The original reason for smoking food was to preserve it – primarily meat- in the days before refrigeration. Prolonged exposure to smoke and the warm air that comes with it, dehydrate the meat to a good degree. With thorough smoking and storage of meat in a cool, dry, dark environment it can be preserved for some time, even years.
The wonderful bonus of smoking for preservation is the delicious, enticing flavor and aroma exposure to smoke adds to the meat. Need we say another word besides, “Bacon?”. Just ask Jim Gaffigan if you question me.
The flavors of food of all kinds are enhanced by exposure to smoke. This includes ones you’ve probably enjoyed like cheese and seafood in addition to newer, “foodie” creations like smoked butter and smoked sea salt. This kind of smoking equates to seasoning the meat – or any kind of food – with the flavors of the wood used to create the smoke.
Think of the best smoked brisket you ever tasted. The pit master who created it for you, devoted at least a day of his/her life to that piece of meat and put a lifetime of experience into selecting just the right combination and proportions of woods (probably oak, hickory, and mesquite) to produce the smoke that flavored it. In either case, many hours can go into imparting food with the delicious wood smoke flavor we crave.