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How To Make Smoked Ice Cream (Really)

You know I smoke and/or grill just about everything. But ice cream? Yes, folks, I've even smoked ice cream. It's not as strange as it sounds.
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Photo by Richard Dallett.

You know I smoke and/or grill just about everything. But ice cream? Yes, folks, I've even smoked ice cream. It's not as strange as it sounds. I broke ground in my first television show with my recipe for Baked Hawaii--ice cream-filled, meringue-coated pineapple. Grilling iconoclast Victor Arguinzoniz of the restaurant Etxebarri in the Basque village of Axpe smokes the cream he uses to make ice cream. And I once interviewed chef Mehman Huseynov in Baku, Azerbaijan, who demonstrated how he did it: He dipped frozen ice cream balls in beaten egg, crusted them with shredded coconut, and grilled them quickly over a screaming hot fire.

Adding smoke and its umami flavors gives incredible depth to ice cream. Think s'mores. Smoke works exceedingly well with the sweetness and complements the richness. In my experience, a premium vanilla-flavored ice cream works best. Chocolate is my least favorite as the smoke seems to amplify its natural bitterness.

Obviously, exposing this cold treat to smoke and live fire presents a unique challenge: how to keep the ice cream from succumbing to the heat.

Here are two methods:

  1. On a charcoal grill: Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high (400 degrees). Place the ice cream over a bowl of ice on the grill. (Alternatively, freeze a couple of inches of water and use that as a cold barrier between the ice cream and the heat.) Add 2 cups of unsoaked wood chips to the mounds of embers. Cover the grill and smoke until you see a light patina of smoke on the ice cream, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the ice cream over with a spatula and smoke the other side the same way. Remove the ice cream from the grill. If it melted too much, refreeze it.
  • In a smoker: Set up your smoker following the manufacturer's instructions. Place the ice cream over ice (a bowl of ice or a pan of frozen water). Add the unsoaked wood chips to the fire. Smoke as above. You may need a bit longer to put a patina of smoke on the ice cream. If the ice cream starts to melt, refreeze it.
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    Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Project Smoke on public television. His web site is BarbecueBible.com.