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By Mike Stines, Ph.B.
|Camerons Stovetop Smoker
Apple-Stuffed Stovetop-Smoked Pork Loin Roast
Stovetop-Smoked Pork Chops
Stovetop-Smoked Prime Rib
Smoked and Braised Lamb Shanks with Roasted Spring Vegetables
Stovetop smoking, once the domain of restaurant chefs looking to diversify their menu without investing in an industrial smoker, is now a popular and affordable alternative for home cooks, too. If you want the delicate flavor of home-smoked food without the worry of having a large smoker on the deck, then you should consider stovetop smoking.
I'm an avid barbecuer and often smoke large Boston butts, whole slabs of ribs and briskets in a Grill Dome ceramic cooker or a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker™ vertical smoker. Recently, however, I've been experimenting with stovetop smoking using a unit manufactured by Camerons Professional Cookware (seen at left).
|Wood shavings in the bottom of the smoker.
This version of the stovetop smoker is easy to use. Basically, it's a rectangular box with a drip tray and rack for the food. A sliding stainless steel cover prevents the smoke from escaping. To use it, you place a tablespoon or so of special wood shavings (or smoking pellets) in the bottom of the stainless steel pan, put the drip pan into the smoker and place the smoking rack over the drip pan. Add the meat, fish, or vegetables and heat the partially-closed smoker over medium heat. When wisps of smoke begin to appear, you slide the cover shut and smoke-cook for the desired time, usually 20 to 30 minutes. For larger cuts of meat, the pan is transferred to a preheated oven to finish the cooking. The smoker can also be used on a grill or campfire and may also be used for steaming, roasting and poaching.
Although it's advisable to have a good exhaust fan in your kitchen when using a stovetop smoker, surprisingly little smoke escapes from the cooker. The smoke that does escape adds a nice aroma to the kitchen that permeates into the dining room to whet your guests' appetites!
Camerons' cookbook, Camerons Recipe Collection, which also includes recipes using the company's other cookware products, notes that the temperature inside the smoker is about the same as a 375 degree F. oven, allowing fish to be cooked in about 25 minutes, boneless chicken breasts in 35 minutes, and vegetables in 8 to 18 minutes. The smoker may also be used for smoking chile peppers, nuts, cheese, ribs, hamburgers or almost anything you'd like to smoke-cook.
|Tenting for larger meats.
One of the secrets to smoking food—whether in an outdoor smoker or on the stove-top—is to determine how little smoke can be used to achieve the desired flavor. With traditional offset smokers, it's usually a matter of adding wood chunks or chips to hardwood charcoal and cooking for a relatively long period of time with temperatures around 225 degrees F. With a stovetop smoker, 1 to 2 tablespoons of wood shavings are placed in the bottom of the smoker. Adding more wood isn't necessarily a good thing as too much smoke can create a bitter and overwhelming smoke taste. (Alternatively, smoking pellets such as those made by BBQr's Delight could also be used. Just place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the pellets in a small foil pouch and poke a few holes in the pouch to let the smoke escape.)
Smoking materials are not limited to hickory or oak woods but can include apple, cherry, maple, mesquite, apricot, cedar, grape vines or any combination of those. Fruit woods are generally mild and impart a sweet flavor that enhances but doesn't hide any natural flavor.
Camerons' cookbook suggests using apple for game, fish, and poultry; cherry for duck and vegetables; hickory for pork, ribs, or chicken; maple for cheese and vegetables; oak for almost any smoking; and pecan for pork, game, and lamb.
Candy Weaver of BBQr's Delight recommends using black walnut pellets for red meat, pork, venison, and other game meat; orange pellets which produce a "tangy citrus taste" for pork, poultry, fish, and seafood; and mulberry pellets which impart a "sweet, tangy blackberry" taste for pork, ham, and poultry.
There's one drawback to the stovetop smoker: it's too small for large cuts of meat to be covered with the sliding stainless steel cover. The solution is simple…use heavy-duty aluminum foil to create a tent over the meat and tightly seal the edges around the lip of the smoker. By using the aluminum tent, I've been able to successfully smoke whole turkeys, large rib roasts, bone-in pork roasts, and brisket flats.
In researching and testing for this article, I developed several recipes that work especially well in stovetop smokers.
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