Smoking as a means of cooking and preservation of food has been around for at least 250,000 years, according to latest research by archaeologists studying hominid behavior. More recent examples include “smoking houses” in Ireland (2,000 years back) and smoked foods among Greeks and Romans (1,000-200BC). If humanity discovered smoking so early and retained it till the modern age, clearly there are some major advantages of smoking foods which persuaded them to do so. Below we shall explore some of the most important advantages of smoking as a means of cooking foods in the age of electric smokers and advanced culinary techniques.
Smoking kills off bacteria
Bacteria thrive in the temperature range of 40 to 100 degrees Celsius, and die off as the temperature crosses 150 degrees. Now while most cooking techniques involving an open flame manage to reach temperatures in excess of 200 degrees, they often do so for short periods of time, while keeping the foods in the dangerous bacterial growth temperature zone for lengthy periods of time. As you may be aware, the more bacteria grow, the more they produce toxins. Even if the bacteria themselves are eliminated by the high temperature, the toxins are not and these can enter our alimentary canal, causing significant damage.
Smoking, (if done in an electric smoker) on the other hand, moves food through the danger zone relatively quickly, provided of course that the person knows how to use an electric smoker properly. Once it has taken food to the 200 Celsius range, it keeps it at that temperature for a long period of time. This ensures that the chemical reactions inside the food (see below) take place after the bacteria have been eliminated. Thus the food is much safer to eat.
Smoking generally does not require the addition of fats since the food is cooked using the indirect heat of the electric smoker and not a direct flame. Admittedly, oils are often added, but these are more in the form of seasoning or for keeping the meat moist, rather than for cooking itself. This implies that the amount of oils added is far lower than that involved in regular cooking, which occurs in a sea of oil.
Furthermore, the best electric smokers are so designed as to remove the maximum amount of fats from the food. This happens when the food is heated and the fats drip off into the smoker. While this may demand more frequent cleaning of the smoker than when you cook fish or vegetables, it ensures that the final product is in fact less fatty than the food that was originally inserted into the smoker. Thus, while roasting and frying increase the fat content in the meat, smoking reduces it substantially.
Improves the flavors
The flavor that appears in food is the result of complex organic chemical processes. These require a certain temperature to occur, as well as a certain time frame. While normal cooking methods offer the temperature, they hardly ever offer a time frame as long as that provided by smoking. As anyone aware of smoking meat secrets would tell you, meat must be inserted pre-thawed into the smoker. This means that little or no energy is spent in defreezing the food. Hence, the majority of the 3-16 hours used for smoking food are actually spent heating the food, catalyzing a range of chemical reactions. These reactions release flavors into the food and ensure their proper distribution over an extended period of time. As such, the final flavor is often far better than anything a similar roasting or even BBQ procedure could have produced.
As a further incentive towards smoking, it should be mentioned that the flavor of the smoked meat is also dependent on the type of wood used. For instance, hardwoods like hickory produce a mahogany color and a uniquely delicious flavor. Experiment with various woods (apple wood, maple wood, mesquite, etc) to find the combination which suits your palate the best.
Preservation of Meat/Fish
One of the major advantages of smoking foods is that it helps increase their shelf life. Though the exact reasons why smoking allows food to stay edible longer are not known, it can perhaps be linked to the fact that when well salted meat is smoked for a long period of time, the ingredients tend to permeate the foodstuffs better.
Furthermore, the smoking process is known to emit certain acids, which when present in sufficient quantity on the surface of the food, tend to retard the growth of bacteria and fungi. This is particularly true of sausages, since these acids are vital to the prevention of mold growth, a common enemy of fresh sausages across the world. Together, these two processes help improve the chances of meat remaining edible for a longer period of time.
However, it should be remembered that there is no fixed benchmark which provides a correlation between the amounts of time spent smoking a food and the durability of the food. Indeed, the ability of the food to stay edible depends more on the amount of salt or brine added than on the time spent in the smoker. The only way to establish the exact correlation for the type of meat you intend to preserve is through hit and trial, which of course, can be a rather wasteful process.
Bottom line therefore is that if you wish to preserve meats or fishes for about a week or so, smoking would be the ideal way to go. However, if you’re planning to preserve them for the winter, use of standard preservatives may be the only option.
The advantages of smoking foods are many, making it more than likely that the time you spend smoking foods will be handsomely repaid in the form of better tasting, healthier and longer lasting foods. Of course, such benefits presuppose the use of a good quality smoker, and to do this you must consult the electric smoker reviews in detail. Once you’ve done this and made an informed choice though, you can relax and look forward to enjoying more benefits than afforded by any other cooking method in the history of mankind.