Smoking is a technique originally used to preserve meats and fish, but some chefs are smoking everything from gnocchi to ice cream. At home, the process often requires a custom-built smoker plus a few hours. It wasn’t till we spotted bartenders at DC’s Elisir using a Smoking Gun that we learned a shortcut.
The restaurant uses the tool ($100 at Williams-Sonoma) to blow cool smoke made from pipe tobacco and hickory chips—among the many chips that can be ordered with the gun—onto brandied cherries for a Manhattan. In the dining room, an applewood cloud billows from a branzino-filled cigar box. We fired up the gun to give it a try. Unlike hot smoking, cold smoking won’t cook food, so the gun is all about flavor, and it’s best used on ingredients incorporated into a dish or drink.
Cherry-wood-smoked whiskey-pecan ice cream on apple pie was delicious, and bourbon-barrel-smoked cream stirred into espresso created a smooth, alcohol-free Irish coffee. It also works as a finishing touch. Steak smoked with hickory before searing didn’t retain a woodsy flavor, whereas hitting roast chicken with a cloud of the same recalled hours in a smokehouse. Want to play magician? The Elisir effect is easy: Pipe applewood smoke into a glass, invert it over a sliver of raw salmon, and the sweetly smoky fish appears in a heady cloud when the glass is lifted.
This article appears in the May 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.