Smoking food in your home kitchen? Yes, it’s possible

17 September, 2020

Tea-smoking is the easy, low-equipment way to get delicious smoked flavours at home

There’s something primal about the flavour of smoke on food, tapping into our roots. But cooking over a woodfire at home isn’t always practical. In addition, many smoked foods require low and slow cooking in specialist equipment.

The good news though is that cooking with smoke at home is actually in reach of everyone. The answer? Tea-smoking.

What is tea smoking?

Tea-smoking is a method of cooking that originates in China. Unlike many other forms of smoking, it can be done with equipment you’ve already got in your kitchen and won’t take hours of carefully tending a fire. Just make sure you open the windows and have a good extractor fan so you don’t set off the smoke alarm and end up with an unexpected visit from the fire department!

What do you need to tea smoke food?

Everything you need to tea smoke food is probably already in your kitchen. Dig through your draws and cupboards to find:

  • A sturdy baking tin with a tight fitting lid, or a wok with a lid
  • A wire rack (like a cake cooling rack) that will fit inside your baking tin or wok, or an oiled bamboo steamer
  • If using the baking tin, small metal pudding basins to hold the rack in place
  • Aluminium foil to make a little cup to hold your tea-smoking mixture (or to line your wok as suggested by
  • A stovetop burner

Then, of course, you need your tea-smoking mixture. This is what is going to catch alight and burn to create the smoke in your sealed baking tin or wok. Skye Gyngell in her book A Year in My Kitchen recommends a combination of muscovado sugar, caster sugar and tea leaves (suggesting Lapsang and Earl Grey as good teas to try, but you can pop in to Tea Journal at Chatswood Interchange to see what teas they’d recommend).

Other recipes suggest using uncooked rice instead of sugar. You can also experiment with adding spices like star anise, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and citrus rind. Once you’re a master at tea-smoking, adventurous cooks can also use the same method with wood chips to smoke more foods at home. If you’re getting into smoking, a good reference is Steven Raichlen’s book Project Smoke, and his website also has many videos to provide help and inspiration.

What foods can you tea smoke?

Tea smoking is great for a range of different foods. Some ideas to get you started include:

  • Poultry like duck, quail and chicken
  • Fish, particularly oily fish like salmon, trout and mackerel
  • Shellfish like prawns, oysters and mussels
  • Tofu
  • Loads of vegetables