Smoking foods is a practice embedded deep within our gastronomic history, transitioning from a simple food preservation technique to a cooking method celebrated by chefs and enthusiasts alike. Here at Eden Products, we are a proud UK supplier of smoking chips, supplying to a wide range of businesses within the food sector. In this blog, we are going to delve into the fascinating history of smoking and how it has become a technique that is still cherished to this day.
The roots of smoking can be traced back thousands of years, believed to be as early as the caveman days. Whilst it may have been by accident, it is assumed that cavemen and our early ancestors stumbled across smoking when they hung their meat near a fire to dry it. This drying method not only gave the meat a unique flavour but also helped to extend its shelf life – thus beginning the legacy of smoking foods.
Smoking, in its ancient form, emerged out of necessity, where before the days of refrigeration, the preservation of food was of utmost importance. It is believed that we leveraged the combination of smoke, dry air, and salt to extend the life of meats. Not only did this process deter bacteria and pests, but it also infused the food with a unique flavour, evolving it from mere sustenance to something enjoyable.
The Cultural Evolution
Over time, as civilisations evolved, so did the techniques and materials for smoking. Different cultures began to introduce their own twists, infusing the meat with flavours from locally sourced woods (smoking chips) and adding spices to the mix. From the delicate smoked salmon in the Nordic regions to the robust flavours preferred by Native Americans, smoking became a tapestry of traditions, enhancing each region’s culture.
In the UK, smoking also underwent its own transformation! Fishermen from Scotland, in their attempts to preserve their catches, began to smoke fish, giving birth to delicacies now sought worldwide. Similarly, ham once smoked just for preservation, has become a centrepiece of many British feasts.
Nowadays, chemical preservations are available in abundance, however, with the surge in eco-friendly practices and natural products, wood chips are still a popular choice.
Types of Smoking Methods
As smoking has evolved, various methods have emerged, each offering unique characteristics and flavours to the foods they’re applied to.
1. Cold Smoking
Cold smoking involves exposing food to smoke at temperatures between 20°C and 30°C. It is primarily a flavouring method, as these temperatures do not cook the food.
Foods Commonly Cold-Smoked:
Salmon, cheese, bacon, and sausages.
This method imparts a smoky flavour without altering the texture of the internal properties of the food. Since cold smoking doesn’t cook the food, it is crucial to cure the food first, especially meats, to ensure safety.
2. Hot Smoking
Hot smoking cooks and flavours food simultaneously. It requires temperatures between 52°C and 80°C.
Foods Commonly Hot-Smoked:
Fish, poultry, pork, and beef.
This method results in fully cooked, flavourful foods that have a distinct smoky aroma and a moist texture. The higher temperature also ensures that the food is safe for consumption, as the heat effectively kills harmful bacteria.
3. Smoke Roasting (or Pit Roasting)
Smoke roasting involves cooking food at higher temperatures, typically higher than 120°C in an environment infused by smoke.
Foods Commonly Smoke-Roasted:
Large pieces of meat, whole poultry, and vegetables.
Also known as pit roasting, this method gives food a roasted texture with an added layer of smokiness. The resultant dishes are tender, juicy, and imbued with a deep smoky flavour.
4. Electric Smoking
Electric smokers use electric heating elements to produce smoke from wood chips or pellets. They offer precise temperature control, making them popular among both beginners and professionals.
Foods Commonly Electric-Smoked:
Meat cuts, fish, and poultry.
This method is convenient, especially for those who don’t want to monitor the smoking process closely. The flavour profile might be milder compared to traditional methods, but the consistency and ease of use have made electric smoking increasingly popular.
Eden Products: Upholding Tradition
At Eden Products, we hold this rich history in high regard. As a UK supplier, catering to businesses and wholesalers within the smoking industry, we understand the importance of our role, so we offer:
- Varied Selection – recognising the diverse traditions of smoking, we have a range of wood types to choose from. From beech to oak, all of our wood chips offer different flavour profiles.
- Commitment to Quality – we understand the pivotal role of wood in the smoking process and how businesses have different needs. To fulfil different requirements, our smoking chips are available in various grades, from 0-2mm dust to 8mm sized chips, all of which are compatible with commercial smoke generators and traditional kilns.
- Sustainability – our sustainable sourcing practices ensure that the traditions of tomorrow can lean on resources that aren’t depleted. All of our European-sourced wood is certified under a European PEFC Wood Sustainability Standard, harvested primarily from the forests of Germany and is fully sustainable.