Nearly everyone knows about hot smoking as a method of cooking delicious briskets, making amazing ribs, and other succulent meats. You take wood chips and throw them into your smoker, add your meat and let it cook for a few hours.
Before you know it, you’re feasting on paradise! One of the best parts about smoking food is that you can set it in the smoker and you can go back inside. This makes it a perfect way to bring summer flavors into a snow-bound home.
But not all of us have a smoker out back, and that means there’s no way to get that smoky flavor into our lives during the dead of winter. Or is there?
Actually, there is. It’s called smoked spices. Almost any spice can be smoked, including salt, sugar, or black peppercorns or paprika.
We’re going to tell you how to make this at home, so the next time you’re in the mood for a taste of summer, you can just reach into your spice cabinet.
If you’ve never heard of smoked salt, let us here at Think Crucial be your guides. Smoke salt adds a hint of that delicious summer flavor to whatever you put it on. Try it on scrambled eggs, or stir a little bit into your chilli.
Smoked salt was usually made for mac and cheese, but it actually has several uses!
If you’re in a margarita mood, try using smoked salt instead of regular rimming salts -- you won’t be sorry.
You can buy commercially smoked salt if you really want to. However, that stuff is crazy expensive. And you don’t even know if that salt has been actually smoked or if you’re just getting some chemical additive like liquid smoke tossed into a barrel of table salt.
So, why not make your own on your grill or your stovetop? That makes it inexpensive and you can control the ingredients. You can experiment with apple wood smoked salt or hickory smoked salt. Here’s how to make smoked salt on your grill.
- Start with a metal splatter guard. The mesh of the guard lets the smoke hit the salt from all sides, which is what you want. On top of that, pour about a pound of kosher salt. You can also use sea salt. What you want is salt that’s much coarser and chunkier than table salt. Also, because it’s a splatter guard, you don’t want the salt to sift through.
- Prepare your grill. Put a pound of charcoal with a pound of your favorite wood chunks on the grill and light it up.
- Put the splatter guard and salt on your grill and smoke it. You want the temperature to remain at about 225 degrees Fahrenheit -- this ensures the maximum amount of smoke possible. Keep it on there for 12 hours.
- After the 12 hours are up, use another pound of charcoal and wood and smoke the salt for another 12 hours.
- After a full 24 hours have elapsed, let the salt cool, then transfer to an airtight glass container until you’re ready to use it.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the sweet spiciness of paprika in cooking, you’ve probably also seen smoked paprika. And you’ve also probably boggled at the price of smoked paprika as well. However, just like smoked salt, smoked paprika is dreadfully easy to make.
Paprika is made from bonnet peppers that have been dried and then ground to make the powdered spice you love. When they make paprika, the white ribs and seeds are removed before drying to avoid making the paprika too spicy. After all, bonnet peppers are still some of the hottest peppers known to exist.
Here's how you can make your own smoked paprika:
- First put on gloves and cut open the peppers, removing the inner white lining and seeds. You need to be sure to wear gloves or the capsaicin will make your life a little uncomfortable for a few hours.
- Prep your grill like you did for the smoked salt (1 pound charcoal, 1 pound smoking wood) and put the peppers directly on the grate. Smoke them for 24 hours. At this point they won’t be completely dehydrated. You can continue to smoke them until they are ready (usually about a week) or dehydrate them in the oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also use a commercial dehydrator if you have one.
- Once the peppers have dehydrated and cooled, use a spice grinder to grind them into paprika. For best results, store the peppers in an airtight container and grind them when needed.
You can use smoked paprika with any dish you'd like to add some smoky spiciness to like chilli, goulash, or even sprinkled on top of devilled eggs!
Smoked sugar is a hidden delight that most people don’t realize exists. This sweet and smoky condiment adds a flavor combination that is reminiscent of bacon, but without the actual bacon. This is amazing as the topping to a Creme Brulee or even just stirred into your morning cup of coffee.
Making smoked sugar is a little more complicated than making smoked salt because at the normal 225 degree temperature, sugar will melt into a puddle and then rapidly harden into a solid puck. This isn’t ideal for what you want it for, so to make it, we have to turn to something else.
There’s another method of smoking that has recently started to make waves again. It's called "cold smoking". This method uses temperatures that never exceed 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
This makes it perfect for making smoked sugar. You can use cold smoking to infuse a smoky flavor to other ingredients, like meats or cheeses. But you have to ensure that any meat used is already cured, fermented, or otherwise preserved. This way you don’t have to worry about bacterial growth.
- To make a cold smoker on your stovetop, you need a deep metal pan. In there you place wood chips that have been soaked overnight.
- Turn the heat on low until the wood starts to smoke.
- Use a disposable metal pan that you’ve punched small holes into over the smoking wood. Fill the perforated pan with ice.
- On top of that pan, put another perforated pan, in which you place a shallow pan that holds about a pound of sugar.
- Cover the entire thing and let it smoke for about three hours, stirring the sugar every hour or so.
Alternately, you can use sugar cubes instead of granulated sugar, although the moisture of the cold smoking may cause them to lose their shape. We’ve had our best luck when just using regular granulated sugar.
For an extra treat, split a whole vanilla bean down the middle and place it and the cooled smoked sugar in an airtight glass jar.