Smoking tips and tricks

We offer here some useful information and tips to better understand smoking, choose your smoker, select the right sawdust, light it more easily, make your smokes, etc., etc. Let’s start with the beginning :

What is smoking?

Smoking involves exposing food to wood smoke. Initially this technique was used only to improve the preservation of food, then cold and canned food took over and its conservative role was pushed back. Today smoking is mainly used to give a flavor and a specific color to foods. It can be practiced cold or hot.


Cold or hot smoking

Of the two methods, cold smoking is most commonly practiced. It involves exposing foods to cold smoke for smoking without cooking them. The temperature of the smoker is between 20 ° and 30 ° C maximum. This is the traditional smoking method used in  to smoke salmon, duck breast or ham. In contrast, hot smoking smokes and cooks food simultaneously as it is done between 40 ° and 100 ° C (examples: smoked chicken, smoked sausage, smoked trout).

Note:  Salmon is very sensitive to heat and you really have to make sure that the temperature of the smoker does not exceed 25 ° C. It is essential to keep the flesh raw and to guarantee its good conservation.

How to smoke well cold?

We offer here some basic tips for successful cold smoking (30 ° C maximum, 25 ° C for salmon):

  • use a stainless smoker intended for cold smoking
  • choose an airy and covered location (away from the sun and rain)
  • salt or brine products to dehydrate and dry well
  • do not overfill the smoker, the air and smoke must flow freely
  • using sawdust, the burning of chips causes the temperature to rise too much
  • dispose the sawdust in “U” in the sawdust bin and light it at one end
  • or use a smoking spiral , simple, practical and economical
  • after each smoking, wipe food with paper towels


Example of cold smoking

After preparing the smoking products (salted, rinsed, dried) place them on a rack or hang them in the cold room without touching them. Fill the sawdust container with sawdust (ideally “U” or with a smoking spiral), compact, light and place the sawdust bin at the bottom of the smoker. Let’s go !

Food can be eaten after a first smoking or smoked several times in a row depending on the desired taste. The more dry the food, the more intense the taste will be. Drying is not directly related to smoking, food dries by simply hanging or placed in the smoker.

Smoking hot 

Smoking hot is to expose the products to hot smoke so that they are cooked and smoked (chicken, mackerel, eel, sausages …). It is therefore necessary to use a so- called “hot” smoker that allows the smoker to be mounted in temperature (gas or electric smoker) or wood chips whose combustion increases the temperature in the smoker chamber (temperature between 40 ° and 100 ° C). ° C).


Smoking time

It is difficult to define precisely the smoking times because they vary according to the smoking equipment used, the product to smoke (the nature of the product and how it was salted influences the smoking time) and the degree of smoking desired ( a story of taste!). Nevertheless, this table of smoking times is given as an indication.

Designation cutting Salting (salt) desalination Cold drying Smoking
Salmon (3 kg) Mesh, without edges on skin 5 to 6 hours Rinse with clear water 12 hours 4 to 6 hours
Salmon (5 to 6 kg) Separate by avoiding nicking and removing bones 8 to 10 hours Rinse with clear water Drip on grid in cold room 12 hours 6 to 8 hours
Trout In net or whole 2 or 3 hours Rinse with clear water 12 hours 2 or 3 ½ hours
Salmon trout In net or whole 2 to 3 hours Rinse with clear water 12 hours 4 to 6 hours
Eel Fully 4 hours Rinse with clear water 12 hours 4 hours a little hot
Halibut In net with the skin 2 to 3 hours Rinse with clear water 12 hours 3 hours
Goose breast full Rub them one by one with a bouquet garni and leave them 7 to 8 hours Rinse with clear water 24 hours 6 to 10 hours
Chicken crapaudine 6 hours Rinse with clear water 24 hours 4 to 6 hours
Pork Chest, loin, sausages, chipolatas 8 to 10 hours depending on thickness Soak 45 min 24 hours 3 x 8 hours
Duck breast 600 g full Rub it with a bouquet garni then leave it 7 to 8 hours Remove the coarse salt with a dry cloth 24 to 48 hours in a dry and cool place 6 to 8 hours
Duck breast 1 kg full Rub it with a bouquet garni then leave it 7 to 8 hours Remove the coarse salt with a dry cloth 24 to 48 hours in a dry and cool place 2 x 8 hours

Particularity of long smoke

Smoking that lasts for several days or weeks must be interrupted with no-smoking breaks for 3 to 4 days.

