(Hot) Smoking in combination with Sous Vide

Hello. My name is Ember and I’m a food nerd. Yup, I’ve got it bad. I bake my own breads, make my own yoghurt and cultured butter, dry age my own meats, cure and smoke my own bacon and hams. You get the picture.

And ham is where my interest in sous vide bisects the curing and smoking stories.

Hot smoking gives my ham (or lamb ham) an incredible flavour, but it also makes for a much firmer texture than a commercially produced ham. Commercial hams are usually cooked in a water bath giving them that succulent, almost semi-raw texture that everyone loves.

I feel I should be able to achieve a similar result by hot smoking my ham for only an hour or two to impart the desired smokiness (meat will supposedly only absorb smoke for the first two hours of cooking) then pack the ham and continue the cooking process sous vide to get the luscious texture. Vacuum packing the meat should also help drive the smokiness further into the meat much as it does with marinades.

I was wondering has any experience with this. Or any other combination of hot smoking and sous vide.

I realise cold smoking the meat would be preferable, but I don’t currently have the equipment for cold smoking. That will be another project at a later date.


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I make my own pastrami, and normally I finish them in a steamer for that more supple, Katz’s-esque texture that you have to cut thick by hand. One time I decided to finish it in an SV bath. Meh.

Maybe I didn’t cook it long enough or maybe it should have been at a higher temp, but I really wasn’t impressed enough to try it again anytime soon. Or, maybe, it’s just not the right process.

BTW, I seem to recall that the 2-hour thing was debunked some time ago. Especially for cured meats.I think it was over on AmazingRibs that goes into the science of it and how smoke rings are formed.

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OK. My smoker is gas fired, and I usually don’t bother adding chips after about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Never been any issue with lack of smoke.

I’ll keep investigating.

So long as you are happy with the results, that’s all that matters. There is a diminishing returns factor that has to kick in at some point, and you can make a lot of smoke in a short time with a gas fired smoker, so maybe after 2-1/2 to 3 hours, it’s all you need. I have a few smokers, they each behave differently and give different results, so I can certainly see where you might be coming from.

Good luck with the ham quest, I’d be curious to hear what you come up with if you find a way to achieve the texture you are looking for.

@Ember, I tried the SV bacon recipe from Kenji the other day and it was quite good. Maybe there is something in there that you can adapt for the ham. My cook time was about 30 hours.

Maybe also something of value in this one too

I’m thinking maybe 48 hours at 145F? Give or take on the time?

Thanks @acs. I read the bog entry on bacon when it was released. It did strike me as a bit pointless but it might be a base for building on. A cross between that and some pork “roast” type recipes.

I did search for ham information earlier and things just get confusing because of the name. To Amercans the leg is always a ham; raw, cured or cooked. English use gammon for a cured but uncooked leg of pork. To us (Aussies) it is pork or ham. We can’t buy an uncooked cured pork leg.

Interpreting is always fun.

@Ember, yeah, I have to admit that when I first read Kenji’s SV bacon recipe, I too questioned the point of it. But, remembering that his stuff tends to be really on the mark, I figured I’d give it a try. Plus, I had some thick cut bacon in the freezer that I had bought by accident, so I might as well try it.

Be curious to hear what you figure out.

Interpretation can certainly be frustrating. A friend of mine is from South Africa, one of his first days in the US, he tried to order “a plate of hot chips with tomato sauce” for his kids from a food truck. The guy just looked at my friend like he was from another planet. After repeating the order more slowly (multiple times) so the guy could understand it, the truck guy handed him a bag of spicy corn crisps and a paper plate. Thankfully there was someone behind him in line that was from the UK who explained to the guy on the truck that what he wanted “a basket of french fries with ketchup”.

I do my own bacon, so it’s dry cured and hot smoked rather than wet cured and cold smoked like much of the store bought stuff is (at least here).

It’ll be a little while before I start experimenting with ham again. Still getting over the Christmas excess of it. :wink:

On the interpretation side of things, I was at one stage working on a chart to compare the breakdown and cut names for our favourite meat animals Aust/English vs American. I should probably get back to that. With most things it’s just naming, but you guys do break down a pig rather differently than the traditional English.

Fortunately we have a better grip on the alternative names for regular ingredients due to long term familiarity with American cooking shows.

Wet cure / cold smoke is most of the store bought bacon here in the US also.