Smokers are known for their ability to cook meat in a way that no oven, grill, or open fire can touch. Even vegetables have their place in the smoking world, but what if the baker in your house wants to join the party at the smoker?
Interestingly, you can bake in a smoker. Basic cakes, rolls, and little desserts are a definite go, though complex baking might not work. Simply set your smoker to the temperature you would normally bake and place your food in. Use a clean grill and lightwood to avoid too much smoky flavor.
If you really think of it, baking in an oven is kind of a new thing. So many generations before cooked all their sweets on some type of open fire, so we know that it is possible. You may not be able to make a twelve layer chocolate souffle, but you can still adorn your table with tasty treats using your smoker. Continue reading to find out if there is a difference when baking with your smoker and things to consider when putting sweets, rather than meats, on your grates.
What is the Difference when Baking with Your Smoker?
It may seem like the most impossible feat: to bake in a smoker. It seems foreign really, however, this practice is nothing new and can be done quite easily with the right recipes. Really, your recipes are not as limited as you think as a smoker is quite versatile and can do a lot of good in the dessert world if you give it a chance. However, are there any differences when you are baking something versus smoking a nice cut of meat?
At the end of the day, the biggest difference comes down to what you are putting into your smoker and the temperature you are cooking it at. No drastic preparations need to be made in order to smoke a baked good.
If your smoker is capable of reaching the internal temperature that your recipes need in order to cook in a convection oven it will do just fine with most of your baking ventures.
It may take a little getting used to understanding how dishes react to your smoker but pay close attention the first few times you go to bake. Monitor your dish, increase or decrease the temperature as needed, and give your dishes a little extra time if they need it to really get baked through or crusted up. Your smoker is a powerful tool and as it turns out, it is a tool that has quite a few different functions.
It also is important to note that baking will not take nearly as long as slow smoking a cut of meat. Baking is more time-reliant and is done in a much faster fashion than meat. For you, this means that your chocolate cake will not take eight hours from start to finish. The timing should still be just about the same as if you were to cook it inside the oven in your home. This is good news for you because that cake will end up on your plate much faster than its meat counterparts.
Do You Need Anything Special for Baking in a Smoker?
Although baking in your smoker is not too much different than throwing a cut of meat in it, there are a few things to consider when it comes to getting your bake on. Do not worry, these little notes are ones that require you to take parts out of your smoker or add a specialty rack to get the job done, but they will help to ensure your best baking outcome.
If you are wondering if you need special preparations or equipment for baking in a smoker, you can rest easy knowing that a clean grill (using a pumice brick) and a lightwood can go a long way. Avoid using wood such as hickory or mesquite as these can alter the flavor of your baked goods immensely.
Let’s take a closer look.
A Clean Grill for Baking in a Smoker
My father was never much of a grill master. He would throw on the occasional burgers and a few pieces of chicken every now and then, but it never amounted to much. Because of this, he never cleaned his grill and that build-up was noteworthy. Truly, as a seven-year-old, I can remember seeing this and thinking “Dad, you have got to clean that up.” You could tell the build-up of soot and food messed with the taste of the food and overall, it was gross.
This same build-up happens with your smoker. Along the grill grates, food can compile and creosote build-up occurs. Over time, if not cleaned properly, this can be quite evident and needs to be removed. The reason behind this is that the grease and food product left behind can get rancid and begins to put off a nasty odor.
Even more than an odor, it can affect the taste of your food. No one wants the taste of brisket in their apple pie, unless you have a majorly twisted taste pallet. You want your smoker to be relatively clean overall, but for baking, you want to focus mostly on the grates.
For smokers, you want to avoid dousing it in large amounts of water or coating the grates with some type of household cleaner – neither are safe for your smoker. A pumice brick is a great option for scrubbing away debris without getting those grates too squeaky clean. You want to get the layer of debris off without scrubbing it to its bare bones.
Once you have gotten the grates to a satisfactory point, be sure to remove all of the waste from your smoker. This step really is not as difficult as it seems. A shop vac, even a household vacuum with a hose, is a great option for getting those bits out of the bottom of your smoker. Once this is done, your smoker will be ready to get those baked goods going.
The Right Type of Wood for Baking in a Smoker
So many master smokers have graced the world with the beautiful effects pairing woods with your meat can make. For pork, poultry, and seafood a fruitwood is going to be the most perfect pair. For red meats that are a bit denser or are somewhat gamey, you want a smoke that can match them in density. This happens through the pairing of woods like hickory and mesquite. Just as pairing wood with meat helps to enhance flavor, so it goes with baking.
With baking, you are typically working with dishes that are light and not too intensely dense. Because of this, you want to stick with lightwood to help really bring out the flavor of your dish rather than smoldering it. Light woods include those like maple, pecan, cherry, and apple.
You can decide the wood type based on the dish that you are preparing. Even more, you can combine a couple to really get a different flavor pallet going. The sky is the limit!
When baking, the flavor of smoking will not normally permeate the dish the way smoking a piece of meat for hours on end will. After all, a piece of meat has a much longer time to sit and be surrounded by all those glorious flavors. However, even with baking being much shorter than its main dish counterpart, your dishes will still have a light smoky flavor to them. Because of this, be sure to get those pairings right and help your dish be a better version of itself.
Is it Easy to Bake in a Smoker?
Many people do not think of the versatility that their smoker can offer. Beyond putting on a piece of raw meat straight to your grates, you can essentially use your smoker as a grill and an oven. What this means for all of your baking dreams is that you do not have to depend on a recipe that will work only using the grates, but can dabble with dishes that require cake pans and even skillets to be baked in!
Baking in a smoker requires minimal prep work other than cleaning the grill and ensuring a lightwood is used. Otherwise, you can simply place the baked good into the smoker when it has reached the desired temperature. It is recommended to use a temperature gauge to ensure effective baking capabilities.
If you want to make an apple pie, your smoker should have no trouble softening it on the inside while crisping it on the outside. If you feel like making a three-layer cake, put what will fit on the grates and check on them periodically to ensure their cooking evenly. If you need to crisp up some almonds, crank that smoker up and get them tossed in a cast-iron skillet. The possibilities are simply endless!