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Would someone please tell me how exactly to use a hot smoker I have been given. Where do I put the wood chips, do I have to set them alight. Does the methylated spirits burner go under the tin but not in contact with the chips.
Does the smoker cook or merely smoke the contents of the container?
we have had a Dalek-like smoker for over 15 years, and use it for both hot and cold smoking. Cold smoking is only possible in a small smoker in winter – gets too hot and partially cooks things in summer.
Hot smoking does slow cook the food as well as smoke it: hot smoked mutton is to die for! Our smoker just has a tray in the bottom, and a bowl with a bit of water in suspended above, and the food on racks above that. For hot smoking charcoal gets put in the bottom, and is got going by whatever means you like: barbecue lighting fluid is fine, and I suppose meths would be as well, but keep food well away until the charcoal is really going, or it will be tainted. Once the charcoal is going, add a few bits of (preferably) freshly cut green oak that have been soaked in water for 1/2 hour before use. The oak bits should be 1 to 2 inches square and perhaps up to 3 or 4 inches long. Soaking them stops them flaring, and produces lots of steam and smoke, and the food is cooked in the smoke/steam mixture. As the oak bits burn out, add more from time to time. Obviously the food drips into the water bowl, and the water gets increasingly like gravy and also gets re-evaporated onto the food, so in the end everything gets covered in a sort of treacly savoury varnish (the best bits!). If the smoker has a built-in thermometer, 110 to 130 C will be plenty to cook most joints in 3 or 4 hours, including whole legs of mutton. I would suggest a probe type meat thermometer as well though, to make sure the centre of the meat has got hot enough, because once you start cutting big joints, the centre often appears disconcertingly pink even though it is fully cooked, and having used the thermometer makes me a lot happier when I see very pink meat.
If you’re having a garden party, the hot smoker is excellent, because it needs almost no attention once it’s set up in the morning, and food keeps safe and hot as long as its left in the smoker. Leaving it in there for up to 10 hours or longer is no problem.
Cheap chicken drumsticks come out as something rather delicious once hot smoked, and hot smoked prawns have a very short shelf life because it’s almost impossible to stop eating them!
Smouldering wood chips or sawdust sound more like cold smoking; most hot smoking I’ve heard of does use the trick of a steam/smoke mixture to ensure good heat transfer as well as a good dose of delicious smokey carcinogens!