Short smoking or minute smoking

Minute (very fast) smoking can only be performed for hot smoking in Elia type high-pressure smokers .

Sawdust smoking

Which sawdust to use?

Use only 100% natural sawdust ! Wood shavings are generally reserved for hot smoking without a smoking oven (electric smoker or “hot” gas). Beech sawdust is recommended for the traditional smoking of salmon or duck breast, oak sawdust for meat and game and fir sawdust for cold cuts.

How to light the sawdust?

Smoky sawdust is ideally lit with a gas torch, a sawdust lighter in sawdust or an electric sawdust heater.

For cold smoking, ensure that sawdust is consumed slowly and in small quantities. Represent a “U” with sawdust in the sawdust bin. Light a corner of the “U” so that the sawdust is consumed following the “U” (like a wick). The cold smoke kit contains everything needed to easily prepare and light the sawdust.

Problems with burning sawdust

We have listed below some possible causes and their remedies:

  • The sawdust is too big: use only 500-1000 sawdust, grain 0.5 to 1mm
  • Sawdust is too wet: spread the required amount of sawdust on a plate and bake it for 5 minutes at 50 ° C
  • Sawdust contains too large pieces of wood or berries: remove broken pieces or arrange berries on and not in sawdust
  • Tunnels are created in the sawdust and prevent good combustion: the flame of the torch is placed too close to the sawdust and too long. It is best to burn sawdust evenly. If the torch is too close to the sawdust, it may lack oxygen for proper combustion.

Quantity of sawdust (without smoking spiral)

Fill the sawdust bin according to the directions below (sawdust packed)

Outside temperature Sawdust height, measured after settlement
-30 to +25 ° C 5 cm
Beyond +25 ° C 3.5 to 4 cm

Sawdust to be avoided!

  • sawdust freshly cut: the moisture of the wood promotes the formation of carbon compounds (use absolutely dry sawdust with a maximum of 10% -12% humidity)
  • rotten sawdust, moldy or from demolition materials
  • sawdust painted or varnish that can lead to poisoning

And sawdust cakes?

We are not very fan. Sawdust slabs are only used with special pancake-type smokers. In use, their cost is much higher than that of bulk sawdust. The choice is limited and almost imposed (type of coffee capsules), moreover, at the end of combustion, the sawdust slice falls into the water to be extinguished, which produces hot steam that is not very compatible with smoking. Cold.

Aromas and fragrances

It is possible to flavor sawdust with berries, herbs or spices: juniper berry, bay leaf, pepper, coriander, etc.


Smoke and neighborhood

There is something to lessen your neighbors: place berries of juniper on the sawdust that will be consumed.

Smoking rooms

Different types of smoking rooms

  • Table smoker | horizontal

The table smokers are recommended for small productions. In general, smoking products are laid flat on a rack. There are table smoking rooms for cold smoking or hot smoking .

  • Chest cabinet | vertical

The cabinet smoking rooms offer larger loading capacities from 5 to 250 kilograms. The products can be laid flat on grids, if the smoker is large enough, or hanging on hooks and smoking sticks. There are cold smoking rooms or hot smoking rooms for cooking and smoking (electric smoker or gas).

  • Combo smoker and grill .

The combo smokers are a combination a smoker and grill. It is great for small production allowing to smoke and grill meat at the same time .There’s great list on that can help you make the right choice of combo smoker and grill.

How to choose your smoking room?

1 / Ask yourself the right questions:

  • What do you want to smoke: fish, meat, poultry, etc?
  • How do you want to smoke: cold or hot (smoking or smoking and cooking)?
  • How many products do you smoke (2 or 120 salmon fillets)?

