The smoking of food is a process as old as humanity itself – having been employed since the Stone Age. However, knowledge about the components of the smoke and the scientific basis of the process is much more recent, with many aspects thereof still to be investigated.
Smoked food is currently carried out using smoke or aromas of smoke. The latter are obtained by the condensation of smoke and their composition has been thoroughly studied by the Food Technology Area of the Pharmacy Faculty at the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). The researchers started by studying commercially available smoke aromas and preparing a number of them on a laboratory scale using different kinds of wood. They investigated the influence of a number of the parameters that control the process for generating smoke and the composition of the aroma thus obtained, as well as food health factors, given the presence therein of aromatic polycylic hydrocarbons.
The research team then investigated the effect of the smoking process on the foodstuffs. To this end they prepared food smoked in the traditional manner as well as food smoked using smoke aromas. Traditional smoking involves placing the foodstuff in contact with smoke produced by the burning of vegetable material, in such a way that the smoke components are deposited randomly on the food. Smoking by means of smoke aromas can be undertaken in many different ways and, in the case of employing liquid aromas, the process may be carried out by the immersion of the foodstuff in question in the liquid. The researchers smoked cheese, fish and meat products using both methods.
One of the aims of the research being carried out is to see if smoking with smoke aromas produces the same effects on foods as the traditional smoking process does.
Effects of the traditional smoking process
This causes changes in the colour, smell, taste and the texture of the food. These alterations are due to components in the smoke that are deposited on the food or to new compounds arising from the reaction between these components and those of the food itself; the consequence being a modification of the organoleptic properties of the foodstuff in such as way that it makes it more appetizing to the palate.
The traditional smoking process, moreover, prolongs the useful life of the foodstuff given that the smoke has an antioxidant and antimicrobian activity, on the one hand retarding the processes of oxidation and rancidness and, on the other, inhibiting microbian growth. This is why the process not only contributes to improving sensorial properties of the food but also prolongs its conservation.
However, if the traditional smoking process is not carried out correctly, certain toxic substances in the smoke, such as aromatic polycylic hydrocarbons, can be incorporated into the foodstuff.
The research team from the Food Technology Area of the Pharmacy Faculty at the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV) is investigating all these aspects.
Effects of smoking food with smoke aromas
The research team’s investigation carried out smoking food with smoke aromas has shown that this technique is much more versatile than the traditional smoking process and has many advantages compared to the latter.
Smoking food with smoke aromas also modifies the colour, smell, taste and the texture of the food although, in this case, these effects are dependent on the type of smoke employed. In this type of smoking the design of the aroma is the basis for providing the characteristics desired for the food. The research team has shown that smoking food with smoke aromas also prolongs the useful life of the foodstuff by retarding the processes of oxidation and rancidity and by inhibiting microbian growth.
Another important aspect of smoking food with smoke aromas is that the amount of toxic contaminants that can get to the foodstuff can be controlled and identified before smoking, and this is why foodstuffs smoked with smoke aromas are generally safer, healthwise.English translation by: WORDLAN firstname.lastname@example.org; 615740862.