Confessions of a heavy smoker
Harry Foster is a former Masterchef Australia contestant and NQ lad who each edition gives us a taste of his energetic approach to food.
Look, I’m a heavy smoker and I’m proud to admit it. Before you ask… no, I’m not talking about tobacco. I’m talking delectable meats, seafoods and veggies!
Whether it’s classic American style beef brisket or a modern Australian octopus dish, smoke is becoming more and more popular in the culinary scene and for good reason. There’s nothing quite like biting into a succulent, tender piece of meat (or veg if that’s your thing) that’s been kissed by the sweet smoky flavour of burning wood.
Recently, I’ve found myself straying away from “gourmet” fancy food and getting back into those good, hearty meals that just make you pop those sultry eyes with every bite. Of course, smoked foods are finding their way to the top of the list.
“There’s nothing quite like biting into a succulent, tender piece of meat that’s been kissed by the sweet smoky flavour of burning wood.”
Being such a versatile cooking method, there are so many different applications you can use smoke for in your home kitchen; whether that be cold smoking, hot smoking, or even just as a playful bit of theatre when presenting a dish to your friends (they’ll forgive you for being a bit of a foodie wanker as soon as they take the first bite). I went out and got myself a smoking cabinet and, honestly, it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.
Now that we’ve established the fact that you probably should go out and buy a smoking appliance RIGHT NOW, let’s touch on how you’re going to be able to make the best use out of it and create some really good food! Sorry to the herbivores reading this, but it’s all meat from here on down.
Choosing your meats is very important. If you’re hot smoking, you want something nice and fatty so it retains those beautiful juices throughout the long cooking process. If you’re into leaner meats, you can still give them a good seeing-to by cold smoking. Good news, seafood fans: you can go either way!
After you’ve chosen your meat, you’re going to need to brine it. Brining is super important as it’s going to help keep your meat moist throughout the process and give it a great texture.
My basic brine recipe
1 cup salt
½ cup sugar
+ any extra seasonings you’d like; think a couple bay leaves, a teaspoon of peppercorns, or a few dried chillies if you’re wanting a bit extra!
When brining, the general rules are based around the thickness of the meat. You probably wouldn’t want to brine for any less than an hour but you can soak your meat for up to 24 hours if you really like. It’s best to use our best friend Google to double check the times specific to your chosen cut. What’s that? You want an example? My personal favourites are hot smoked chicken thighs and octopus tentacles. After brining the meats, I lay them out evenly in my smoker and light the burner for a hot smoke. I set the burner to high, then after about 15-20 minutes I take the octopus out and leave the chicken in for another 5-10 minutes. If you’re feeling unsure, whip out a trusty meat thermometer.
Remember to rest the chicken and octopus for at least 20 minutes after you remove them from the smoker – this is important to let the proteins in the meat stabilise and will help retain moisture. Refrigerate the meat for a few hours. Once cold, slice and serve! I usually serve up my meat with a vinaigrette, some spicy mayonnaise, and a few fresh herbs for garnish. Feel free to experiment with whatever sides you like.
Bon appetit! Or for those who live on social media, bone app the teeth!
Follow Harry’s foodie adventures on Instagram @hazfos