Chimneys being a late technological addition to the average caveman’s domicile meant that for much of our pre-history, the typical hut or cave was a very smoky place. With eyes watering and low visibility, not to mention a persistent hacking cough, it was a minor miracle that early Man realised that the raw meat they hung for safe-keeping, away from grasping fingers and claws, developed an interesting flavour and appeared to spoil a lot more slowly. So began our love affair with smoked meats and other foodstuffs. Indeed it is not just meat that is smoked around the world, other foodstuffs include:
- Fruit and vegetables (plums, paprika, capsicums)
- Drinks, including whiskey, tea, and beer (!)
- Fish, cheeses, nuts, and all kinds of spices
- Some creative souls have also managed to smoke ice cream.
With several thousand years’ practice, we have become adept at smoking what we eat and drink to such a point that there is a whole industry devoted to getting the best out of the smoking process. A plethora of preparation methods (drying, brining, marinading etc.), rubs, marinades, cooking times/temperatures, sauces, accompanying sides and mains, have been developed. Television shows, books and magazines specialise in the whole smoking experience (usually featuring Myron Mixon, ‘The Winningest Man in BBQ’).
I’ve always enjoyed food. Growing up, my family and I would visit relatives in Europe and partake in the beloved past-time known as the Sunday Roast. All the men would be involved in the roast, from purchasing and preparing the meat, to cobbling together sides, singing songs and of course, drinking. It was this sense of togetherness that fostered my love of preparing food for those I care about.
It wasn’t until my exposure to the television show, ‘BBQ Pitmasters’, that I discovered my affinity for smoking. BBQ Pitmasters featured big men smoking big old hunks of meat for big groups of people – everything that I recalled from my upbringing. So I did my research, purchased a smoker and the rest is history.
The process is cathartic – the planning, cooking and delivery of smoked food allows my creative side to flourish, and I often devote entire days to preparing a proper smoked meal; from the meat itself, to making my own barbecue sauce, Dutch cream potatoes and smoked corn. Above all, I love being a good host.
Smoked food itself can be sublime, bringing out the flavour and textures in food that cannot be experienced using other cooking methods. As a recent devotee I have found that sticking with tried and true smoking methods can be highly rewarding, particularly when you get creative with your rubs, marinades, and sauces. Even the wood you use to generate that all important smoke will have a significant impact on your results. The experience is a social and culinary one with your labours being appreciated by family and friends.
Clicks’ Resident Pitmaster