Smoking is bad for you, but not for that piece of flank steak. Smoke is the soul of barbecue, the alchemy that happens when burning wood infuses its complex flavors into food. The recipe for smoking success is Steven Raichlen, America’s James Beard Award-winning global grilling and smoking authority and host of acclaimed PBS cooking shows that
have shaped the country’s fixation with live -fire cooking. Now, Raichlen makes the art of smoking food accessible to the home cook in his eagerly anticipated first book devoted exclusively to the subject—“Project Smoke: Seven Steps to Smoked Food Nirvana, Plus 100 Irresistible Recipes From Classic (Slam-Dunk Brisket) to Adventurous (Smoked Bacon-Bourbon Apple Crisp)” [Workman, $22.95].
Ambitious and comprehensive, the tasty tome includes everything you need to know to smoke delectable meats, vegetables, seafood, poultry, beverages, and, yes, desserts at home. It delivers both a complete step-by-step handbook to mastering the techniques—including how to add smoke flavor if you don’t own a smoker—and a collection of 100 innovative, hunger-inducing recipes for smoking every food imaginable. An in-depth rundown introduces you to all the smokers; the essential brines, rubs, marinades, and barbecue sauces; and the complete roster of smoking fuels. And ingenious ways to smoke—from traditional cold-smoking and barbecuing, to smoke-roasting and smoke-braising, to smoking with hay, tea, spices, and of course, a multitude of woods.
The recipes are adaptable to the smoker or grill that you have , and some can be made on a stove-top. The book is incredibly versatile—it’s a great resource for people who are ready to graduate from grilling to smoking, and for competition smoke masters seeking creative ideas and new techniques. It provides a wealth of information for those looking to take the traditional route of low and slow, and also for those who want to infuse a dish with smoke flavor in 10 minutes or less.
Here, Seven Surprising Facts from Raichlen
1. Smoke results when you burn wood, but not all wood smokes or tastes the same. Hardwoods (from deciduous trees like hickory and apple—which shed their leaves once a year) produce the best-tasting smoke.
2. Moisture is an essential component of successful smoking. A 600-pound load of meat puts out roughly 200 pounds of water. To keep the smoking environment moist, try using soaked wood chips, placing a bowl of water in the smoke chamber,
spraying the food with apple cider or wine, or mopping the food with a mop sauce.
3. Want to introduce smoke flavor without using a smoker? Add one of the following ingredients to your dish: bacon, chipotle chiles, Virginia ham, liquid smoke, mezcal, pimentón (smoked paprika from Spain), Scotch whiskey, smoked cheese, or lapsang souchon (smoked black tea from the Wuyi region in Fujian, China, that imparts a distinctive smoke flavor to brines and marinades).
4. Yes you really can smoke the following (with delicious results!): butter, cream, ricotta cheese, salt, sugar, honey, maple syrup, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, hot sauce, olive oil, tomato sauce, capers, olives, lemons, garlic, vanilla beans, bologna and ice.
5. Today, Americans consume over two million pounds of jerky annually, a derivative of smoke-drying, one of the first methods our prehistoric ancestors used to preserve meat and seafood. Native peoples in both North and South America
dried thinly sliced strips of meat next to a smoky fire. Our word jerky likely comes from charqui, the Quecha Incan tribe’s
term for dried meat.
6. Widely considered the red badge of honor of great barbecue, a smoke ring is a pinkish-red band found just below the surface of barbecued meats that’s produced when the gas created by burning wood dissolves into the meat. But, since hackers have been known to fake the ring by lightly rubbing their meat with sodium-nitrite-based curing salt prior to smoking it, the Kansas City Barbecue Society ceased making a smoke ring one of the criteria for professional judges in barbecue competitions.
7. All barbecue is smoked, but not all smoked foods are barbecue. Texas brisket, Carolina pork shoulder, and Kansas City ribs are barbecue. Virginia ham, Scandinavian smoked salmon, and Italian smoked mozzarella are smoked, but they’re not barbecue.