Smoking meat, like barbecue, typically takes place outdoors. But you might have a craving for smoked pork ribs when snow covers your backyard or rain traps you indoors. Instead of ignoring your taste buds, try an indoor smoking technique that makes use of your conventional oven. Purists might insist that the low and slow method of outdoor smoking produces superior results, but you can get perfectly acceptable smoked meat out of your indoor oven.
A traditional outdoor smoker uses electricity, gas, wood or charcoal to provide fuel for cooking the meat. In electric and gas smokers, wet wood chips added to the smoker provide the smoke; you can also add wood chips to a charcoal smoker. This type of smoking, with the food cooked over a low heat, takes a long time, sometimes all day or even overnight.
While you can smoke food outdoors using charcoal, never use charcoal indoors or in your conventional oven. The toxic gasses produces by charcoal become extremely dangerous when confined inside. Adding hot charcoal to an oven also creates a fire hazard.
Some outdoor smokers use wood chips for the fuel; in others, they only provide the smoke. Some recipes for smoking indoors in a conventional oven make use of wood chips. Never choose your wood randomly when smoking as some softwoods, such as pine, fir and cedar, aren't safe for cooking. The wood from some fruit trees and hickory make ideal smoking chips. Use wood chips marketed for smoking food, and refer to the manufacturer's instructions; take particular note of any restrictions regarding indoor use. If the instructions recommend soaking the wood chips, you can substitute a flavourful liquid such as apple juice for plain water to add a little more flavour to your food.
Recipes for indoor smoking in a conventional oven typically recommend placing a pan of soaked wood chips in the oven while the meat roasts. This method can leave your house with a smoky smell and a messy residue in your oven.
You can obtain a smoked food flavour indoors without using wood chips by adding liquid smoke to your marinade. Alternatively, you can mix the liquid smoke into a pan of water and place that in the oven while the food cooks, creating a smoky steam. While this method doesn't cook the food in the same way as traditional smoking, it does give meat a smoky flavour and aroma.
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