I am an unreserved lover of smoked fish. Trout, salmon, tailor, mackerel, cobia and more are all cured and smoked, and then eaten in the blink of an eye.
I’ve always used small, fuel smoker boxes and more recently a small electric unit, but when I first saw the Hark Smoker my knees went a little weak.
The Hark Smoker is a big unit that is electric powered and designed to allow users to smoke just about anything. Fish is an obvious starting point, but chicken, ham, sausages, cheeses and more can all be easily smoked in the Hark. I have to say it was a bit of a tragedy when the Hark Smoker arrived at work and the tragic story continues to this day, even after six months of solid use.
This electric powered smoker is a real gem. It allows for constant temperatures from 38ºC to 135ºC to be used meaning any budding smoker chef can virtually set and forget the unit. The precise temperature control means the Hark Electric smoker is great for cold or hot smoking; opening up possibilities that include sausages, deli meats, cheeses, fish, chicken and red meats.
The unit is big and consequently it has a large cooking area that includes four large shelves (38cm x 31cm) and one small shelf of 14cm x 31cm. In addition there is a heavy duty rack for hanging meats and fish, however this should only be used by itself with all other shelves removed – something I am yet to do but as soon as I work up the courage some kabana or bratwurst sausages are going in for their dose of smoke.
The unit is fully insulated and has the facility to pre-program cooking times with an auto shut off.
There is also an accurate internal food temperatures probe that allows you to reduce the risk of food poisoning from undercooking the meat. In fact, this probe is so useful I now have absolutely no hesitation in smoking chicken breasts, knowing that when the internal temperature reaches 78ºC, the chicken is cooked through and ready to be eaten (rather quickly I might add). There is also a water tray to keep moisture in the air and food deliciously moist, as well as a drip tray to catch all of the condensation and drips from the cooking food.
Smoke chips are easy to add at any stage of the cooking with a side access wood chip chute. The beauty of this side access is that you do not have to open door when adding smoke chips, which allows heat to escape lowering the internal unit temperature and increasing cooking time.
As I said the unit is big. It’s about the size of an average bar fridge and to make moving this unit around a lot easier it comes with two rear wheels and adjustable front legs for greater portability and stability. It also has a handle on the back for extra ease of movement.
Lastly, the unit is supplied with a protective cover to keep it clean when stored. And a word on safety: Make sure the unit is only used outdoors. It is not designed to be used in an enclosed area.
My first smoke in the Hark Electric Smoker was with a bunch of mackerel and cobia fillets. These two fish lend themselves very nicely to smoking. My method is really simple, you just need to have about 24 hours from start to finish.
The first step is to soak the fillets (make sure all blood and skin is removed and the fillets are roughly the same thickness) in a solution of Hawk Smoke Mix. This handy product is a great marinade base and has all the flavour you’ll need. Sure there are other, home made marinade recipes, but for simplicity, the Hawk Smoke Mix is sensational. I marinade my fillets for at least 12 hours in the fridge, however I am not stressed if they stay in there for up to 24 hours.
When ready I take the fillets out and allow them to air dry until they are tacky to touch. They are now ready to place in the smoker.
At 180ºC fish fillets about 2cm thick take about 30 minutes to cook. You can easily check the readiness of the fillets by gently peeling the fillets apart. If they come away easily they are ready, if not, a bit more time is required. And that’s it. It’s a simple method, perfect for my limited attention span!
My second smoke was a bunch of chicken fillets, some cheesy kabana and salami. This smoke session was at work and the minute the internal food probe said the chicken was cooked through, it took about 10 minutes for the entire load of food to be devoured by our staff members. I would love to have had a video of it – starving pigs getting stuck into a bowl of slops would probably not have done it justice.
Smoking fish is a fantastic way to prepare fish for guests and family. It’s tasty, easy to do and thanks to the Hark Electric Smoker, even simpler than it used to be. The unit I have has been putting out memorable food for the last six months and I find it one of the easiest smokers I have used because of its size. No longer am I trimming fillets or fillet numbers to fit in a small smoker. I have never completely filled every tray so there is plenty of room left if I need it (if I am ever lucky enough to have to eat my way through 20kg of mackerel fillets anyway!).
The Hark Electric Smoker is available from $499 and for more information you can log onto their website at www.hark.com.au.Reads: 6119