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Make sure your peppers are clean! Wash and dry them before smoking them.
Remember to only use fresh peppers and throw away rotten ones.
Wear gloves to remove the stems, ribs, and seeds, the center of the peppers. You can slice the thicker and larger peppers into thinner ones or into rings.
Leave them whole if you prefer, but they will take much longer to dry.
However, you can cut a slit in each whole pepper to make sure that the smoke can penetrate.
Remember that gloves are important when working with peppers.
Their oils can burn your skin and it’s not like it will go away immediately. The pain can linger!
Make sure your smoker is ready for the peppers.
Use the tongs to turn the peppers at least once a day until you see them gradually dry out.
This will take days, sometimes even weeks, depending on the size of the peppers.
If you’re using an electric smoker, you can turn it off at night.
If you’re using wood though, allow the fire to burn down at night.
The process of drying La Chinata is quite different.
As mentioned, the peppers are harvested in October and from the field, they are moved to a smoking house that Spanish farmers often have in their own land.
The traditional way of drying the peppers is by smoking them using firewood from holm oak, which usually takes about 15 days to ensure that fruit is already dry.
Smoked peppers will have a lovely aroma, but they are still pretty much wet and fleshy, which is not very ideal for storage.
Use your baking parchment paper to dry the smoked peppers in the oven in the lowest possible setting.
Turn them a couple of times until they are completely dry inside out.
As for the traditional process, the paprika is dried under the sun, which results to a more intense flavor and aroma, the signature for most Spanish cuisines, from salami and chorizo to paella.
To dry out the smoked peppers faster, smoke the peppers for only a day and complete the drying process by using a dehydrator.
Transfer your peppers to your dehydrator trays and let the magic work by setting it at 125 degrees F for about 10 hours tops.
When they’re done, it’s now safe to store the peppers in tightly sealed containers and use them as needed.
Always store your smoked and dried peppers in an airtight container.
Only grind them once you’re ready to use them.
Holding off the grinding process until use is a good way to preserve its smoky flavor.
When stored, smoked peppers are generally OK for a few weeks, but to get the best taste, ground them at the time of use.
Store your sealed smoked paprika away from direct light and heat, such as a drawer or a closed cupboard, and always away from the oven.
Smoked paprika doesn’t exactly go bad, but it loses potency in a period of six to eight months.
You can use smoked paprika in soft cheeses and cooked eggs, and it also goes well with white fish, pork, and chicken.
You’ll also find it a natural match with tomato-based dishes and potatoes.