Most of my working life has been spent in restaurants and bars. In over a decade in the industry, my love for the culinary arts has never waned, even if the directions I've gone with that passion have changed course more than a few times. Recently the focus of my efforts has been on the small, simple things that find themselves on almost every plate. With that in mind there is no better place to start than salt.
Now, I'm not going to offer an essay on the history of salt or the seemingly endless varieties of the ingredient that exist. This isn't about either of those subjects. This is about transforming the most basic ingredient into something greater than itself. This is also about my brand new smoke gun.
Smoking salt is the most obvious way to transform something that makes its way into nearly every consumable on the planet. There are plenty of things that can be done with smoke, and incorporating it into salt allows for those flavors to be introduced without any special equipment or labor. A smoke gun is the easiest way to concentrate small amounts of it on a single dish or drink or, in this case, ingredient. In my research, Breville wasn't the first device that caught my eye, but the targeted ads featured more than just high production values and persuasive if not somewhat boring content. Before I knew it the dreaded algorithm had roped me into buying something off Amazon that may prove less than useful.
There aren't many ways to screw up using this particular product, though I'd like to think that I've found them all. The most obvious would be folding the silicon hose in half, which I am proud to say has not happened to me yet. I did discover that putting more than a pinch of finely cut wood chips into the burn chamber will prevent the gun from getting proper airflow, which creates zero smoke. This also means that without constant attention, the Breville will only provide a couple of minutes of smoke at a time. There is also a hidden demand for more space than you would expect to need for this product, as its base isn't quite heavy enough to prevent it from toppling over if the attached hose is knocked one way or another. All things considered, I'm not unhappy with my purchase or the associated learning curve.
My initial attempt at smoking salt with the Breville was done with fleur de sel sourced from Guerande in a large mixing bowl. The project was covered tightly with cling wrap, as opposed to a proper cloche. In all honesty, a $75 glass enclosure would probably offer some greater amount of ease of use, but trying to smoke anything more than a modest quantity of anything underneath one would be effectively impossible. On first use the Breville produced an impressive amount of smoke, and it imparted a powerful scent onto the salt I was working with. It took somewhere around eight or nine burns before I began running into the aforementioned technical issues, and about a dozen before the hundred grams of salt took on a depth of flavor that I was satisfied with.
The difference in color is hardly noticeable when looking at the salt on its own, but side by side with an unaltered amount of the same fleur de sel, the effects of the smoke are obvious. Compared to other smoked salts I have purchased, this first attempt of my own is only disappointing in superficial ways. That said, I doubt I will be using a smoke gun in the same way again. Salt requires far more surface area to cling to as well as far more time than the Breville can reasonably provide in order to properly absorb more than a mild aroma. This doesn't mean I won't be putting the device to good use, just not in this specific area. I'm sure there will be more to write about regarding the Breville's efficacy as I continue to apply it to other culinary accoutrement. Even if it takes a while for me to decide precisely what the next experimental undertaking will be, I'm glad I spent that hundred bucks how I did.