On my recent trip to the United States, I stopped by Williams Sonoma and purchased a kitchen gadget called the Smoking Gun that I had been looking forward to trying. Made by PolyScience, the company behind much of the kitchen equipment used in molecular gastronomy, the Smoking Gun is an easy way to smoke food at home, without the need for a barbecue or smoker. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to put it to the test at my friend Nat’s house, where he, Chow, and I prepared a four course meal. Each course contained a smoked element.
This video shares the whole story but photos are below, too.
The Smoking Gun is more or less a battery powered hair dryer with a smoking chamber. You put the combustable substance in the chamber, turn on the fan, and then light the substance. Air is drawn through the smoking chamber and the smoke it blown out a spout to which a rubber tube can be attached. This makes it easy to direct the smoke where you want it. The Smoking Gun is easy to use and about thirty seconds is enough to produce as much smoke as you need.
The smoke can come from wood chips (four types are sold directly by PolyScience), herbs, spices, tobacco, etc. and can be used on meats, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and beverages. The key is that you need to trap the smoke in the cooking vessel or some other container and allows the food to absorb the smoke compounds for at least five minutes. Here, some pieces of sushi-grade salmon are smoked in a zipper-lock plastic bag.
Here are the finished dishes with some notes:
The meal started with sashimi grade salmon which had been smoked (I used a different type of wood with each dish but don’t remember which I used) and then served very simply with creme fraiche and a chiffonade of shiso leaves. The lemony flavor of the herb and the tanginess of the creme went nicely with the salmon. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like the salmon was as good quality as I wanted and it warmed up a bit too much during plating. Other than that, it was tasty.
The second course was cod fish. This, too, was smoked and then pan-fried in an oil that had been infused with Thai “tom yam” herbs. The fish was accompanied by a garnish of the fried tom yam herbs including shallots, garlic, lemongrass, and chilies. The smoke flavor was less noticeable on this dish. If I was to do it again, I would fry a second batch of herbs to serve as a garnish, instead of using the herbs that had infused the oil with flavor.
The third course was beef tenderloin, smoked and then cooked sous vide. Afterwards, the beef was briefly pan seared and served with a broiled butter leaf lettuce, roasted, carrots, and air fried potatoes. Again, the smokiness was pretty subtle but the beef was nicely tender. The broiled lettuce was a real treat, lending a lot of complexity to an otherwise simple vegetable.
For dessert, I fired up the butane torch and burned some sugar. Where there’s smoke, there must also be fire, right?
Vanilla creme brûlée with meringue, smoked Granny Smith apple compote, and raspberry coulis. The smoked apple compote was very successful – I used both wood chips and cinnamon in the Smoking Gun – and the meringue was a nice touch. I must admit to being proud of thinking of a way to use the leftover egg whites and browning the meringues with the torch made them very attractive.
My overall impression of the Smoking Gun? It is an easy to use tool and effective for adding a subtle, superficial smokiness to food. It isn’t the same as smoking pork belly for twelve hours to get bacon, but it also requires a lot less space, so the trade-off is worth it. I’ll have to think carefully about what items to smoke and would like to experiment with using herbs and spices. Hopefully, that means more videos!