How does smoked food tie into the paleo diet?
The paleo diet allows for many different cooking methods, steaming, boiling, frying (in good fats of course), roasting and open flame cooking. There are many ways to cook food so that it is safe to eat and delicious. However, smoking food always seems to get a bad rap. Is it because its name associates itself with burning? Perhaps the burning of food?
I don’t think so…
Smoking certain foods can actually benefit their nutritional profiles. Take for example salmon. Provided the temperature of the smoke and its associated heat is below 95 degrees Celcius, it appears as though the Omega-3’s found in our favoured fishy friends actually become more stable, and because of that I’m assuming more bio-available, too. I’m not sure how our cavemen ancestors discovered smoking food, but it is historically one of the oldest methods of preserving foods.
I think that much like that old saying “It’s not that the wind is blowing, it’s what the wind is blowing” applies to smoking food as well. Most mass produced smoked foods, such as smoked salmon, are probably smoked with whatever is available to burn. Saw dust is a common smoking fuel source, presumably because it’s cheap and burns well. What you really want though is a wood source that is as pure as possible and that won’t alter the flavour of the fish past what will already change as a result of the actual smoking. Sounds tricky, but in reality all this requires is some wood which is easy enough to burn so that it smokes, but not full of pesticides and that sort of thing.
Our ancestors, and in this instance Native American Indians used to expose meat and fish to smoke and the air at the same time. This basically dried out the meat and preserved it for future eating slightly. Strictly speaking, meat “cooked” in this way actually doesn’t cook at all, as heat levels are actually pretty low. Smoke has an effect on foods where it “coats” its surface with antioxidant containing phenolic compounds. These phenolics help prevent meat going rancid and also enhance its nutritional value somewhat.
Quite smart, our ancestors were. That is of course assuming that our common cavemen ancestors were indeed smoking foods. Regardless, it is a huge part of many different cultures cuisine and is simple, resource efficient and necessary for survival in certain situations, such as surviving winter or a drought.
How to ensure smoked foods are as paleo as possible
I’d recommend ensuring that if you do buy smoked foods that they are smoked using real wood and not synthetic or other methods. I’m sure there are some really horrible chemical methods that are used to smoke large amounts of foodstuff, and that is scary.