In a box: Cold smoking for beginners on a budget

Wood chips smoking

A few years back, myself and Mr Other Half ventured on a novel, for us, food adventure. One windy weekend we found ourselves in a scenic part of Cumbria to learn about hot and cold smoked food on a course run by Smoky Jo’s. (It was a throughly great time with fishing, sausage making and smoking instruction aplenty included. I do recommend their courses if you have a chance to go on one)

My most favourite part of the weekend, apart from eating lots of absolutely delicious food, was learning about cold smoking.

At that point it was still quite often viewed as being a specialist technique in the U.K, something that companies rather than individuals did, compared to the wide variety of home-smoked recipes that can be found throughout regions of the U.S or Canada, right alongside barbecuing. That doesn’t put off some D.I.Y inventiveness for home-smoked food fans here though! (Check out Smoky Jo’s DIY Gallery to see how people have made their own)

Now home smoking, of the hot and cold variety, has become more prominent through recipes used by chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Heston Blumenthal, as well as the move towards being more aware about where food comes from and how to cook and preserve foods in a home environment.

Unfortunately, our good intentions of getting around to doing cold smoking at home got put to one side and never followed through. Until coming across this marvel; the Pro-Q Eco Smoker. This link is for Amazon UK and is for the Eco Smoker kit bundled with Smoky Jo’s own book on all things hot and cold smoking.

Pro-Q smoker

The Pro-Q Eco Smoker assembled

It may look a simple cardboard box from my photo, but I can testify to the fact that there is nothing basic about the flavours you can create. It comprises of an inner and outer cardboard box, two metal shelves, a metal tray, smoke generator and a range of wood chips (maple, oak, cherry and beech). It is self-assembly but not difficult to put together so that you’re ready to get on and start smoking. One of the best things about this kit is that it is a simple matter of folding up the cardboard for recycling when it can no long be used, so no cumbersome equipment wastage. The metal items can be cleaned many times over for use in cold smoking.

Smoked cheese and steak

Food placed for cold smoking

So far we’ve smoked a hard and semi-soft cheese (Lincolnshire Poacher and Raclette), garlic bulbs and sirloin steaks that had a coffee marinade applied first and were then fried. They all turned out well, especially the steak, with a cherry wood smoke. We fully intend on getting more creative with curing ham, nuts, more types of cheese, vegetables and even our own tea smoked salmon in the style of Heston Blumenthal.

Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher and Raclette

Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher and Raclette

As Christmas is coming this struck me as an ideal gift to give to a foodie fan or home cooking enthusiast who is a beginner to cold smoking. It’s economical for the amount of times it can be used and it means you can try out this type of food flavouring and preservation without needing to invest considerably more time or money in permanent equipment, if unsure that it is something that you will like beforehand.

Cold smoking does take a bit of time and patience with preparation and you will need to cook some of your produce afterwards, but once you get a taste for it, which is very easy to do, you’ll be wondering why you never thought of trying it before.