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Dr Smoke And The Culinary Crew Recipes And Tips

Follow the Smokinlicious® culinary crew as they explore the use of wood fired cooking, grilling, ember grilling, flavoring and smoking! Smokinlicious® the premier manufacturer in North America! Manufacturers of over 30 different sizes cooking wood products in 8 distinct flavoring species!

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Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via

For those of you who love bourbon, we’ve got a special cocktail for the sampling. This is a rather festive drink containing cranberry. We add an additional layer of flavor by cold smoking the cranberry cocktail syrup for a unique blend of sweet, tart, and smoky. Let’s get started on how it’s done.


Our smoked bourbon cranberry cocktail starts with the ingredients for a cocktail syrup. Similar to traditional simple syrup, this one has a bit more acid in the form of white wine vinegar. You’ll need to gather together:

* 1 cup of fresh or frozen cranberries

* 1 cup of white wine vinegar

* 1 cup of sugar

You also need a saucepan and heat tolerant spoon.

Start by placing a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the white wine vinegar and the cup of sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar. Next in, one cup of cranberries, fresh or frozen, though I’m using fresh as they are available at the time of this recipe. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring constantly. Once the sugar is dissolved and the cranberries have reduced, remove from the heat and allow to cool in the saucepan. While the mixture is cooling, let’s prepare the handheld smoker for the smoke vapor infusion.


It’s never been so easy to produce smoked ingredients with the development of the handheld food smoker. It all began with The Smoking Gun™ which is the unit I will be using today, but know there are many options available to you. I set up my handheld food smoker with Sugar Maple Minuto® Wood Chips.

Bringing the cooled saucepan to a table, I have a piece of press and seal at the ready, but you can use plastic wrap, a food storage bag, or vacuum bag, anything that will provide a seal. I seal around the saucepan leaving a small opening to insert the tubing of the food smoker. Turning the unit’s fan on, I light the wood chips and allow the smoke vapor to fill the saucepan. Once filled, I release the tubing from the pan and seal the pan completely with the wrap, allowing the smoke to penetrate the cranberry syrup. The longer the pan stays wrapped, the more smoke flavor the syrup will take on. Once infused, remove the wrap and prepare to make the cocktail.


To make the cocktail, place ice in a rock glass. Add ¼ cup plus a splash of your favorite bourbon. Add two tablespoons of seltzer and two tablespoons of the cranberry syrup. Stir and add a tablespoon of fresh cranberries. It’s now ready to serve! Smoky Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail – a unique drink for all those bourbon lovers you know.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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For thousands of years, it was the only way to cook. Many believe that this discovery separated man from the other animals. Fire.

Estimated to have been discovered some 2 million years ago, the discovery of fire and more importantly, the discovery of how to tame fire, resulted in man’s brain development, value of food, changes in our body, and social structure. It gave us survivability. It extended our life by improving daily calories and nutritional needs by allowing us to cook poisonous plants and meats.

So how did fire cooking get discovered? That is the million dollar question. Here are some of the hypotheses out there regarding the discovery of fire for cooking:


There are some scientists who believe that fire cooking was found by accident. A lightning strike or grass fires that sprung up due to the excessive dry conditions exposed to the hot sun. Many don’t feel man did anything to “discover” fire other than observe the characteristics of fire: it produces abundant heat, light, and when it traps an animal within its flames, it produced a more tender meat, easier to digest food source, and more pleasing aroma to the meat.


There are others who believe that early humans realized the importance of tools. By sharpening stones to produce spears, cutting tools, etc., these early beings observed spark. Either through intention or perhaps with Mother Nature’s assistance, these sparks caught twigs, brush, fruit, and/or grains on fire. Remember, early human life did not involve a developed brain. A discovery of fire, however, would help advance not only our brains, but our bodies into the erect beings we are today.


In South Africa’s Northern Cape province, a dwelling known as Wonderwerk Cave, contains the earliest evidence that our ancestors and apelike ancestors were using fire. Compacted dirt showed evidence of ashes, carbonized leaf and twig fragments, and burnt bits of animal bones. Scientists were then able to analyze this material and determine that the fragments were heated between 750 and 1300°F, which is the heat level of a small fire made of twigs and grasses.

If indeed our earlier species learned to harness fire for cooking, this would account for the advancement of our brains and our ability to become erect beings walking on two legs. Cooking on fire allowed for easier chewing and digestion and produced extra calories to fuel our brains. Fire also warded off nighttime predators, allowing for sleep on the ground or in caves rather than in the trees.


Raw food diets have been popularized as a method of losing weight and of being healthier. However, only a fraction of the calories in raw starch and protein are absorbed by the body via the small intestine. As a result, the remainder passes into the large bowel, where it is broken down by the organ’s high population of microbes, which consume the majority for themselves. However, cooked food is mostly digested by the time it enters the colon. For the same amount of calories ingested, the body gets roughly 30 percent more energy from cooked oat, wheat or potato starch as compared to raw, and as much as 78 percent from the protein in an egg. In experiments, animals given cooked food gain more weight than animals fed the same amount of raw food.

Cooking breaks down collagen (connective tissue in meat) & softens the plants’ cell walls to release their storage of starch & fat. The calories to fuel the bigger brains of successive species of hominids came at the expense of the energy-intensive tissue in the gut, which was shrinking at the same time. If you look at early imagery of apes, you’ll see how we morphed into narrow-waisted Homo sapiens.– the history of fire cooking part I

Coming up in The History of Fire Cooking: Part II, learn more about why cooking foods by fire made us who we are today. In conclusion, did we provide you with new information you didn’t know? Additionally, leave us a comment and subscribe as we bring recipes, tips, techniques, and the science behind the fire and smoke.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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We’re putting a new flavorful twist to traditional quiche by adding a cold smoked cheese combination that’s perfect with this egg and cream based recipe. Be sure to see our previous series on cold smoking cheese on the stove top, then bring your favorite cheeses to this easy, basic recipe. We’re making smoked cheese & bacon quiche!


Quiche is one of those recipes that doesn’t have a lot of rules. The base is eggs, cream and pie shell or pastry. The fillings are yours to experiment with. For our Smoked Cheese and Bacon Quiche, you’ll need the following ingredients:

* 9-inch pie crust

* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

* Fresh ground pepper

* Kosher salt

* ¾ cup heavy cream

* 1 large yellow onion, diced

* ¾ lb. of bacon, cooked and crumbled

* 6 eggs

* 2oz. shredded smoked swiss

* 2oz. shredded smoked muenster

* 1oz. fresh smoked mozzarella, diced


We start off our recipe by first cooking the onion. Taking 1 yellow onion, peel the skin and dice this. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a hot skillet. When melted, add the diced onion. Let this sweat for about 3 minutes until translucent, then stir. Cook until the onion browns and crisps slightly. This should take less than 6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside while you begin to prepare the wet ingredients.


After cooking the onion, it’s time to assemble the other ingredients to our quiche. Start with 6 large eggs in a large bowl. Add the ¾ cup of heavy cream and whisk until combined. Add the cooked onion, followed by the bacon that has been precooked and chopped. If you’re short on time, feel free to use precooked bacon strips commonly available in most grocery stores. Whisk all these ingredients together until well combined.

The final ingredients are your favorite smoked cheeses. In my version, I’m using Swiss, muenster, and fresh mozzarella, which have been previously cold smoked for about 4 hours. My technique was a stove top smoking application using a cast iron pan. You can visit our previous series on this technique. Once all the ingredients are combined, it’s time to pour the batter into the prepared pie shell. This recipe will make one 9-inch quiche. Now place in to a preheated 350°F oven for 40-45 minutes.


After cooking in a 350°F oven for about 45 minutes, a golden crust will form on the top. Allow the smoked cheese & bacon quiche to cool slightly before cutting it into serving slices. Loaded with the saltiness of the bacon, the creaminess of the smoked cheese, and the sweetness of the cooked onion, this is a great dish for brunch or dinner, or even served as an hors d’oeuvre. If you want to add more smoke flavor, feel free to ember cook the onions or smoke the bacon. Smoked Cheese & Bacon Quiche – soon to become your favorite quiche recipe!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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In today’s age of selling products and services, there are acronyms that are common to marketing and sales strategies. First, there is B2B which refers to business to business relationships. This means that a product or a service is sold from one business to another. An example of each would be windshield wiper fluid being sold to gas stations and attorney services to large corporations.

B2C is shorthand for business to consumer. This is selling a product or service directly to a customer that is not necessarily a business.

Now, you may automatically assume that SmokinLicious® would fall under both these sales types, and you would be right. But there is another acronym you likely aren’t familiar with: F2C.


F2C refers to factory to consumer or more specifically, manufacturer to consumer. There are many reasons why this is a plus to both businesses and consumers doing business with a specific manufacturer. Let’s examine the major advantages from the perspective of doing business with SmokinLicious®:


As the manufacturer of all the products sold under the brand SmokinLicious®, we can provide the specifics on where the hardwood comes from, the age of the wood, the handling of the product, the treatment the wood is exposed to, and the details on packaging. You don’t have to wait on answers to your product questions like with a supplier who is simply a re-seller of the wood. We give answers immediately!


When you are committed to manufacturing a specific product, you tend to know that product thoroughly. For SmokinLicious®, that equates to us knowing not only about wood fired cooking techniques like hot smoking, ember cooking, and cold smoking but we know the science behind hardwood; molecular biology of the wood as well as for combustion. We know why smoke gives flavor and how to respect and control it.


We aren’t simply selling a product to move it out of inventory. As a manufacturer, we are committed to answering questions whether on email, via phone, or social media platforms. No, we don’t operate the phones 24/7. But we do get back to anyone who contacts us, usually within 24 hours. We are available to everyone!


Sometimes I feel the word “passion” is overused but that word really does describe the people who make up the SmokinLicious® Team. We are passionate about cooking with fire and the smoke it produces. We simply love to offer our perspective on cooking with wood. Remember, just because someone sells a specific product doesn’t mean it was a dream of theirs. It simply may be the “thing” to do with no real commitment. Who wants to commit to that type of supplier!


We have a test kitchen/patio and we use it – all the time! That’s the only way you can know all the different applications for the product we manufacture and sell. We possess the skills to guide you on what might be causing bitter flavors, poor color, equipment failures, and so much more. Plus, we offer daily postings on recipes, tips, techniques, and the science behind cooking with fire and smoke.


We can be everywhere because we know our commodity and the regulations that relate to our products. We don’t cut corners because we are as concerned about our environment and forests as the agricultural agencies around the world. You won’t ever need to worry about having your supply cut off because a regulation or law wasn’t followed.


You’re purchasing smoking wood to cook with. That means, food is exposed to the wood’s components. Don’t you want assurance that it’s clean? We only sell hardwoods for cooking and culinary use! That’s it! We don’t take waste product from some other wood process and sell it off under a new label or brand. We don’t buy woods from anyone who can’t document on paper where the smoker wood is from and if exposure to chemicals is possible. SmokinLicious® is exclusively a culinary wood product!

