My mother-in-law got me a Little Chief smoker (full disclosure: Amazon referral link. I strongly suggest the front-load rather than the $5 cheaper top-load model for ease of use.) for my birthday this year, and we’ve only used it once so far. Tuesday night we invited some good friends over, threw some pork tenderloins and veggies on the grill for immediate eating, and fired up the smoker for the second time. The first time we used the smoker was back in April on a 40F degree day, and we got some excellent cold smoking out of it. Given that last night was an 80F degree day in the middle of August, I was curious what the final temperature would be and whether we would have been hot smoking or cold smoking. As it turns out the pork belly only came up to 95F after about 2 hours in there, so it was pretty darn close to cold smoking. We even managed to get that lovely red smoke ring when you cut into the meats, so I think we did pretty good!

We smoked (Alder and Mesquite wood):

  • 3.5 lbs home-cured bacon with brown sugar, Grains of Paradise, and Corriander seed.
  • 4 lbs pork chops, brined in Maple syrup and Apple Cider Vinegar with Juniper and black pepper
  • 2 lbs salmon, brined with Juniper and Bay
  • 2 lbs tuna
  • 2 lbs pork ribs (then grilled)
  • 1.5 lbs shrimp in their shells (then grilled)

Ohhhh yummy. Most of these things will get thrown in the fridge or freezer to be pulled out and cooked up for a quick dinner later. The Tuna will get chunked up and made into tuna salad for easy lunches or snacks, and the salmon will almost definitely end up getting cooked up with eggs for breakfasts and brunches.

The Bacon came out acceptably. it was a very thin but fatty cut of pork belly, and the thinner of the two pieces came out much too salty (my fault). It will be excellent used for cooking in other things, but isn’t ideal for eating by itself. The thicker piece though is pretty darned good, and you can really taste the complexity we were going for with the Grains of Paradise.

On the other end of the spectrum, the shrimp were pretty much a total failure. They tasted amazing, but they dried out so much in the smoker that the shells were glued to the meat inside, making them almost impossible to eat. My wife gave up after fighting with about 6 of them, so I soldiered through and finished off the rest of the pound and a half. mmmm…

Smoked food (especially pork) and beer are a match made in heaven, so it’s hard to go wrong pairing this stuff; go with something full-bodied while not too hoppy and your taste buds will dance with delight. Porters, Belgian goldens or doubles, British ales, German Munichs/Oktoberfests/Viennas, and American Ambers will all go beautifully. A Magic Hat #9 to go alongside the maple-apple pork chops would be awesome, especially if you spoon a bit of applesauce over the chops.

Fall’s coming up, which means that smoked beers will be back on my personal menu in the very near future. Yay!