‘smoke is the soul of barbecue’_ master griller steven raichlen on the global appeal of smoked food

The appeal of smoked food is universal and elemental. Italian sausage recipe crock pot It spans the globe, from barbecued pork in the American South and smoked fish in Scandinavia to Sichuan tea-smoked duck in China and jerk chicken in Jamaica.

It’s an ancient technique; one used to preserve, flavour and cook food.


Authentic italian sausage recipe Methods vary by food culture and region – whether hot-smoking, cold-smoking, smoke-roasting or using a handheld smoking device.

“The way I imagine it, hominids gathered around a campfire roasting meat. Ground italian sausage pasta recipe They put a piece of meat on a stick downwind of the fire, smoke passed over it, (and they discovered that) you can preserve it longer, there are fewer bugs.

In his latest cookbook, Project Smoke (Workman Publishing, 2016), and the PBS series of the same name, Raichlen focuses solely on “the umami of barbecue.” From meats, seafood and vegetables, to desserts, cocktails and condiments, every recipe in the book receives the smoke treatment.

“Barbecue is both very broad and very deep. Italian sausage recipe slow cooker What I mean by broad is that with a book like Planet Barbecue (Workman Publishing, 2010) I’m really looking at it from a global perspective. Mild italian sausage recipes And very deep in that with a book like Project Smoke, you can really drill down on one technique,” he says.

Raichlen’s field work for Project Smoke took him to the Basque Country, in northern Spain, where Victor Arguinzoniz first served him smoked ice cream at his renowned restaurant, Asador Etxebarri.

“(Arguinzoniz) burns logs to embers in a wood-burning oven. Spaghetti and italian sausage recipe He put a container of milk in the oven at the end of the day and smoked it overnight, and then turned it into ice cream. Homemade italian chicken sausage recipes It was fabulous,” Raichlen says.

Since he was already asking readers to fire up a smoker; he says he wasn’t about to ask them to plug in an ice cream maker as well. Italian sausage seasoning recipe He was on set shooting an episode of Project Smoke when a method for smoking store-bought ice cream came to him.

“I set up a kettle grill for indirect grilling (a technique in which the food is placed off to the side of the heat source, rather than directly above it) and super front-loaded it with wood chips, put the ice cream in over a bowl of ice, and did a five-minute smoke.

“It was a ton of smoke in a very short time so the ice cream didn’t melt. Jennie o sweet italian turkey sausage recipes It got covered with a beautiful patina of wood smoke,” Raichlen says.

Enjoy a scoop or two on its own, or à la mode with his Smoked Bacon-Bourbon Apple Crisp or Smoked Chocolate Bread Pudding – all three recipes are in Project Smoke.

Raichlen had of course touched on smoke in his other books, such as The Barbecue Bible (Workman Publishing, 2008). Recipe for homemade italian sausage “But if all barbecue is smoked, not all smoked foods are barbecue,” he says.

Singling out smoke allowed him to include food and drink that simply wouldn’t fit into the barbecue category: such as Italian hay-smoked mozzarella, smoked shoulder ham, smoked salmon and the Mexican spirit mezcal.

“Oh my god, it’s so smoky,” Raichlen says of mezcal, which he witnessed being made in Oaxaca, Mexico. Johnsonville mild italian sausage recipe “And to watch them make it: dig these holes, line them with stones, build a giant fire, bury the piña, roast them for a week and use a donkey-drawn millstone to grind them up… it’s incredible.”

To understand the practice of smoking, it’s important to understand the difference between it, grilling and barbecue. Italian sausage rigatoni recipe Raichlen says this comes down to three factors: where the food is in relation to the fire, the temperature, and smoke as the vehicle.

“In grilling, the food is right over the fire; it’s a hot fire, it’s a fast technique. Spaghetti with italian sausage recipe It may or may not be smoked. Italian sausage spices recipe In true barbecue, the food is next to, not directly over the fire. Italian sausage soup recipes olive garden The temperature is much lower – typically 225 to 275°F (107 to 135°C) – and there is wood smoke.

“In smoking, the food is also next to, not directly over the fire. Mild italian sausage recipe And there may be heat to cook it, there may not be heat to cook it but there’s always smoke,” he says. Italian sausage stew recipe “It’s more about the smoking than the cooking, which is why you can use an electric or stove-top smoker. Italian sausage seasoning blend recipe Because they don’t require live fire; it’s about the smoke.”

As Raichlen writes in Project Smoke, “Smoking is easy but it isn’t always simple.” He includes detailed information in his “Seven Steps to Smoking Nirvana” chapter: how to choose your smoker, source your fuel, assemble your tools, flavour your food, select your smoking method, light your fire, and know when your food is done.