These are just some of the advantages to working directly with and purchasing directly from a manufacturer, or F2C. When you want assurances that any question you have can be answered, that any product need can be met, that your equipment will be protected, then seek a direct manufacturer first and eliminate a middle man that may only be in it for dollars and cents. Or one day you could simply find they’re no longer in business or they no longer can ship product throughout North America or other continents, leaving your Company with a big problem.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via

Who doesn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich! We are taking this grilled sandwich favorite and elevating the flavor with a cold smoked cheese assortment. Get the griddle or cast-iron pan ready! We’re making Smoked Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Pepper Jelly!


Certainly, you can purchase smoked cheese in the specialty grocery locations but we have a step-by-step series showing you the easy method of stove top smoking cheese that can be done in just a few hours. For our version of the smoked grilled cheese sandwich, you’ll need smoked cheese – we are using an assortment that includes Swiss, muenster, horseradish cheddar, and fresh mozzarella. In addition, you’ll need some fresh sliced tomato – sliced about ¼-inch thick -, a firm bread – we’re using sourdough and salt rising -, hot pepper jelly, and mayonnaise. You’ll also need a griddle, cast iron skillet, or other heavy duty frying pan and spatula for cooking your sandwiches. Oh, and feel free to do this on a grill if you like.


It’s important that your griddle or pan be hot before starting the sandwiches. I recommend a medium setting. If using cast iron, let that pan heat up about 5 minutes before starting the cooking process. First up, take a bread slice and coat one side with mayonnaise. Yes, I said mayonnaise not butter. It produces a nice browning and crisping to the bread beyond what butter can do. Place mayo side down in the pan and add your sliced smoked cheeses. Top with a tomato slice. On the second slice of bread, coat one side with hot pepper jelly, leaving a little bread border near the edges as the jelly will migrate during cooking. Place pepper jelly side down on the tomato. Now coat the face up side of the bread with mayonnaise.

This starts the monitoring stage. You want to peak at one corner of the sandwich after cooking about 3 minutes. If you see golden brown, it’s time to flip the sandwich. Once both sides are cooked, remove to a plate.


As I have 4 smoked cheeses to choose from, I like to put a combination of cheese on a single sandwich. Once you have a chance to experiment with the different combinations, you’ll find your favorites. It’s important to slice your sandwich on the diagonal while still hot so each half has a chance to marry all the flavors with the bread. Now, kick back and enjoy all that smoky, gooey goodness. Just be sure you have more than one made as it likely won’t be a single sandwich event!

I’ll bet you’ve already come up with your own variation of the Smoked Grilled Cheese Sandwich! Your comments and ratings are much appreciated, so subscribe and follow us so you don’t miss a thing. We always welcome your suggestions as well on recipes and techniques you want to learn about. We are your source for all things wood-fired, providing tips, techniques, recipes, and the science behind the fire.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.

Food & Smokehouse Processing Double Standard?

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Self-disclosure here. I work for a USA cooking and smoking wood company that has earned recognition for its commitment to manufacturing quality products specifically suited for many culinary professions, trades and interests. Even though not required to do so, the company treats its entire product line as food additives. This is an important point for my following observations.

I’ve always been especially impressed how reputable food processors and manufacturers accept, follow and even exceed many of the numerous public regulations in place to provide consumers with safe and healthy food products. For the most part our nation’s food industry operates from a philosophy that maximizes consumer protection by prioritizing food safety. Clearly, we’d be in a world of hurt if it didn’t!


Recently, I tuned into a very popular realty television program which showcases “dirty” jobs- I think you know the name. Maybe you’ve even seen it. Like most other episodes, this show highlighted a series of tough job tasks, performed by hardworking employees. This episode dealt with all food processing elements of a very high quality, perishable specialty deli meat item- Lebanon bologna.

It’s impressing that the company, for over 100 years, goes to great heights in sourcing only the best ingredients. Its processing methods seemed to be top notch. Except a few of the techniques shown in the latter stages of the show highlighting smokehouse operations. At first it was disturbing to see that the main source of smoking wood is wood slabs with bark on considered to be “mill waste material.” If that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t believe when a worker demonstrated their process of generating smoke in the smokehouses. Step #1- douse a rag with kerosene, light it and kick it in to the burn pit of the smokehouse. To me, the very defining aspect of this company’s high-quality food product, smoked bologna, has been denigrated with a cheap, uncleaned and potentially harmful fuel source and an ignition process that is archaic and potentially harmful.

For the life of me, I can’t truly understand why a company that has been in business since 1902 and is apparently known in large markets for having the very best ingredients to make its consumable food products would revert to a smoking operation that involves waste wood being ignited with nearly the same petrochemicals that fuel the likes of a diesel locomotive? Given the residuals of burnt petrochemicals, I’m not sure I’d ever want to eat any of their smoked deli meats.


So, I guess the adage of you are what you eat apparently doesn’t have the same meaning with this company. It appears their smoking method hasn’t evolved much beyond the same dirty way done 100 years ago, before health risks came to the forefront. When considering that smoking methods are a big part of their overall food products, I can’t help but think that a double standard is in place with the consumer to suffer.


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There is something about the perfect pasta dish that isn’t necessarily loaded with a ton of ingredients. I’ve found that the perfect pasta often features only 2-3 ingredients in addition to seasonings. For me, the perfection is in how each of those ingredients contribute to the overall dish.

This is a pasta dish that features the smokiness of Brussels sprouts paired with the citric acid of lemon peel. Mix in the sweetness of caramelized onion and a full-bodied dish emerges.


The simplicity of the ingredients is what makes this such a flavorful and pleasurable dish. Start by smoking about a pound of Brussels sprouts – you can see our previous series on how to smoke these on the gas grill, an extremely easy and quick method. Then gather 3 tablespoons butter, 1 medium yellow onion that is thinly sliced, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or flavored olive oil, 1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, 1 lb. of cheese tortellini, and the zest of 1 lemon. With the Brussels sprouts already smoked, the cooking time for the rest of the dish is about 20 minutes.


Put a pot of water on for the tortellini to cook according to the packaged directions. What keeps this recipe extra simple is you can use frozen tortellini or fresh packaged rather than making your own and it will be just as spectacular a dish as if you made every ingredient yourself. We start with thinly sliced yellow onion in melted butter, releasing the sweetness of the onion. Once translucent and browning, add the smoked Brussels sprout quarters. Toss together just until the Brussels sprouts heat through.

While the onion and Brussels sprouts cook, our water for the tortellini is salted and brought to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, the pound of cheese tortellini is added. I’m using a frozen variety but you can certainly use fresh. Remember, tortellini is a filled pasta that does not take much time to cook to al dente so don’t turn your back on the pot. It will only be a matter of minutes once the water regains boiling level. Tortellini has the proven sign of being cooked when they float. Once cooked, transfer to a large bowl.


With the tortellini cooked, it’s time to pour the cooked smoky Brussels sprout and onion into the bowl. Once combined, add the tablespoon of olive oil. I’m using a Tuscan flavored olive oil for just a bit more refined flavor but plain EVOO will do. Time to finish this off with fresh ground pepper and salt. The final ingredient – grated lemon zest. Zest right over the bowl. I like a lot of lemon zest so I zest the entire lemon.

After smoking Brussels sprouts using cherry wood, we made a hearty pasta dish that blended the flavors of sweet onion, smoky Brussels sprout, and lemon zest. Added to cheese tortellini gets a smoky mate, this is so flavorful and easy to make. Think of the many variations you can give this dish: adding butternut squash, or zucchini cubes, or perhaps chestnut when in season. Even artichoke hearts. So many opportunities to put your own fingerprint on this dish.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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Many people have their favorite tool when it comes to outdoor cooking. It might be a wireless thermometer, specific grill grate, awesome fire safe gloves, or the go-to chimney starter. For me, it’s likely the least expensive item you can think of – the disposable foil pan. I’m going to list for you my top 6 uses for a simple and inexpensive foil pan.


This is likely the primary way I use a standard rectangular, ¼ sheet size disposable pan. I let this pan act as both a drip pan to collect juices from say pork shoulder, brisket, or lamb as well as to act as a water pan to produce a convection environment. I love to load my pan first with vegetables like rough cut onion, whole garlic, celery, carrot, fresh herbs, etc. I also like to use different liquids based on what I’m cooking. For fish and seafood, I like juices and wines. For meats beer, ciders or full-bodied wines. I rarely ever do simple water in my water pan.


There are times when you need to ensure that your charcoal is positioned ideally for specific foods to keep the heat distribution ideal and the cooker’s walls from radiating too much heat in a certain direction. One of the easiest ways to ensure that the heat radiates in the correct direction is to use a disposal foil pan. Once your charcoal is ready to be dumped from a chimney starter, dump it directly into a foil pan. This allows you to set an indirect method of cooking on a charcoal unit with greater ease. It also will keep the walls of the kettle grill from radiating too much heat to the center of the grill for the grilling of more fragile items like pizza, breads, and cakes. No more burnt centers, just even cooking.


Anything made with aluminum will be a great radiator and retainer of heat. That’s why I love to use disposable foil pans as warming units. When paired with a foil insulated blanket, you can maintain all types of proteins for up to 2 hours perfectly. Plus, if any liquids should leak, they will be capture in that pan.


Whenever I make a substantial amount of something say pulled pork or smoked potato, I love to be able to pass along some of my efforts to family and friends. I love how these disposable pans can go from my hands, to someone’s refrigerator then to their oven or grill without needing to do a thing. These pans will not change the flavor of the food and can easily have liquid added to them without concern.


If you’ve ever used any glass, silicone, or enamel items on your smoker, you’ve probably had to deal with 2 issues: baked on creosote which is usually a brown-black tar like substance and imbedded smoke flavor in your silicone, something you cannot remove. Aluminum does not absorb flavors and any visible discolorations are simply thrown away with the pan. You don’t have to worry about clean up in any way.


By purchasing a good quality stainless steel grill grate, just a small one, you can turn a foil pan into a beach grill. I call this a beach grill as the easiest set up is with sand already present on a beach but you can certainly purchase and bring to another location, a small bag of sand. Bring along or collect some rocks to act as a containment or barrier for the hot coals and fire. Mark an area around the pan using the rocks. Add charcoal to the pan and lite or pour hot coals directly into the pan from a chimney starter. Once the embers are hot, place a grill grate over the pan and you’re ready to grill with this disposable unit. The best part – all the ash will collect in the foil pan for easy disposal. Oh, and don’t forget to use the hot coals after for something great for the next day. Lay some peppers, hot or sweet, onions, even baked potatoes and your setting up for another meal.

These are just some of the great ways disposable aluminum foil pans can be used for outdoor wood fired cooking to keep things organized, simple, and still flavorful.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.

Our Smoked Carrot Cake

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Carrots are ready for picking and for cooking! We’ve got an easy smoking technique that can be done with whole, sliced, even grated carrot. Once smoked, we are taking all that flavor and making an oil-free, carrot-almond cake with ricotta cream.


Carrots are known for their supply of antioxidant nutrients but they are also prized for their benefit to bone mass. Rich in Vitamin A, biotin, vitamin K, fiber and so much more, carrots offer a variety of color options: traditional orange, yellow, white, purple, and red. As they are considered a hardy root vegetable, then tend to keep longer than most other vegetables. On the grill or smoker, they work perfectly at absorbing the level of smoke vapor you want for recipes.


