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Top Pick Of The Week

July 8, 2008

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SAVU Smoker Bag

Love smoked food? Now you can smoke your own in your kitchen oven, as often as you like. The aluminum smoking pouch goes from oven to table and is then disposed of—no clean-up required.

WHAT IT IS: Single-use smoker bags made from aluminum foil, embedded with wood chips.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: An unusual convenience product that lets you smoke food in your oven or on an outdoor grill, with no mess—everything is contained in the foil bag.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We can make delicious smoked foods—including low-calorie, low-fat meals—whenever we want. Protein and veggies can be smoked in a single bag for a complete meal-in-a-bag.
WHERE TO BUY IT: BigAcres.com.
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SAVU Smoker Bags:
Simply Smokin’

CAPSULE REPORT: Shame on us! We discovered SAVU Smoker Bags two years ago and have just gotten around to sharing them with you. When you discover how easy it is to cook up delicious smoked foods, you’ll either thank us or be ticked off that it’s taken so long to share the news. These simple-to-use bags will have you smoking up a storm: Meat, fish or vegetables can be smoked effortlessly in the kitchen oven or on an outdoor grill—at home or at your favorite picnic- or campgrounds.

Now every day can be a smokin’ day. Beef, chicken, duck, fish, lamb, kebabs, pork and other favorite foods smoke over natural wood chips that are layered in cleverly-designed, single-use aluminum smoker bags, made in Finland. You can even make your own hot-smoked salmon or other fish for Sunday brunch! The heavier-flavored hickory chips are intended to pair better with meats, and the lighter-flavored alder chips with fish, but the bags truly are universal. The wood creates real smoked flavor in minutes. By adding potatoes and other vegetables, you can make complete meals in one bag. Just seal, cook, open and eat. And you can serve from the bag—not only is there no oven mess, there are no extra dishes to clean.

You’ll discover what a delight it is to make low-fat, low-calorie smoked dishes (and sure, you can make ribs with all that brown sugar and molasses, too). If you’ve toyed with the idea of buying a smoker, or feel deprived because you have no space or justification for one, now an inexpensive aluminum bag can let you get smokin’. Smoke out the details in the full review below.

     
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Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.

 

More Ways To Smoke It

Old Smokey Smoker Emerilware Smoker
Old Smokey Electric Smoker. Here’s one alternative to SAVU smoker bags: an aluminized steel smoker. Just plug it in and add the smoking chips for moist, delicious results. Item #13792. Click here for more information. Emerilware 5-in-1 Smoker. This heavyweight, nonstick cast iron cookware is a 5-in-1 because it smokes, roasts, grills, fries and broils. Item #23590. Click here for more information.
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SAVU Smoker Bags: Simply Smokin’

INDEX OF REVIEW

MORE TO DISCOVER

Introduction

The trouble with smoking food at home is, well, the smoke: No one wants a cloudy kitchen.  But the Smoker Bag, from Finnish company SAVU, eliminates that problem. The whole process takes place in an enclosed package.  In our tests (we tried the bags in the oven, but they can also be used on a grill), a slight smoky smell developed after a few minutes of cooking, but it was neither unpleasant nor overwhelming—and certainly no thick, eye-burning fog.  Upon opening the bag to find, say, perfectly smoked chicken thighs, there was just a bit of steam. (Savu means “smoke” in Finnish.)

In fact, we adore this product. When the bag smelled like bacon, we knew we were in for something special, but what we got surpassed all expectations.  Succulent ribs arrived in a fraction of the time they’d spend over a traditional smoker, with the pink “smoke ring” we expect from good barbecue.  Delicate smoked fish was equally simple to make: Place food in the bag, seal, place the bag in oven, cook, eat.  Since the 11x19–inch bag holds up to three pounds of food, it’s possible to cook a whole meal in it.  And SAVU Smoker Bags are a good excuse to smoke vegetables—an unusual and delightful taste surprise. Those who don’t like to eat their veggies may well ask for seconds and thirds.

SAVU Smoker Bag
Inside each package is a single-use, 11"x19" aluminum smoking bag with an under-panel of wood chips.

About Wood Smoking

Since prehistoric times, smoking has been used as a means of flavoring and preserving meat. At its simplest, it requires hanging food over an open wood fire. While most commonly associated with meat and fish, smoking is also used for cheese, fruits, nuts, even hard-boiled eggs. 

