Smoking hot

“The longer the better! Here in El Gaucho the motto and mantra is always ‘low and slow’, and you cannot go wrong.”

Fancy trying something different with meat this year, but not clued up on the latest smoking craze? Look no further than Yoav Kushnirov. PIPPA CHAMBERS takes five with the self-professed flame master

As owner of West Country family-run catering business, El Gaucho, Yoav is a firm believer of a ‘flame and smoke’ cooking combo. As well as preparing meat on a South American-style barbecue, he’s also an advocate of using homemade smoking contraptions.

While based in a rural part of Devon, El Gaucho is a regular at a variety of events in and around Bristol. Using only locally sourced beef, chicken and sausages, El Gaucho meats are served up with bread and chimichurri – a traditional South American style sauce made from oil, parsley, garlic, tomato, salt and pepper and lemon.The South American-style barbecue masters can regularly be found at foodie havens such as Bristol’s Grillstock Festival, the Love Food Festival and the Harbourside Festival.

We’re thinking of home smoking our meats, but what do we need to get started?
For your first home practice you can always use the house oven or the top burner. You don’t need to go and invest in any equipment yet, just a good roasting tin and silver foil. The best smokers I have seen are homemade and one of a kind – that’s the beauty of it.

So when we’ve got the kit sorted, what do we need to smoke with? Wood? Tea? Hay?
I always use wood but I’m also into citrus, lemon and orange. Though avocado wood is the best for Gaucho-barbecue needs. 

And where do we get such ingredients from?
Best to check your local saw mills or online.

How often, if at all, do we need to replenish the wood chips?
It depends but in my method I always make sure I have plenty if needed, and the rest is trade secrets!

What’s the difference between hot and cold smoking?
I would say that hot smoke is to cook with and the cold is mainly for aroma and flavour.

What ingredients should we start smoking with?
All ingredients are good, but I would think that chicken is a good starting point, then move onto cheeses and fish. The more you practice the better you get.

How long should you smoke things for?
The longer the better! Here in Gaucho the motto and mantra is always ‘low and slow’, and you cannot go wrong.

How slow are we talking?
Most of what I roast is a minimum of five hours and up to eight hours. Whole lambs take a minimum of seven hours, rib eye beef joints take a minimum of four hours and ribs (Jacob ladder) take three hours.

How can we be sure it’s cooked to perfection?
For me it is the feel and touch of the meat, but a good thermometer will be handy too. Practice makes perfect so don’t be afraid to experiment!

How long do smoked foods keep after smoking them?
I’d say no more than 10 days in the fridge. 

What would be your ultimate recipe?
My ultimate recommendation would have to be the Gaucho trio: butterfly leg of lamb, Jacob ladder and a rib eye! They all go in to separate roasting tins and are rubbed with rock salt – you don’t need anything more than that. Just let the natural juice and fat do the rest. Then bang them in an oven at 240C for 25 minutes before dropping the temperature to 120C for four to five hours. Keep brushing with the gravy that you get from each tin and trust me, you won’t need anything more.