By smoking salt, you can give food a smoky flavor without doing any actual smoking. It’s pure smoke in a jar.
Game plan: This recipe makes 1/3 cup smoked sea salt, but you can smoke larger quantities. Just use a larger pan and make sure the salt sits in a thin layer in the pan.
Special equipment: We recommend using a charcoal grill or a smoker for this recipe. You will also need long heatproof tongs, matches or a lighter, newspaper, 2 buckets of water (one to soak the wood chips and the other to refill the aluminum loaf pan), 2 oven mitts, 1 disposable aluminum 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, 1 disposable aluminum 8-inch square pan, and an oven thermometer.
A chimney starter, which looks like a large beer stein, is handy for lighting charcoal. They can be purchased at hardware stores or online.
Lump charcoal is preferred because the charred pieces of wood burn hotter and cleaner than briquettes, the uniform black pillows made from carbonized wood and a starchy binder. If you do buy briquettes, avoid the self-lighting ones, which are laden with chemicals.
Buy pure, resin-free, bark-free wood chips. Choose your wood chips based on the origin of the ingredient you are smoking. For example, use cedar chips for Pacific salmon and hickory chips for Southern catfish. For this recipe, we recommend hickory chips, but any wood will do. Wood chips can be purchased at most hardware stores and grocery stores during the summer months, or online.
This recipe was featured as part of our smoking project.
Prepare the grill: Remove the cooking grate and set it aside. Fill a chimney starter three-quarters of the way with charcoal, then pour the unlit charcoal onto one side of the charcoal grate. Using tongs, stack the charcoal in a slight slope against the side of the grill bowl. Remove 1 cup of the wood chips from the water, shaking off any excess, and lay the damp chips in the middle of the unlit charcoal. Fill the chimney again halfway with charcoal. Place the chimney on the charcoal grate next to the unlit coals. Twist two or three sheets of newspaper, form the twisted paper into rings, and place them under and inside the chimney. Light the newspaper through the holes at the bottom of the chimney. After about 5 minutes, the charcoal should be red and flames should have appeared toward the top of the chimney.