Don’t make the mistake of thinking fresh herbs are to be used in dishes as, well, fresh only. Although you may have dried your fresh herb harvest before, we are bringing another alternative to you, smoked herbs.
We hot smoke the fresh herbs on the grill then turn them into a dust for use in all types of dishes. The smoking process will bring a depth of flavor that you’ve likely never experienced before. Go to the herb garden and pick your favorite varieties and let’s get making smoked herb dust!
Smoke Vapor Infusion
One thing about this smoked herb technique is you can do the smoke infusion by a variety of equipment methods.
For those with a gas grill, add wood chunks either directly to the heat shields on one side of the grill or add wood chunks to a metal smoker box that can be placed on the heat shields or the grill grate. For charcoal grill owners, light your charcoal and allow to reduce to hot coals only. Add a piece or two of hardwood chunks or a handful of hardwood chips to the hot coals. If possible, push the hot coals to one side of the grill. For both grill types, you want to use a two-zone cooking method so the herbs don’t catch fire.
For those that don’t own grilling equipment or who simply don’t want to bother lighting up the grill, you can use a handheld food smoker. Simply place micro wood chips in the bowl of the unit, place the herbs in a storage bag with the tubing of the smoker unit, cinch the end of the bag around the tubing, and light the chips. I like to leave the smoke in the bag for maximum smoke vapor infusion.
I used both my gas grill and charcoal grill for the smoke process by placing my herbs in a vegetable basket and grilling with the herbs on the unlit side of the grill. Within the first 5 minutes, you’ll see how the herbs lose moisture and begin the drying stage.
Tasting Notes: I find the handheld food smoker will produce the boldest smoke flavor to the herbs. The intensity of flavor rated from lightest to boldest based on equipment would be a gas grill, electric smoker, pellet smoker, charcoal grill, handheld food smoker.
Once the herbs have charred and dried, it’s time to remove them from the grill and bring them to the food processor. I have a mini processor that only has two settings: chop and grind. I prefer to use this appliance to bring the smoked herbs to dust level but a spice grinder works just as well.
First, remove all the herb leaves from the stems and place a small quantity in the food processor bowl. You can remove the leaves by placing the entire herb sprig in a colander and pressing the leaves through to parchment paper. Secure the lid and grind until you get as fine a dust as the appliance will allow. Both the appliance and the herb will determine how fine the herb dust will get. As you will see, basil dust becomes finer than oregano. This technique will work for just about any herb you can grow or locate at the market. Store the herb dust in glass or metal jars for up to a year.
Tasting Notes: Smoked herbs are much stronger in flavor than the standard dried herb. Adjust the amount used in recipes as needed. It is often best to start with less, taste, and then add more as needed.
So Many Uses
Experimentation is key when it comes to #herbdust. Most often, herbs will be applied to meats and poultry, perhaps rice and pasta dishes, but there are so many more foods that are good pairings for herb dust. Let’s take parsley as an example. Commonly used with fish and beef, parsley is a great pairing for sweet items as well. This includes banana and cream. It’s important that you look beyond the traditional side dishes and entrees and explore the sweet side of what herbs can offer. By doing so, you’re sure to find endless combinations that will tickle your palate and give you more pleasing menu experiences.
The Culinary Crew wants you to know …
… that the two-zone method is certainly a practice that you will want to master and prioritize in your wood cooking toolkit, especially when grilling and smoking delicate fresh consumables like herbs. Not only will two-zone cooking avoid those acrid tastes associated with flare ups, it will infuse your food items with a nice balance of wood smoke flavoring.