As carrots are a root vegetable, they can get a lot of dirt on them. It’s important that you wash them well and then pat dry. If you want to smoke your carrots whole, simply trim the ends. My plan is to use these in our smoked carrot cake recipe so I’ll introduce my carrots to the food processor to produce even shredding. Once shredded, I place in a grill safe, flat pan. I’ll be using two SmokinLicious® single filet wood chunks in Wild Cherry to keep the flavor on the mild side. These chunks are placed on a lit burner set to medium-low. Only that burner will be on! Preheat the grill using all burners, then when the carrots go on the grill, turn off all the burners but the one with the wood chunks.


As I’ve elected to preshred my carrot for the eventual cake recipe, the actual smoking time will be quite short. I don’t want to remove all the water content naturally found in carrot as I want a moist cake. My total cooking time is roughly 15 minutes. If you do want additional smoke flavor without dehydrating your carrots, you can do a handheld food smoker application as well as this a cold smoking technique that will not affect the moisture of the food nor provide any cooking.


With our carrots wood grilled, it’s time to start on the cake ingredients. Preheat the oven to 375°F. First up, 1-1/2 cups of finely ground almonds, preferably blanched, finely grated lemon zest from 2 lemons, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. If you cannot locate pre-ground almonds, you may use blanched slivered almonds and process in the food processor. Add all three ingredients to the food processor and pulse until a fine, ground consistency is achieved. Time to prepare the 9-inch springform pan. First, butter the bottom and sides. Feel free to add a butter parchment round to the bottom of the pan if you wish. Then take a small amount of the ground almond mixture and apply to the sides of the pan. Before we start on the cake batter, melt four tablespoons of butter and set aside.


Now it’s time for the basic dry ingredients for our smoked carrot cake batter. This is a recipe that is oil free. I’ll be using cake flour to bring more lightness to this cake. Here’s what you’ll need for the start of the cake batter

* Unbleached cake flour-1-1/4 cups

* baking powder-2 teaspoons

* salt-¼ teaspoon

* sifter

All these ingredients will be sifted into a medium bowl to bring airiness to the cake. Next up, the wet ingredients. You will need:

* sugar-¾ cup

* 4 large eggs

* almond extract-¼ teaspoon

Crack the eggs in a large bowl and add the sugar. With an electric mixer set to medium-high speed, beat the egg mixture until pale, foamy, and thickened. Reduce the speed to low and add in the remaining almond mixture, almond extract, and the flour mixture. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated into the cake batter, take the 4 tablespoons of melted butter and pour over the batter, gently incorporating. In goes the smoked, grated carrot – about two cups. Just combine those items and then spread the batter into your prepared 9-inch springform pan. I’ve used orange carrot for this recipe as they were available in the garden but I prefer yellow carrot for a golden color all the way through the cake.


Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F once the cake is placed on the middle rack (From the preheated oven of 375°F). It will take about 40 minutes to cook through. While it’s baking, I make the ricotta cream. Gather together:

* ricotta cheese-1 cup

* sour cream-1 cup

* honey-2 tablespoons

* confectioner’s sugar-2 tablespoons

* Grated zest of 1 lemon

Combine all these ingredients and refrigerator until the cake is ready to serve.


With our cake lightly browned and springing back when touched in the center, it’s ready to come out of the oven and cool. Once the cooled cake can be plated to a cake stand, I take about ¼ cup of confectioner’s sugar and sift the sugar over the cake. Now it’s time to slice this succulent cake and serve our ricotta cream on the side. This is a very subtly smoked carrot so you will not get an overwhelming smoked flavor. In fact, if you don’t tell anyone you smoked the carrot, they likely will never know. Experiment with flavors you like – swap crushed pistachio for the almond, coconut extract for the almond extract. You can even dust with cocoa powder. Anything goes! Don’t forget, only dust the cake with the confectioner’s sugar before you’re ready to serve as this cake is very moist and will increase in moisture as it sits.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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One of the things we do at SmokinLicious® for commercial-grade customers is take in a sample of their current smoking wood and analyze it. When you’re a Company producing a food product, you need consistency of the final product. When it comes to smoked foods, this can be a challenge as wood is a plant material that can be highly variable when put through the stages of combustion. If a mixture of woods is used in the process, combustion rate, biochar production, volatile burn off, and other parameters of the wood can be affected in a negative way.


If price is the only factor guiding your decision on a wood supplier, then you are playing a game of roulette. Just like any other business transaction, you should be looking for authenticity of the wood. Let me give you an example:

Germany is the only country currently taking direct steps to protect woods on the endangered species list. Yes, there is such a list with 183 countries participating in some level of enforcement. The direct goal of The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is to prevent deforestation but the challenge, as with most lofty goals, is personnel to enforce the regulation. Germany is uncovering case after case of fraudulent wood sales and finding that less expensive woods in the manufacture while invoices reflect another more expensive wood.

Now look at smoking wood products. There are no regulations. A company can package wood product of pretty much any condition, label it as a specific species, and put it into the marketplace. There is no accounting for:

▪ how the wood was collected

▪ what the wood pieces are made from

▪ treatments conducted on the wood

▪ if the wood is 100% of a specific species

▪ the origination of the wood

▪ the age of the wood


I can’t even count how many times we’ve visited a Company’s location to view their wood supply and find that what they thought they were purchasing is not what’s present. Some suppliers have gone so far as including softwoods in the product labeled as hardwood! This doesn’t happen with just the larger pieces of wood either. Micro chips commonly used in industrial smokehouses rarely contain 100% of a said wood. Perhaps this is the reason why packaging regulations for a smokehouse bacon or ham can state it is Applewood smoked when Applewood may have only made up 10% of the wood used in the smoking process!


The budget for wood can be substantial for companies and restaurants. You have every right to demand a product’s accountability. Ask questions!

What is the origin of the wood? Remember, many smoking wood suppliers are not involved in the manufacturing process. They are the seller not the manufacturer meaning they likely have little or no knowledge of the history of the wood.

Has the wood undergone any processes? Kiln dried? Preservation chemical added? If the wood didn’t start out for cooking, it is likely that processes used to stabilize the wood for its main purpose, say flooring, were applied. That won’t make it the best choice for a cooking method or even a safe choice.

You have every right to request a Letter of Guarantee or Letter of Authenticity. Remember, woods used for food preparation or cooking currently have no universal regulations. The only wood regulation that exists in the USA is regarding moving firewood and that is regulated primarily by the individual states.

Why be so concerned about the wood when we don’t consume wood?

We may not consume the wood in its natural form but we certainly consume food products cooked over or near that wood, that infuse many of the organic compounds of the wood. Not all organic compounds are good. There are many known toxicities in certain species of wood with softwoods containing the highest risk. That is the reason why you should never cook with a softwood. Other wood has the potential to cause sickness and in some cases if a person’s system is already compromised, death.

Take the time to learn about the wood you will use in the cooking method and ask the questions that could be the difference between a successful venture and partnership with your wood supplier or a disaster you simply didn’t need.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via

A favorite of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts came to the United States via French immigration in the 18th century. They are dominantly grown in California and available June thru January making them a Fall and holiday menu favorite. SmokinLicious® will take the flavors up a notch and add wood smoke into Brussels sprouts for two upcoming recipes. We’ll do this on the gas grill fit with wild cherry wood chunks to bring subtle smokiness to the finish sprouts. First purchase 3 lbs. of Brussels sprouts and get two cherry single filet chunks, and you’re ready to fire up the grill and get smoking.


Bringing the flavor of wood smoke into Brussels sprouts is so easy. To start, gather about 3 lbs. of Brussels sprouts, some cooking oil, butter, and a heavy-duty skillet. I prefer a nut oil like walnut or almond. For a skillet I’ll be using cast iron. I’ve trimmed the ends on about half the sprouts and for the other half, I’ve trimmed the ends and cut them in half. That’s it! Fire up the grill and get ready for a quick method of adding great wood-fired flavor.

It only takes a couple of pieces of wood chunk to bring fabulous flavor to the grill. I set up a cast iron pan on one side and place two cherry wood chunks on the heat shields of the far burner. Let the pan heat up for about 5 minutes then pour in a couple of tablespoons of oil and heat. Right before I add the Brussels sprouts, I add a couple of tablespoons of butter. In go the whole Brussels sprouts and the lid comes down. Leave untouched for about 5 minutes before turning.


As I have two recipes in mind I’m cooking two batches of Brussels sprouts: one batch whole and one batch halved. After leaving for 5 minutes, I stir them to ensure that all surfaces are infused with wood flavor. I maintain a temperature of 350-375° F which will make this a quick cooking method. The first 5 minutes, the lid is down but once stirred, you can finish the cooking with lid up. Remember, cast iron will retain heat, so you can turn the heat off and let sit for about 5 minutes.

After stirring a couple of times, both the whole and halved Brussels sprouts are ready in about 20 minutes time. I simply remove them from the heat and bring them in to be added to my favorite recipes.

I have two recipes I’ll be working on: Smoky Brussels Sprout Gratin and Tortellini with Lemon and Smoked Brussels Sprouts. These truly are the most flavorful Brussels sprouts! For those of you thinking about a holiday meal with them, well, the grill will give you that extra oven room you need. Take advantage of the long harvest season and try these mini cabbages on your grill. Check in for our recipes soon so we can get you started on how to use your prized sprouts.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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You love different techniques for cooking and absorb new information like a sponge. In particularly, you love outdoor methods of cooking. One of your favorites is plank cooking on cedar wood. Every time you read a recipe, they all call for use of a cedar plank or cedar wrap.

But is cedar really the best choice? More so, is cedar a safe choice?

Let’s examine the top 6 reasons why cedar may not be an ideal cooking wood choice.


Cedar wood is not a hardwood. It is a softwood that is from the gymnosperm trees meaning, it is a conifer or cone producing tree. As a rule, softwoods should not be used for cooking as they contain a lot of air and sap which equates to a fast burn and unpleasant flavors. In fact, there are many softwoods that can be toxic if cooked over.


During plank cooking, you are using the wood as a vessel to infuse flavor to whatever food is placed on top of the plank. Here’s the concern with cedar – because it is a lower density wood (23 lb./ft³), it has very poor fire resistance. That means, it reaches full combustion much faster than hardwood and will burn as a result. Certainly, that’s not what you’re looking for when you plank cook.


Unlike hardwood which contain pores in the cell walls, softwoods like cedar are poreless. They use cell components called tracheids to transport water and nutrients. In addition, the organic compound lignin found in the cell walls, is much lower than in traditional hardwoods used for cooking. Why is this an issue? Lignin is what gives wood fired cooking the distinct flavor and aroma to foods. For cedar, the average lignin composition is 20%±4 compared to common hardwoods used for wood-fired cooking which average 28%±3.


Cedar contains chemical properties (specifically plicatic acid) that are shown to be a good absorber of odors and moisture. This is one of the key reasons why cedar is a preferred softwood for pest control to keep fleas, ants, mites, moths, and mosquitoes away. When exposed to plicatic acid for lengthy periods of time, a condition known as “cedar asthma” can develop.

