Amazing flavours and a great way to maximise the meat you harvest. Dom Holtam gets smoky with the Bradley Digital Smoker

credit: Archant

My wild meat harvest can be a bit boom and bust depending on the time of year and also the time I have at my disposal… so any way to ring the changes and to extend the shelf life of the food I hunt is always appreciated.

I have always loved barbecued and smoked food – and I suspect most humans are hardwired to respond to the taste of smoke and fire given our evolution. Smoking has been a way of preserving and flavouring food for thousands of years, but like every other process in life, the technological revolution has had its say.

credit: Archant

My earliest memories of smoked food were as a six-year-old: freshly caught brown trout and thick rashers of bacon hot smoked on the river bank with friends and family. When in later life rifle shooting provided a glut of venison or boar, I built a homemade smoker from an old metal cupboard, some ventilation piping and a disused pedal bin. It worked – sort of – but it was erratic and hard to control precisely. And I hated the thought of ruining such a valuable resource as prime game.

I also have a barbecue with a smoke box attachment which does a good job of adding smoke flavour, but, again, there is the problem of accurate temperature control so essential for cold smoking techniques. So my quest has been to find a system that delivers this much-loved, millennia-old flavour but in a modern, efficient and consistent way. And that quest led me to the Bradley Smoker.

credit: Archant

The Bradley Smoker takes this traditional technique into the 21st century. Their aim was to create a system that delivered clean, continuous smoke without the need for constant attention. The sawdust is crucial – it needs to smoke well, at a low temperature and not burn down to ash. The consistency and size of the sawdust flakes is also critical to the process.

So Bradley has developed its ‘bisquette’: a puck of perfectly compacted sawdust of an exact consistency that burns with minimum heat energy and, thanks to the clever automated feed system, needs no attention at all once you have programmed the digital time and temperature controls. There is a separate heating element that can turn the smoker into an oven for hot smoking. Ingenious.

Nathan Outlaw and Mark Hix are among the top UK chefs and restaurateurs who swear by the Bradley system, but it is also popular with fishermen and shooters who enjoy making the most of the food, the catch or kill. In the US, where BBQ and smoking is almost a religion, there are online forums devoted to the product!

It is a very simple system to use: I was a bit apprehensive given how complex the device looks when you unbox it, but the instructions are simple to follow and the digital control panel very straightforward. It is easy to set the time and temperature and the autofeed system keeps poking briquettes in every 20 mins for their optimum burn-time, jettisoning the spent pucks into a bowl of water that also helps maintain humidity during hot smoking. You do have to allow 20 minutes for the smoker to pre-heat before you start but you have to preheat any oven and pre-burn a BBQ, so not a great problem there.

Size-wise, the four rack is ideal for home use. Not enormous but big enough to deal with larger joints of meat. For commercial use or if you smoke a lot of big joints, there is a six-rack version that is considerably bigger. Or if space is at a premium, there’s a ‘counter-top’ model. There is also an optional cold smoke adaptor to prevent the internal temperature exceeding the 30 degrees celsius maximum during a long smoke.

Suffice to say that if it flies, swims or runs, there is a decent chance it will be ending up in the smoker over the next few weeks!

We have some more great game recipes here:


Pigeon Crostini

Baked Trout

Smoked Wood Pigeon