WE are no stranger to meat cooked in smoke. From Basque grill to barbecue, the world and its melting pot (London), have shown us just what smoke can do for a piece of meat. But if there's no shortage of people telling us how live fire cookery is having its renaissance, another marriage of meat and smoke remains lost to sight.
Smoking, that old art of preserving fresh meat shares few of the associations of purity, flavour complexity, truth to origin that we bring to live fire cookery. Instead, we likely draw on a historical memory of smoked foods tasting broadly of smoke; and whose natural aroma is smothered under a blanket layer of ‘added’ flavour. Certainly, since synthetic smoke is increasingly used as a commercial trick for making processed foods taste of something, this association has some truth.
But is this the whole story? Well, not quite.
Smoking’s hard-core reputation derives from its historical use as a preservative. Back before salt was widely available, and before temperature control, smoke was used full-strength to prohibit microbial growth, slow oxidation of fats and development of rancid flavours. As such, it was not used lightly. But today, the landscape has changed, smoke is no longer necessary to make foods safe. And where authentic wood smoking is still found - as with our producers - it is often found differently, there for different reasons.