Additionally, a regular exposure to the cedar oil found in the wood can result in contact dermatitis or skin irritation, rhinitis, and conjunctivitis.


There are many studies available on how the use of cedar wood chips and shavings have affected animals continually exposed to these products. Most studies show a correlation with liver dysfunction in animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters. In fact, smaller animals, like guinea pigs and hamsters, have a higher incidence of death which may be attributed to plicatic acid exposure. The phenols and aromatic hydrocarbons also have been shown to cause respiratory problems in animals like those listed above.


Cedar is part of the pine family of trees with native origin in North Africa and Asia. There are no native cedar trees to North America. The red cedar common in the Eastern USA is part of the Juniper family and can be highly toxic if taken internally. Under no circumstances should you ever cook with red cedar from the Eastern states of the USA.

USA cedar trees are referred to as false cedars since there are no native varieties. There are commonly 5 varieties of the false cedars available: Western Red Cedar (common to Southern Alaska, Northern California, and the Rockies), Northern White Cedar (Southeastern Canada, Northeastern quarter of the USA, south into Tennessee, and west into Iowa), Eastern Red (Aromatic) Cedar (Eastern USA), Yellow Cedar (Pacific Northwest from Alaska to British Columbia into Oregon), Spanish Cedar (although Native to South and Central America, it was planted in Florida). Every false cedar has some known health risks with the most common being respiratory due to toxicity of its pollen, oil, or other chemical compound.


“So if there are all these documented health risks, how did cedar plank cooking gain so much popularity?” I suppose the easiest answer is that cedar was used by the earliest settlers in the Pacific Northwest as a means of preserving, storing and cooking the seasonal fish. Think about the limitations of the day: they would be using resources that are available without thought to the items we ponder today like health, future risk, etc. This concept was examined from a different perspective many years later with the desire for flavor, appearance, and functionality.

We often make the mistake of jumping into something full throttle before asking some of the key questions to keep our bodies safe and healthy. Remember, there’s lots of documentation out there stating why you should not cooking with softwood yet when it comes to plank cooking, specifically, cedar plank cooking, we don’t seem to carry that issue forward. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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The cooler season is here and that’s the perfect time to think about cold smoking techniques that bring special flavoring to heat sensitive items. First up for us, cheese! We’re lighting up the Technique Cast Iron Stove Top Smoking Pan and loading it up with our favorite varieties of cheese in preparation for a couple of recipes. If you don’t own a stove top smoker pan, see our blog titled “The Kitchen Find” which will guide you on using items likely found in your own kitchen.


Cold smoking requires that you keep the temperature below 90°F. That may sound like a challenge but when you use a stove top smoker – equip it with an ice cube pan – you’re on your way to all things cold smoked. The best chips to use for this method of smoking are SmokinLicious® Minuto® Wood Chips. I’m electing to use Wild Cherry for the balance of flavors between my cheese choices. These chips will combust evenly and slowly, releasing a steady smoke vapor that will work well with the cheese.

First, the stove top smoking pan needs to be set up. The Technique pan comes with everything needed, including a drip pan. We won’t be using the drip pan for its intended purpose but rather, to become an ice pan. An ice pan will help to keep the temperature of the smoking pan below 85° F; and that means you can We fill the bottom of the stove top smoker with ice to reduce the heat and produce some nice steam.smoke all types of foods that normally couldn’t be exposed to heat! (chocolate, cheese, fragile fruits, candies, etc)

Be sure you have a handful of wood chips in the base pan before adding the drip pan full of ice cubes. Place the wood chips in the center of the pan then fill the drip pan completely with ice. Then add the grill pan and get the cheese out of the refrigerator. Remember, you will be smoking the cheese for a few hours so you’ll need to refill the drip pan with ice cubes every hour. There is no need to replenish the wood chips as a single handful will be plenty.


With the heat set to the lowest setting possible on your stove top, the drip pan filled with ice cubes to reduce the temperature even more, the cheese selections which include Swiss, horseradish cheddar, muenster, and fresh mozzarella, are added to the grill pan. Place the cover on and this should be left untouched for at least an hour. Once the hour passes, it will be time to replace the ice cubes in the drip pan. Be sure to leave the cover on the grill pan when changing out the ice tray. This should be done every hour up to the final hour you want to smoke. I am doing a four-hour process on my cheese today so I will replace the ice pan three times. That’s it!

Once infused, remove the cheese, wrap in wax or parchment paper and refrigerator for at least 2 days to allow the smoke vapor to release throughout the cold smoked cheese process. Then get ready to enjoy your smoked cheese as is, or include in recipes. We have 2 recipes coming up: A smoked cheese and bacon quiche and smoked grilled cheese with tomato and pepper jelly.

I hope I’ve inspired you to try cold smoked cheese on the stove top. We need your comment and rating, so subscribe and follow us so you don’t miss a thing. As always we welcome your suggestions as well on recipes and techniques you want to learn about. We are your source for all things wood-fired, providing tips, techniques, recipes, and the science behind the fire.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.

Is It Fresh? Here’s Why You Need to Know

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I always find it interesting when we receive a new inquiry about providing specialty products for commercial-grade smokehouses. I’m speaking specifically to the large commercial-grade smokehouse. The type that utilize walk-in, wall smokehouse units that can turn out hundreds of pounds of product each cycle.

First, there’s always the question if we can duplicate the current wood chip product. That’s where the education begins.


Sending the current wood supply sample is key to determining what should be used in product. Once we provide the video review of what is in the sample in terms of sizing, we’re on the way to getting an understanding of why the current product may not be ideal. Our concern is not just the overall flavor and color to the finished product, but also to reducing equipment failures that may occur from clogging of the wood material due to dust particulants.


Following our discussion on product sizing, it’s time to explain why ordering fresh product is key. We don’t operate on the concept that you need tons of extra product inventory sitting in your location, making the potential for color changes to the wood, moisture depletion, and susceptibility to mold spores a reality. Instead, fresh product is produced when you need it, allowing for consistency in your smokehouse products’ flavor and color. I know this is a stretch when there are many suppliers out there who encourage you to order pallet after pallet of product with the incentive of saving 10% if full truck loads go out. Good luck getting the premium flavor and color your looking for with that old, dehydrated product!


We know every customer we have the privilege of doing business with needs assurance that we can cover their needs. That’s why our entire Team is involved to ensure that we can ship earlier if needed. We take the time to monitor your Company’s usage and predict your next order. Or, we can set up a shipping schedule you’re comfortable with that is easy for everyone involved and won’t require extra, valuable storage space be used.

Yes, you could say we are not the norm and we’d be just fine with that. In fact, we encourage it. To us, there’s nothing like cooking with fresh product that has been designed with your Company’s needs in mind. That’s why our superior product will give you a superior outcome. Fresh hardwood product for unmatched smoke infused food products. That’s the SmokinLicious® way!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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There are lots of stories out there in the BBQ world about creosote! Most have the same tone: creosote is not something you want when you cook with wood.

Unfortunately, that can never happen as creosote is always present in wood.

So, why has creosote become the monster of BBQ cooking?

Likely because there is confusion with another type of creosote: coal-tar creosote, commonly used to preserve such things as railroad ties, telephone poles, bridges, etc. You know when material has been exposed to coal-tar by the black, charred appearance.


One of the primary advantages to having creosote in hardwood is its ability to act as a preservative. Long before equipment was designed for cooking, people would dig holes in the ground to produce a smokehouse for preserving game meats they hunted. It was the only method of ensuring safe consumption when refrigeration wasn’t readily available.

Wood-tar creosote is colorless to yellowish and presents as a grease or oil consistency. It is a combination of natural phenols which are the natural compounds that produce the flavors of BBQ when the wood is combusted or burned. In addition to the distinct flavor, phenols are also responsible for the aroma and color of BBQ foods.

Guaiacol is a compound derived from methyl ether and is responsible for BBQ’s smoky taste while the dimethyl ether syringol is the chemical responsible for BBQ’s smoky aroma.


Now that you know not all of creosote’s chemical composition is bad, what are the risks to a wood-tar creosote?

The biggest risk is in burning wood that is not at an ideal combustion rate. I’m sure you’ve had experience with campfires that produce an acrid aroma and literally cause a foul “taste” in the air from poor combustion rate (too slow burning). That is the challenge and risk when using wood products with food for hot smoking. Remember, hot smoking requires temperatures that are lower – generally below 275°F. To achieve a consistent low temperature, you must control air intake and damper or exhaust. If you don’t achieve a good balance, the result will be a sooty, bitter tasting and smelling food outcome.

How do you know if your crossing into risky and poor outcome territory?

By the color of the smoke. A poorly balanced combustion of wood will produce a black smoke. Repeat these conditions and you’ll stimulate creosote deposits within your equipment which can reduce the draft needed to ensure the fire gets enough air to optimally combust. Remember, creosote on its own is highly combustible which is why there are many wood stove house fires occurring due to poor maintenance/clean out of these units.


Now that your aware that phenolic compounds, specifically guaiacol and syringol are key to tasty, flavorful BBQ foods, let’s talk about these compounds in specific hardwoods.

Interestingly, Beech wood is highly prized and used in Europe for smoking particularly in meat processing facilities. This is no surprise to me since Beechwood has one of the highest percentages of guaiacol when at a high heat level (distilling). Know that the phenolic compounds present in all wood distill at variant percentage levels and usually require a combustion temperature of nearly 400°F to peak. Yet another reason why you want to keep a balance to your fire so combustion is optimal. Thus the resulting flavors and aromas are pleasant.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via

Whenever we reach the transition between Winter and Spring, I like to start transitioning my meals from hearty comfort foods to a bit more health conscious to prepare for the “less clothes” season coming. Since I’m in the southwestern portion of New York State, our warmer temperatures can be a long way away from the calendar date of the first day of Spring.

That’s when I love to do dishes like Indian curries!

Hearty and filling, but loaded with healthy vegetables, I’m taking the traditional potato curry to a new level with my smoked potato!

Despite the many ingredients, this is still a very simple dish.


Gather together the following ingredients:

* 2 cups smoked potato (see are previous posting on how to smoke the potatoes)

* 1 cinnamon stick

* Clove, cardamom, fennel seeds, curry, turmeric, chili powder, coriander, cumin

* 1 large red onion

* 4 garlic cloves

* 1 green chili

* 2 tablespoons tomato paste

* 1 can butter beans

* 2 medium tomatoes

* 2 tablespoons butter

* 1 cup water

* 1 teaspoon kosher salt

* 2 tablespoons high heat oil


The first ingredients to incorporate will be the cinnamon stick and fennel seeds. fennel seeds. Heat the 2 tablespoons of high heat oil – I’m using coconut oil – in a pan. I’m using cast iron for the even heat distribution and retention of heat. Once hot, add the cinnamon stick and fennel seeds and stir to keep the seeds from burning. While infusing these flavors, mix together 2 teaspoons of curry, 2 teaspoons of cardamom, and 1 teaspoon of cumin. Add these dry ingredients to the oil mixture and stir well.

