Smoking & Aromatising
History tells us that as long ago as Greek and Roman times smoking foods was a daily practice. It is after all one of the oldest preserving techniques known to man and was also found to improve taste. Nowadays smoked foods play an important part in the market place.
At the restaurant table it remains a relatively cheap way to add flavours and interest to ingredients. Meats, fish, cheese and rinds are the norm, but you can smoke pretty much anything, even liquids.
There are basically five steps to classic smoking: salting/brining, rinsing, seasoning, the actual smoking and ripening. In each case it is essential to use the right choice of wood chips that promote the aroma and deliver the flavour the chef wants to provide to the food. The best possible wood chip selections are from the apple, cherry, oak, beech and cedar wood trees. More often than not these wood chips can be combined with spices and dry herbs or natural essences to provide the smoke with an additional aroma.
The three main smoking techniques that can be deployed are:
- Traditional Smoking - For example using a smoking box or kamado-style barbecue
- Smoking by Impregnation - A relatively new technique consisting of the use of vacuum containers
- Smoking a la Carte - Designed more for table-side theatrics with the use of a smoke gun and glass bells rather than achieving a proper smoke.
Smoking times are perhaps the most common question of all. There are a great number of factors that can influence the smoking process and ultimately experience is what marks the path to success at any given moment. Such factors to consider will include the equipment used, whether the food is going to be cooked or not, the culinary processes applied to the food prior to smoking, type of food and personal taste. An approximate rule for a full smoke would be 1 or 2 hours for small pieces of fish and 4 to 5 hours for larger pieces of meat. It is of course always essential that food products used in smoking are as fresh as possible!
Smoking & Aromatising with the Super-Aladin Smoke Gun
The smoking techniques and products found on this web site are exclusively used as a tool for smoking a la carte style. This smoking technique allows the chef to give a specific dish an instant smoke and, in the case of the Super-Aladín® Smoke Gun & Aromatiser, aromatisation during service the purpose of which is to excite the customer's sense of smell and entice a positive reaction to the food presentation. In order to do so it is necessary to prepare both the smoke gun and the wood chips to achieve a cold smoke that is very white in colour. To do so requires some practice, but in essence the following processes should be applied with the Super-Aladín® Smoke Gun & Aromatiser:
1. Smoke Gun Assembly
Assemble the smoke gun making sure that the motor is charged with full batteries, the aromatising chamber is screwed on, the propeller is protected with a small grill for the aroma chamber and a larger grill for the combustion chamber, then fill the combustion chamber with wood chips without pressing them in before finally connect the smoke gun to a glass bell.
2. Wood Chip Preparation
One of the most important aspects to smoking is the selection of the right wood chips for the right intensity of smoke. For example, for a more intense wood smoke use oak chips, however, if you wish to use aromas like fresh herbs or essential oils as well it is better to choose a milder wood like beech chips. For each session it is necessary to wet the wood chips with a little water or infusion and leave it to absorb. This enables the wood chips to reach an optimal level of dampness from which to achieve a good smoke.
3. Smoking Process
Once you have filled the combustion chamber with your damp wood chips, the motor should be turned on and the wood chips lit with a cigarette lighter (not blow torch). The damp wood chips will take longer to ignite this way but will make for a slower burn with lots of white aromatic smoke. As the heat is applied to the wood chips you will start to notice a white smoke appear down the connection tube. If the burn is too fast re-wet the wood chips so as to reduce the amount of combustion. Once the glass bell is full of dense smoke repeat the process for each new bell.
4. The Aromatising Technique
It is also possible to add aromats to the smoke to create distinctly stronger fragrances. The first technique includes adding fresh herbs to the wood chips. Before moisturising the wood chips add some full herbs inside the combustion chamber and inside the aromatising chamber. Cover the combustion chamber to let the wood chips impregnate the aroma of the herbs, then make moist with water before starting the smoking process. Another technique is one that uses essential oils. Add a few drops of essential oils to moist wood chips and, to enhance the aroma, add an impregnated aromatic filter with the same essence into the aromatising chamber. Then start the smoking process. After 4 or 5 cycles add more drops of essential oils to the combustion chamber but not the filter. When using an aroma the smoking process should be even slower to preserve the essential oils.
5. Cleaning & Maintenance
After each session it is beneficial to do a thorough clean of the smoke gun. This is done by removing the combustion chamber and removing any excess wood chips, unscrewing the connection tube and the aromatising chamber and, using some pliers, lifting up the propeller where you can use a soapy paper towel or one soaked in alcohol to clean the waste chamber. Wash all the remaining components in hot water and a neutral soap and re-assemble for a new session.
The sense of smell is one of the least used and explored senses within gastronomy. The skill of the chef to mix flavours (taste), textures and temperature (touch) and presentation and colour (sight) together to create a food harmony to the customer is flawed unless it can guide the customer to the dish through the sense of smell. Just like the fragrance of a good bottle of wine entices the drinker, so the sense of smell leads the diner.
The emergence of essences, alcohols and essential oils with hundreds of different aromas in combination with such equipment as the Multi-Aromatiser and Super-Aladín® Smoke Gun & Aromatiser provide a new fusion and harmony of smell in professional cooking. The use of aromas in an intelligent way results in the customer experiencing surprising sensations and intense desires.
When used in appropriate doses the potency of the aromas can:
- Reinforce aromas that exist in the plate or get lost in the preparation
- Inspire the brain to engage a memory of a past feeling or moment in time
- Associate foods that work well together
- Add humour or an element of surprise to a dish by falsifying an aroma but not as a food component
The application of an aroma to a plate is a challenge for the chef. Due to the high volatility of some essences and alcohols, some aromatising should be done before serving the plate, whilst other essential oils are less volatile (i.e. less greasy or strong) and may require heat to be more effective.
Adding an aroma directly to a sauce, ice cream or dough is perhaps the simplest way to provide an extra dose of aroma. It is certainly a good starting point for the uninitiated. To do so simply impregnate a clean cotton aromatic filter with your chosen aromatic agent, turn on the motor of the Aromatiser and direct the vapour toward your product. Almost instantaneously you will aromatise the food environment but not impregnate your food.
Aromas you can begin with include seaweed, flowers, aromatic herbs, spices, fruit, yeasts, liquors, seeds, teas and coffees and toasted flavours. Thereafter you should look to be able to create your own perfume combinations, for example, lime-mint, orange whisky, truffle-mushroom, coconut-rum, etc.
Just remember to replace your filter with a clean one for each new aroma.