Since smoke was in second place on the top ten list of flavourings mentioned on restaurant menus last year (yes, it really is someone’s job to keep track of these things!), it’s true that smoke is hot with consumers and chefs alike. While chefs can use tools such as The Smoking Gun to short cut to smoky flavour, home cooks need to put in a bit more effort. But the effort is well worth it!
Below are my tried and true tips for turning your grill into a smoke filled cradle that can infuse steaks, fish, chicken and even grilled veggies with intense, deep flavour.
• You can buy a cast iron smoking box for your grill for $25 dollars or so at many department and hardware stores.
• Lift the grate off your gas grill and place the smoking box in a corner of the grill where it will be exposed to intense heat.
• Next, close the windows in your house and car.
• Fill the smoker box with wet wood chips and fill the reservoir with water; put on the lid (if it has one) and replace the grate. Turn the grill on high and heat until enormous clouds of smoke billow out of the vent holes in the lid. Reduce the heat to desired cooking temperature and proceed as usual.
• No smoking box? Choose a small, disposable foil baking pan that will fit between the grate and the burners. Position as recommended above.
• Soak enough wood chips to cover the bottom of the pan completely in water for 15 minutes or so before draining and adding chips to the pan and proceeding as above.
Choosing wood chips:
• Wood chips designed for culinary smoking are usually available in the same section as smoker boxes.
• Prepackaged hickory, mesquite, fruitwood and other specialty wood varieties (such as bourbon soaked, wine wood, etc) are all great options.
• Never use pressure treated or scrap building materials for smoking food since lumber can contain toxic chemicals.
• If using wood from your own trees, make sure it is fully dried and brittle before use. Chop into cracker-sized pieces so that it burns quickly and easily.
• Moisten or soak wood chips before adding to the foil tray or smoking box to ensure that they smolder and don’t produce flames that can singe food.
• Before storing the grill, drizzle the wood chips remaining in the smoker box with additional water to ensure that the fire is completely extinguished.