2 / Privilege stainless steel smokers, other metals (galvanized steel, galvanized or aluminum) can release heavy metals which, heated, can contaminate smoked foods

3 / Prefer insulated and / or double walled devices

4 / Adjustment of draft and ventilation should be simple (flaps or air vents easily adjustable)

5 / A drip tray is essential to prevent the grease from dripping on the sawdust and generates a carcinogenic black smoke or causes fires

6 / Avoid smoking rooms Guillotine doors (sliding door from bottom to top) that are impractical and lock up quickly due to sticky soot.


Flat smoking or suspended smoking?

Everyone has their idea about the question and their preferences. Let’s say that in general the meat is rather smoke hanging (hook or roast wire) and smoked salmon flat on a grid. This facilitates the placement of nets in the smoker and avoids accidental stalls. Duck duck breasts and fish fillets are usually smoked flat on a rack.


Are fish hooks suitable for salmon fillets?

No, salmon fillets are usually quite heavy, with too fine and delicate flesh for classic fish hooks. Salmon fillets are usually smoked flat on grids. Only whole fish can hang on hooks. For fish fillets, make a fold at the tail and then tie with a string of butcher or use our specific salmon hooks hooked by the tail.

Can a restaurateur smoke his own salmon?

In theory, there is nothing to prevent this, but in the context of the obligation of result, a written procedure on how to proceed is desirable. Then having the finished product analyzed by a laboratory to prove your expertise to the control services is a real plus.

Maintain his smoking room

The elders will tell you that a smoker can not be cleaned! We still recommend cleaning your smoker from time to time. Just use water and soap or a food degreaser designed for this purpose.

Why avoid galleons made of galvanized steel or aluminum?

A galvanized or aluminum smoker can release heavy metals that can be deposited on food during smoking, which is dangerous for your health. Stainless steel smoking rooms are therefore strongly recommended. Especially when smoking takes place outdoors, stainless steel does not fear rain!

Brining or salting?

We recommend salt products to improve their conservation. Whenever possible, dry salting with fine salt. It is not necessary to cover the product entirely with salt; 30 to 35 grams of salt per kg are more than enough for most smoking products: salmon, duck breast, etc.

Salting time

Salting time chart for raw ham, from the book Smoking and salting .

The following basic rule applies to raw ham: 18 hours of salting per centimeter of meat thickness (measured at the thickest part).

Thickness of meat in cm Salting time in hours Salting time
2 36 1 days 12 hours
3 54 2 days 6 hours
3 54 2 days 6 hours
4 72 3 days
5 90 3 days 18 hours
6 108 4 days 12 hours
7 126 5 days 6 hours
8 144 6 days
9 162 6 days 18 hours
10 180 7 days 12 hours

And so on…

Meat can safely remain 2 to 3 days longer in the refrigerator in an airtight container. The fat pieces (breast), bacon and bardière should remain 30 hours salt per centimeter of thickness.

Preservation of smoked products

Smoking is with curing and drying one of the oldest techniques of food preservation. In Europe, this preservation process has been used since the 2nd millennium BC for meat and fish.

Smoked products can be kept longer than fresh products. The longer the smoking time, the better the preservation.

Example of fresh salmon:

  • in the refrigerator: 3 to 4 days
  • after 8 hours of smoking: 8 to 15 days of storage
  • after 2 x 8 hours of smoking: 15 to 30 days of storage

Choosing which products to smoke?

Choose very fresh products or fresh frozen products. For game, ensure that the animal has been properly slaughtered. Do not consume meat from an animal that is not dead immediately.

Can we smoke vegetables?

Once the vegetable is softened, it can be hot-smoked or put in contact with smoked bacon or vacuum-smoked salmon.

Example: sliced ??potato + smoked bacon + oil: cook under vacuum (in slices 1 cm thick 30 min at 85 ° C) then open and color or serve as is: the potatoes have taken the taste of smoke. If not, precook the firmest vegetables and smoke them hot.

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