How to Make a Hot Smoker
Building a hot smoker is much easier than making a cold smoker. In fact I would hazard a guess that you probably have all the equipment sitting at home right now. There are many different ways to hot smoke but today I’m just going to focus on two very basic set ups.
Container on a hob method
For this all you need is some sort of metal container, a trivet/grill and some wood chips/saw dust.
First you will need to find your smoking box. Bread bins and biscuit tins are both used quite regularly but in a push a casserole dish would do the job. Just remember that container will have to stand up to direct heat, so no shoeboxes please.
Put a layer of saw dust at the bottom of your vessel and suspend your trivet or grill a few inches above the wood. Place the box on top of a heat source, make sure that you have a few holes at the top of your container (or just leave the lid a little askew) so that some of the smoke can escape. Once everyhthing is up to temperature and you have a decent amount smoke you can place your meat/fish on the rack and put the lid back on.
I recommend doing this outside wherever possible, not even the most rugged of extractor fans should be able to cope with the torrent of smoke that you should be creating.
If you already have a BBQ this is a pretty easy option, all you need to do is light a small fire and once it’s settled down sweep it into the corner away from the area you intend your food to smoke. Add a few handfuls of damp wood chips, add the food to the side away from the fire, close the lid and away you go. This can also be done on a gas BBQ if it has a lid and allows you to turn on the heat on one side only.
What wood to use?
Now that I’ve told you about the set ups all you need to do know is choose what you want to smoke and then match it to a wood. Generally stick to hardwoods, you can use softwoods but if you do I recommend mixing in a quantity of a neutral hardwood to make it burn cleaner. The smoke flavour profiles work for both hot and cold smoking.
Oak: One of the most common woods used for smoking in the UK and for good reason. Oak works well with fish, meat and even garlic. You can pretty much guaranty that Oak will get on with pretty much any flavour.
Hickory: Not one of my favourites. Its a very American flavour and has quite a unique flavour profile. It works with Pork and occasionally Beef but not much else, great if you are trying to make American bacon or ribs. Can benefit from a sweeter cure than normal.
Beech: Mild flavour that works well with both fish and meats. Often used as a neutral wood to help burn and dilute some of the stronger tasting woods.
Apple: Strong taste, much like the rest of the fruit woods. Can work well with cheese.
Alder: Apparently works well with Salmon, I smoked almonds with it once and I really liked how subtle the smoke was.
Oak Whisky Barrel: Made from old oak whisky barrels this stuff packs quite a punch. Works amazingly when cold smoking Scottish salmon.
Birch: Works well with fish, popular in Iceland and other northern european countries.