Who thought that smoked paprika would rise to be such a catch in the spice arena? Well, if you doubt it, you’re just about to witness the beauty of this herb in its full regalia.
The best part is we’ll be showing you how to use it, what dishes work well with smoked paprika, and even how to make some of your own from the comfort of your home. If that’s something that interests you, stick along for in-depth details!
What is Smoked Paprika?
Assuming you’re familiar with the regular paprika, smoked paprika is an elevated version of the same. The latter though stands out because it is made from dried, ground chili peppers which have been previously smoked over oak or beech wood. It boasts of a deep red color and rich flavor that will add that special touch to almost any dish.
Traditionally, smoked paprika has its origin deeply rooted in Spanish culture. This is before it infiltrated into Western recipes and became popular. Today, smoked paprika comes in two versions-either hot or sweet.
With the hot, the seeds in the peppers are maintained before being ground into a fine powder while the sweet version has them removed to provide a milder taste.
Some other common names for smoked paprika that you may hear are; Pimenton, Pimenton de la Vera, Picante pimento, or Spanish paprika.
How Hot is Smoked Paprika?
Generally, you shouldn’t be worried about the heat level in smoked paprika. If you’ve tried spicy sauces or ingredients in your foods, then this shouldn’t be anything far off the standard.
How we know this is based on, the Scoville scale, a universal scale used to measure the heat ratings of pepper. According to this, the lowest-scoring contender falls on bell peppers which typically register below 100SHU, while the highest scales up to just over 3,000,000 SHU.
Sweet smoked paprika averages between 100-250SHU, while hot smoked paprika rounds up to 500-1,000 SHU. These units are far below cayenne pepper which is regarded as considerably hot at 30,000-50,000 SHU.
How to Make Homemade Smoked Paprika
Being that we live in the DIY era, we might as well show you how to make your own smoked paprika whenever you need a quick restock. Alternatively, you may pick up some from the grocery store or market, only that at times the commercial varieties come up very mild despite the label reading hot.
Making smoked paprika at home guarantees freshness, plus you can tweak the recipe to suit your preferred taste.
Before anything, here’s what you will need;
Rinse and Prepare the Peppers
If you have a home farm, it shouldn’t be hard getting your hands on chili peppers. You can experiment and mix up several kinds depending on what you have, ie: cayenne peppers, red peppers poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, Alma paprika peppers, etc. Ensure that they are in good condition before putting them to use.
Begin with a thorough wash and proceed to cut them open. You want to remove the center, stem, ribs and seeds if you’re aiming for a sweet version. Remember peppers will naturally have a strong smell and oils that could burn, so have on a pair of gloves and a mask if you’re preparing a huge batch. Either way, it’s a safety precaution that could spare you a horrendous allergic reaction.
Cutting the walls of your peppers thinner will save you time in the smoking stage. You can leave them whole but if you do, you risk a humid outcome which will not work well in the grinding phase.
Smoke the Peppers
Once ready, the next thing is to fire up your smoker. The classic wood and charcoal combination has been found ideal for this step. Use a clean charcoal bed and ensure it is hot before throwing in the wood. Hardwood like oak is good for imparting an earthly flavor onto the herbs.
The process should be low and slow, thus indirect heat is your friend in this case. And as you can imagine, it may take a fairly long while before all sides of the peppers are nicely smoked. We’re talking days, even weeks depending on what kind you used and the size.
In case you own an electric smoker, have one burner fairly high as the other is maintained on a low. At night, you could turn it off whereas in the case of a traditional smoker, allow the fire to burn down.
An estimate of about 15 days is enough to have imparted the smoky flavor, however, this may vary from person to person. While at it, do not forget to occasionally flip your peppers with tongs so that they char evenly.
Pro-tip, dry the peppers without adding any oil onto them to maintain that water-resistant seal.
To find out more about how to use an electric smoker, click here.
Dry the Smoked Peppers
Once out of the smoker, place them onto parchment paper before making a transfer into your oven or dehydrator for drying. Given the option, a dehydrator is superior in ridding all moisture and humidity but if you don’t have one an oven could equally get the job done. Just make sure to set it at a low temperature and have the pieces thinly sliced.
With a dehydrator, a temperature of about 125 F should last the process roughly 10 hours. Midway, you can always be back to check on the progress and turn your smoked peppers the other way.
Keep in mind that the time may fluctuate depending on the weather and size of the peppers so adjust accordingly. What you want to achieve is a wrinkly look by the time they are out and the kind that easily breaks too.
Prepare the Dried Peppers for Use
Congratulations if you made it this far, you’re almost there!
From the dehydrator, unless you have urgent use for smoked paprika, it’s probably a better idea to hold off the grinding. This is to preserve the smoky flavor as much as possible.
So instead, seal the dried peppers into an airtight jar and wait until the appropriate time. As long as all the humidity was driven out, they should have a long shelf life.
Direct sunlight and heat are averse to stored food items. Though dry, the peppers could easily start to get sweaty which will interfere with how long they last.
The better approach is to store in a cool dry place far from unwanted heat. Spice cabinets are a great start and if it helps, you could have an air conditioner to maintain room temperature.
Stored correctly, you could get about 6-8 months of use out of them.
How to Use Smoked Paprika
The spice works wonders with chowder, stews, red /white meat, egg dishes, potato dishes, even cheese. You could add it in your mixed spices and use it as a rub before smoking BBQ or try it out on a plethora of Spanish cuisines. Either way, the results will be finger-licking.
If it’s your first time experimenting with smoked paprika, there are a couple of silent rules you should acquaint yourself with.
- First, never go overboard. You’d rather start small and work your way up depending on how much of it you like. About half a teaspoon is a good place to start while you adjust to the quantity that suits your taste.
- Heated paprika is much livelier than cool smoked paprika. Seeing as you may need to cook it, ensure that you use very low heat without exceeding one minute. Beyond this and you might burn the paprika causing it to stick and blacken.
- Once opened, ensure to consume it within a period not exceeding 12 months. Before you trade in your money, confirm that the expiry date is not close by.
Smoked Paprika Substitutes
Now, it may be difficult to replicate the exact flavor smoked paprika brings on, but a few alternatives may come close.
- A combination of regular paprika with a bit of cumin powder to improvise on smokiness.
- If you have no paprika at all, substitute it for chili powder and sprinkle some cumin. Beware it could get spicy.
- Liquid smoke is great for infusing the smoky touch, however, you will lack the deep red color.
- If you’re no stranger to heat, chipotle pepper powder makes for a seemingly close substitute, however, you need to be gentle with the amounts.
- Still, on the spicy alternatives, cayenne pepper is ideal except for the fact the smoky factor will be a miss. The good news though is that it’s easily available.
While regular paprika is good, the smoked version is a complete game-changer. It works for any type of food that could do with some subtle smoke and the results are tremendous. Whenever you can’t seem to find a supplier, you can always make your own and enjoy the rich extra delicacy.