Smoking is a popular food preparation method that has been used to cook and preserve food for thousands of years. In commercial foodservice, quality smoking equipment can mean the difference between producing a flavorful, tender piece of meat or one that is tough and tasteless.
The role of a smoker in the cooking process depends on the food being prepared, but in most cases, smoking involves smoldering different types of wood to create another flavor within the food.
“This process is traditionally used with meats and other items that have longer cooking times or with foods like fish as a preservation method,” says Ryan Norman, corporate executive chef at Alto-Shaam Inc. “More recently, smoking is being used as a way to change food flavors.”
In fact, the smoking process today has become more of an art form. Chefs are incorporating a variety of woods that impart unique flavors, including fruit woods like apple, cherry and pear; nutty woods like pecan; and hard woods, such as hickory, maple and oak.
“One area we’re seeing a lot of growth in smoked foods is institutions, like schools and healthcare,” says Norman. “As dietary restrictions, such as the reduction of sodium and fat, have increased, the use of certain seasonings and flavorings have been more limited.”
Adding smoke is a healthier way to enhance and modify food flavor without changing its dietary components.
Another prominent trend is the expansion of smoked foods to include unorthodox ingredients.
Chefs are branching out from meat to smoke items like fruit, chocolate, sugar and butter.
“It provides a way to introduce a different flavor to a dish and, at the same time, peak the customers’ interest,” says Norman. “In this regard, smoking imparts more subtle flavors.”
There are a number of commercial smoking options for operators, including pit smokers and pellet grills, but because this equipment burns wood as fuel, it creates heat and smoke that require a separate ventilation hood.
For indoor kitchens, a less pricey, yet just as effective, option is a smoker oven.
It has been close to a half century since Alto-Shaam unveiled its SK series of professional smokers with Halo Heat technology, but these units have definitely stood the test of time. By surrounding food with a low-heat electric cable, Halo Heat thoroughly cooks items to a consistent temperature that keeps in moisture and retains heat until serving. This heating method also helps reduce energy and labor costs, since the electric method is highly efficient and can be utilized overnight.
Once the smoking process is in motion, the SK series doesn’t need to be checked or maintained during cooking. This allows chefs to focus on other tasks, freeing up kitchen labor.
The SK Series is offered in a wide range of sizes and configurations, including capacities for three, six, seven, nine, 14 or 18 full-size pans. Single or double compartment ovens are available with 100- or 120-pound per compartment capacities and simple or deluxe programmable controls.
In addition to smoking meats, such as beef, pork and chicken, Alto-Shaam’s smoker ovens provide efficient cold smoking for fish, poultry or cheese. This feature delivers the same flavor enhancements as hot smoking without cooking the food.
In addition to the SK smoker series, Alto-Shaam offers Cook & Hold ovens and Combitherm Ovens with smoking capabilities.
“The benefit with a combi is that the smoking process is much faster,” says Norman. “Ribs can take three to four hours to prepare in a traditional smoker versus just over an hour in a combi.”
Also, combi ovens offer the benefit of other cooking options, such as convection and steaming, unlike conventional smokers.
“Alto-Shaam’s smoking equipment runs the gamut in terms of volume and capacity,” says Norman. “Operators can smoke in a very small footprint or utilize a roll-in combi that holds up to 400 pounds of food.”
Almost any foodservice operation can take advantage of the smoker oven’s capabilities and versatility, including restaurants, banquet halls, stadiums, supermarkets and hospitals.
“Alto-Shaam’s smoking equipment smolders the wood to create smoke as opposed to using wood as fuel or a heat source,” says Norman. “Because our equipment can be placed under a common kitchen hood, the cost compared to a traditional smoker is considerably less, although the results are exactly the same.”
Discover the possibilities of smoking with a Halo Heat® smoker.