Just a quick rejoinder to the salsa thread regarding smoking chiles. I should point out that, according to true smoking gourmands, I probably already blasphemed with my take on process; so be it. Cooking is as rife with The Right Way and the Only Way as guitar making, and that’s saying something. While some things do need to be done a certain way to get the right result, there is plenty of wiggle room left for the most part; smoking is, for my mind, one of those gray areas.
Freshly roasted Hatch chiles cooling
When I wrote up directions for smoking chiles, I made a broad assumption that everyone has or wants to have access to a smoker, and it ain’t necessarily so. As such, I thought I might offer some viable alternatives to the rest of y’all who want the flavor but not the additional stuff!
If you watch food TV, you probably have seen some variation on the stovetop smoker; all I can say is this; I wouldn’t go there unless you are cool with a house full of smoke. Pro kitchens can move air at a volume we can’t even touch and that’s that…
If you own a grill, you’re in business however. That said, it’s already time for a digression: Down here in the south, barbecue is almost religion, and how one gets there is near and dear to a cook’s heart. Hence, a little terminology is in order, and yeah, this is one of those things where it needs to be done a certain way!
A lot of folks say, “We’re gonna barbeque,” when what they mean and do is, in fact, grilling. In essence, true barbeque requires, first and foremost, indirect heat, and secondly, the ability to cook low and slow. With what you’ve read thus far about smoking, you might note that these two methods sounds a lot alike, and in fact, they are; true smoking also requires indirect heat and low and slow, and as such, the two are indeed intrinsically linked. Grilling, on the other hand, is cooking relatively quickly over direct heat, as we know and love with burgers, dawgs, corn on the cob, veggies, and the like. This is why you’ll see a barbeque/smoker and a grill in many a backyard.
Ok, so back on track. No smoker, but want the taste; no problem. There are a lot of wood products made for adding smoke to a grill these days; I’d bet your grocery has ‘em, and if they don’t, or don’t have what you want, head on over to Butcher and Packer online; they have everything in very high quality and very decent prices. The products made for the grill are cheap, ready to use and allow you to get some flavors you might not have readily available, like Mesquite, Apple, or Hickory.
If you do, on the other hand, have a decent smoking wood at hand, then small pieces and chips, soaked in water for a half hour or so prior to cooking, will do the trick just fine.
Take whatever wood source you’ve chosen, make a bag roughly 6” to 8” square with a double layer of aluminum foil, put your chips, etc in that, seal it up, and poke a good few holes in the top. Place your smoker bag on your flame deflector/above your burner with the heat on low, and put your chiles right above that, (Or use one for each burner if you’re doing a big batch process), close the lid and let ‘er rip. You should get a decent +/- 10 to 15 minutes of smoke from such a rig and that’ll do the trick just fine.
Homegrown chipotles on the grill…
And last but not least, how about if you don’t own a grill, don’t want one, don’t have room, etc? Still, no problem: Get online with Butcher and Packer again and look up their powdered hickory smoke. It is great stuff, all natural, packs a wallop and I defy dang near anyone to tell the difference on the finished product as to where the smoke flavor came from. This stuff is great in the dead of winter or spur of the moment. Mix the powder with a little olive oil, rub it on your chiles and roast ‘em in your oven; great flavor, great smell while cooking and no smoke filled home!
Smoking is not limited to chiles either, of course; you can use these methods for tomatoes, onions, garlic, potatoes, and on and on! Try smoking something you’ve not done before, like fresh cherries, apples, or limes – You’ll be surprised what great things you can and will do!