Simple-BBQ, A barbecue lovers website

Hot smoking using a kettle barbecue

What is more irresistible than hot smoked food cooked using some charcoal and wood chips in a barbecue? Not much. There are no adaptations required to hot smoke in a barbecue as long as it has a lid. All you need in addition to the usual barbecue prerequisites is some wood chips.

You can use most hardwoods to smoke over, the wood from fruit trees are generally great woods to smoke over. Oak, Apple and Manuka are my favourites but Mesquite, Pecan and Hickory are all quite readily available from your barbecue equipment supplier. Avoid evergreen or wood from trees that have a sticky sap like pine.

First of all you will need to light some charcoal. This is quite easy but if you need some help lighting a bbq this link will take you to the Simple-BBQ.com barbecue lighting page. You don't need too much charcoal, half a chimney or four or five big handfuls will do it. While the charcoal is getting going take your food out of the fridge to come up to room temperature.

When your charcoal has a grey ash covering put some wood chips on to the charcoal. It is a myth that wood chips should be soaked before you put them on to hot charcoal. If you put wet wood chips on to hot charcoal the heat will drop and it is counter productive. Chances are you could soak the wood chips all night and in reality they will absorb little moisture really. When you add some wood chips to the charcoal they may start to flame but when you put the lid on to the barbecue they will die down.

The process of hot smoking is quite straightforward. Now that you have wood chips generating smoke put the cooking grill in place and put your food on to that grill. Place the thicker ends of your meat towards the charcoal, don't actually put anything directly above the charcoal as it may cook too aggressively. Put the lid on the barbecue and make sure that all of the barbecues' vents are open.

Dependent on the thickness of the meat and how much charcoal you lit will give an indication as to how long your food will take to smoke. If you like your food to be more strongly smoked you can add more wood chips through the smoking process. The open vents provide a tell tale of how much smoke there is and it may aid your decision to add more wood chips to the charcoal. Some salmon fillets will take 15-20 minutes but check as you go along.

Smoking was a way of preserving meat in the past but your food might not last minutes. You can smoke and eat later or the next day as cold smoked salmon or chicken are delicious. Remember food hygiene rules and check everything is cooked.

For a twist try adding some brown sugar, chilli flakes and other flavourings to your meat before you smoke it, these give lovely delicate flavours and sometimes colouring. Avoid using salt as this will extract moisture from the food you are smoking.

Keep some notes of what you did. If you find that the food you have smoked is a little dry try smoking it for a few minutes less next time. If you run out of heat you can add more hot charcoal but again it is worth noting this so you can start with more charcoal next time.

My favourite food to smoke is fresh caught mackerel. If you take off their heads and gut them they can go on straight away. Being a naturally oily fish helps keep them moist, even if you over cook them a little. Smoked mackerel is great warm or cold too. In the Oceania smoked Snapper is king and with good reason, being every bit as good a fish to catch as well as to eat.