Monthly Archives: February 2020

Smoking As A Cooking Method

Smoking As A Cooking Method
For most countries outside the tropics, summer holidays mean picnics and barbeques. Smoking food has been a method of cooking since man first discovered fire. Along with roasting, smoking is the oldest cooking method.

The smoke created by burning material – most often wood – offers a distinct flavouring to food, as well as browning and preserving it too. Lay people are most exposed to the barbeque style of smoking, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this method of cooking.

The most common items to smoke are meats and poultry, but fish or game can also be smoked. In many places, seafood, vegetables and cheese are also smoked. It is thought to be a healthier method of cooking as no oil or fat is required during the process and when done right, the food remains succulent.

In a hot smoking method, temperatures are between 52-80 degrees Centigrade (126-176F). The food is raw before being smoked and cooked during the process. Often, meats are air-dried by hanging them from the ceiling or placing them on racks in a refrigerator or cool room so they develop a ‘skin’ that helps the smoky flavour to cling to it. Smoking lasts for anywhere between an hour to a whole day, and sometimes meats, fish and poultry are soaked in brine to help retain moisture during smoking.

Hot smoking is not the best method for long-term food preservation and it is usually served right away or stored in a fridge or freezer for a few days.

In cold smoking, food remains raw throughout the process. And because temperatures in the smokehouse are usually between 20-30 degrees Celsuis (68-86F), they offer the ideal conditions for bacterial growth. So cold smoking can be dangerous if not done right. To reduce risk, most meats are cured before cold smoking, which is typically done to boost the flavour of cheese or nuts as well as beef, salmon, pork chops, chicken, steaks and other similar cuts.

An additional method is smoke-roasting which combines roasting and smoking. This is basically barbecuing where temperatures are jacked up above 121 degrees Centigrade (250F). This is the easiest type of smoking to replicate at home without the risks of not attaining the right temperature to kill bacteria.

Cruise ship chefs find it difficult to include smoking as a cooking method on board due to the hazards of having an open fire. In such cases, liquid smoke is a go-to addition, made by condensing smoke from wood. It is water soluble and lends a similar flavour to meats and vegetables as smoking over flame.

Still, this trend is now changing. American celebrity chef Guy Fieri turned cruise ship barbecuing on its head when he launched Smokehouse on Carnival Vista which is reportedly the first restaurant at sea to have a full-on smoker.
More cruise ships are now jumping on the bandwagon. Carnival Magic opened Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse, while Princess Cruises brought Planks BBQ on board Caribbean Princess and Norwegian Bliss has Q with brisket, ribs, chicken and sausages smoked over hickory, oak and pecan wood.

And it’s not just meat, seafood and vegetables that can be smoked. Chefs can get innovative with cheeses such as gouda, palmero, gruyère and provolone; garlic, chipotle, peaches, oysters, olives, corn, and nuts such as almonds, pecans and walnuts.


How Cruise Ship Chefs Can Use Meat Substitutes

How Cruise Ship Chefs Can Use Meat Substitutes
Vegetarianism and veganism is a growing trend, with plant-based diets seeing an increase across the world. Food-related cruise ship jobs need to follow these trends to ensure they can cater to changing demands. The US and China are two of the biggest cruise economies in the world. According to the Food Revolution Network, the last three years have shown a 600 per cent increase in people identifying as vegan in the US, while the Chinese government has released dietary guidelines to encourage people to reduce meat consumption by 50 per cent. But this doesn’t mean they don’t want their favourite food. Cruise ship chefs can learn how to substitute meat with vegetarian or vegan options that keep the dish just as delicious.

Minced beef is a staple in well-loved dishes such as lasagna, tacos, casseroles, meat pies, spaghetti bolognese and chili. For vegetarian and vegan diners, cruise ship chefs have a number of options.
Firm tofu is often pressed under a heavy weight to squeeze out water and then crumbled to form mince, which cooks much faster than ground beef. Textured soy protein, made from soy flour, has the texture and appearance of ground beef. It is quite flavourless so absorbs seasoning very well.
Lentils have also worked as minced meat, and while easily available are probably not the first choice for most chefs.

Steaks are a big favourite around the world. Cruise ship chefs will know the regularity with which they are relished on board. To give vegetarians an option, look no further than the humble cauliflower. A thick slice of a whole cauliflower head can easily be stuck into the oven and roasted with oil and herbs, or sautéed in a pan with mushrooms in white wine sauce.
Seitan – which is basically wheat gluten that’s had all its starch removed – is an excellent substitute for steak and can be flavoured with any popular seasoning including barbeque sauce. The texture is fairly close to meat which makes it all the more desirable as a substitute.

Vegetable burgers don’t really sound that appetising, but when the substitutes offer the flavour and texture of meat, it’s hard to argue. One of these is tempeh, a traditional Indonesian product made of fermented soybeans, most often sold in a cake form. It can easily be seasoned and grilled to make delicious burger patties.
Other options for burgers are black beans which are typically used from a can. But they are also available dried, and then need to be steamed before being drained well, ground to a paste with other ingredients and flavourings and then pressed into a patty.

Seitan is perfect for ribs since they offer that ‘meaty’ pull and can also be used as the filling in hot dogs, the casing of which is made of cellulose or other plant-based ingredients instead of the usual intestine.
One of the most popular companies selling meat-like vegetarian products is Quorn, which was first marketed back in 1985. It is now one of the largest companies selling meat-replacement food in the UK, including hot dogs.

Sandwiches are one of the top quick-service meals ordered on board. Cruise ship chefs can offer delicious versions of favourites such as croque monsieur, reubens, po’boys and more with easy substitutes.
Shiitake mushrooms are a popular substitute for croque monsieurs, sautéed generously to develop that sweet-salty taste associated with the original ham. Jackfruit is an unlikely ingredient here, but quite useful. In such cases, it is used raw and has a flesh-like texture that is perfect in tacos and for a filling similar to pulled pork.
The flaky texture of tempeh is popular as a substitute for the seafood filling in po’boys as well as to make ‘crab’ cakes and ‘fish’ fillets.

Seitan is a great substitute for this incredibly well-loved snack, but the ubiquitous cauliflower is on the list as well. The stem of the florets even mimics the wing end, with a sticky hot sauce just the right accompaniment for its spicy and crispy coating.