You’ll start to smell the wonderful aromatics of these spices.


Continuing to build on our flavors, I chop 4 garlic cloves and add to the spiced oil as well as 3 green chili slices, mixing well. Allow these ingredients to tenderize for a few minutes then add your diced red onion. But be sure you stir well to allow everything to incorporate. Allow this mixture to cook on medium heat until the onion has become very tender and begins to darken in color, meaning it is sweating. Now, get ready to add even more spice flavors.


Once the garlic, chili, onion mixture has tenderized, it’s time to add more spice. Then, mix 1 teaspoon each of coriander, turmeric, clove, and chili powder together. Add to the onion mixture in the pan stirring well. Now we are ready for the 2 cups of the previously smoked potatoes. Mix everything together well. As the potatoes tenderize, you can break them apart into smaller pieces if desired. Then add 1 cup of water and allow the mixture to simmer. At this point I turn my heat down to medium-low.


Let’s add some additional meatiness to this dish by first incorporating 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Next, 2 diced tomatoes and the can of butter beans which if you don’t know, are white Lima beans, a great cholesterol lowering legume and rich in fiber! Mix well and allow to simmer. At this stage, you will see the ingredients thicken. If you would rather more of a thick soup consistency rather than gravy consistency, feel free to add additional water.

After simmering for about 8 minutes on medium-low temperature, I add 2 tablespoons of butter to the mix. If you’re dairy free, feel free to eliminate the butter and you’ll still have a wonderful dish.

I like to serve my smoked potato curry with chopped fresh green onion on top and brown rice on the side. Taziki or Greek yogurt adds a nice touch as well for those looking for a “cooling” affect to the dish.

Now, dig in and see how versatile this dish can become. Think about changing the smoked potato for a grilled or smoked eggplant, zucchini or yellow squash. All wonderful options for this vegetable hearty dish.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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You’ve heard me mention before how great it is to ember or coal fire certain foods, with a good majority of those items falling in the fruit category. One of the best fruits to use this technique with is eggplant.

Lots of Nutritional Value

Eggplant, also called aubergine, is part of a flowering plant grown for its edible fruit. This is a thick-skinned fruit that has a meaty quality to its flesh. In fact, it can make for a filling meal. Eggplant contains a lot of water – 92% to be specific! It is not known to be a contributor for daily nutritional intake. Despite all that, Eggplant remains a favorite ingredient to cook with.

Nestling is Key

When cooking in the coals, it is best to use medium sized eggplant. It doesn’t matter what variety you select, the technique for cooking in the coals will remain the same.

Starting the fire

First, you need to start with a good wood fire, using clean hardwood. In order to do this technique successfully, you need to ensure that there are no flames left in the fire, just hot coals. You’ll know the coals are ready for the cooking when they are completely grayed over. If your grilling area is large enough, you can stage a couple of burning wood pieces to provide additional heat to the area. Just don’t cook directly in those flames.

When the coals are ready, make sure the embers are in an even layer and then place the eggplants side by side in the embers. I like to use a fine screen in the bottom of my charcoal area to aide in heat retention. Now, leave these untouched for about 10 minutes. After that time, you can turn the eggplant to ensure all sides get evenly charred. If you make a large enough fire, you can bury the eggplant completely in the hot coals and not have to do any turning. That technique will require about 30 minutes of cooking time.

Blackened, Charred Skin Makes It Ready

Once the Ember Fired Eggplant has tenderized in the coals, it’s time to carefully remove it. Cool the eggplant, so it won’t burn and can be handled. Then, slice each eggplant open from end to end, and gently scoop out the flesh. Be sure to leave all the charred skin behind. If you’re ready to use this in a recipe, then no need to do anything more to the eggplant. If you plan on using it later, you must prevent the eggplant flesh from turning dark by incorporating 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and enough water to cover the flesh. When finished, it’s best to store the Ember Fired Eggplant in a glass jar, bowl, or other container.

6 Needed Ingredients

To make the Ember Fired Eggplant with Feta Tarts, you’ll need a muffin pan and the following food ingredients:

* Flesh from 1 medium size coal-fired eggplant

* ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)

* ¼ cup roughly chopped pistachios, plus 2 tablespoons for topping the tarts

* ¼ teaspoon ground coriander

* ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes

* 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

* 5 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

* Extra virgin olive oil for brushing dough and preparing muffin pan

Wood Flavored Eggplant Mixture

Roughly chop the wood fired eggplant. Then transfer to a medium bowl and add feta, 3 tablespoons chopped pistachios, coriander, red-pepper flakes, and mint. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper and stir gently to combine.

Making the Tarts

Lightly oil the muffin pan cups. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough on a board and lightly brush with oil. Stack 4 more phyllo sheets on top, brushing each with oil. Cut the stacked sheets into 6 equal squares. Carefully, pick up each square and place in a muffin cup, gently pressing in place. Fill each dough cup with about ¼ cup of eggplant mixture. Gently fold over the corners of the dough to enclose the filling as a tart. Brush tops with oil and sprinkle with crushed pistachios. Then Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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This article was born from a question which was recently forwarded to SmokinLicious® to answer. “Why salt choices are necessary in food despite adding different ingredients even for sweet dish need(ing) salt”.

I realized just how important salt is to the style of cooking known as barbecue.


Salt is a mineral found in crystalline form that is used as a seasoning for food. Simply put, salt brings out the flavor or natural essence of food. Salt choices draw out the natural juices in raw meat and dissolves with the liquid forming a brine that gets reabsorbed by the meat. This results in the meat’s ability to hold on to more of its own natural juices during cooking.


Over the past 5 years, salt choices have become a very hot commodity in the food industry. There are hundreds of kinds of salts but for simplicity sake, I will discuss those that are commonly found in grocery and food specialty stores.


Decades ago, this was simply known as iodized salt. This is the most refined salt that is known to have a metallic taste due to the grinding process and high-heat process to produce it. It is almost pure sodium chloride and has the highest per-granule sodium content of all salts. When used in cooking, the cook generally will use too much due to this refined grind size. I recommend you never cook with standard table salt.


This salt type is made by the evaporation of seawater which results in the retainment of natural micronutrients. Unlike table salt which uses a high-heat process, sea salt provides minerals of iodine, magnesium, calcium, potassium and bromide. There are many different grind levels in sea salt and each of those, affect the taste, color, and mouthfeel of the salt itself.


Known for its ability to distribute evenly on the surface of food, kosher salt is harvested by mining dried up ocean and sea beds. It has a much coarser grind than table salt, which is considered flaky (For cooks, it is reliable, consistent, inexpensive, and pure).


Just as the name implies, this type of salt is used only when a dish is finished, for instance, sliced tomato with mozzarella and basil, grilled to perfection steak, and even watermelon. Therefore, it is considered a very light tasting salt.


I am including tamari and soy sauce as these are very common substitutes for salts in sauces used for barbecue. Sometimes, soy sauce is used in addition to salt or garlic and onion salt for these items, making them much higher in overall sodium content. On average tamari has 700mg sodium per serving while soy sauce comes in at a whopping 1000mg per serving.


Hopefully, you’ve learned how to read an ingredient list on any label. The first ingredients listed make up the largest amount of the contents, while the last few ingredients make up the least. I looked at five (5) popular BBQ rubs and seasonings sold on to see what ingredients made up the bulk of these items and where salt rated on the ingredient list. Here are my findings:

McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning – coarse salt, spices, garlic

17th Street Magic Dust All-Purpose Seasoning & Rub – salt, sugar, dextrose

Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub – brown sugar, sugar, salt

Stubb’s Beef Spice Rub – sea salt, spices, cane sugar

John Wayne Rubs – salt, garlic, sugar

As you can see, salt is a primary ingredient of commercially marketed rubs/seasonings for barbecue. Therefore, I always recommend that you give some consideration to making your own rub or seasoning. When produced in large quantity, you can keep these in the refrigerator for up to a month in an air tight container. Best of all, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you can control the level of sodium in your meal.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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We are going beyond the obvious and the traditional when it comes to items that you can smoke. It’s time to up your skills and menu items with the top things you would never think of to smoke.

Keep in mind, we are not just referring to hot smoking. We’re including the quick technique of handheld food smoking as well as stove top smoking in a pan.

Let’s get to it!

#1 Banana

Honestly, banana can be smoked via an indirect hot smoking method as well as with a handheld food smoker. With a peak season from January thru April, and imports readily available, you can enjoy this fruit anytime of the year! For the handheld smoker technique, skin the banana and expose to the smoke vapor. This just takes minutes. For the hot smoking technique, you’ll need to be sure that the banana is placed on the side of the grill that does not have the heat source so it doesn’t get too mushy.

#2 Sauces

Do you have a favorite sauce recipe that you would love to add a smoky component to? Don’t waste a lot of time trying to get smoked ingredients into your sauce. Instead, just expose the sauce to a cold smoke application using a handheld food smoker. Using this method lets you decide just how strong to make the overall smoky flavor.

#3 Radish

The best thing about radish is all the root colors they are available in; red, white, purple, and black. Their shape can be round or cylindrical and they have the distinct undertone of spice and zest. They are so easy to smoke on a grill with hardwood by slicing them and placing in a vegetable grill pan. You can even place whole radish directly in hot embers to add flavor and char.

#4 Chestnuts

You’re familiar with roasting chestnuts but did you realize that smoking them is just like slow roasting? Chestnuts have a lot of moisture which make them ideal for the grill. Whether on a charcoal, gas or even a standard stove top grill pan, by including wood in the mix, this nut takes on a whole new flavor. Fresh chestnuts are available during the winter months so start planning.

#5 Chocolate

You’ve probably guessed that chocolate smoking can only be done with a cold smoking technique. This ensures that no chocolate melts and all that yummy goodness stays perfect inside. Using a handheld smoker, smoke infusion can take as little as 15 minutes when you let all the smoke captured with the smoking bag dissipate. Otherwise, it can be a short as just a few minutes.

#6 Water

Why would you want to smoke water? First, there are many recipes that require water in them so this is a subtle way to add a smoky ingredient. Second, smoked cocktails are all the rage. Why not smoke the ice cubes instead of the entire drink? The easiest way, is to smoke water and then place it in ice cube trays and freeze. You can smoke the water on a hot smoker, stove top smoker or with a handheld smoker. Lots of options.

#7 Cream

Cream is one of those dairy items that reacts well with smoke vapor. In fact, most items that contain milk by-product will smoke well. I really like cream because you can do so much with it: Include it in sauces, desserts, soups. Each time you use it in a different dish, it will take on a new flavor profile.

#8 Citrus Fruits

All citrus fruits are simply spectacular when they are exposed to smoke. Now you don’t have to smoke the main protein of the meal. Instead, just serve the citrus with it, whether you juice it on fish, add it to a sauce, or drizzle it on your favorite cake. Again, you can hot smoke, stove top smoke, or cold smoke citrus.

#9 Spices

Any spice can be turned into a smoked spice. Want smoked curry? Go ahead! Smoked Cinnamon? You go it! You can smoke any spice easily with a handheld food smoker. In minutes, you can have your own version of any spice smoked.

