Spring is in the air, which means the time is ripe for outdoor cooking. For most folks, this means hot dog and burgers on the grill, and maybe a steak or pork chop or two. There’s nothing wrong with any of these, of course (at least in moderation), but why not kick it up a notch this year? If you’re considering investing in an electric smoker, now is the time. Over the summer, you’ll be able to hone your skills to a razor’s edge, making your home the go-to spot for delicious, hearty, smoky eats that will have the neighbors begging for a taste.
Not sure where to start? Fear not–the electric smoker is a blessed and forgiving tool, turning out mouthwatering delicacies with a minimum of effort. Here are 10 fabulous, fool-proof ideas to help you get the ball rolling on your new hobby.
1. Chicken Wings
A good old-fashioned BBQ wing will find its home at any party. Alltpi you’ll need are some high-quality chicken wings, a decent spice rub, and a barbecue sauce of your choice (homemade is always best, but it’s up to the chef). Give the wings a hearty dose of the spice rub and stick them in the fridge overnight, or up to 24 hours. Smoke for 2 hours at 275 degrees, turning them halfway through the cooking time. Baste with the sauce and let them go for another half hour. Serve with extra sauce on the side for dipping.
Who doesn’t love a nice, chewy, protein-filled strip of jerky? It’s particularly nice when prepared in a smoker, using the wood chips of your choice. Look for a Worcestershire-based marinade (or prepare your own), and let the thinly sliced meat soak up all the flavors overnight. (You can use the traditional beef, or else substitute turkey or even venison during hunting season.) Set the smoker at 170 degrees, and fill the water pan with water and wood chips. Spread the meat on racks in a single layer, and smoke for 4-6 hours. When the jerky is no longer floppy when you pick it up, it’s ready to go.
3. Smoked Trout
The flesh of the lake trout is one of the best choices for the smoker, as it’s mild and absorbs flavors well. Brining the trout for a couple of hours beforehand will help it retain moisture during the process. When it’s ready to go, set the smoker to 160 degrees, then pat the trout dry while the unit preheats. For best results, use cherry wood chips in the smoker box. Smoke the trout for at least 2 hours, removing when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
4. Whole Chicken
Similar to the BBQ wings, but with the added benefit of juicy and tender breast meat. Pat the chicken dry, then rub with the spice blend of your choice. Set the smoker to 250 degrees, and use whichever wood chips would work best with your spice rub (this is a great opportunity to play with different flavor combinations). Cook for about 4 hours, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg reaches 165 degrees.
5. Beef Brisket
This recipe is a great base for barbecued beef sandwiches–perfect for a cookout. Buy a brisket that’s about 10 pounds, and select a spice rub with a hefty barbecue flavor. Season the meat, and let it soak in the spice overnight in the fridge. Smoke at 225 degrees for 4 to 6 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing against the grain and serving.
Salmon is a particularly good choice for the smoker–the rich flesh holds up well under long, slow cooking. If you’d like, the fish can be marinated for one to two hours beforehand. Smoke for about three hours at 210 degrees, using whichever wood chips you prefer. Serve simply with wedges of lemon, or whip up a mustard-dill cream sauce with capers for an extra treat.
7. Duck Breasts
Even if you don’t prepare duck very often, this is the way to try it, as the smoke gives the succulent meat an unforgettable flavor. Brining the duck in a blend of apple juice and brown sugar will yield a spectacular result, particularly if you use a fruit wood (such as cherry or apple) for the chips. Be sure to leave the skin on during smoking–you can remove it for serving if you wish–as this helps to retain the juices. Smoke at 250 degrees until the breasts reach an internal temperature of 150.
8. Pork Shoulder
This tasty, fatty cut should be brined for at least 12 hours before meeting the low and slow heat of the smoker. The tang of hickory provides a nice balance for the richness of the pork, so use these chips if they’re available. Smoke at 210 degrees for about 8 hours. The meat will be tender enough to shred with forks.
9. Barbecued Beans
Smoking is great for mains, but don’t forget the sides. Mix together 2 cans of beans, 2 cups shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, 1 minced onion, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire, 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce, and a few dashes of Tabasco. Heat in the smoker until cooked through. Serve with corn chips.
Ribs are perhaps the best reason to buy a smoker in the first place. When smoking ribs, remember the 3-2-1 rule: Smoke at 225 degrees for 3 hours; then wrap in foil, adding a bit of liquid to keep them moist, and smoke for another 2 hours. After basting liberally with BBQ sauce, place directly on the rack for one more hour.
Remember, these are just suggestions–like any useful tool, the electric smoker provides a broad canvas for the curious and hungry chef. So get cooking, and bon appetit!