Hot smoking can be achieved either on a stovetop smoker or in a BBQ style smoker. Both methods use similar principles but have their uses for a variety of different foods.
In General, Hot smoking exposes food to smoke and heat in a controlled environment. Foods that have been hot smoked are often safe to eat without further cooking. One of the easiest ways to understand the process is to describe it as cooking in the presence of smoke.
Hot smoking, while often described as a cooking process, can take place at much lower temperatures than one would ordinarily expect from a traditional cooker. Hot smoking often uses a process termed as Low & Slow. Low and slow cooking is what it says it is, low temperatures cooked slowly for a long time. Hot smoking using this technique is synonymous with the BBQ scene both in the UK and the USA and tends only to apply to outdoor smokers. I’ll cover stovetop smoking later in this page.
One of the main reasons for adopting Low and Slow BBQ cooking is to allow the meat to tenderise and become soft and delicious. Many cuts of meat that are used for BBQ are tough. Both Ribs and brisket are tough cuts of meat which benefit hugely from this style of cooking. Brisket is a traditional cheaper tough cut of meat for this very reason. Brisket has a lot of intramuscular sinew which, when cooked slowly, breaks down into something significantly different. Brisket’s connective tissues melt into gelatine significantly softening the meat and making it easy to consume.
When hot smoking, target smoker temperatures will be in the range of 120C to 140C. This is a much lower temperature than a traditional cooker which operate in the region of 180C to 200C.
One issue when hot smoking is the duration meat has to be in the smoker to soften. Considering the meat will be exposed to the smoke and heat for a long time there are some parts of the smoking one needs to consider.
Hot Smoking a 3Kg piece of brisket can take anywhere between 12 to 16 hours to complete. To prevent the meat from drying out and being over smoked, the brisket should be wrapped after about three hours of hot smoking. We wrap the meat in greaseproof paper then two layers of foil.
Before hot smoking, meat is usually rubbed with herbs, spices, salt and sugar to enhance it’s flavour. During smoking and the ongoing cooking whilst wrapped, the meat can be brushed using a sauce or juice to maintain moistness and further enhance it’s flavour.