As early as 3500 B.C.E., the Sumerians (and perhaps the Chinese as well) were smoking fish. Black smoked apricots were considered a delicacy in T’ang dynasty China (618-907 C.E.). The Romans enjoyed smoked cheeses. Fish smoking in Europe may date back as far as 2000 B.C.E. Large-scale herring smokehouses existed in the medieval period. The Scottish salmon we enjoy today has roots in the 19th century. 

Until the advent of modern transportation and refrigeration, heavy smoking was necessary to keep food from spoiling. Today, the trend is toward lighter smoking, just for the flavor.*

*Since wood smoke contains some carcinogenic substances, the trend toward lighter smoking is definitely a good thing, healthwise.

Source: The Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson. 

Smoking With SAVU

This has been a truly delightful new product discovery; as apartment dwellers with no access to outdoor cooking, we now can smoke food whenever we like. The smoky aroma is enticing, and we’re glad we like it, because New York City kitchens aren’t allowed to have exhaust fans that send the aromas outside. An olfactory presence remained for quite some time after the food was consumed!

Typically, after the first 15 minutes of high-heat cooking, the temperature can be lowered to about 350°F, or medium heat on the grill (a chart of cooking times is provided).  The bag puffs up like Jiffy Pop, but sinks once taken off the heat. Here’s what we tried:

Smoked Chicken Legs
Two pounds of chicken can be smoked in a single bag.

Smoked Fish

For our first go, we used a SAVU Alder bag and cooked a thin piece of Arctic char (char is a relative of salmon and trout). After 15 minutes in a 475°F oven, plus ten minutes rest before removing the fish from the bag, the char was cooked through but still moist, and had a noticeable smokiness to it. It was tasty when hot, but we preferred it cold, either on its own or with bagels and cream cheese.

Chicken With Potatoes & Garlic

Next, we tried a meal-in-a-[SAVU Hickory] bag. The bag held about two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which we seasoned with salt and pepper, as well as a handful of fingerling potatoes and a head of garlic, which we cut in half crosswise. We cooked them for 15 minutes at 475°F and then 30 minutes at 350°F. The thighs came out nicely cooked and pretty juicy, with a pleasantly light smoke flavor. We ate some of them hot and saved the rest for a fantastic smoky chicken salad. The smoked potatoes and garlic were a real treat—the smokiness was subtle enough that the foods retained their character, while developing a new depth of flavor.  The garlic was squeezable and the potatoes precisely tender. They’d make a conversation-starting potato salad or would be great just served cold.

Ribs

As much as we loved our first two dishes, what really wowed us were pork ribs, which we cooked in an alder bag with a simple meat rub. After an hour and 15 minutes (15 minutes at 475°F, then 55-60 minutes at 350°F), the ribs turned out succulent and perfectly tender—not mushy, just right. After opening the bag, we crisped up the ribs under the broiler and added barbecue sauce. The smoke flavor was noticeable, but not too potent, and the interior meat developed that pink “smoked” color. For ribs, the smoker bag was a fabulous timesaving method with pit-quality results.

Some recipes are available online at BigAcres.com and on SAVU’s website. Whatever you choose to smoke—and you can get as creative as you like—we think you’ll love the results of SAVU Smoker Bags. Unlike the commitment of owning and cleaning up a smoker, these no-muss, no-fuss bags let you dabble in smoking and treat your friends and family to a cornucopia of smoked spécialités de la maison. As wine connoisseurs discuss the “finish,” or lingering aftertaste of the wine, SAVU delivers a smoky finish that lasts for quite some time after the last bite has been consumed.

Cooking Tips

SAVU Smoker Bags are really simple to use, but a little guidance can help make your food perfect. The Smoker Bag package is loaded with helpful tips. Here are pointers we found useful, plus more from our own experience:

  • To check doneness, you can carefully unfold or cut the bag and remove a piece with tongs. Just watch out for steam! If your food needs to cook longer, it can be put back in the bag and returned to the oven. If undercooking is a concern, we recommend unfolding the bag rather than slashing it open. 
  • Food does not brown in the Smoker Bag. To get color on your food, ten minutes before the item is done cooking, cut a hole in the bag and continue cooking. Smoked food can also be finished under a broiler.
  • If you don’t brown your food, be sure to top it with chopped herbs, for color.
  • Since it takes practice to be sure of exact cooking times (suggestions on the package are good, but not exhaustive), we recommend using forgiving cuts and types of protein (fatty fish, like salmon; dark meat chicken or duck) to decrease the risk of food drying out.
  • If for some reason your meat or fish does become a bit dry, chop it up and toss it with mayonnaise (we love using Lemonaise from The Ojai Cook, another NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week) for a smoky salad.


