Whether you’ve just come back from a productive weekend hunting trip or a day of chasing your favorite quarry of the swimming variety the question will ultimately come up-How should you prepare some of this for the table? One method I’ve always been partial to is the charcoal smoker.
Some of the smokers which are commercially available today are electric and some offer you the option of using a propane burner as your source of heat, but for me, there is nothing like hardwood lump charcoal. There’s something about the whole process of using the real thing that enhances the culinary experience-the whole experience I guess. I haven’t ascended to the levels of some who build their own smokers as of yet but I will confess to at least thinking about it.
For now, many hotels are using vertical cylinder type made by Masterbuilt and available through Cabela’s. It did actually come with the aforementioned propane burner but stick with the charcoal. This smoker is a regular fixture around our family campsite and uses it quite a bit at home as well. Besides your heat source, you will also have to consider what type of smoke you will be adding. With the charcoal, there will be some smoke generated so I try to get the best quality I can find, but you will also want to add either chips or chunks of hardwood that have been soaked in water or even your favorite whiskey.
Some people use chips and wrap them in foil with holes. There are also cast iron boxes which you can purchase to put the chips in, and depend on which type of smoker you use these methods might be the way to go for you. When using charcoal I prefer to use the larger chunks which have been soaked overnight. I will periodically throw a couple of these directly on the hot coals during the smoking process. There are a wide variety of chips and chunks available, especially online and many people make their own. Hickory, mesquite, cherry, apple, and alder are some of the choices available and many of these compliment certain types of meat especially well.
Another necessary component of the whole smoking process is the addition of steam. With the vertical smoker, this is accomplished by using a water pan which sits directly over the coals.
This can be filled with straight water, or you can opt to impart some flavor by adding fresh herbs, spices, etc. If you are a novice to the whole smoker culture you’ll find that one of the many recipe and methodology books, which are readily available, will be a great starting point. Whatever type of smoker you decide to use and whatever you put on it there is definitely a learning curve. Once you get the hang of it though, I think you’ll find it an enjoyable, tasty pastime. It can even be a focal point for a family gathering and family will enjoy, if that’s what you decide to make it.