Oversmoking

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Oversmoking

Postby Dogfish » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:36 pm

Just wondering if anyone's got any opinions on smoking food. As in, can food be oversmoked? I've smoked stuff until it was bitter but cured that by debarking and increasing airflow and more consider that a mistake than a flavouring error.

Question being I suppose that we all know about over salting or over garlic-ing or stuff like that, but what about oversmoking? There aren't many actual guidelines for smoking and it's pretty touch and go.

Likewise, flavours of different smoking woods. What do Europeans use? I've heard of seaweed and corn husks and stuff but have never heard of someone actually doing it. Dry rice, sugar, etc.
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Postby vagreys » Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:28 am

Unless this is a rhetorical question (meaning that there can NEVER be too much smoke), then yes, I think so. Smoking is more art than science, I think, in that the application of smoke - the amount - is important to the end product. In that sense, it is like a seasoning. Can one have too much smoke for a sausage of a particular type? Yes. For example, if you were to make an authentic, lightly-smoked frankfurter, but heavily smoked it, then it would not have the flavor profile of a frankfurter, true to the style.

In your own example, it seems to me that the only different between the oversmoked and the mistake you corrected, is that you corrected your perceived mistake. The person who doesn't correct it, and ends up with an unpalatable, bitter product, has oversmoked. JMO, of course.

Yes, it is imprecise. The quality of the smoking depends on so many things, including weather, humidity, and the product, itself. That's why it is an art, and those adept at smoking meat artfully are minor gods.
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Postby Big Guy » Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:57 am

The amount of smoke flavour is really a personal taste, that being said I don't think you can over-smoke. You can smoke improperly with too much smoke generated and too low airflow which will cause creasote to condense on the meat giving it a bitter taste. blue whispy smoke is the way to go IMHO
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Postby Dogfish » Wed Mar 28, 2012 2:18 pm

What about moisture levels in the smoke resulting in different flavours?

The reason I ask is because smoked foods have a tendency to overlap eachother to where you can't tell if you're eating landjager or smokey or whatever.

Just looking for a sort of cogent philosophy of smoking and noticing things here and there, such as airflow, moisture levels for different results, and a certain amount of aging for the smoked meat in order for the flavour to distribute and mellow out.
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Postby DiggingDogFarm » Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:03 pm

Dogfish wrote:What about moisture levels in the smoke resulting in different flavours?

The reason I ask is because smoked foods have a tendency to overlap eachother to where you can't tell if you're eating landjager or smokey or whatever.

Just looking for a sort of cogent philosophy of smoking and noticing things here and there, such as airflow, moisture levels for different results, and a certain amount of aging for the smoked meat in order for the flavour to distribute and mellow out.


Smoking is an art. :D
Airflow, moisture level, temperature, aging, et al. all have an affect on smoke quality, absorption and distribution.
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Postby Dogfish » Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:00 pm

Hmm. Well then...

On the theme of smoking being an art, here is what I have noticed, some of it not revolutionary. I don't think any of it is really revolutionary. Please add to it -- because it's an art, there aren't many comments or rationales available.

-- debark the wood; most creosote or other bitter compounds are in the bark
-- maintain airflow
-- more isn't necessarily better if it overpowers completely
-- moisture levels in the smoke or smokehouse vastly change the flavour of the smoke
-- too much moisture causes drips on the food which concentrate salt and smoke, which isn't pleasant
-- the pellicle isn't as essential as some would say, but doesn't ever hurt
-- there actually are differences in flavours between different woods
-- better too cold than too hot
-- on re: moisture, account for heat source because propane flames give off moisture, and also account for how much meat/fish is in the smokehouse at a given time; electric heat will be dryer

Woods I have used in smoking:

-- Dry old growth red cedar, and not much. Definitely leaves a cedar-y flavour. Mostly used with kindling or heat pulses and on drying sticks.

-- Dry old ground juniper. Pungent and spicy. Use as an accent flavour because it gets quite peppery.

-- Dry, cured red alder. Sweet and mellow and made for salmon and trout.

-- Green, debarked red alder. Ditto but use less.

-- Dry debarked cherry. Cherry has the most oil I've found in the bark and I've botched food with unbarked wood. Very nice and mellow, very sweet smelling.

