Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stovetop Smoker + Herb-Rubbed Smoked Pork Loin

Last Christmas, in the spirit of his love of meat and charcuterie in particular, I gave L a stovetop smoker. The idea, for now anyway, is that we'd try out basic hot-smoking, and if he really enjoyed it, later on down the road (i.e. when we have $400 to spend and a lot more space), we could look into getting a nice big multi-tiered smoker. If we win the lottery tomorrow we can get one immediately, of course.

I was a bit wary of the stovetop smoker, so I read a lot of reviews before I bought it. It seemed impossible that someone could engineer a gadget that works well but doesn't fill your house with smoke or spontaneously combust (don't ask me where I got that idea). The people who reviewed it made no mention of house fires; in fact, they really seemed to like it. I decided to go for it.

It's important to note that with the smoker comes an assortment of wood chips and, thankfully, a helpful instruction booklet. Since I had no idea what to do with the thing beyond setting it up, I bought L a cookbook specifically written for stovetop smokers, too. If you're in the market for a smoker like this one, I highly recommend this cookbook- it has some good straightforward recipes and helpful wood-to-food matching and timing tips for those who want to strike out on their own.

Another great feature of this smoker, and something that sealed the deal for me, is that the entire ensemble is dishwasher-safe, so if you have a dishwasher, you can stick the smoker right in the after you're done.

We got started late and have used it only twice so far, both times to smoke a pork loin. The first time, L brined one 1-pound pork loin for two hours, rubbed it with garlic-rosemary paste, then smoked it for 30 minutes with hickory chips. The pork loin was small enough that it was cooked all the way through by the hot smoke, and we didn't have to finish it in the oven.

The second time, I brined two 1-pound pork loins for 7 hours, rubbed them with the same garlic-rosemary paste, smoked them for 30 minutes with applewood chips, then put the entire smoker into a preheated 400'F oven for 20 minutes. Both versions were wonderfully smoky and juicy, though we both preferred the mellowness of the applewood to the barbecue sauce aroma of the hickory.

For those of you who happen to have a smoker, here's the recipe we used. If you don't have a smoker, don't worry- you can roast the pork in a 400'F oven (20-30 minutes per pound) with tasty results.

Herb-Rubbed Smoked Pork Loin
Adapted from Smokin': Recipes for Smoking Ribs, Salmon, Chicken, Mozzarella, and More with Your Stovetop Smoker

for the brine:
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar

for the herb paste:
1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved (it seems like a lot, but the flavour will be mellow)

two 1-pound boneless loin of pork pieces

To make the brine: Heat 3 quarts water, 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, salt and sugar to simmer in a large pot. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove the pot from heat and cool to room temperature.

Submerge the pork in the brine and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

To smoke the pork: When the brining is done, put the garlic cloves, 1/3 cup rosemary leaves, olive oil and pepper in a food processor and process until everything is finely chopped (or just finely chop everything and mix to combine).

Set up the smoker with 4-5 tablespoons of applewood chips spooned right into the middle of the pan.

Drain the brined pork and pat it dry. Rub the herb paste all over the pork. Put the pork on the metal smoker rack and fit the cover on tightly (you can bend it a little to do this), making sure that it does not touch the sides of the smoker, if possible. Put the smoker on the stovetop and center it so that the burner flame is directly underneath the wood chips. Turn the burner to medium heat, set a timer for 20 minutes, and the let smoking begin! After the pork has smoked for 20 minutes, turn the oven to 400'F and place a rack in the middle. Smoke the pork on the stovetop for another 10 minutes, transfer the entire smoker ensemble to the oven to finish cooking.

When the pork is cooked all the way through (until the center registers 155-160'F on an instant read thermometer- about 10-15 minutes in the oven), remove it from the smoker and cover with foil for 15 minutes to let the meat rest.

Carve against the grain of the meat fibers, to avoid chewiness, and serve.

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