Smoking Gun Cooking – The Key to Sous Vide Meal Success?

Have you ever combined your sous vide cooking with a smoking gun cook? Owning a traditional smoker to smoke meats is probably not on the cards for too many people. They are large…and expensive. So to create a similar smoky flavor in your sous vide cooking, consider using a hand held smoking gun. A smoking gun is designed to give your sous vide ingredients a smoky flavor.

Smoking Gun cook

What is a Smoking Gun?

A smoking gun is a finishing tool for your cooking ingredients. It is a hand held battery-powered device that holds lit wood chips (such as hickory), and pipes smoke through a hose to your food to quickly infuse it with flavor.

A smoking gun makes it easy to smoke many sous vide ingredients in your own kitchen.

Is a Smoking Gun just as good as a proper smoking machine/oven?

We should say at the outset, that you cannot really compare the smoky flavor produced in a large commercial smoker with the smoky flavor produced with a hand held smoking gun. A traditional smoking technique often involves putting hot or cold ingredients into a smoker for many, many hours. A hand held smoking gun is typically used for just minutes.

A smoking gun is a great tool if you don’t have the money or the space for a larger smoker. You can smoke almost anything sous vide hot or cold.

Many people are surprised to learn that smoke doesn’t add flavor to food in the same way as, say, including spices or herbs in a recipe. With smoke you are running a very complex chemical reaction that creates new flavors over time. Gases in the smoke (the invisible part of the smoke) react with proteins, oils, and natural sugars in the food. How the smoke was created, the temperature of the smoke in the smoker, and the food itself play a big roll in how the flavor will turn out. (Credit: ChefSteps)

Smoking Gun cook


Why do people use a smoking gun for sous vide cooking?

Proper smoking machines and ovens cost a fortune. Many sous viders use a smoking gun instead. They are small, compact and can be used in home and commercial kitchens easily.

Smoking Gun cook – Step by Step How to Guide

Load the smoking gun with wood chips | Light the smoking gun | Blow smoke into a covered container | Allow it to sit and infuse for a few minutes |

A Smoking Gun can be used with lots of different sous vide cooking ingredients

Here are some popular items that sous viders love to smoke:

  • Meats (Sous viders have great success with beef and duck but all other meats can be smoked as well)
  • Cocktails (whipping up a smoked sous vide Old Fashioned cocktail is particular impressive)
  • Sauces
  • Soups
  • Fish (especially great with sous vide salmon)

You can also add smoke via a smoking gun to sauces such as homemade BBQ sauce. It can even be used to smoke ice cream for a more exotic and unexpected flavor. This is best done after you pull your ingredients out of your water bath and prior to churning.

Some of the most popular Smoking Guns on the market

Credit: PolyScience

The Polyscience Smoking Gun™ is a handheld food smoker. It is very well regarded and is able to finish off all sorts of sous vide goodies including butter, oysters, cocktails, salads, chocolate, meringue, etc. Combine with wood chips such as hickory, applewood, mesquite and cherry, or expand your culinary creativity by smoking with flavors like teas, spices, and dried flowers.

  • Removable anodized aluminum burn chamber
  • Variable speed control
  • Integrated stand
  • Heavy-duty metal blower fan
  • Efficient, low noise motor


Breville BSM600BSS the Smoking Gun Wood Smoke Infuser, Silver

Credit: Breville

The Breville-Smoking Gun food smoker quickly adds natural cold smoke flavor and aroma to meat, fish, vegetables, sauces, and cocktails without using heat. It features:

  • Integrated stand, dual air speeds, removable silicone extender hose (17.5-Inch), and detachable .75-Inch 18/8 stainless steel burn chamber
  • Can be used to smoke with wood chips, tea, herbs, spices, hay, dried flowers
  • Includes smoker, replacement screens, .5-ounce apple and hickory wood chips, batteries, instructions and recipes
  • Disassembles without tools for cleaning and has 1-year manufacturer’s warranty

The pros of using a smoking gun with your sous vide cooking

  • It’s a lot faster than a larger commercial smoker
  • It’s WAY smaller than a commercial smoker and can be easily used in both home or commercial kitchens
  • The smoking technique is pretty easy to pick up so you will be able to add smoking to your cooking repertoire easily
  • It works far better infusing smoke into liquids than faux smoking meat you pull out of your sous vide water bath

The cons of using a smoking gun with your sous vide cooking

  • Smoke doesn’t penetrate meats like a large commercial smoker
  • If you try infusing your meat with smoke prior to putting it into your immersion circulator, the flavor is often gone when you pull it out
  • What you miss with the smoking gun and sous vide meats is that deep ring you get from extended low temperature smoking

Sous Vide Hub Smoking Gun Picks

How do I combine my sous vide cooking with a smoking gun cook?

There are two trains of thought here. The first one is to smoke your food prior to your sous vide cook. The other is to smoke your food after your sous vide cook. In the section below we explore each option in more detail.