If you’re new to the craft, Raichlen suggests starting with pork shoulder. Ground pork italian sausage recipe His gateway recipe in the book is Smoked, Pulled and Vinegar-Sauced in the Style of North Carolina, dispelling the notion that barbecue sauce is exclusively sweet and sticky.

“Unlike something like a brisket or beef ribs, pork shoulder is intrinsically tender. Italian sausage potato soup recipe It has marbling throughout the meat and then a big cap of fat on the surface, so if you over-cook it, if your temperature spikes too high, it’s very forgiving.

“You almost always succeed at a pork shoulder. Italian pork sausage pasta recipe It always tastes great. Italian sausage and pasta recipe As opposed to a brisket where there are many, many factors that can conspire to make it tough,” he says.

Above all else, Raichlen stresses the need for patience on the part of the cook. Homemade spicy italian sausage recipe “The single-most important attribute you need to bring to smoking in terms of character is patience. Hot italian sausage pasta recipe And that’s very different than grilling, which is all about speed,” he says.

If a recipe calls for a cup of wood chips added once an hour for eight hours, adding the entirety at the start is not the way to go. Ground turkey italian sausage recipe More smoke at the outset is not always better. Italian beef sausage recipe Take your time and space it out for best results.

“It’s not like when you smoke with cherry wood you’re going to taste cherries, or when you smoke with apple wood you’re going to taste apples. Hot italian turkey sausage recipes Now, I’m sure there are people that disagree with me on that,” Raichlen says.

“Somehow we have the notion that Texas or Carolina pitmasters sat down and thought, ‘What wood smoke is going to taste the best on brisket?’ I think on the contrary; it’s that they looked and saw what they had in their backyard. Italian sausage and potato recipe When you think about the globalization of just about everything, smoke is kind of a last frontier of regionalism.”

When it comes to what to consider when buying a smoker, Raichlen says this question poses a bit of a conundrum in Canada. Italian sausage pasta recipes for dinner His TV shows include Le Maitre du Grill and La Tag BBQ in Quebec; he is well-acquainted with Canadian barbecue culture.

“Canadians are about 90 to 95 per cent gas grillers, and gas grills are not great for smoking,” he says. Italian pasta sausage recipe “But even within that context, there are dishes like the Smoked Planked Camembert and the Smoked Planked Trout where you’re cooking on a wooden board. Italian sausage soup recipe You’re letting the board edges singe, so you can smoke in a gas grill.”

“That has the dual advantage of being affordably priced, and being both a grill and a smoker,” he says. Italian sausage and peppers pasta recipe “Set up for indirect grilling with fewer briquettes, put wood chips on the coals, and you’ve got a smoker. Recipe for italian sausage and pasta If you want to cook sausages or steak, rake the coals together and you’ve got a grill.”

If you’re ready to take the plunge and buy a dedicated smoker, Raichlen recommends Weber’s Smokey Mountain Cooker as well as two “terrific” Canadian brands.

“One of them is Napoleon, which is in the kettle grill and upright water smoker space – those R2-D2-looking smokers. Italian sausage and kale soup recipe And Bradley, which is made in B.C., has a great electric smoker. Spaghetti recipe with italian sausage One cool thing about the Bradley is you can convert it to a cold smoker; I love it for cold-smoking.

“There’s a little bit of snobbery in my field but I love electric smokers for making bacon because you cook bacon at about 165°F (74°C); it’s very hard to maintain that temperature consistently with charcoal but super easy on an electric smoker,” he says.

Recipes excerpted from Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing). Homemade italian sausage recipes from italy Copyright ©2016. Mild italian sausage slow cooker recipes Photographs by Matthew Benson. Pasta italian sausage recipe Used with permission of the publisher.

Method: Reverse searing (you slow-smoke the steak first to cook it through, then rest it, then finally sizzle it over a hot fire to sear the crust)

Fuel: I like cherry for smoking this steak, but any hardwood will do. Italian sausage pasta recipe jamie oliver You’ll need enough hardwood chunks or chips (soaked and drained if using the latter) for 1 hour of smoking

What else: This steak works best on a charcoal-burning grill or smoker, like a kettle grill or offset barrel smoker with a grill grate over the firebox. Recipe italian sausage pasta That enables you to smoke low and slow, then sear over a hot fire. Italian sausage pasta bake recipe Otherwise, you’ll need to start the steak in a smoker and finish it on a grill

1. Homemade italian chicken sausage recipe If using a charcoal kettle grill, light 10 to 12 pieces of charcoal (preferably natural lump charcoal) in a chimney starter. Italian turkey sausage recipes When ready, place the charcoal in one side basket or on one side of the bottom grate. Italian sausage and potato soup recipe Adjust the top and bottom vents to heat your grill to 225 to 250°F (107 to 121°C).

