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The Great Smoked Salt Experiment

Discussion in 'Sauces, Rubs & Marinades' started by xutfuzzy, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    I had been purchasing smoked salt for a while now, and wanted to try my hand at smoking my own.  Research on this site led to a lot of conflicting advice and results, so I decided to try a somewhat scientific approach to the matter.  I purchased 1 pound of sea salt from my local spice shop and decided to cold-smoke half of it, harvesting every 4 hours to monitor the results.  I would then hot-smoke the other half using the same harvesting times.

    But first, I would need something to hold the salt.  Research here showed a lot of techniques and devices, but I decided to build my own using scrap materials found in my basement.  I had some wood left over from a project a while back, as well as some window screen. 

    I started with a basic frame with a support running down the middle to reduce "tug" on the screen from the weight of the salt.

    I used simple overlapping flap joints.

    Then I got happy with my crown gun.

    Finally, to ensure salt didn't fall off the side, I added some basic trim around the edges.

    If I need to, I can also flip this over and ensure separation of ingredients, like if I wanted to smoke salt and peppercorns at the same time.

    So here we go, it was smoking time!  I would harvest every 4 hours.

    Here we are in the MES40.

    Bagged and tagged!

    Here are the final results:

    I was actually very surprised at the different results.  To be honest, I had anticipated there being no difference between cold and hot smoking salt.  It is, after all, a rock.  It's not like the "pores are going to open up." 

    I waited a day to taste the results as I had read in some posts that people noticed that the smokiness dissipated after a day.

    Cold-smoked for 4 hours = subtle smoke taste, really just a hint of smoke

    Cold-smoked for 8 hours = vast upgrade from the 4 hour, a good beginner time for someone who has never had smoked salt before

    Cold-smoked for 12 hours = now we are getting somewhere, good smoky flavor, but without that "burnt" taste that over-smoked salt can have

    Hot-smoked for 4 hours = almost the exact same as the cold-smoked 12 hour version.  A good shortcut and a good starting point for people who like moderate-smoked salt

    Hot-smoked for 8 hours = Getting into the heavy-smoked salt flavors, you can really start to notice distinct flavors based on wood type

    Hot-smoked for 12 hours = Awesome  :)

    Specs, for those people who like them:

    MES40 with AMNPS

    Pellets were 50/50 blend of hickory and oak

    Cold-smoked using AMNPS only, MES40 was unplugged, ambient chamber temperature was around 90 degrees

    Hot-smoked was at 275 degrees

    Washington State solar-evaporated sea salt, I paid a little less than 8 bucks for one pound

    Anyone got advice on smoking peppercorns?  This was a three-day process that I don't want to go though again if I can help it.  :)  Thanks!
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2012
  2. scarbelly

    scarbelly Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member

    Very nice - loved the documentation.  I have done the hot 4 and 8 but have not done the 12 hour smoke. You have inspired me to try it.  Being a salt junkie with 15 varieties including truffle, 3 Hawaiian salts and Tahitian vanilla this was very interesting 

    Thanks for taking the time to share the experiment 
  3. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Epic Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Very cool. I have been wanting to try this but had little idea how long. This a great guide for Salt Newbies...JJ
  4. Very nice! I've cold smoked coarse sea salt for about 6 hrs in my MES40 with excellent results. I put it on one of those grease splatter screens.
  5. sound1

    sound1 Smoking Fanatic

    What kind of screen did you use?? Aluminium would eat through and impart a bad taste, Galvanized..a big no-no, does fiberglass hold up to the heat?? I have always used a SS skillet splatter screen but they don't hold enough. 
  6. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    The screen was fiberglass, which has a melting point of a few thousand degrees.  If my MES40 hit that point, I promise I would record a video and post it here.  :)
  7. Nice experiment, and very informative.  I have never tried smoked salt, and this will be on my short list to try.  Thanks for the info!  Steve
  8. wow!!!  thanks for all the great info!!!!!  very interesting!!
  9. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    LMAO!!! That would be a sight to watch that melt-down!