-- Dry apple twigs from trimmings. Left the bark on and wasn't a big deal. Lovely typical mellow "smoke" flavour used alongside charcoal for cooking meat. Like something poured from a bottle.

-- Dry debarked diamond willow. Very bold tasting and smelling. Debarking essential or it will taste like aspirin. Perhaps best described as "rustic" in the flavouring.

-- Dry bark-on oak used alongside charcoal. Didn't notice any particular flavour.

-- Dry maple. Ditto on the oak.
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Postby vagreys » Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:11 pm

Dogfish wrote:...Just looking for a sort of cogent philosophy of smoking and noticing things here and there, such as airflow, moisture levels for different results, and a certain amount of aging for the smoked meat in order for the flavour to distribute and mellow out.

There are so many compounds present in smoke, and present in different concentrations in the smoke of different materials. To me, it is very like home brewing - you may be very consistent, but every batch will be a little different and have its own surprises. Even your tastebuds and how you taste the smoke will be part of that, as will the amount of fat in the batch and the particular aldehydes produced when the smoke and fat combine. As Big Guy said, it's a matter of taste and art. Your smoking philosophy will be different from mine or anyone else. Still, I do maintain that it is possible to oversmoke. I suggest that, when you can no longer tell what you are eating, perhaps there is too much smoke masking the flavor of the product, itself.
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Postby BriCan » Wed Mar 28, 2012 5:56 pm

vagreys wrote:Still, I do maintain that it is possible to oversmoke.


This is absolutely true, you can and will end up with a bitter flavour/taste

As has been said before by most; smoking is an art which is learned over time by feel and taste
But what do I know
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Postby salumi512 » Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:03 am

What I'll add here is that it is possible to smoke just right. Getting there is the journey. If you need advice, there are some here that can help.
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Postby Wunderdave » Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:58 pm

Tough to oversmoke a brisket or a pork butt. Easy to oversmoke poultry, pork or fish.

You also have to be mindful of which woods work well with which meats. I like mesquite for grilling quick steaks, but I think it's nasty on chicken leg quarters. Along the same lines, the mild aroma of alder won't stand up to the aggressive spicing and beefy flavor of a whole brisket.
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Postby Dogfish » Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:45 pm

Wunderdave wrote:Tough to oversmoke a brisket or a pork butt. Easy to oversmoke poultry, pork or fish.

You also have to be mindful of which woods work well with which meats. I like mesquite for grilling quick steaks, but I think it's nasty on chicken leg quarters. Along the same lines, the mild aroma of alder won't stand up to the aggressive spicing and beefy flavor of a whole brisket.


You're talking hot-smoke like barbeque or in general?
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Postby salumi512 » Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:24 am

Wunderdave wrote:Tough to oversmoke a brisket or a pork butt. Easy to oversmoke poultry, pork or fish.

You also have to be mindful of which woods work well with which meats. I like mesquite for grilling quick steaks, but I think it's nasty on chicken leg quarters. Along the same lines, the mild aroma of alder won't stand up to the aggressive spicing and beefy flavor of a whole brisket.


Mesquite is a wood that is multipurpose, but you need to know how to work with it. Cooper's in Llano, Texas uses mesquite to cook brisket, but they burn it down to coals first. It's actually great for chicken quarters, but we use an open pit that doesn't concentrate the smoke.

Alder on the other hand, is a wood hard to find these days. It appears that alder has become popular overseas with quite a price tag, and is not being sold for smoking wood commercially nearly as much. I miss it. I love it for cheese and fish.

I don't use dust or chips, so my knowledge may not apply to that technique.
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Postby wnkt » Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:23 pm

What general info I have gleaned about smoking is:

keep exhaust open so the same stale smoke wont stay on the food.

Keep the fire hot to burn the wood efficiently, thin blue smoke is what you want not thick billowing smoke.

types of wood is up to you , as long as the one you want to use is safe..I like hickory and I can get it easily

just about everything else is variable...you can ask 10 people a question and you'll get at least 10 answers...maybe more

and last but not least...Practice, Practice, Practice.

at least you can eat your mistakes :D
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