Food Smoking Tips

What is Hot Food Smoking?

Hot food smoking is cooking meat or fish using indirect heat and introducing smoke to enhance the flavour. Smoke is produced by smoldering wood chips in a tin foil pouch or smoke box. Hot smoking can be done in a kettle BBQ, hooded BBQ or Gas BBQ, however vertical or horizontal smoker will produce the best results. Hot smoking is a long, slow cooking process at around 100C. Pork shoulder is best cooked for 12 hours or more and brisket 16 hours or longer.

What is Cold Smoking?

Cold smoking is exposing food to cold smoke without actually cooking the food. Cold smoking is used to cure with a combination of a salting or brine with smoke mainly fish like smoked Salmon. It is an exacting process which will require a good understanding of the principles involved including food safety. Today cold smoking / curing is mainly done on a commercial scale or to add a smoke flavour without curing. These days enthusiasts tend to add cold smoke and then freeze or refrigerate. Popular items to cold smoke are: fish, cheese, bacon, pastrami, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic etc. For more information we have shot a video on how to cold smoke Salmon.

Is a Food Smoker meant to be Air Tight?

Food smokers are NOT designed to be air tight, this is because heat and smoke are continuously generated - air is drawn in through the bottom vents to fuel the fire and expelled out the top vent. Spent smoke also exits through the top vent. If you close the top vent eventually the fire will go out due to oxygen starvationand smoke will attempt exit through any crack of slight opening.

What are the benefits of smoking versus traditional BBQ?

To get good results from barbecuing food requires careful timing so that cooking takes place when the fire is just right, not too hot or cold. Additionally it is very much a hands on process as the meat will need to be constantly watched so it doesn't burn and moved around so that the bigger pieces of meat are above the hottest part of the fire. Smoking on the other hand is a leisurely process, you make the fire add meat and then leave it alone. With food smoking you will need to start a number of hours before as it is a longer process, typically anything from 3 - 16 hours depending on what you are smoking. Due to the long cooking times it is not uncommon to start the cooking process the night before as some smokers like the Frontier will last for up to 10 hours on one charge of charcoal briquettes.

What food can I smoke?

All types of meat including Chicken, Joints, Ribs, Brisket, Pork, Fish, Cheese, Garlic,Pepper, Salt, Paprika and vegetables.

What creates the smoke?

Wood chips or wood chunks are used to produce a rich stream of smoke. You will need a container to hold the wood chips or make a pouch out of tin foil, add a handful of chips and punch a small hole on either side. Place the pouch directly on the fire. Make 6 or so at a time. You will need no more than 2 - 4 of smoke per smoking session, so if you smoking a briket for 16 hours, then you will need smoke for about a quarter of the time.

Can I use my existing barbecue to smoke food?

Yes, but it must have a hood and big enough so the meat does not sit directly above the fire (indirect cooking). A gas BBQ with a hood will also work. Light up to 2 burners and place a metal container filled with wood chips above one of the burners - place your meat on opposite side above an unlit burner.

Where do I put the water bowl?

Water bowls are supplied with most vertical smokers and sit between fire basket and the two upper grills. You can put herbs, beer, wine, brandy, cider in the bowl. The water evaporates to increase the humidity which keeps the food nice and moist and succulent. The water bowl does not have to have water in it as without water it still acts as a barrier from the fire - meat will be browner and not as moist. There are no hard and fast rules it is all about the method that suites ones individual taste.

Why Smoke your food?

Smoking enhances food with rich natural flavours. Since mankind starter using fire to cook their food they have always enjoyed the unique flavour created by adding smoke. Slow cooking is done at about 200F for 3 - 16 hours and this makes the meat tender and very tasty.

Do I have to use specially prepared wood?

Yes, you will need to source wood that has not been treated as these chemicals will normally contain toxins that can be harmful. Best to buy wood chips etc. from a specialist supplier. Most supermarket and DIY stores stock wood chips. Avoid wood if you don't know the source or the type of wood for example Willow has harmful toxins.

Do woods give off different flavours?

Yes each type of wood e.g. Oak and Apple each have their own unique flavour, these flavours suit specific meat types (please see Smoking Wood Flavour Chart at the bottom of the page). Hickory is the strongest flavour. You can also create your own blends of wood chips or wood dust.

What is water smoking?

Water smoking is where a water bowl sits above the fire and raises the humidity, resulting in moist, tasty and succulent food. If you BBQ or smoker does not have a water bowl you can substitute with metal bowl half filled with water. The water bowl in a vertical BBQ smoker also helps to regulate the temperature inside the smoker.

What temperature should I smoke food at?

Temperatures are lower than those used to BBQ and vary according to what meat or fish you are cooking - please see temperature chart at the bottom of this page.

How much smoke do I need to cook?

You can produce smoke for the whole duration of the cook, however the meat will take on most of the smoked wood flavour in the first 2 hours. It is all down you individual preferences, most common would be one hour of smoke in the begining and another at the end.

Do I need special charcoal for food smoking?

Use only the best quality charcoal briquettes. Also consider coconut shells which burn long and hot - eco friendly option too. Try the Weber Long Lasting charcoal briquettes, they burn longer than most.

Smoking Temperature Chart

Smoking Temperature Chart

Cold Smoking Temperatures

Food safety is a very big subject, some of it is common sense, but always wise to abreast with the latest do's and don'ts. It is vital that when smoking fish the ambient temperature must be between 12 and 28 degrees Centigrade . When brining your fish the room temperature should be less than 12 degrees Centigrade and fish should be kept refridgerated between 0 and 5 degrees Centigrade before and after smoking.

Wood Flavour Types

Wood Type

Wood Smoking Characteristics


Alder has a delicate hint of sweetness. Great for pork, fish, chicken and wild fowl.


Almond has a sweetish smoke flavour. Good with all meats.


Apple has a mild fruity flavour with a touch of sweetness. Good with chicken and pork.


Ash burns quite fast with a distinctive flavour and slightly sweet. Use with fish and red meats.


Birch is a medium hard wood with a hint of maple. Good with chicken and pork.


Cherry is one of the most popular wood for food smoking. Use with chicken, pork or beef.


Grapevines produce a rich and fruity smoke. Best with chicken, red meats, game and lamb.


Hickory has a sweet and strongish bacon flavour. Good with pork, ham and beef.


Maple has a smokey mellow and slightly sweet flavour. Best pork, poultry and cheese.


Mesquite has a strong earthy flavour and burns very hot. Use with beef, fish, chicken and game.


Mulberry has a sweet smell, bit like apple. Good with pork, ham poultry and game birds.


Oak produces a lovely smoked colour and light flavour. Use with beef, chicken, pork, fish, game & wild fowl.


Orange has a tangy citrus smoke and leaves a lovely golden colour. Use with chicken, pork, fish & game.


Pear has a subtle smoke flavour, a bit like apple. Great for chicken and pork.


Pecan is like hickory, but milder with a nutty taste. Use with beef, chicken, pork and cheese.


Plum has subtle smoke flavour. Great with chicken, turkey, pork and fish.


Walnut produces a heavy smoke - best mixed with lighter woods like apple and pear. Use with red meat

For More information contact For Food Smokers on 01483 550694 –