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Indoor Smoking


Daniel
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The NYT article I cited addresses that very issue:

Smoking doesn’t generate the levels of carcinogenic chemicals that “are concentrated when there are fats and higher temperatures,” said Barry Swanson, professor of food science and nutrition at Washington State University. Other research has found that levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a hazardous component of smoke, are minimal if wood smolders (as it does in stovetop smoking), and doesn’t flame.
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The NYT article I cited addresses that very issue:
Smoking doesn’t generate the levels of carcinogenic chemicals that “are concentrated when there are fats and higher temperatures,” said Barry Swanson, professor of food science and nutrition at Washington State University. Other research has found that levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a hazardous component of smoke, are minimal if wood smolders (as it does in stovetop smoking), and doesn’t flame.

I, for one, was so happy to read this in the NYT today. As someone who purchased an electric smoker oven not too long ago, I was worried about possible carcinogens infiltrating my smoked foods. A query on cookshack.com led to some very humourous responses, but not what I was looking for.

I guess I can go ahead and eat my smoked briskets, beef ribs, turkey, salmon and black cod to my gut's content from now on.

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Ok,  I still would be cautious and find other sources of information to confirm this, just to be on the safe side...but thats just me.

I've googled this issue, to no avail. Most reports are written with regard to commercially smoked meats which contain nitrites.

From what I have gathered is that, as long as there is no direct flame, it's okay.

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I use my smoker at least once a week. My favorite thing to smoke is cheese. The one that seems to come out the best is Havarti. It is delicious! Sharp cheddar is also very good. I've also smoked trout that came out great. Another favorite is tofu...I marinate it in soy and maple syrup, smoke it for about 15 minutes and then bake it in the oven for about another 20 minutes. It's fabulous both hot and cold.

Margy

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Hey Margy, can you talk about the process behind the cheese..

Hi Daniel!

Of course....I buy the large piece of Havarti at Costco and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces....I would say they are probably 1/2 lb each. You don't want the piece to be too small or you will have a puddle of cheese at the bottom of the smoker!

I usually use hickory chips...about 2 Tablespoons at the bottom of the smoker. As soon as the chips start smoking, I turn the heat down to the lowest temp (I have a standard gas stove cooktop) and close the lid tightly. I probably smoke it for about 15 minutes, but you'll want to check it about every 5 minutes. The edges of the cheese will start to get soft...which is fine, I usually cut off the edges anyways so I can taste the cheese to make sure it's edible :)

The cheese will start to get a bit of color also....I guess my basic rule is to leave it in the smoker as long as possible without melting. I use a pancake flipper to remove the cheese from the grate and then chill it until firm. The cheddar can usually go a bit longer than the Havarti....the Havarti seems to melt at a lower temp.

Good luck!

margy

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Just did a bit of research on the subject...and contrary to what was stated in the NY Times article, there is some cause for concern, regardless of a flame being present or not...

http://meatprocess.com/news/ng.asp?id=5863...&c=%23emailcode

Thats just one article, there are quite a few more if you do some in depth searches.

Oh well, I guess you can't have your cake and eat it, too.

(Pun intended; I just checked out your website - interesting business!)

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  • 2 weeks later...

This thread-- and in particular, Daniel's comments-- persuaded me to buy a Cameron smoker yesterday. I fired it up this morning to make a couple of Super Bowl snack dishes:

- smoked salmon fillet. I cured it overnight, and smoked it for around 30 minutes with alder chips. Wonderful smoked flavor, though not quite the sort of kippered texture I was hoping for. I think it would help to airdry it, and maybe smoke it for a little longer.

- chicken wings. Again, I started yesterday, marinating them overnight in soy sauce and five spice powder. Today I smoked them with hickory, and finished them in the broiler. It worked beautifully.

No problems with smoke: my apartment smells smoky, but I don't think it's any stronger than when I cook strong-smelling foods.

Conclusion: this is a great new toy! I plan to turn it into a sort of stovetop Noah's ark, leading two of every animal through it... Next stop, duck!

