A big, expensive outdoor smoker might give you options, but when it comes to convenience, nothing beats smoker bags for the oven.
These often-forgotten kitchen accessories allow you to smoke meat, fish, vegetables, and more in easy-to-use, single-use foil bags. While they might sound silly at first, many home and professional chefs swear by the results that these easy, inexpensive bags produce.
But what are indoor smoker bags?
How do they work? Which brand is the best? In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about these convenient contraptions.
We’ll talk about their functionality, how they differ from traditional smokers, and how to get the most out of their simple design. Throwing your food in a bag, sealing it up, and putting it in the oven will produce brilliant results, but you can use a couple of tricks to get even more out of your smoker bags.
Oven Smoking: The Basics
Smoking food is less about smoke than it is about heat. When you smoke food, you expose it to low heat levels for long periods of time. If you think that this sounds like the way your oven normally works, you’re not wrong. The difference here is that smoked food uses lower temperatures than your oven typically cooks at, often in the 225 to 275 F range.
There are a bunch of reasons for this, but the general idea is that getting meat too hot can ruin it. By keeping your meat at just the right temperature, it stays tender and delicious. Get the temperature too high and it turns chewy and can develop different flavors.
A rare steak will taste and feel different than a well-done steak.
When you let your brisket, ribs, or chicken get too hot for too long, they’ll lose their perfect tender texture and taste less delicious.
There’s one other big reason that you keep the temperature down when you smoke food, and that’s smoke. The smoky flavor that you get from professional barbecue is the result of smoke condensing inside a smoker and dripping back onto your food as a liquid. This means that the inside of the smoker needs to be cool enough for the gaseous smoke to condense to a liquid.
Many chefs use a variety of techniques to maximize the rate at which this happens to get as much smoky flavor as possible, including basting meat periodically to keep the surface cool. This helps promote more condensation and produces wonderful smoke rings on the outside of the meat.
When you’re smoking food in the oven, you can play fast and loose with these factors. Slow and low might be the name of the game with a big brisket, but when you’re smoking a few smaller pieces of salmon, it’s much easier to keep track of temperatures. Oven smoker bags are often used at temperatures well over 350 for just a few minutes.
This might seem totally opposed to how traditional smokers operate, but you’re still doing the same thing: you’re getting the inside of the salmon to a very precise temperature before the outside is overcooked.
Because the piece of meat is so small, however, and because the foil smoker bag helps to lock in heat and flavor, you’re able to do so very quickly and accurately.
As far as smoke flavor goes, smoker bags can compete pretty well with the big boys. Each bag contains a special mixture of water, sugar, and wood chips in a special layer in the bottom. As the bag heats up, the water and sugar turn into vapor that wafts into the bag with your food.
This vapor then condenses, falling down onto your meat just like it would in a standalone smoker. Since the bag is totally sealed, every bit of flavor is locked in and winds up on your food.
You will get a LOT of smoky flavor out of smoker bags.
I can’t stress this enough. The amount of flavor you get is seriously impressive. The little bit of sugar helps keep sweetness levels high, while the bag makers add just the right amount of wood chips to infuse your food with lots of smoky goodness.
But which bags are best? For maximum results, here are some detailed reviews of top smoker bags from leading brands.
How To Smoke Meat In The Oven: The Best Indoor Smoker Bags
Emril’s 3-pack of 12” x 6” smoker bags give you a quick, inexpensive way to start smoking food indoors. These rugged bags are packed with lots of flavor which they impart via a special two-compartment design. They’re great for meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, and more.
Personally, while I love the results that Emril smoker bags can give me, I prefer Camerons smoker bags for one simple reason: you get more in each package. These bags are so darn effective that it’s tough to make them last. The delicious aroma and flavors of hardwood smoke will really inspire you to use each pack of bags in no time at all.
Luckily, these bags are pretty cheap.
At only a few dollars per, it’s not a big deal to use a package of bags every month or two or even more. The no-hassle delicious smoke flavor is more than worth the slight added cost of these disposable bags.
In addition to their low cost and delicious flavor, these bags are also disposable. This means that you can usually do about one less dish for any recipe that you can convert to using a smoker bag. Unlike a real smoker, you can simply throw out the bag when you’re done instead of going through a lengthy cleaning process.
Overall, I think that the Savu Emeril smoker bags are a close second to the Cameron smoker bags below. They’re a brilliant option if you want to try out indoor smoker bags before committing to buying a bulk pack, or if you can find them on sale at your favorite online retailer.
