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5 September 2010

Food preservation technique by smoking it (smoke cooking)

We have a fish smoker which we purchased overseas a couple of years ago.  We have used it to smoke a variety of fish such as mullets, eels, sardines and mackerel although it can also be used to smoke poultry, shellfish and meat as well.  It is a very easy, quick and delicious way of cooking.  Our fish smoker is made of stainless steel - to a novice it looks like a drum with a lid.  All the components stove inside the main compartment.  Methylated spirit is put into a separate compartment at the base and lit then sawdust is sprinkled on the base of the smoker (the sawdust does not come into contact with the methylated spirit there is sheet of stainless steel which separates them) and the food to be smoked is placed on a grill and the lid is put on the smoker.  You need to make sure that there is sufficient methylated spirit and that the flame does not go out. 

This weekend we smoked three little mullet which we bought at the fish market in La Goulette.  We cleaned and gutted the fish.  Then placed it on the above mentioned grill in the smoker.  It took less than 15 minutes to smoke them. 

Curing and smoking food allows for a wonderful and aromatic flavour to develop.  The sawdust burns slowly and flavours the food and gives it that delicious smoky taste.  It should be noted that one should never use sawdust obtained from treated or painted timber as this will create toxic fumes when burnt.  Likewise, sawdust must be sourced from a reliable outlet specialising in curing and smoking food.   One should never use sawdust from an unknown source or from the process of mechanical machinery such as chain saws.  The lubricants used on the blade may taint the food.

We use sawdust which is ideal for using in fish smokers called "Mesquite".  Mesquite is a form of hardwood which is notable for its aromatic wood. In smoking, wood from mesquite is used to create a sweet flavour and a rich aroma; it can also be used in barbecues.  The flavour of mesquite is very distinctive and sought after.  Other woods which can be used for smoking are alder, apple and cherry, hickory, maple, oak and pecan.

Here are a couple of photographs of our fish smoker and the three little smoked mullets.  

Figure 1: Our fish smoker with the lid on.

Figure 2: Our fish smoker with the lid off.

Figure 3: A close-up of the smoked mullets sitting on the grill.

Figure 4: Ready to serve, home smoked mullets.
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