2. Recipe mild italian sausage Meanwhile, very generously season the steak on the top, bottom, and sides with salt and pepper. Mild italian sausage recipes for dinner Insert the thermometer probe through the side of the steak, deep into the centre.

3. Italian sausage recipe fennel Add the wood to the coals. Italian sausage recipe pasta Place the steak on the grate as far away from the fire as possible. Italian sausage bowtie pasta recipe Cover the grill and smoke the steak until the internal temperature reaches 110°F (43°C). Traditional italian sausage recipe This will take 45 minutes to 1 hour.

6. Italian sausage recipe oven Lightly brush or drizzle the steak on both sides with olive oil. Best homemade italian sausage recipe Place it on the grate over the fire and direct grill until the top and bottom are sizzling and darkly crusted and the internal temperature on an instant-read thermometer reaches 120 to 125°F (49 to 52°C) for rare to 130 to 135°F (54 to 57°C) for medium-rare (2 to 3 minutes per side, 4 to 6 minutes in all), turning with tongs. Recipe italian sausage soup If you like, give the steak a quarter turn on each side halfway through searing to lay on a crosshatch of grill marks. Mild italian sausage pasta recipe For really thick steaks, grill the edges, too.

7. Spicy italian sausage soup recipe Serve hot off the grill. Italian sausage with pasta recipe I like to cut the steak on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Pork italian sausage recipe I wouldn’t say no to an additional drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

What else: There are two options for smoking: traditional low-and-slow smoking, which gives you great flavour but a slightly rubbery texture, and high-heat smoke-roasting on a grill, which gives you a little more sizzle and crust.

1. Italian sausage penne pasta recipe Make the cocktail sauce: Place the ketchup, orange zest and juice, Worcestershire sauce, chipotles, adobo sauce, onion and chopped cilantro in a bowl and whisk to mix. Italian sausage pasta recipes with alfredo sauce Divide the cocktail sauce among four small bowls. Recipe for making italian sausage Cover and refrigerate until serving. Easy italian sausage pasta recipe Place a cilantro sprig in the centre of each just before serving.

2. Robert’s homemade italian sausage recipe Rinse the shrimp, drain, and blot dry. Easy spicy italian sausage pasta recipe Place the shrimp, cilantro, scallions, hot red pepper flakes, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss to mix. Italian turkey sausage recipes dinner Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil, cover, and marinate for 15 minutes. Emeril italian sausage recipe Thread the shrimp onto bamboo skewers, 2 to a skewer. Spicy italian turkey sausage recipe Leave 1/4 inch exposed skewer at the point end and the bottom half of the skewer shrimp-free. Recipe italian sausage Place the skewers on a lightly oiled wire rack if smoking.

3. Italian sausage pasta recipe food network Smoker method: Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 225 to 250°F (107 to 121°C). Best italian sausage recipe Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer. Italian sausage recipe with pasta Place the rack with the shrimp in the smoker and smoke until bronzed with smoke and firm to the touch, 30 to 60 minutes, or as needed. Homemade mild italian sausage recipe Baste with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil after 20 minutes. Italian pork sausage recipe Grill method: Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high (450°F/232°C). Italian sausage pasta recipes food network Toss the wood chunks or chips on the coals. Johnsonville mild italian sausage recipes Direct grill the shrimp, turning them over once, until sizzling and brown on the outside and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Recipe using italian sausage and pasta Slide a folded strip of aluminum foil under the exposed parts of the skewers to keep them from burning. Ground mild italian sausage recipe Baste with the remaining oil after you turn the shrimp.

What else: I call for shredded smoked brisket. Beef italian sausage recipe Alternatively, use jerk chicken, smoked turkey, pulled pork, or smoked tofu for a vegetarian version.

2. Baked italian sausage recipe Loosely arrange one third of the tortilla chips in the grill skillet. Italian sausage soup recipes Sprinkle one third of the shredded brisket, beans, cheese, jalapeños, and scallions on top. Italian sausage zucchini pasta recipes Shake on hot sauce. Italian turkey sausage recipe Add a second layer of these ingredients, followed by a third.

4. Recipe ground italian sausage Sprinkle the cilantro on top, if using, and dig in. Italian sausage bow tie pasta recipe Yes—you eat the nachos right out of the skillet, so be careful not to burn your fingers on the rim.

Smoked Nachos on the Grill: Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high (400°F/204°C). Italian sausage pasta recipes Place the nachos pan on the grate away from the heat and toss the wood chips on the coals. Italian sausage recipes food network Indirect-grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling, 5 minutes.