What’s the Deal with Tea-Smoking?

published Feb 17, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

We keep hearing about this tea-smoking technique for infusing flavor and are determined to give it a try for ourselves. It’s even one of Skye Gyngell’s toolbox recipes! We know that it’s done indoors using a tightly-lidded roasting pan and a handful of tea leaves, but not much beyond that. Have you ever tried it?

Tea leaves give off an aromatic smoke when burned. If trapped inside a cooking vessel, this smoke can flavor foods like fish, chicken, and duck with delicate, tea-like flavors. That’s the idea behind tea-smoking, and as far as we understand it, it’s not so much a cooking technique as it is a flavoring technique.

The basic process sounds simple. You combine loose-leaf tea (usually a black tea) with a little sugar and an assortment of other spices like cinnamon or peppercorns, and toss these into the bottom of a wok or roasting pan. You set a wire rack inside the pan so the food is suspended above the tea, add the meat itself, and put the lid on. A few minuets over medium-high heat on the stove-top and your food becomes infused the smoky tea flavor.

Our biggest question and concern is how much actual smoke this process creates. Most recipes specify to have an exhaust fan running, but don’t show too much concern about filling the house with smoke or setting off smoke alarms. Perhaps we’ll wait for summer when we can open all the windows before cooking!

Still, this technique is really intriguing to us. We like the idea of using different teas to flavor dishes in different ways. And we really like that we can do this indoors without a charcoal grill!

Check Out These Recipes!
Tea-Smoking: Video Tutorial from Fine Cooking
Coconut Noodle Soup with Tea-Smoked Shrimp from Fine Cooking
Tea-Smoked Duck Breast from Epicurious
Tea-Smoked Roast Chicken from Food & Wine
Green Tea-Roast Trout with Spinach from The Washington Post

What’s been your experience with tea-smoking?

(Image: Screenshot from Tea-Smoking Video Tutorial from Fine Cooking)