While both Camerons and Emeril smoker bags are cheap, effective, and incredibly easy to use, I find that Camerons bags are more often available in the flavors and quantities that I need. Camerons’ increased selection makes it simple for me to pair up the right combination of hardwood smoke and food.
The difference between hickory and alder smoke isn’t always huge, but it can make a pretty big difference in how your dish comes together, especially when you really want to impress your guests.
Like the Emeril bags, these Cameron smoker bags are just a few dollars each. This makes them easy to fit into just about any budget. Each pack gives you six delicious meals worth of no-hassle smoked food. You can just throw your food in the bags, seal them up, and put them in the oven.
Again, the results of these bags are nothing short of impressive. Camerons has got the formula down, adding the right amount of sweet, savory smoke to make your food memorable and distinctive without overpowering things. The sealed foil bag makes cooking succulent, tender meats incredible easy, since it helps to lock in moisture and keeps temperatures even.
Finally, the fact that you can smoke small quantities of food easily is an often forgotten boon that really feels incredible. You don’t need to fire up a 700 square inch smoker to cook a couple of servings of fish. With a Camerons smoker bag, you can cook the fish for just a few minutes in the oven and still get lots of incredible smoky flavor.
I think that the Camerons smoker bags are a worthy addition to just about any kitchen. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a barbecue enthusiast, try getting a single pack of these to experiment with. You’ll be surprised at how these simple contraptions can elevating your cooking.
Savu Smoker Bags
Since the Emeril and Savu smoker bags are made by the same folks, there’s not a lot of difference. Again, I think that these bags are great, but I would personally prefer to get a bigger (or smaller) pack of Camerons smoker bags in my choice of wood flavor. Savu’s bags are great – but there are better options on the market.
Getting the Most Out Of Your Oven Smoker Bags
Smoker bags are closer to traditional barbecue than many people realize. One common step to cooking a brisket on a charcoal or wood smoker involves wrapping the meat in foil.
Called the “Texas crutch,” this process helps lock in flavor, keep temperatures where the pitmaster wants them, and can make a huge difference in competition barbecue where every little bit of tenderness and taste counts.
This isn’t to say that these pitmasters wrap their meat in foil the whole time. Instead, they cook the meat for about half of the cooking time, wrap it in foil and let it cook for about another third, then unwrap it for the remaining cooking time.
Before wrapping the meat in foil, pitmasters add lots of flavorful liquid to keep the meat moist and ensure that there’s lots of steam in the crutch.
So what does this mean for your smoker bags?
One simple trick: add more liquid. If competition pitmasters will slather their briskets in apple juice and beer before they wrap them in foil, you might want to do something similar. Brush your poultry or fish with a lemon based sauce or white wine, add beer or sweet juice to pork, or experiment with your own favorite additions.
No matter what you choose, pay attention to how your meat comes out. This will help you make any necessary adjustments for the next time.
The other trick, simple as it sounds, is to use a thermometer. Before you close your smoker bags, consider throwing in a wireless meat probe. This will allow you to check the temperature of whatever you’re cooking from anywhere in the house.
Since most smoker bag recipes tend to use high heat for shorter periods of time, it’s a good idea to be able to check in pretty often without letting all of the delicious smoke and hot vapor out of your bag.
Speaking of letting things out of the bag, bear in mind that you can open the bag at any time to let most of the heat out. This is incredibly handy when you finish cooking something. Just open up the smoker bag to stop your food from continuing to cook pretty much instantly!
With these two tricks, you’ll be able to get a lot more out of your smoker bags. Add a splash of flavorful liquid to up the steam factor, keep your food tender, and spice things up from a flavor perspective. Use your favorite thermometer to keep tabs on your temperatures, enabling you to cook your food perfectly without opening the smoker bag and getting a face full of steam.
Smoker Bags – The Key To Quick Kitchen Smoking
Smoker bags aren’t just cheap – they also deliver results that rival standalone smokers that are dozens if not hundreds of times as expensive. While they’re not reusable, you CAN use them in the kitchen, making them a brilliant option for any household without the space for a smoker outside.
Each bag contains a thoughtful blend of wood chips, water, and a hint of sweetness that ensure that your food comes out with plenty of smoky flavor. Equally importantly, the smoker bag seals in moisture and heat, giving you lots of leeway when it comes to preparing tender, delicious smoked foods.
Whether you prefer Emeril, Camerons, or Savu smoker bags, you’ll find the experience of using these simple devices to be absolutely wonderful.