    I can't offer any experienced tips on temps/times and smoke wood for peppercorns, only theories. I'm just getting interested in smoked salt and peppercorns myself...well, and a few other dried spices and herbs. Some of what you described here is close to what I would have expected, only I hadn't thought about that high of temps for smoking salt, spices or herbs.

    I would suggest starting at the mid-point you used for the salt, say 6 hours, only around 200* or below, instead of 275*, as the peppercorns may begin to roast if exposed to that high of temps..which you may not want, as the natural oils will begin to breakout and release the aromas and flavors at some point from exposure to heat, and render the pepper much weaker in it's encapsulated natural flavor (hence, fresh ground is always more intense than store-bought ground pepper). This could be a bad thing when the peppercorns are used for open-grate or pan-seared cooking. If used for dry rubs, the additional heat during open/exposed cooking may dissipate the flavor. With heated sauces, this may be fine...on the other hand, if they were heat-treated/roasted, and this releases some of the oils, it may be beneficial for additional flavor as a post-cooking seasoning, or for cold preparations such as salad dressings, marinades and brines.

    If you consider how coffee beans are roasted, they peak in flavor intensity at a certain temp/time for a given type of bean, and coffee roasters know from experience what the temp and time required for their particular beans will peak at. For the peppercorns, maybe a 150* start-up for 4 hours, then bump to x* for another hour or two if you want to use them for cold food preparations such as described above, and keep temps lower if used for dry rubs for grilling, as the higher heat from open-grate grilling does the rest for you. If used as a dry rub for low & slow smoking, maybe finish the peppercorns somewhere in the mid-point for smoke temp? Where the breakout-point for the peppercorn oils is in regards to temperature, I have no idea. If I get a chance to do some research on this, I'll let you know what I find.

    Nice analytical write-up of your process and the results. Straight forward and easily duplicated. I'll have to get after this quest of mine one of these days soon, especially after you've done all the leg-work for us with salt.

    Great work-up and documentation!

  10. pops6927

    pops6927 Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Excellent tutorial!
  11. Wow! very nice! This is very informative information.
  12. been thinking about making some...now I am a bit past thinking...great tutorial... now I have to shoot my procrasternator alter-ego...tomorrow...
  13. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I made some at work the other day. I used cheese cloth to spread out the salt. Did not have the time to smoke for that many hours, but it tasted amazing on watermelon and tomatoes.

    Great tutorial!
  14. Thanks for the post, I did a similar experiment with different kinds of salt, and my favorite by FAR, was smoking Mauldon Salt. If you not familiar with it, it is French sea salt that is processed by the Brits, and it is ever good. I use it as a finishing salt as it has huge crystaline formations and really pops flavor on most any dish. For this purpose, it takes smoke very well, and is a very nice addition to your larder.

  15. I went to DK machine and got a piece of hardware cloth in mild steel. It is 18 gauge wire and 18 wires per inch. Just need to rinse off oil coating and then I'm ready for smoking some pepper corns and some sea salt!!!!
  16. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Legendary Pitmaster OTBS Member

    Very good, post it in the Articles section...[​IMG]
  17. Thanks for doing the experimenting for me. Hopefully, next weekend I'll get my own salt going.
  18. cbrhunter

    cbrhunter Fire Starter

    awesome post! thanks for all of the info...any issues with the smoke flavor diminishing shortly after smoking? just curious if you ran into this issue
  19. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    Great post !!!

    I love smoked salt----Mine seems to keep the great flavor for a long time.

    The times to get smoky are similar to smoking bacon----Takes a lot longer to get good color & flavor when cold smoking compared to warm smoking (110 to 140), but it gets there eventually.

    Thanks for a Great post !!

  20. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    Over a couple of weeks, the effect is similar to cheese...the smokiness mellows but also improves, if that makes sense.  I've learned to use it as a finishing salt, like stirring it into a soup just before serving.  Otherwise, the effect is lost.