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Can someone PLEASE explain stove top smokers to me?

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  • CS123 Nov 18, 2013 06:39 PM
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Hi everybody, I've been reading tons of posts and product guides and I just don't understand some of these stove top smokers. Hopefully someone can break down some questions I have. This post is sort of long, so thank you in advance for anyone that can read and address the questions I have..

So I was given the cast iron Emeril stove top smoker as a present, but this question applies to any stovetop smoker, I suppose, that uses Cameron's woodchips (sawdust). I haven't used the unit yet, but plan to for a large group of people this weekend.

- It has been nearly impossible to find info about how long 1 tablespoon of the Cameron's sawdust (the recommended amount) will ACTUALLY produce smoke for. I'm sure I'm missing posts out there, but I found only one post, suggesting 20 MINUTES only.

- In the Cameron's stovetop smoker cooking guide/product guide, MOST recipes only require cooking/smoking for 15-25 minutes, which makes sense, since presumably the chips stop smoking after that. However, there are MANY other posts, and even recipes in the same product guide that suggest smoking for several hours.

Example, from the guide : "To make, marinade the beef brisket in 1 can of the beer for three hours. Season to taste with the salt, pepper, and garlic. Smoke the brisket over medium heat in the Cameron Smoker for about four hours."

Many other users suggest hour or more smokes as well. These are always written as 'set it and forget it' type of posts, not as constantly breaking down the stovetop smoker, removing the food, cleaning out the woodchips and adding more every 20 minutes. This then begs the question, what the heck is going on in the smoker for the rest of the time, presumably 3 hours and 40 minutes in a 4 hour smoke for example?? It seems like you're just creating an oven box and baking whatever's in there with direct heat (stovetop). What is the point of this? The smoker then seems to be more of a 15-minute smoke infuser, ie. just add a dash of smoke into your stove-top roasted foods. Unless of course you want to do an ACTUAL 4 hour smoke, which would presumably involve 12 tablespoons of woodchips/sawdust, changed every 20 minutes (involving taking the food out, removing the grate, removing the drip tray, cleaning the burned chips, replacing chips, replacing tray and grate, and food).. this seems somewhat silly.. and the food would be roasted dry to a crisp after 4 hours of this! ALSO, users have stated that after the smoke, the woodchips are black, as if burnt (which presumably they are, after the 15-20 minutes of smoking). If you're doing a longer 'smoke' as some people describe, arent you just further burning or heating BURNT woodchips directly into your food for hours??? I don't imagine this flavor turns out well. People claim you can 'oversmoke' items in this unit. This makes no sense if the chips only smoke for 15-20 minutes. Maybe burnt tastes from 'smoking' too long are just from infusing burnt sawdust into the food? How then are other recipes smoking for 4 hours??? i just dont get it...

I just don't understand this thing, and don't understand if I'm just missing something. I just watched some youtube videos of the cameron smoker in action to try to see whats going on, and the lady was claiming "chicken breasts, smoked in just 15 minutes!"... NO, they're just ROASTED! arent they?? the internal temp inside the smoker can't actually be checked, but I'm guessing its much much higher than a hot smoke temp of around 200..

Then I also wonder, how much actual smoke flavor can you possibly be infusing in a short 15-20 minute smoke?

Unrelated question- has anyone tried to do a COLD smoke in this unit, using the method of placing tons of ice either on the drip tray or on the rack to keep the smoke cool? Was considering doing some lox in the unit this weekend, would appreciate anyone's DIRECT experience with this.

Thanks to anyone who's read this far and can offer any insight!

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  1. So far we've only used our Cameron stovetop smoker for fish (salmon and steelhead trout) and have found that we need to double the amount of wood chips recommended and increase the smoking time until the fish flakes easily with a fork. The results have been delicious. We used a dry salt/sugar cure for both kinds of fish.

    I wouldn't bother changing things out every 20 minutes. Some of the recipes in the guide call for roasting to finish the cooking after smoking. Let the internal temperature be your guide, especially with poultry.

    1. I would use, and have used, a stovetop smoker for fish and red meat. Cooked a small piece of tri-tip to med/rare on the stovetop with good results.

      For items that require more cooking I would probably smoke and then move the food to the oven to finish. But that's just me thinking out loud.

      1. Maybe a simple, and helpful answer, is that I view stovetop smokers as a way to do very light smoking, primarily of fish, maybe chicken. Or to start with smoke on smaller cuts of chicken and beef, then finish either by saute or roasting. It is not a way to create BBQ, which will require a more substantial smoking process, outdoors, for a longer period. If the directions tell you to put briskets in that stovetop, and replenish sawdust...... forget it.

        1. I have had a Cameron smoker for years. I use it for smoking chicken, game hens, some fish, some pork, salmon and some veggies. It is easy to use. Duck breasts were on sale at the store recently and I'll use it for tea smoked duck.

          It is pretty hard to do "cool" smoking. I have done so by placing gravlox on a bag of ice in order to make lox -- I did not smoke them long enough, but my wife and I liked them better than unsmoked.

          One thing I do is to place the sawdust at one end and slightly elevate the other. The end with the sawdust goes over a burner. Once it starts smoking, I turn it down.

          My favorite uses are pork ribs and tea-smoked game hens. Each is cooked first and finished in the smoker. My wife raves about them.

          I use alder wood for salmon, but even in the Cameron, I only use a bit or it tastes over-smoked.

          1. I have a Cameron smoker. It's really an alternative to wok-smoking, not barbecue. I've mostly used it for salmon and trout; I get plenty of smoky flavor in 20 minutes. If the food needs more cooking, I take it out and finish it with another cooking method.

            I have read of people cold-smoking with one of these things; I think they put some foil-wrapped ice on the tray and put the food on the ice. I imagine you could also rig up some sort of DIY cold smoker with the food in a second, non-heated pan, and some sort of airtight tubing connecting the two pans. That may be a good option if your name rhymes with Bleston Humenthal.