How To Safely Smoke Food On A Gas Stovetop

Smoking and barbecuing meat, fish, and vegetables gives them a wonderfully unique depth of flavor as well as an appealing char. But if it's not the weather for outdoor grilling, or you don't have the outdoor space for a barbecue, then it's possible to get similar results indoors by using your gas stovetop.

One way to do this is with a specialist bit of kit. You can use an indoor smoker to cook salmon, chicken, steak, or veggies, using a hot smoking process. But if you don't have a smoker, it's easy enough to smoke foods either directly over the gas burner on a mesh rack, or by making your own stovetop smoker with some kitchen equipment you probably already have at hand.

To smoke food safely indoors, it's important to keep a close eye on the food as it cooks and to make sure the area is well-ventilated. You can either do this by using a ventilation hood if your stove has one, or by ensuring that windows are open to let out the smoke. Then by following a few simple steps, smoking indoors can be an effective way to add extra flavor to favorite dishes, and it's easier than you might think.

Build your own stovetop smoker for extra flavor

If you don't fancy grilling in cold weather, but you don't have an indoor smoker, then it's perfectly possible to make one yourself to replicate the smoky flavors of grilling over wood. You just need a big pot, a colander or steamer insert, wood chips or shavings, and plenty of foil.

The technique involves adding a foil-wrapped package of wood chips to a foil-lined pot, placing the colander or steamer insert in the pot above it with a well-fitting lid, and letting the smoke build-up for around 10 minutes. Then turn down the heat, and cook the food in the colander until done, keeping it covered with the lid to keep the smoke in.

If using wood chips, they should be soaked for at least 30 minutes to stop them from burning once heated, and it's worth noting that smaller ones deliver a faster result than larger pieces. Different chips impart different flavors to complement the finished dish, depending on the meat, fish, or vegetables you wish to cook. Try maple, hickory, or oak chips or shavings for chicken or pork dishes, or something less strong, like cedar or apple wood, for fish.

You can also use a mesh rack to char food directly over the stove

The easiest way to enjoy the great taste of open-flame cooking is by charring the food directly over the gas burner. But to keep things safe, it's best to do this by using a mesh rack over the metal grates of the stove. Placing the food on a mesh rack that fits over the stovetop burner makes it easier to handle and turn the items as they cook.

Given that the mesh rack is exposed to a direct flame when smoking food over the gas burner, it's advisable to use a rack that is designed for grilling, rather than risk damaging a cooling rack. And this is especially true if you plan to use the open-flame stovetop charring method regularly.

The stovetop charring technique is a great way to get the taste of open-flame cooking into food fast. Small vegetables such as green beans, cherry tomatoes, bite-sized chunks of corn, or thin asparagus cook in just a minute or two, and it's also an effective method to quickly roast chiles or to get the delicious charred bubbles on flatbreads such as chapati.