#10 Herbs

Just as you can do with many of the previous items on our list, herbs allow you to decide where the intensity of the smoke flavor will come from. You can smoke herbs and then sprinkle on top of a dish, you can smoke the herb and add it to a cooked item – think herb crusted chicken, or it can be married with other ingredients that the specific herb is compatible with. Remember, a cold smoke method will keep the herb in its raw state while hot smoking will produce a dehydrated version of the herb that is so much better than those dry herbs you buy in the grocery store.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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One of the most popular winter squash that can be found pretty much anytime of the year, acorn squash cherry wood placed on the diffuser of the gas grill to add a smokey flavor is rich in fiber and potassium. Time to take this squash favorite and smoke it on the gas grill with cherry wood chunks. But first, we’ll give it some flavorful stuffing to make this exceptionally sweet.


Most acorn squash weigh between 1-2 pounds. After cleaning the outside under running water, cut off the pointed end and ensure the bottom is flat so the squash won’t tip while cooking. Now, scoop out the seeds and membrane until clean, just like you would do with a pumpkin. The seed-free squash is going to be our ingredient vessel that will make the acorn squash so sweet and full of goodness.


Once the acorn squash is clean of seeds and membrane, it’s time to stuff it. The ingredients are simple: brown sugar mixed with cinnamon and butter. That’s it!

First put approximately ¾ stick of softened butter into the acorn squash center. Then pack in the brown sugar-cinnamon mix. And I mean pack it in! Be sure to press down so the butter and brown sugar mix combine. Once filled, I sprinkle a bit extra of the sugar mixture on the cut top. Now place the acorns in a pan that will be heat safe on the gas grill. Time to prepare the gas grill.


I’ve turned two burners to “on” of my 4-burner grill. I add two SmokinLicious® Single Filet Cherry Wood Chunks to one of the heat shields on my grill. Next, I add the acorn squash to a roasting pan and set it on the grate of the grill that has the pan with the squash is placed on the non heated side of the grill, while the heated side has the double filet cherry wood chunks the burners turned “off”. This is known as an indirect method of cooking. The squash will cook until tender all the way through. Depending on the size of the squash, this will take between 1-1/2 to 3 hours. Then get ready for the sweet, buttery smooth squash meat!


Even though the butter was placed to the bottom of our squash and the brown sugar mix on top, the lighter weight of the butter will rise to the surface while the brown sugar mix sinks to the base. These ingredients will mix during cooking to sweeten the squash meat. Once tenderized, remove and allow to cool before handling. Then scrap out the squash meat with the cooked butter-brown sugar mix, combine, and enjoy. This is sweet so you can enjoy it as a side dish or as a dessert – a spoonful on pound cake or puffed pastry is define.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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I love thick skinned vegetables that come in season during Summer. They are the perfect items to light a fire and make some hot coals to ember fire flavor into them.

We’re getting ready to coal roast one of my favorite vegetables – zucchini! This is so simple to do and produces an extraordinary flavor for zucchini to be eaten on its own or to be used in your favorite recipe. Clean out the fire pit, charcoal grill or outdoor fireplace and prepare to roast “ember fired fresh zucchini” directly on the hot coals.


Starting the fire to burn down the wood into coals Know this from the start – You do not need a large fire! A small fire is best to accomplish your cooking in about an hour’s time. For my fire, I am using ten SmokinLicious Single Filet Wood Chunks in Ash with a couple of pieces of charwood that were left over from a previous cook. Why Ash hardwood? Because it is hands down, the best hardwood to produce an even bed of coals which is what you want when you coal roast.

I stack the wood so there is quite a bit of air space between the pieces. This ensures I have good oxygen flow to produce combustion quickly. My technique is to stand the wood pieces on their end and make a circle. I try to have a couple of pieces in the center kind of tipped on to each other. Remember, you want to produce hot embers quickly so it only requires a little wood and a lot of oxygen to burn things down. I light my wood using a small butane torch. Leave the torch in place until I’m sure the wood has ignited. I keep the lid off my charcoal grill so I can push the combustion process through completion and get those ash covered, hot embers.


You will know when the coals or embers are ready for cooking when you have uniform coals and they are glowing red from the bottom and gray on top. I keep a couple of larger coals banked to the side to maintain heat and for reserved hot coals. Just in case I need to rake more to the cooking side. I like to nestle a high heat metal cooking rack on the hot coals and then place my whole zucchini on the rack. This allows for little ash to accumulate on the skin. Remember, those coals are very hot so the zucchini will take less than 20 minutes to tenderize and char.


With the zucchini and coal rack in place, I give the embers about 8 minutes to char and cook the first side of the zucchini. After that time, I gentle turn the zucchini so that each side gets an even char. Once the first 8 minutes are done, there will be less time needed for each of the other sides as the zucchini will hold heat. I’ve added one additional wood piece to my banked fire just to be sure I have enough heat in the coal area. I will not put the lid on the unit during the entire cooking process as this is open fire cooking. My total coal cooking time is approximately 16 minutes.


After placing my ember fired fresh zucchini on hot coals for about 16 minutes total, turning several times to get an even char, this spectacular vegetable is ready for eating. You will see, there is very little coal bed left following this technique so remember, if you are cooking more than a couple of zucchini, you will need a larger coal bed.

For those of you thinking that the black, charred skin will be bitter and not appealing to eat, think again. Most of the char will rub right off but the flavor will be infused throughout the ember fired fresh zucchini. I’ve sliced mine about ¼-inch thick as I plan to make a galette of ricotta, garlic oil, and basil.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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“Does cooking something in foil still allow the wood flavor to penetrate?”

It is a common question heard when it comes to hot smoking. In fact, there is even a technique called the Texas Crutch that relies on wrapping meats like ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket in foil with 1-2 ounces of liquid into the foil and then sealing all ends tightly so no liquid or steam escapes. This process tenderizes and speeds the overall cooking process, which with hot smoking, can be quite lengthy.

Here’s the thing – when you use this technique, you do so after the meat product has cooked to about 135-150°F. That means a great deal of smoke flavor has already penetrated. What about if you start out cooking in foil? Let’s look at the pros and cons of cooking in foil, information you can use for traditional oven cooking as well.

CON #1

Aluminum leaches into foods that are wrapped in it. Current research indicates that the average person can tolerate about 2400mg of aluminum exposure per day due to our body’s ability to excrete the small amounts of this metal efficiently. Therefore, any ingestion levels over this would be considered a health risk by the World Health Organization.

PRO #1

Aluminum foil is disposable so it is a convenience. There is no clean up when you cook foods in foil and often there are recycling programs that accept used foil. It can save on degrading your cookware and grill grates.

CON #2

Aluminum is found in other items like corn, yellow cheese, salt, herbs, spices, tea, cooking utensils, and in over-the-counter medications like antacids. A derived from aluminum is also used during the purification process of drinking water. These all must factor into the recommended daily intake of this metal, meaning you need to assess whether cooking in foil will put you over the daily recommended limit.

PRO #2

Aluminum foil aides in producing a convection heat as it is an excellent heat conductor. Thus, cooking times can be significantly reduced when foods are placed in foil.

CON #3

Foods with higher levels of acid have a higher rate of leaching aluminum into them. This is true whether the acidic ingredient is in solid or liquid form. In fact, acidic liquids have a higher leaching rate than solids. Give this consideration when working with foods such as tomatoes, vinegar and citrus items.

PRO #3

Using aluminum foil can tenderize tougher cuts of meat when you include an ounce or two of liquid. Additionally, aluminum foil is leak proof when you seal all ends.

CON #4

When cooking in foil using acidic ingredients both the appearance and taste of the foods can be altered by the reaction to aluminum. Often, the tastes are described as metallic.


From the smoking perspective, if you start the foods on the grill grates without any aluminum foil, cook until 135-150°F internal temperature, and then wrap in foil to finish, you likely will find very little change in taste. Ingredients containing acid would have cooked down and not be at a level that would interact as aggressively with the aluminum.

If you do elect to cook on the smoker, charcoal grill or LP grill with foil, know that you can see firsthand the reaction of the aluminum with food ingredients and even the wood molecules by the smoke vapor particles that develops on the outside surface of the foil. As foil is a heat conductor, it also is somewhat of a sponge and will steal some of the smoke vapor particles from the food.

Remember, one of the key benefits to using aluminum foil is its ability to seal tightly whether preventing spillage to a piece of cookware or sealing in liquids for cooking. Cooking smoked items wrapped in foil from start to finish will not allow for full penetration of the smoke vapor particles that account for the unique color, texture, and taste to smoked foods. Plus, you likely will increase your risk of health issues with repeated exposure to high aluminum levels.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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We are going French with a Galette that is simply out of this world. With ember fired zucchini we previously cooked on our charcoal grill with straight wood, this is one recipe worth making any time of year. Get 2 zucchini ember cooked and prepare yourself for the ultimate in wood fired flavors featuring summer zucchini!


For our galette, there are two separate ingredient lists needed; one for the pastry and one for the galette’s filling.

For the pastry:

* 1-1/4 cups flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes

* 1/8 teaspoon salt

* 8 tablespoons cold butter, cubed

* ¼ cup sour cream

* 2 teaspoons lemon juice

* ¼ cup ice water

For the filling, you will need

* 2 ember fired zucchini sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds

* 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil

* 1 garlic glove, minced

* ½ cup ricotta cheese

* ½ cup grated Parmesan

* ¼ cup shredded mozzarella

* 1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves

* Egg Wash: 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water combined


Pastry is the first step and our recipe is very simple, so no need to get scared by the word “pastry”. For the pastry dough, combine the flour, salt, and then cut in the butter. My technique is to use 2 butter knives to produce even mini chunks of butter.

Mix the sour cream, lemon, and water in a separate bowl, then add to the flour mixture until just combined. Be sure not to overwork the dough. Now refrigerate for 1 hour.


While the dough chills, let’s get the filling ingredients ready that include our ember fired zucchini rounds.

First, we’ll need to combine the olive oil and garlic so we have an infused oil to add to our cheese filling. Next, mix the ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses together. Add one teaspoon of the garlic oil and season with salt and pepper. You can set this mixture aside as you wait on the dough to finish chilling.

Next up, get the rolling pin at the ready, as the dough will be rolled into the galette shape.


With our dough chilled and then rolled into a 12-inch round, it’s time to start assembling our galette. Place the dough on parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the ricotta mixture over the dough leaving a 2-inch border. The ember fired zucchini slices are next, which I add in a layered “wheel” formation, followed by a generous drizzle of garlic oil. It’s important that everything stay even for our dough to fold over and hold in all that fabulous filling.

With the cheese filling, ember fired zucchini and garlic oil added, the final ingredient of fresh basil strips is placed on top. Time to fold over the dough to trap all the filling inside the pastry while it cooks. A brushing of egg wash to the pastry will ensure everything gets golden during the 40-minute cook time. Into a 400° oven, setting the timer for 25 minutes to rotate the baking tray. That will guarantee a consistent color to our galette.


