“An evolution and revolution is taking place, where we are experimenting with oak, apple wood and beech wood at entry level,” Diaz told FoodManufacture.co.uk. “Striving to reach the perfect level of balanced smoke and natural flavour, we are taking smoking and preserving to a whole new level of sophistication.”
Smoking was one of the oldest forms of food preservation developed and consumers were familiar with foods such as smoked bacon, ham, chicken, salmon or mackerel, he said.
However, modernist cuisine high street restaurants were now leading the way in natural smoking, experimenting with smoked water; vegetables; bread; flour; potatoes; marrow bone and even chocolate. “Take your choice of smouldering embers which could include lime wood, hay, wild lavender or the finest lapsang souchong tea leaves.
“The introduction of smoking guns where smoke aroma is introduced to dishes covered with glass-domed cloches at the last minute of service creates theatre, aroma and flavour bringing gusto and celebration to the table when executed to the correct standard.”
As a result, home smoking kits were set to be the Christmas foodie must-have gift, he said.
The lignin in wood, when burned at the right temperature, released aromatic compounds imparting the familiar smoked flavour to foods, according to Diaz. Varying species of wood contained varying levels of lignin, making some woods more suitable for smoking than others, he added.
They also produced different kinds of phenols – powerful antioxidants that help prevent rancidity and aid food preservation, he said.
“Choose the perfect wood smouldering at the right temperature for the right amount of time and here lies the artisan knowledge that in many cases is passionately guarded and handed down through generations.
“[The restaurant] Forman’s 'London Cure', established in 1905, has for decades been preceded by its own reputation as a mild delicious smoke for salmon and its ingredients and process are a closely-guarded secret to this day.”
Consumers were now spoiled for choice in their access to smoked foods, said Diaz. Fedex could deliver fresh Cornish smoked mussels overnight right to your door. “Or how about peat-smoked lobster from the Hebridean Smokehouse or melt-in-the mouth oak smoked prawns from Pinney’s of Orford [restaurant]?”