I know it’s only been a couple of months since we met, but already I feel like you’re an essential part of my being. What did I do before you came into my life? Sure, I’ve been around. I’ve had other steely beaus who lavished me with tasty morsels and brought me joy. But you’ve driven my hunger to new heights. Weber, my old flame, is sulking jealously as he languishes in the snowy back yard. I yearn to see my face reflected in your shining surface, to feel the heat of your…
OK, enough of that. We all know you can’t really fall in love with an inanimate object…or can you? One thing for certain is that a Camerons Stovetop Smoker will rock your cooking world. Cam and I hooked up when the weather turned cold and I wanted to have some hot-smoked chicken. Being a real sissy when it comes to grilling in bad weather, I decided to try a Camerons after my friend Rebecca gave hers rave reviews.
A smoker…indoors? I envisioned clouds of noxious carbon filling the house. No, Rebecca insisted. The Camerons smoker’s tight-fitting lid kept the smoke inside during cooking. At that point I knew I had to give it a shot, so I ordered one for $49 on Amazon.com. I also ordered an additional container of the special wood “chips” (more like very coarse sawdust or shavings) that fuel the smoker. It comes with two small containers of chips—alder and hickory—but I also wanted a mesquite option. They offer nine different chip varieties, including bourbon-soaked oak.
The stovetop smoker is about the simplest kitchen gadget imaginable—a solid stainless steel box with fold-out handles, a slide-off lid, a drip tray, and a rack. I decided to try chicken breasts for the first run. I used the recipe in the guide that came with the smoker. Now, this isn’t just a garden-variety user’s manual. It’s a full cookbook 160 pages long, with instructions for cooking most meats and recipes for sides and sauces (not cooked in the smoker). There are also recommendations for pairing meats with the various chip flavors.
One of the coolest things about this smoker is how little fuel it requires. 1 1/2 tablespoons of chips piled in the bottom of the box is all it takes. After lining the drip tray with foil, I set it directly on top of the chips, then put the rack into the tray and loaded up the four chicken half-breasts. I slid the lid on, leaving a small gap, and turned on the gas burner to medium. In about a minute, some smoke began to curl out of the gap, and I slid the top completely shut. Now the real test—would the Camerons Smoker be completely smokeless? No. Tiny smoke whisps occasionally escaped from the corners of the lid, but the amount was only enough to add a pleasant smoky aroma to the kitchen. There was no accumulation of smoke, not even comparable to that generated by overheating oil in a frying pan.
Fifty minutes later, I opened the lid and lifted out perfectly hot-smoked chicken. My guinea pig dinner guests and I were amazed by how moist the meat was, with just the right smoky richness. According to the cooking guide, 1 pound of chicken should smoke in about 25 minutes, but I had double that amount and am cooking at high altitude. I’ve found that 50 minutes cooks most meats perfectly, and I’ve tried several. I followed up the chicken with a couple of steaks, then pork chops, salmon (particularly excellent), and a half turkey breast. This last one barely fit, and according to the guide you can use a foil tent for whole chickens, but I just forced the lid over the turkey and it was fine. The turkey took 1 hour and 15 minutes, but required no more than the usual amount of chips.
The smoker reaches about 375 degrees F. when fired up, so it’s not an option if you want low temperature cold smoking. But for quick, convenient, hot-smoked meat indoors, Camerons is it. This Colorado Springs-based company has other products, including Lil Smokey—a smaller, self-contained smoker with a base for a Sterno can, which can also be used over a camp fire. Their website also has a whole range of BBQ and grilling products for conventional outdoor cooking, plus other stainless steel kitchen gear.
I can’t say that Weber has been completely replaced in my carnivorous little heart, but when I want hassle-free guaranteed satisfaction, I’ll be reaching for Cam. To watch a short video about the smoker, click here. And if you’re hardcore about cooking outdoors under any conditions, read Mike Stines’ great article about Smokin’ In The Snow on the Fiery Foods & BBQ SuperSite.
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