Cooking Technique of Tea Smoking: Grill Like the Ancient Chinese (Pictures)
All the Cool People are Tea-smoking!
Tea-smoking is one of the up-and-coming cooking trends. Tea-smoking will solidify your reputation as a master griller and a hip cook. I did it for a dinner party last summer, and people are still talking about it (I made tea-smoked shrimp with coconut noodle soup).
This is an ancient Chinese technique that is updated to modern times with a foil packet and a gas or charcoal grill. The smoke does magic to the food, giving it a beautiful golden-brown or amber color and a tangy smokey flavor. All you have to do is slip the foil packet over the grill grate and the results are wonderful.
How to Put Together a Tea-smoking Packet:
Get a sheet of heavy duty foil, or two sheets of regular foil, about 1X1 foot. Fold the corners up to create a square, flat, ventilated packet.
Fill the packet with about 1/4 cup of the required materials:
1. Sugar- this is a coloring agent and adds a hint of sweetness to the food. When it heats up on the grill, it caramelizes and give the food its characteristic golden-brown color.
2. Flavorings- these can be herbs, spices, or fruit. Examples of commonly used flavorings are star anise, ginger root, cinnamon sticks, citrus zest or rinds, coriander, cumin, fennel, or anything else that is aromatic. I used orange rind, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, and star anise.
3. Loose tea leaves- Any type of tea will do. Usually people use black tea, but I used a special blend of herbs and flowers. Each flower or herb that makes up the loose tea will add its own unique flavor to the food.
4. Rice- This can be white or brown rice, of any kind variety. It acts as fuel, creating smoke for the packet.
Once You Have Your Smoking Packet, Get Cooking!
Put the packet directly over the flame or coals of the grill. Keep the vents open on a charcoal grill. Close the lid, and let the grill fill with smoke. This will take 5-10 minutes. Once the grill becomes very smokey, put your food down on the oiled grates. It will take on the smoke flavors in about 5 to 10 minutes. Check it periodically for color. If the color becomes dark and amber, remove the smoking packet, because too much smoke will ruin the flavors.
I think that this method goes great with any type of meat; fish, shrimp, beef, pork, chicken, duck, or more. It can also be used to give vegetables a unique flavor. Once you try this method for the first time, you may become addicted to it, as it is so easy and fun. You will be very comfortable smoking all sorts of food with your grill.
Three Things to Keep in Mind
1. Keep the food very dry. This is a general rule of smoking food. Dry food will absorb the flavors of the smoke, and will take on that characteristic waxy exterior.
2. Arrange the food so that it is not directly over the smoking packet. Getting a direct hit of smoke may overwhelm your tastebuds. Put the tea packet on one side of the grill, and the food on the other, and close the lid. Let the smoke surround the food evenly in this way.
3. If the food takes on a dark amber hue before it is fully cooked, remove the smoking packet and continue cooking the food. If you are cooking something like shrimp, you don't have to worry about this because it cooks quickly, but thicker pieces of meat need more time over the heat.