Smell That Smoke? Great Ways to Use a Smoker this Summer
Summer. Lazy days, warm temperatures, cool drinks, and BBQ are all hallmarks of my favorite season. Whipping up tasty meals on the grill and dining on your patio or deck are great ways to enjoy the summer months. If you are a little more adventurous with your culinary pursuits and love great smoky flavors, consider investing in a smoker. Adding a little smoke to food can bring out natural flavors and add a scrumptious twist.
An electric smoker is a great way to introduce yourself to smoking a wide variety of food – it’s not just for ribs and brisket! Here are just a few ways you can delight your family and friends this summer with your smoking skills:
The Classics: Meats
When we think of smoked food, the first thing that usually comes to mind is smoked meats. Tender ribs, smoked chicken, and juicy brisket are all classic delicious options for your smoker. Smoking meats to the perfect tenderness takes time. For pork butts, you can count on leaving it in the smoker for around an hour per pound of meat. For beef, make it an hour and fifteen minutes.
You want to follow the instructions that came with your smoker to set it up, then you can get creative with your meat prep. You can make your own dry rubs with a variety of spices or pick up a great rub from the supermarket, sweeten the deal with a little brown sugar, or give it some zing by spreading on a little spicy mustard before adding the rub.
You can also play with different flavors by choosing different wood chips. Mesquite chips give food a savory flavor, while hickory and Applewood add a hint of sweetness. The best thing about smoking meat is being able to personalize the flavors to the delight of your friends and family.
Fruits and Veggies
You can’t have a great summer meal without fresh fruits and veggies. Head down to your local farmer’s market and you will find many of your favorites in season, and maybe even a few you haven’t tried before. If you want to kick your fruits and veggies up a notch for your next summer BBQ, consider using your smoker to add some exciting flavor. Firmer vegetables without much juice work best, such as zucchini, asparagus, artichokes, and eggplant.
The prep for most veggies is simple – brush with a little olive oil, sprinkle on some sea salt, and smoke. The bigger and firmer the vegetable, the longer you will smoke it, but most will be done in 90-120 minutes. For really tough veggies like artichokes, a quick steam to soften them up first can lessen the amount of time they need to smoke. Test your veggies regularly, and pull them out when they are tender enough for your taste.
If you like your sides on the sweeter side, you can try your hand at smoking fruits such as apples, pineapple, and strawberries. You will want to place your fruit in a vented grill pan, and make sure your temp is set very low. Smoke the fruits for about 30 minutes to an hour to give them a nice smoky flavor. If you want to cook down firmer fruits such as apples for use in dessert dishes, you can crank up the temp and smoke for 1-2 hours until they are tender.
Jazzing up your fruits and veggies with a little smoke will definitely make your meals memorable!
Everything’s Better with Cheese
Who doesn’t love a great smoked cheddar or gouda? A smoky cheese can add dimensions of flavor to everything from salads to burgers – though just nibbling a chunk of smoked cheese with some fresh fruit or crackers is a perfect snack. If you own a smoker, you can have smoked cheese at your fingertips without visiting the fancy cheese section at the supermarket.
Hard and semi-hard cheeses such as gouda, cheddar, and provolone work best since your goal is to smoke the cheese, not melt it! The trick is to let your cheese come to room temperature – leave it on your counter for an hour or two until the outside gets a little crusty. Set your smoker to a low temperature (below 100°), add your wood chips, place your cheese on the grate, and let it smoke for 2-4 hours.
The larger the block of cheese, the longer you leave it on the smoker. Test your cheese for firmness frequently. If it starts to melt, turn down the temp or leave the lid open on the smoker to let it cool down. Once the outer layer of the cheese has darkened 1-2 shades, you are ready to revel in your own smoked cheesy goodness!
From marvelous meats to putting a smoky spin on your side dishes and appetizers, smoking food is a fun way to give your summer dinners a creative spin. Your family, guests, and taste buds will thank you!0