With the smoky, char flavor of our coal fired zucchini, the creamy filling of 3 cheeses plus basil and garlic oil, it doesn’t get any better than this! Our buttery galette pastry adds that sweet undertone that perfectly balances out the flavors.

Whether you serve this as an appetizer, snack or even a lunch or entrée, you’ll love how the zucchini becomes the star without tasting overly smoked. Feel free to add a side of marinara sauce for an acid kick.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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There seems to be some legend out there that wood-fired cooking methods are all about the endless hours of tending food and fire that produce taste results that are only granted to a small percentage of committed cooks. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ready for simple methods of wood flavor infusion that do not take stock piles of wood and equipment so large, you start thinking about adding on to your house?

Wood-fired cooking includes the simplest methods of wood infusion like the current rage with hand-held food smokers or even the stove top smoker. Kitchen gadgets that have opened the door to anyone who wants to explore the fragrant and flavorful bounty that awaits all foods and beverages. One thing that still is evolving is the concept of spices not for your food but for your equipment!

If you’ve read some of our previous articles on wood flavoring you’ll come to understand and appreciate that there is no set rule on wood-fired cooking. Oh, yes, there is plenty of science when it comes to cooking with fire or as I like to say when you combust to flavor, which is what you are accomplishing with wood for cooking. I feel more attention should be given to the actual wood products put into the equipment rather than focusing on the ingredients to the foods being cooked.

First, wood to us IS an ingredient, one that still needs to be balanced with the other components to bring forth a food memory. As an ingredient, the easiest by far to manage for wood flavor infusion is sawdust or in our Company’s listing, Smokin’ Dust®. Compatible with all types of equipment, Smokin’ Dust® literally becomes a ‘spice’ for your equipment.

Thinking of island flavors of pineapple, coconut, and mango for a recipe? Why not add one or more of those flavorings through the wood product? Yes, using all-natural flavoring infused into our Smokin’ Dust® is one of the quickest methods of getting great flavor to a specific regional dish. With 15 flavor-infused options that are 100% all natural, designed for cooking, and infused in hardwood, as well as 8 natural hardwood flavors, we’ve given new meaning to the word ‘spice’ as ours can now apply to the wood product! Remember, apple wood doesn’t smell or taste anything like an apple. Use our apple infused product, and you’ll experience hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and the bite of an apple!

Why settle for a run-of-the-mill smoking sawdust product that you don’t know where it comes from? A softwood, swept from the floor, shoveled from the ground, or worse, taken from under an animal? Instead, get excited about the flavor opportunities awaiting you and your equipment when you use a smoking sawdust product from a real cooking wood company. Get excited about the opportunities out there to experiment with, whether for hot smoking, cold smoking, hand held food smoking, stove top smoking, or even traditional LP and charcoal grilling. And get ready to experience the world through flavor aroma!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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As we highlight another hardwood from our offerings, we need to start by pointing out that we are referring to Eastern Alder not the better known Western Alder or Red Alder of the west coast. Eastern Alder is part of the Birch family, with the scientific name of Alnus but the common names for the varieties found in the Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania regions of Eastern Alder (Smooth Alder), White Alder, Red Alder.

Alder is a relatively soft hardwood of medium density. It is most commonly used with fish but I think I need to stress here that really any cooking hardwood can be used with any food item at the discretion of the cook. Many factors play in to how a hardwood reveals itself during the cooking event: rub ingredients, brine ingredients, quality of the meat/poultry/fish, freshness of the food item, style of cooking (over the coals, in the coals, indirect heat, etc.) and most importantly, oxygen flow which feeds the combustion of the wood. Alder provides a neutral coloring to the outer skin of foods which is why it is a favorite for fish. Would this be a first choice for say a steak or other beef item? No, but I certainly like to use it for lots of other things like fruit, vegetables, cheese dishes, and of course, fish.

For cooking, you can expect Alder to perform as follows:

Heat Level: Medium – 17.6MBTU

Fuel Efficiency: Fair

Ease of Lighting: Good

Ideal Uses: Cold Smoking/Poaching/Grilling/Stove Top Smoking

When you’re looking for something on the lighter menu of woods, keep Alder in mind, and explore its lighter heat level and versatility for the more delicate items of cooking.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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Oh, the wonderful, healthy, creamy, flavorful avocado. With more potassium than a banana and 18 amino acids for daily intake, you can’t go wrong with this single seed fruit.

Did you ever think to grill this fabulous fruit with a little wood to give it even more flavor? We’ll show you just how easy it is to wood fire avocado on the gas grill using wood chunks for your smoke infusion.


Regardless of the brand of gas grill you have, you can add wood chunks to the grill for wood fired flavor. My grill has heat shields over the burners so I use that area to add one small wood chunk under the grill grate, directly on the heat shield. No, you won’t damage your grill, as the wood combusts to ash and basically blows away.

One chunk is all it will take to get great flavor into the avocados. I keep the burner that the wood chunk is located on set to medium as well as the burner next to that one on medium. Since I have 4 burners, 2 are on and 2 are off.

Once the grill is to 300° F, this technique will take less than 20 minutes.


The only preparation needed for the avocados is to cut them in half and remove the seed. The avocados are placed flesh side down on the grate only on the side with the burners off. The heat captured within the grill will spread throughout the grilling area and cook the avocado while adding wood smoke vapor. Note, it’s important that you don’t attempt to move the avocados for at least 10 minutes otherwise you will find the avocado flesh will stick to the grate and you’ll lose much of the fruit’s flesh. Wait until some of the fat renders and chars making removal so simple.


In less than 20 minutes you will have wonderfully wood flavored, charred flesh avocados ready for your favorite recipes. Think of using this fruit in smoothies, dips, on salads, as a creamy ingredient for sauces – remember, avocado can be used to substitute the amount of butter used in most recipes. We will take some of our avocado and make a wood fired guacamole first. Our recipe will post soon so stay tuned and don’t’ forget to send us your pics of wood fired avocado.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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One of the easiest techniques to do with fruit on a gas or charcoal grill is wood firing peaches. Take advantage of the season with this fruit by bringing different flavors and textures for great recipe. Why not start with my recipe for a summer gazpacho that will cool you off during the hot season. It’s time to take advantage of the summer harvest with fresh peaches and yellow tomatoes for fabulous summer cuisine


Peaches are one of those fruits that performs perfectly on the grill, whether you use charcoal or gas for the actual cooking process. To start, purchase fresh, in season peaches. Wash and pat dry. Then pass a knife through the center until you just hit the peach pit and cut through the flesh in a circular motion. Remember, the pit will stay in place. Take your hands and grip each side of the peach turning your hands in opposite directions to open the peach. This will result in the pit separating from the peach flesh of one half of the peach. Take a spoon and gentle insert the side around the pit and loosen until the pit is released from the peach flesh. You now have 2 equal sized peach halves. You may do as many peaches as you like but know for the gazpacho recipe you will need at least 3-4 good sizes peaches.


Once all the peaches are cut in half they are ready for the grill. I am going to use my charcoal smoker for this recipe but you can easily use a gas grill with wood chunks as well. Just see our posting on how to add wood chunks to the LP grill.

I’m going to set up an indirect method of cooking the peaches to keep them from getting too soft. That means my hot coals will be in one half of the grill while I do the actual cooking of the peaches on the half without hot coals. Keeping the lid on will ensure that the heat is collected in the grilling area for an even cook.


I have the benefit of being able to use the SmokinLicious® charwood product which is a blend of charred and uncharred wood. It allows for a lot of smoke vapor. I place my peaches with the skin side down on the grate, keeping all the peach halves on the non-coal side of the grill. I’ll let them cook for about 10 minutes and then rotate them so the flesh side is on the grate. Once cook through, I will remove and place them on the skin side to cool.


With the peaches wood fired and ready, it’s time to collect the other ingredients for the gazpacho:

* 3 cups wood fired peaches

* 3 medium yellow tomatoes, chopped

* 1 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped

* 1 medium cucumber peeled and chopped – I’m using 3 mini cukes

* ½ cup chopped sweet onion

* 1 garlic clove, minced

* 1/3 cup lime juice

* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

* 1 tablespoon marinade for chicken

* 1 teaspoon salt

* 2 teaspoons sugar

* ¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)

* Reserved chopped peaches, cucumber and yellow tomatoes for topping/garnish

* You will also need a food processor or blender


Time to bring all the ingredients together starting with the wood fired peaches, yellow tomatoes, yellow pepper, cucumber, sweet onion and garlic. Process all these items until thoroughly blended. Now add the lime juice, vinegar, marinade, salt, sugar, and pepper sauce if you are including this.

Time to refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. You must wait for everything to blend and make the most fabulous gazpacho ever!

With the smoky tang of the wood fired peaches meeting up with the coolness of the tomatoes and cucumber, this gazpacho has just the right amount of tang, kick, and sweet to make this a summer favorite. Once the soup has chilled, place in serving bowls and top with chopped smoked peach, cucumber, and tomato. All the fabulous seasonal ingredients the season can offer in one bowl!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.


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The question is one of the most common we hear. What is the most popular wood you sell?

Initially, our response was that there wasn’t one hardwood that was dominating the order system. That certainly has changed over the course of the past few years.

Without question, Hickory has become the most requested hardwood.


I truly believe the catalyst for the popularity of hickory particularly for smoking foods, is television and YouTube. Yes, all those cooking and food shows, and YouTube channels have catapulted grilling/smoking with wood and charcoal leaning toward Hickory. As if Hickory is the only choice for “real” barbecue.

Some of the root of popularity of Hickory is the generational secrets of barbecue. Hickory has been, for many decades, a commonly found hardwood in the traditional barbecue states who are credited with bringing barbecue to the limelight. North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and then advancing west to such states as Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama. Gradually, those who wanted to duplicate the smoke flavors of the south continued to request hickory. The result: hickory has become one of the highest demand hardwoods in North America.


Without question, those known in the world of barbecue as major players have stimulated the belief that their choice in smoking wood is the key to their success and notoriety. Here’s is the conflict: many fail to admit that there are many other factors that account for their success. Although they may have made their mark by sticking with that one wood for the entire time they cooked and gained popularity, they also committed to specific equipment, fuel product say a specific brand of charcoal, meat supplier, whether they keep the bark on the wood or remove it, and brands or recipes for rubs/sauces/marinades. ALL these items factor in to the overall success of a cooking event even in barbecue.


I won’t get into the details about one brand of charcoal or briquette over another, or the influence of a wet or dry rub on the meat’s ability to absorb smoke vapor. Those discussions will be for another day. What I will stress is that the climate and soil of tree’s location is by far a key determinate in whether it will make a great smoking or grilling wood. Specifically, the more balanced the pH level of the soil the tree’s roots are bound to and the amount of precipitation the tree is exposed to in a given year, directly affect how favorable the wood will be for smoking, grilling, and cooking in general.

I’m often told by new customers who had previous experience with hickory and found it to be too strong in flavor, producing too dark a coloring to the food’s exterior, and often producing a sooty appearance to both the food and equipment, that once they tried our wood, they had the exact opposite result. Why? The easiest answer is we simply have better growing conditions in the Northeast than other areas that grow Hickory trees. Plus, we have access to the better species of this hardwood family.


