Am I becoming addicted to new gadgets? It’s possible…
I love the flavour of smoke on almost anything: meat, fish, seafood, chips, condiments, cheese, fruit…uh, spices. I would have to work hard to come up with something smoked that I don’t immediately enjoy. Smoke can elevate virtually any ingredient or dish to something sublime—maybe it’s the genetic memory of how our cave ancestors learned to cook over open wood-fire.
So, when my son recently pointed out this smoker box* to me, I had one ordered the next day. He had seen a show with Heston wherein the great chef had extolled the virtues of a simple smoker box. Were I a handy man, I probably would have cobbled together something myself using a hotel tray, wire rack and some tinfoil. But I am not handy and the internet makes it so damn easy to acquire these things.
Also, the Cameron’s smoker box that arrived is magnificent. I’m not often a proponent of single purpose cookware, but this thing works so well, I would recommend it to anyone. It’s a stainless steel box, with a drip tray that allows the smoke to vent along its edges, a wire rack, a sliding cover and fold-up handles. Seems simple, no? But everything fits so well together that the process of smoking becomes highly efficient and effective—and a good value at less than $60.
Ignoring caution and common-sense I elected to use relatively expensive ingredients for my first experiment, arctic char fillets and spiny lobster tails. Using the brine recipe I created previously for trout jerky (maple-juniper), I soaked the fillets for one and a half hours.
For the lobster tails, I opted to peel off the small legs, crack them open and brush with a simple lemon-pepper butter—a couple tablespoons of melted sweet butter, cracked pepper, fleur de sel and lemon zest.
This smoker box only requires roughly one to two tablespoons of wood chips for most projects. I used alder chips, which seemed like an appropriately light flavour for fish and seafood. It’s important for the items to not be touching each other to allow for proper circulation of smoke.
I set the loaded box on a low to medium flame on the side of my outdoor gas grill. It began to smoke in minutes, and in ten the fish started to take on that oily sheen you want to see on top. When closed, there was very little smoke lost and many people note online that they’ve used similar smoker boxes indoors with success. I’m skeptical that my fire alarm would let me get through this task without a headache, but it’s certainly possible.
One word of caution here: my side burner on my gas grill is recessed a little, so I had a problem with flames moving along the bottom of the box and melting the plastic edges of the burner. Next time I would put the whole box into the grill on top of one lit side, as recommended by the manufacturer. Your side burner may have better clearance, just be aware that it might be an issue.
After twenty minutes both the fish and lobster were beautifully smoked. The flavour of the finished product was fantastic: lightly but evenly smoky throughout, with the sweet-salty-piny notes of the fish brine and a low hit of citrus on the lobster.
I can’t wait to smoke everything else in the fridge…assuming I can get melted plastic off the bottom of my brand new smoker box.
Note: all the photos from this post shot by Harry Edmundson-Cornell.
*Once again: not paid to endorse these things, just happens to be the first one we found.