Home smoked food: Advice from a professional smokehouse

home smoked foodThis post starts with a confession – before I set up Morton’s Norfolk Smokehouse I had very limited experience of smoking meat at home!

We had a charcoal barbecue with a bit on the side into which you could put logs and wood chips – this would then smoke meat for you.

It’s main disadvantage was that it could be a bit hit and miss.

When you’re feeding family and friends who’ll forgive the odd cremation, it doesn’t matter so much, but this is obviously not suitable for our commercially available smoked meats when we need to get it right every time.

I had to learn the hard way!

What different methods of producing home smoked food are there?

If you are using a barbeque, effectively you are hot-smoking the meat.

To properly cold smoke the product you have to have the temperature down at 25-30 degrees centigrade.

To achieve this your heat source or smoke generator needs to be further away from the product so the smoke temperature cools.

In general you would hot smoke poultry and meats to kill the bacteria and you want to cook the meat off whereas with Salmon and fish you would cold smoke.

It can be a very time consuming activity and getting it right at home can be difficult!

What home smoking equipment would I recommend for the best home smoked food?

Smokers for use indoors come in a few forms – either an Electric smoker or one that can be used on a cooker hob.

I would suggest, however, going for one designed for outside use as the smoke can get in your eye’s and the smell of the smoke, whilst not unpleasant, can stick around a bit!

I would recommend considering a Bradley Smoker as they have a good range of ‘home smokers’.

They start with a simple Bradley Smoke Generator that pipes smoke into a wooden box, which you can cold smoke your product with.

They also do a Cold Smoker which comes complete in a box, which you can buy woodchip briquets for (look a bit like a Weetabix).

You simply have to place these in the Smoker and press a button.

These are good machines to learn the smoking process with.

For great results, don’t skimp on quality!

I would recommend using choice cuts of meat and fish. At Morton’s Smokehouse we brine our products first as well – which you might also want to do.

Make sure you use proper woodchips like hardwood oak – do not use sweepings off the shed floor or chippings from wood that has been chainsawed!

They could have residue from the saw that could taint the product.

Once you get the hang of it you can smoke anything you like, but if you get too much smoke or use the wrong wood chips you’ll spoil the product and it won’t be worth eating.

So what’s the difference between a professional and domestic smokehouse?

Both commercial and domestic smoking use essentially the same principle – smoldering wood chips and sawdust and generating smoke.

It’s how you hold that smoke in the chamber and get a good flow of smoke around and over the product which makes all the difference.

If you imagine lighting a fire underneath the product and closing the cabinet, it would just fill with the smoke that would just rise and condense at the top.

This would, in all likelihood, result in an over-smoked product and not taste good.

So it is critical to get the air flow running correctly through the system to produce the best smoked products.

Unsurprisingly most commercial smokers are big!

As you can see on our smokehouse video, Our ‘smoker’ cabinet is the size of a double wardrobe, compared to a home ‘smoker’ cabinet which is smaller and more compact.

Home smokers also only tend to have cold smoke, whereas our machine does hot smoke as well.

But don’t let that stop you having a go though – smoking your own foods can be really satisfying and result in some delicious results!

What are your favourite smoked foods?

One of the great things about Artisan foods is there’s always something new to discover!
Do you have any favourite smoked foods or preparation tips?

If you do get in touch and let me know – you can also do it on Facebook or Twitter!