Have you ever indulged in the yumminess of a Montreal smoked meat sandwich? The smoky flavour of the beef lingers, delighting your taste buds, and leaving you wanting more.
Smoking the meat is what gives it that distinct flavour; it also helps the meat to last longer. Smoking is the process of flavouring, browning, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to the smoke from burning materials, most often wood. The list of woods used to smoke food includes, but is not limited to, alder, hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan, maple, and fruit-tree woods, such as apple and cherry.
There are lots of foods that you can smoke, from meats and fish, to cheeses, vegetables, whiskey and beer, and even spices. But meats and fish are the most commonly smoked foods.
Smoking has been used as a way of preserving and flavouring food for many thousands of years. Today there are smokers you can purchase for smoking your food at home; these units are designed to cook food low and slow under a controllable cloud of flavourful smoke. There are many varieties of home smokers on the market from simple stovetop smokers to professional-grade units. If you want to try smoking your own food, but don’t want to invest in a smoker, you can get the same smoky flavour on your charcoal barbecue grill.
It’s easy to turn a standard charcoal grill into a smoker for both cooking low and slow or adding smoky flavour to quickly grilled items. The trick to smoking on your charcoal grill is to keep the heat low and use a bath (aluminum foil pan) of hot water for steaming; add wood chips to the coals or use a smoke bomb to get the flavour. A smoke bomb is simply wood chips wrapped in a cotton muslin. Soak the smoke bomb in water for 5 minutes and place directly on hot coals.
There are other ways that people turn their barbecue grills into a smoker, but we prefer the bath method. You start by piling your coals to the outer edge of your grill, leaving space for the bath. Let the coals heat up and then carefully place the bath inside the grill. For the bath, use an aluminum foil pan and fill it about half way with hot water. The water pan creates a hot, moist environment, which is critical for smoking. Cook your food on a low heat and be sure to use a thermometer to check internal temperatures to ensure meat is properly cooked.
Gentlemen (and ladies) start your grills!