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Cameron's Original Stovetop Smoker - A Review
All right - I know I've been mentioning the Cameron stovetop smoker in many of my recipes. I've always said positive things about it, but I've never gone into much detail. You know - in a recipe, I try to stay focused!
Lately, I've been thinking that the darn thing deserves its own blog post. Yes. I like it that much. As my husband likes to say, "You could cook an old shoe in that thing and it would taste good!" Well, that might be going a bit far. Ha ha.
What is a stovetop smoker?
First of all, what is it? Well, it's made of stainless steel. It has four pieces: the outside (which holds all of the other pieces and comes into contact with the burner or other heating element), the drip tray (which is placed on the bottom inside the smoker, a rack (which goes on top of the drip tray and holds the food), and a lid which slides into place so that the smoke is enclosed.
Just so you know, this review is taking place pretty late in the game. We've had ours for about four years. As you can see in the photos, it's not pretty anymore! It still works, though.
How it works:
This is a hot smoker, which means that the food is cooked during the smoking process. To use the smoker, you place a small amount (about 1 to 2 tbsp.) of wood chips on the bottom. You cover the chips with the drip tray, put the rack in place, and smoke away! The wood chips are very small - depending on the variety, they can even look like sawdust. Here are the hickory chips:
What we love about the stovetop smoker:
There are so many reasons why we love our smoker. I'll try to highlight a few.
1. First of all, it's pretty easy to use. At first, it might seem a little daunting. It only takes a time or two to get the hang of it, though. The most challenging thing is figuring out what setting to use on your stove. The recommended heat is "medium". My stove runs pretty hot, so I always set mine (electric, glass top) to the 2 setting. It's enough to get some smoke, and the food is done in roughly the time indicated in each recipe. If you read the manual and pay attention early on, you'll figure out what setting is right on your stove. (By the way, you can also use this on a grill, but I've never tried that!)
2. It's a great way to get the "smoking" experience/flavor for small number of people. I know there are amazing outdoor smokers that a person can build for smoking a whole pig . . . or half a cow . . . or whatever. That just doesn't make sense for us. We are a two person (and two dog) family. There won't be any more of us. We love to entertain now and then, but an outdoor smoker just isn't practical for us. This is a great alternative.
3. The smoke is fairly well contained. It really helps to have a backyard or patio so that you can set the smoker outside when you open it. That's what I usually do. However, I have opened it inside before. It's not the end of the world. :) Does it smell smoky in our house after I use it? Yes. Does it bother us? No. It usually dissipates within a day. I could see it being more of an issue in a small apartment, but as long as you have a window open, it's not bad.
4. The flavor is amazing. Let's take your average homemade soup recipe. Chances are, it'll start with an onion, right? If you smoke the onion first, it will take your soup to another level entirely. A smoked onion is often my secret weapon in the kitchen.
Well. Not anymore. :)
Once you realize that this is much more than a way to cook small slabs of meat, you'll start to get your own ideas and you'll discover new depths of flavor in your favorite recipes!
Challenges of using the smoketop smoker:
As far as I'm concerned, there are waaaaaay more pros than cons with this thing. However, there are few "challenges" I should point out.
1. The bottom gets hot. I mean really, really HOT! I lost a few pretty fabric potholders early on. I removed the smoker from the heat, set it on the potholder, and then realized the potholder had stuck to the bottom and burned. I even ruined my favorite I <3 NY potholder (a souvenir gift from my sister-in-law)! My husband keeps trying to throw it away, but I just can't let it go! Ha ha. I also had a glass trivet sustain some damage. The design melted! Anyway, I have learned since then. Now, I will only set this thing (when it's hot) on a silicon potholder/trivet. Or another burner on the stove. It's not that big of a deal - you just need to know! :)
2. It can be challenging to clean. First of all, you just have to accept the fact that it's never going to look new again. Our drip tray has black marks all over it. If you think you're going to get off every little burned-on blemish, you'll drive yourself crazy! We usually fill it with water as soon as we're done using it. We let it soak for a little while, and then go over it with half of a small SOS pad. That seems to do the trick. Every once in a while, we run it through the dishwasher (it is dishwasher safe, though the outside piece is bulky).
3. Overall, the lid has maintained its tight fit (designed to keep too much smoke from escaping). There was a point where we must have bent it or something and we started noticing more smoke coming out. In the manual, a "tweak" is described, which basically involves sliding the lid halfway off and bending it slightly. We tried it and haven't had any more trouble since then.
That's really it. We've been delighted with the smoker! I can't think of another kitchen accessory that I've been more excited about or that has been a better value.
How to get one:
If my blog post has inspired you to give this thing a try, please consider following my link below. Amazon has the smoker available at a great price - and if you're an Amazon Prime member, you can have it in only two days!
I would be remiss if I didn't also mention a fabulous cookbook called Smokin' that taught me a lot of what I know about using the stovetop smoker. It describes cooking techniques for many different kinds of food (meat and vegetables) and also contains full recipes. The Spaghetti with Smoked Portobellos and Parsley Pesto on page 227 is probably the single meal that my husband requests more than any other!
You might be wondering about the wood chips. Right? Well, the smoker does come with a few small containers of wood chips. It's enough to get started, but you'll eventually want more. I love Amazon Prime! 2 days. In your mailbox. Ha ha. Anyway, this is the variety pack that I bought last time I was running low on wood chips. It lasts FOREVER!
I guess that's it. If I haven't convinced you that you need one of these in your life by now, then . . . well. I just don't know. Ha ha.
Here are just a few of my own recipes that I've enhanced by using the smoker. Yes, I know they're all tacos. I'm in the middle of a taco recipe creation project right now. That's about all I have time to make these days. Seriously.
20. Smoked Ahi Tacos with Romesco Sauce, Lightly Dressed Spinach, and Parsley Aioli
25. Smoked Portobello Mushroom Tacos with Fresh Tomato Slices, Cilantro Pesto, and Toasted Asiago Cheese
31. Chicken-Bacon-Double Ranch Tacos
43. Shrimp and Grits Tacos with Smoked Green Tomato Sauce
48. Smoked Swordfish Tacos with Mango Salsa and Cholula Aioli
57. Smoked Brisket Tacos with Ancho Barbecue Sauce and Pico de Gallo
61. Smoked Chicken and Black Bean Rolled Tacos with Cheese and Guacamole
Please feel free to comment! Do you have a stovetop smoker? How do you like it? What's your favorite way to incorporate it into your cooking?
Thanks for reading! :)