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  • Barbecue is all about the smoke. Without the smoke, you might as well be grilling.

    May 2014

    While most backyard cooks are limited to smoking food in tiny chambers with some combination of electricity, propane, charcoal or wood, industrial scale food processors can take a different path.

    If they require more heat, they simply turn up a bank of natural gas burners. Or switch on an electric resistance element.

    If they need extra humidity, they spray in a burst of steam.

    If temperature uniformity across a garage-sized smoker is poor? No problem, thousands of pounds of meat ride on a carousel past convection fans in an insulated oven, assuring every corner is evenly covered.

    And how about smoke? Well, some manufacturers and restaurants "cheat' by spraying or injecting meat with a mix of food color, liquid smoke and a bit of sodium nitrite. Instant bacon without the fuss. For example, by injecting through the needles of these medieval machines:

    But their real creativity is saved for smoke generators. They can make smoke without fire!

    As we know from painfully earned experience, fire is hard to control. In a factory, consistency and cost are paramount. They can afford to install separate systems to produce fire, smoke and moisture. Some "burn" wood in a super-heated jet of 600F steam. At this temperature, water is no longer "wet" but acts more like an atomic sandblaster. The resulting humidity controls the flavor profile and washes out certain bitter smoke components. But gas flames actual supply the heat to finish cooking the meat.

    Amazingly, some commercial smoke houses resort to that oldest of human skills- rubbing two sticks together to make fire. The wood itself burns around 600F, but the vapors cool very quickly, so this approach is ideal for cold smoking. No combustion in the conventional sense, but ideal smoke on demand.

    steam smoke generator friction smoke generator
    Steam Smoker- Supercritical steam(3) at 600F impinges on a column of sawdust (4), creating smoke and reducing bitter flavors. Friction Smoker- a log (1) is pressed against a rotating rough wheel(4), and frictional heating produces smoke on demand


    Backyard cooks can purchase one of hundreds of manufactured smoker rigs, or experiment with tens of thousands of home-brew designs. But there is often a large gap between industrial scale factory processes, and what you can pick up on-line or at the local home center.





    Contact Greg Blonder by email here - Modified Genuine Ideas, LLC.