Pork Chops
Ingredients go into the smoker bag (shown in its
unfolded state).

Smoked Pork Chops
Delicious smoked pork chops and smoked vegetables emerge.

Serving Suggestions

Serve your smoked food directly from the bag (a dish-saver or convenience when picnicking and camping), or transfer to a platter before serving. You can really get creative with these great bags. We smoked chicken thighs, fish and ribs, but the possibilities are vast. Some ideas:

Fish & Seafood

  • Smoke Fish.  Salmon, char and tilapia are some favorites; smoked scallops are delicious. While perfect as hot food, try serving the fish cold, for brunch, lunch and first courses at dinner. The smoked fish goes great on a bagel, and makes delicious hors d’oeuvres on a cracker or bread slice with some dilled sour cream, yogurt or crème fraîche (you can grate some lemon zest on them, too).
  • Smoke A Clam bake.  Don’t forget the corn-on-the-cob!

Picnic
Cooking outdoors with SAVU smoker bags makes picnic and camping food more exciting. Everything is contained in the smoker bag, so there’s no mess to clean up.

Meat & Poultry

  • Smoke Poultry & Game.  We especially like smoking dark meat—don’t forget duck, which is even more luscious when smoked. Leftovers make great sandwiches and salads.  Smoked wings are a treat.
  • Smoke Beef, Lamb, Pork & Other Favorite Meats. While you might not think of them first, steaks and chops work very well here.
  • Brisket, Ribs & Other Barbecue Meats. These and other traditional tough cuts are must-tries. Use your favorite rubs and sauces.

Vegetables

  • Smoke Vegetables. Vegetables work great; just don’t use anything too soft (like zucchini).
  • Smoke Dinner-In-A-Bag. Toss veggies, protein and all into the SAVU bag, and a delightful dinner emerges—no flipping, turning or stirring required.
  • Smoke Potatoes.  Try them hot, cold or in a potato salad.
  • Smoke Rice. You can even steam (thus, smoke!) rice in the bag. We can’t wait to try this!

Smoking Methods

There are two different methods for smoking foods: cold smoking and hot smoking. Each creates a different texture and flavor in the food.

Hot Smoking

In hot smoking, an item is both smoked and cooked. Food is either held directly above a fire or is enclosed in the same structure as the smoldering wood. Hot smoking, which occurs between 180° and 250°F, eliminates bacteria throughout the meat or fish. Barbecuing is a form of hot smoking; use of a smoker bag in the oven is also hot smoking.

Cold Smoking

Cold smoking is a process in which the item to be smoked is held in an unheated chamber. Smoke passes from a separate firebox into the container holding the food; the temperature in the cold chamber is somewhere between 32°F and 90°F. This is generally a longer process than hot smoking; for some foods, it can last up to two months. Cold-smoking does not cook the food, nor does it kill the microbes within the flesh. For this reason, it is often used along with salting, which has disinfectant properties. Bacon and smoked salmon are examples of foods that are cold-smoked and salt-cured.

Wood

In addition to the choice of cold or hot smoking, several other factors may affect the character of a smoked food, beginning with the wood over which the food is smoked:

  • Different varieties of wood impart specific flavors. Wood choice tends to be a matter of regional availability, preference and tradition. For example, hickory and mesquite are common in the U.S., oak is typical in the U.K.
  • Soft woods add color, hard ones don’t; but soft woods can also impart a bitter or resin-like taste.       
  • Whether the wood is wet or dry will affect the character of the smoke.

Humidity is also a factor. Here, humidity is a good thing: Wet surfaces accelerate the flow of smoke vapors into the meat, generating greater absorption.

But you don’t need to be a “smoking pro” to serve up tasty smoked dishes; you just need SAVU Smoker Bags. Hand them out as gifts and you’ll be doubly popular.

 

— Alissa Dicker

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves smoked foods and low-calorie, low-fat cooking techniques.

SAVU SMOKER BAGS
Alder and Hickory

  • Single-Use Bag
    $3.50

    6 Bags, $3.20 Each
    12 Bags, $2.99 Each
    Mix & Match

Purchase online* at BigAcres.com

For more information about SAVU, visit www.savu.fi/english/index.htm. The navigation is not apparent, so click on everything!

SAVU Smoker Bags - Alder and Hickory
Smoke your way to culinary magic with SAVU smoker bags, in two varieties of wood.

*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. THE NIBBLE does not sell products; these items are offered by a third party with whom we have no relationship. This link to purchase is provided as a reader convenience.



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