Should you use a smoking gun BEFORE a sous vide cook or AFTER a sous vide cook?

There are some big differences in how smoked food will taste depending on whether you sous vide cook before, or after smoking your sous vide food.

Here is what ChefSteps has to say about smoking before your sous vide cook:

“Smoking meats or seafood before a long sous vide cooking step has the advantage that the proteins in the flesh are intact and more readily react with the smoke. To get a good result, the food’s surface needs to dry out slightly and become tacky—it must be neither too wet nor too dry for the smoke to react readily with the food and generate smoky flavors and attractive smoked appearance.

A long cooking step after smoking will allow these new created smoked aromas, tastes, and colorful pigments to continue to react. The smoke flavor will mellow, the appearance of the surface will darken, and the pellicle (the rind) will toughen a bit. This can be a really good thing if done well. When done poorly, however, the smoke flavor can become muddy and meats or seafood in particular can become overly tough and leathery.

Smoking and then sous vide cooking can have another drawback: If the smoked meat or seafood is going to be served cold, or needs to look appealing in a vacuum package, then cooking after smoking is not recommended. During the cooking step, juices will accumulate in the bag. When the food is cooled in the bag these juices will gel and cling to the meat. If you reheat this package later and then serve the food, there is not problem because the juices will melt and drain away when you open the bag. But served cold, the gelled cooking juices look unappealing to most people. By sous vide cooking, then smoking, and then packing you avoid juices accumulating in the bag and clinging to the food.”

Smoking Gun cook

Credit: Breville

Here is what ChefSteps has to say about smoking after your sous vide cook:

“Smoking after a long sous vide cooking step will impart the food with a bolder smoked flavor. It does, however, add the risk of overcooking the already cooked meats or seafood in your smoker (it’s hard to control the temperature well in nearly all smokers). This approach also adds a second vacuum packaging step if you’re not going to serve the smoked food right away.”

Hints and Tips – from real sous viders with real Smoking Gun cook experience

  • Consider smoking the glaze or the oil you are putting on your meats after you pull them out of your water bath and before you sear
  • Smoking some sliced almonds before dropping them on your sous vide meal taste delicious
  • Smoking your oil is a great idea before searing. You can actually prepare a larger batch. Put it in a mister and then you will have smoked oil ready to use at all times
  • To make sensational Bloody Mary cocktails: Pump smoke into a vessel full of Bloody Mary base twice, shaking it vigorously both times. The smoky flavor will be really noticeable
  • To smoke up your favorite cocktail: Try adding some smoke to water and freezing the ice cubes. As they melt into your drink, it adds a cool smokey flavor gradually
  • Use your smoking gun to add a smoky flavor to olive oil and other liquids for marinating. It works well with adding a little smoke flavor to fish. Use a big zip lock and fill it with smoke. Then let it sit for a bit
  • Given you are looking to get a touch of smoky flavor on the outermost layer of your food, you’ll get a better result if you use your smoking gun last, just before serving

Sous Vide Smoking Gun cook geekery

Want to geek out a little more about using a smoking gun as part of your sous vide cook? There are loads of helpful threads on online forums (such as reddit) about using a smoking gun as part of your sous vide cook. Here are just a couple of them if you wan’t to really dive deep into information about combining sous vide cooking with food smoking:

Smoking Gun Geekery

Breville Smoking Gun

What is the go with cold smoking your sous vide ingredients?

Whilst hot smoking seems more popular in sous vide cooking circles, cold smoking is also an option to consider. It is really important to read up on cold smoking before you decide if it is for you. This is because some recipes edge towards the “danger zone” for bacterial growth. You can click on the links below to learn more about cold smoking:

Cold smoking discussion thread on reddit

Cold Smoking meats – Don’t do it

Temperature Dangers Cold Smoking

Smoking Gun cook alternatives

As much as you would like to, you can’t fill your kitchen with ALL the gadgets in the world. So if you don’t own a smoking gun or you are not keen to get one, here are some smoking alternatives for you.

Some sous viders use liquid smoke to get a smoky flavor instead of using a smoking gun.  Whilst many argue that you can get the same smoky flavor with a liquid as you do with a smoking gun, other sous viders challenge this. The only way to settle this one is to try a sous vide cook with both and see if you have notice any difference in flavor.

Sous Vide Hub Liquid Smoke Picks

Further smoking gun cook viewing

Indoor Smoked Brisket with liquid smoke
Breville Smoking Gun demonstration
Smoking liquids such as purees, soups or sous vide cocktails

Smoking Gun Pro Techniques – Cloche 

Further reading

Smoking Sous Vide – The Great Debate

Sous Vide Smoking Gun Recipes to try

Smoking Gun Sous Vide Cocktail Recipe – Sake Snow Cone

The Modernist Steak – Sous Vide with a reverse torch and smoke

ChefSteps Smokerless Smoked Brisket

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