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  • 4 months later...

Okay, I too was inspired by this thread to get one of these Cameron smokers, and it just came in the mail yesterday. However, I'm wondering if mine might be defective. The lid definitely doesn't look like a tight seal to me: one corner is raised about a 1/4". Not much, but I'd have thought it should fit pretty air tight if it's going to trap smoke in? Should I bother exchanging it, or this just how it's supposed to be?

-al

Edited by alwang (log)

---

al wang

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Okay, I too was inspired by this thread to get one of these Cameron smokers, and it just came in the mail yesterday.  However, I'm wondering if mine might be defective.  The lid definitely doesn't look like a tight seal to me: one corner is raised about a 1/4".  Not much, but I'd have thought it should fit pretty air tight if it's going to trap smoke in?  Should I bother exchanging it, or this just how it's supposed to be?

-al

alwang: while mine did not look defective, it does not really have a tight seal. I think a tight seal is almost impossible with this kind of sliding lid. I usually put the smoker on, and when the first wisps of smoke appear, I wrap a couple of strips of aluminum foil around the corners that are not tightly sealed. (becareful doing this, the smoker is already quite hot)

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I have one of these as well. Used it a few times and now it lives in it's box in the basement. Sadly the combination of a downdraft exhaust fan and an overly sensitive smoke/fire detector in the alarm system made it less than usable. The alarm goes off if I roast duck, boil pasta or take a shower with the bathroom door open, makes me think about having the system being monitored ended.

I just fire up one of my grills to smoke - no fire trucks pulling up to the door. But when I did use it for meats: Salmon, chicken, trout to name three - I liked the result.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm slowly getting the hang of using one of these, though I have a question: since in most cases you want to smoke slow at a low temperature, wouldn't it make more sense to put the smoker in a 200 degree oven rather than on the stovetop, where the temp will certainly be higher than 200? Over time, the chips should still smolder, I'm thinking?

Thanks,

-Al

---

al wang

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Smoking is not that big where I live. We do lots of outdoor cooking (summer and winter), we call it a braai, you call it a BBQ, so the opportunity to do it indoors never really comes up. Haven't seen a stove top smoker before today.

Rose&Thorn :raz:

Edited by Rose&Thorn (log)

Rose&Thorn

Every Rose has it's Thorn

My Blog : Homemade Heaven

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... I have a question: since in most cases you want to smoke slow at a low temperature, wouldn't it make more sense to put the smoker in a 200 degree oven rather than on the stovetop, where the temp will certainly be higher than 200?  Over time, the chips should still smolder, I'm thinking? ...

-Al

Two things, Al.

Firstly, these boxes seem to be a distinct branch of smoking. They are not a direct replacement for something like a Bradley, where the stuff is cooked in smoke for hours (in US english: "BBQ"). Nor for true cold smoking (smoke at 70F, ideally less, for between perhaps 12 hours and many days).

They need their own technique.

Secondly, the wood chips themselves need to be heated to something like 600F to smoulder - and then the smoke cools to whatever smoking temperature you hope for. Wood will not give off smoke (just a bit of steam maybe) in a 200F oven. You need to get it *much* hotter to get it burning. Putting chips in the bottom of the metal box and heating over a flame gets you the *local* high temperature, while the rest of the metalwork is absorbing heat and trying to lose it to the air. So, from a cold start, it takes several minutes to get hot throughout - which is why, IF you are quick, you can smoke cheese without it melting! But its a matter of ten minutes or so - ONLY! The idea is to give it as small a total amount of heat as possible, but at a temperature locally high enough to get the wood smouldering.

