beef jerky with a cardboard refriderator box over my metal smoker (to keep from burning the box down) For smoking ribs and turkeys I used a 2 ft dia x 4 ft tall smoker with smoldering wet (water soaked not green) wood, and lot's denser smoke.

    The difference as Michael said, is the volume and consistency of the smoke. Also the wood - big difference between Hickory and Apple and Cherry. The fish and jerky had less dense smoke and the technique was to smoke and dry, not cook it. With the ribs and whole turkey, especially the turkey, I would smoke the heck out out it, and to eat it we peeled off the smoked/almost charred like skin to get to wonderful juicy smoky meat. The ribs I didn't smoke as hard or as long - the smoking was prep for BBQ sauces, whereas the turkey was an end in itself.

    Properly smoking is a half-day or more process of constant tweaking the temp and volume of smoke to keep it consistent.

  4. #4

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    The shape & dimensions of the smoking apparatus, as well as the smoking material (herbs/wood type), pre-smoke prep (sugar/salt cure), and smoking procedure (hot/cold smoke/vent or no vent, etc..), would have a bigger impact on flavor than heat source I'd think.

  5. #5
    Senior Member GeneH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stbavor View Post
    The shape & dimensions of the smoking apparatus, as well as the smoking material (herbs/wood type), pre-smoke prep (sugar/salt cure), and smoking procedure (hot/cold smoke/vent or no vent, etc..), would have a bigger impact on flavor than heat source I'd think.
    You are correct, except the slow smolding wood is the heat source. Unless the outside temperatures were very cold (near freezing), there wouldn't needed to be an auxiliary heat source. I have not done so well in cold weather and never thought of adding heat before. Good idea!

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