Here's a smoking hot trend this summer: instead of steaks and burger patties, consider throwing rice or chocolate the barbecue. ©Elena Elisseeva/

(Relaxnews) – You’ve smoked brisket, ham, ribs and fish, but what about throwing rice on the barbecue? Or chocolate, cheese and cocktails?

As summer barbecue season kicks into high gear, intrepid grill masters looking for the next big challenge may want to consider expanding their repertoire and pulling out unconventional foods for the smoker, a trend that’s already hit forward-thinking restaurants across North America.

According to Ted Reader, who wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Smoking Foods, which was released in April, the rising interest in smoking is a knee-jerk reaction to the frenetic pace of life: smoking is an art form that returns to rustic, slow cooking and requires patience, labor, and above all time — perhaps the most valuable commodity today.

“Nowadays, in North America, we work long hard hours,” said Reader in an interview with Relaxnews. “People want to slow down, and want that experience of creating something that takes patience and time.”

Reader’s latest smoking epiphany, meanwhile, extends beyond traditional barbecue meats to Arborio rice, which he said gives an added complexity to risotto.

Unlike long grain rice, Arborio rice is more porous, making it ideal for smoking, he said, as the flavors are more apt to build up and penetrate each grain.

The result is a risotto with a depth of flavor and richness that serves as a perfect accompaniment to backyard barbecue menus or elegant dinner parties.

Another unexpected application of smoking foods involves cocktails, a trend that’s described as a natural spillover from the popularity of summertime barbecuing and outdoor grilling.

Mixologists are smoking ice cubes, cola, and spirits like tequila and Campari, as well as lining rims with smoked salt.

Cold smoking, which accomplishes the same flavor enhancement at lower temperatures between 40 F (4C) to 120 F (49 C), is ideal for foods like cheese and chocolate.

Other applications of smoking include everything from fish roe and smoked duck breast to yogurt and beer.

Meanwhile, a YouTube video showing viewers how to build their own cold smoker with just a tin can, smoking pellets and a soldering iron has garnered more than 245,500 views.