So, sadly 'smoking' in a cool oven for hours just isn't going to work the way you'd hope.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I don't know if this counts but I did some indoor smoking last week. We had a 3 day breakfast and lunch catering job for a small conference (40 people). They were very specific about what they wanted and one lunch was to be smoked salmon. I was able to get some really nice salmon and didn't want to dry it out in the smoker so I covered the bottoms of a couple large pans (lined with heavy foil) with a mixture of rice, brown sugar and tea leaves, heated them 'til I had smoke, put racks of salmon (brushed with soy and sprinkled with sea salt) over the pan and covered with inverted pans. I gave them about 10 minutes or so in the smoke, they were still cool inside, then popped them in the fridge. The next day a quick crisping of the skin and a few minutes in the oven finished them off. They had a nice smokey flavor but were still moist and fresh tasting and went over very well with the client. Not a new way to do it by any means, hadn't done it in years, but it seemed lighter and more summery done that way so I'm glad I remembered it.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Dougal - I want to build my own smoker system. So I am interested in finding the exact smoke point of wood. Do you know for sure it is 600F or is this just a guess?

I am guessing if it is then my heating element would have to raise the temperature of the wood chips to 600F for say 5 minutes then reduce to what to stay just smouldering?

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Dougal - I want to build my own smoker system. So I am interested in finding the exact smoke point of wood. Do you know for sure it is 600F or is this just a guess?

I am guessing if it is then my heating element would have to raise the temperature of the wood chips to 600F for say 5 minutes then reduce to what to stay just smouldering?

I believe that it varies with the type of wood.

Its basically the temperature required for whatever components of the wood to start reacting with atmospheric oxygen.

The figure I quoted was my round number simplification of the low end of the range quoted on Wikipedia, even that being way above conventional oven temperatures - and representing a low smoulder.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoking_%28cooking%29

The optimal conditions for smoke flavor are low, smoldering temperatures between 300 and 400 °C (570–750 °F). This is the temperature of the burning wood itself, not of the smoking environment, which sees much lower temperatures. Woods that are high in lignin content tend to burn hot; to keep them smoldering requires restricted oxygen supplies or a high moisture content. When smoking using wood chips or chunks, the combustion temperature is often lowered by soaking the pieces in water before placing them on a fire.

You need external energy input to kick off the reaction, but thereafter, as the fuel burns it releases heat energy, so the external input required to sustain the reaction is going to be less than what's needed to get it going. Depends on how big, damp, well-oxygenated, etc your fire might be as to how much (if any) external input might be needed to sustain the smoulder - at the right sort of temperature to optimise the aroma, rather than flaring up as a fire, or going out!

All that said, IMHO it wouldn't be easy to control a smoker on the basis of the actual combustion temperature.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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  • 3 years later...

Resurrecting this thread from the dead...

I'm going to be making the MC pastrami pretty soon, but have recently moved into a condo-style apartment that doesn't allow me to have a grill (or build a smoker out of cardboard boxes, like I did at my previous place :biggrin: ).

I read the reviews of the Cameron smoker on Amazon, and people seem to love it, but Cook's Illustrated said that when they tested it it leaked smoke like crazy, and they like these instead...

http://www.amazon.com/Savu-Smoker-Oven-Grill-Alder/dp/B000I3RLVK

It's been 5 years since this thread has had any activity. Has anyone had experience with this brand of bag (or observed CI's findings)?

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I read the reviews of the Cameron smoker on Amazon, and people seem to love it, but Cook's Illustrated said that when they tested it it leaked smoke like crazy, and they like these instead...

http://www.amazon.com/Savu-Smoker-Oven-Grill-Alder/dp/B000I3RLVK

It's been 5 years since this thread has had any activity. Has anyone had experience with this brand of bag (or observed CI's findings)?

I have a Cameron and I haven't had any experiences with it leaking tons of smoke. A little whiff or two, but not even enough to trigger the smoke alarm. You can also tighten down the lid every few uses by pressing it with both hands while it's half-on the pan (kind of hard to describe the technique, but it works). I love mine. Use it all the time.

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I used my stovetop smoker for the MC pastrami - I don't think it's as good as it would have been in their precise smoker - but if you smoke the meat for like 20 minutes, then bag and SV, I find the smoke flavor is pretty good.

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