With over 20 species of Hickory in North America, they are not all equal when it comes to cooking with them. Many of these 20 species are known to produce bitter undertones when foods are exposed to their smoke vapor. That means, poor results for the cook or Pitmaster who believes in hickory for their food production.

I like to compare hardwoods for cooking to extra virgin olive oil. There are hundreds if not thousands of brands of olive oil available. Yet, many producers marketing an extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) are using low grade oils in the production rather than meet the requirements for EVOO labeling. Wood is similar. There is no obligation to label where the wood comes from, how old it is, how it was processed, what species it is from, and if it is from the raw material of the timbered tree or a by-product or waste product of another use. Just like olive oil producers using pomace or the olive residue left over from the traditional production of olive oil, hardwood can be a leftover as well and re-purposed into something it wasn’t initially intended for.


My hope is that I’ve stimulated some thinking into what makes for a great smoking wood, grilling wood, or cooking wood in general. Instead of duplicating a celebrity figure or following a current fad, blaze your own trail into what pleases you and the people you are serving your amazing grilled and smoked foods from the wood fire to. With so many factors affecting a food’s taste, appearance, and aroma, it’s time to simply experiment, keep a log, and find what pleases you. It may turn out to be one hardwood that you feel is the wood or it could simply be the food that guides you.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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These two questions have been quite common for the 12+ years we’ve been in business. What does a cubic foot box of wood weigh? How many pieces do you estimate are in a cubic foot box of wood?

Due to the regulations imposed by The National Conference on Weights and Measures -Uniform Regulation for the Method of Sale of Commodities, we cannot specify weight on a wood product, even though we are a cooking wood. Instead, when asked about weight, we only provide an estimate clearly stating that wood is not sold by weight due to the variation in moisture level and density of the wood selected.

I can, however, tell you the details that a recent first-time customer posted to an online forum that had me elated!


This customer took a lot of time and effort to get to the details about our wood; the packaging and the weight not just of the carton, but of specific select pieces. This customer purchased the Serious Smoker Double Filet Wood Chunk which is our cubic foot carton product with the smallest chunk sizing. We offer an option to select up to 3 wood choices for this carton size, with this customer selecting our 3 most popular hardwoods: Hickory, Sugar Maple and Wild Cherry.

First, let’s look at this customer’s overall purchase.


The packaged hardwood weighed in a 32.5 lbs. A total of 139 pieces of wood were packaged. Of that total, 48 pieces were Wild Cherry, 44 pieces Sugar Maple, and 47 pieces Hickory.


This customer owns equipment that references specific weight of wood needed to smoke optimally. In this case, just 2-4 ounces of wood is ideal.

Although weights for each of the 139 pieces of wood were not obtained, a sufficient sampling was done. Here is what was reported:

The lowest weight of a Wild Cherry chunk (remember, these are all double filet) was 1.5 ounces and the highest was 4.1 ounces.

The lowest weight of a Sugar Maple chunk was 2 ounces and the highest at 5.7 ounces.

The lowest weight of a Hickory chunk was 2.8 ounces and the highest at 6.4 ounces.

For this equipment user, there was an estimate that 139 pieces of hardwood would provide for some 100 smoking events!

What I loved the most about this report is that it correlates specifically to the density of these 3 hardwoods. Hickory has the highest density of the 3 woods selected and this is reflected by the weight of the individual pieces sampled. Sugar Maple would be next in density followed by the Wild Cherry, all proven with the reported weights.


Unquestionably, there is a lot of wood chunk pieces in a cubic foot carton! Which means, you want to ensure you can use that much wood in a reasonable amount of time to maximize the freshness factor and peak level for function as a smoking wood. Individual pieces will vary in weight even if the dimensions of the pieces are relatively the same. That is the nature of a water rich material – the water weight influences the overall piece weight.

We are indebted to this customer for taking the time to inform us all of his findings since by law, SmokinLicious® can’t offer this detail.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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There is a fierce debate out there about the use of fruit wood trees, specifically apple and cherry varieties, for cooking purposes. As a Company, we frequently get the same question – “Why don’t I see Apple wood as an option to purchase?” Here’s the short answer: We do not, and will not, produce our products from orchard-based woods. Our reason is simple – we do not believe in smoking foods over woods that have been or have the potential to be sprayed or growth enhanced with chemicals.

Let’s review a fact about trees. All trees produce prussic acid, better known as hydrogen cyanide. We feel that humans can use woods produced in nature when they have been left alone, unburden by the human hand in trying to manage what sometimes is the normal cyclical pattern of nature. In the areas in which we purchase the heartwood for our cooking wood production facility, the varieties of cherry (Prunus pensylvanica L.f.) we commonly deal with are: Northern Pin Cherry, Fire Cherry, Wild Red Cherry, and Pigeon Cherry. Of course, predominately, we bring in Wild Red Cherry. There are many different cherry tree varieties available throughout North America. The main difference in these woods is that our forest trees, the type we manufacture, tend to be on the sweet-tart side versus the sour-bitter. For the most part, hydrogen cyanide is found mainly in the leaves and seeds of the cherry tree. Black Cherry bark is also commonly used in herbal cough remedies.

The dominate opinion is that when used in small quantities, the hydrogen cyanide is a moot issue. Now let’s talk about the smoking application of wood. Cyanogenic compounds WOULD remain a factor for our production of cooking wood. This is because we do not allow our gourmet woods to deplete their moisture content to a level that other wood product manufacturers may (what is commonly referred to as “seasoning of the wood”). For ideal smoking of foods, wood needs to have a moisture level preferably at ~20%. This results in the wood smoldering rather than burning at a rapid rate. The resulting smoke from the plant material provides for that wonderful flavor. Because smoking is done at low temperatures for longer periods of time, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) found in wood molecules are not stimulated as they normally would be when cooking, say, a steak over a hot flame. Thus, the health risk associated with PAH’s and smoked foods is not considered an issue. The same can be said for ember cooking – using the heat of the residual coals to cook foods.

Our main concerns regarding woods used for wood fired cooking methods is to always ensure a bark-free product. Bark does not hold moisture but rather is designed to rid the tree of wastes by absorbing them and locking them into this area. In fact, this is the reason why bark-on woods burn so much faster than bark-free wood pieces. This portion of the tree is responsible for temperature flare-ups, tainted smells, ‘spotty’ appearance of the food’s skin, creosote, and increase in the production of ash. Additionally, once the temperature is increased during wood-fired cooking, heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, are created due to the reaction of the amino acids and creatine with the higher cooking temperature.

In a nutshell, a person is at greater risk of cyanide exposure in treated wood products for home construction than they are when consuming BBQ or other wood-fired foods. Knowing the source of the wood being used in the cooking application is vital to ensure that the necessary steps have been taken to prevent tree disease and pest infestation spread, as well as to ensure that the wood has not been exposed to any chemical/toxin treatments.

It is our hope, that one day soon, inspection of the wood products used by restaurants, caterers, BBQ competitors, and grocery stores who promote smoked and natural-wood fired foods, will occur as normally as food inspections. After all, I think we all can agree that WHAT you cook the food over is just as important as what food you are cooking!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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Without question, electric smokers are by far the easiest smokers to manage as they require no charcoal lighting, no constant checking of the fuel supply, and usually no messy ash pan. These are units that are designed to run on very little wood product, usually between 2-5 ounces because the actual ‘fuel’ is an electric coil. No gas, charcoal, or pellet.


To answer the question of whether flavor differences exist between an electric unit and those that use combustible fuel sources, you need to weigh who the response is coming from. For me, someone who has an electric unit (we need to have a good assortment of equipment to produce our recipes), I do indeed feel there are flavor differences. Without the volatile gases that are produced with combustible items meaning wood and lump hardwood charcoal, there is less of a smoke flavor. The trademark smoke ring on meats can also go missing with electric units. Take this into consideration when deciding whether to purchase an electric unit.


Electric smokers are very specific when it comes to the quantity of wood to use. Most manufacturers will provide a measurement level in ounces that you need to adhere to. If you should have an electric unit that does not include the reference to wood quantity but does have a wood tray, be sure not to overfill that tray. Most units use between 2-5 ounces of wood product to start. You may have to replenish the wood 1-2 more times depending on what your smoking. Larger cuts of meat, plan on enough wood to fill the wood tray three times.


You followed the directions and placed the referenced amount of wood chip product in the unit but when the cooking time was finished, you looked at the chip tray and found most of the wood chips still in solid form. Nothing was reduced to ash and all the chips were black in color. Did something go wrong?

Black color to the wood chips means that the wood processed through most of the stages of combustion and turned to carbon on the outside, giving the distinct black coloring. If the wood chips are still in sold form, then combustion was not complete. Complete combustion would have reduced the chips to a pile of carbon ash.


To ensure complete combustion of a wood product specific factors need to be in place: air-fuel ratio, quality of the fuel, reduced moisture or water level, etc. The 3 ingredients that must be present to sustain combustion are oxygen, heat, and fuel. If you can achieve a balance of these 3 ingredients, you will achieve complete combustion and have great success with wood product used in an electric smoker.


The most important thing to remember about combustion is when wood is reduced to carbon, it produces very little if any smoke and has no flavor release. To answer the question of whether wood chips that are black but still in solid form can be re-used, the answer is no.

Those chips will not give out any flavor, they simply will finish the final stage of combustion and turn to ash.

Remove those black chips and add fresh, keeping the chips in the dry state when smoking with them. You’ll find better results and less waste in the wood product you purchase.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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I’ve heard all kinds of reasoning for leaving the bark on: it burns up right away so you don’t need to worry. It’s what gives the flavor to foods. It’s what gives the color to smoked and grilled foods. It is the essence of BBQ!

Well, my intention is to simply provide you with more detail about what is in the bark and then you can decide for yourself if you want to include it in your wood fired cooking method.


There are two types of bark in every tree: living bark which is called phloem and dead bark called rhytidome. For today’s discussion, I am only focusing on the rhytidome or dead bark which is the outer bark layer.

Outer bark’s main purpose is to protect the wood tissues against mechanical damage and preserve the wood tissues from temperature and humidity variations. Bark chemistry is much more complicated than wood tissue chemistry but let’s cover the basics.


Outer bark has high concentrations of pectin, phenolic compounds, and minerals. Although the exact chemical levels vary by species, location of the tree, age of the tree, and growth conditions of the tree, let me list some of the common extractives:

ethyl ether – a common laboratory solvent as well as a starter fluid component

dichloromethane – common compound used in paint strippers and degreasers as well as to decaffeinate coffees and teas

calcium oxalate crystals – a calcium salt found in plant materials with a link to kidney stones in humans


For many years, university and research facilities around the world have used tree bark as a bio-indicator of air pollutant levels as bark is highly porous, rough, and high in lipids making its surface ideal for absorption. It’s been proven that tree bark soaks up airborne gases and particles. In fact, in my own home state of New York, the Niagara Falls area trees have been noted to have significantly higher levels of Dechlorane Plus, a flame retardant chemical that is produced by a factory in that city. How much higher? Several thousand times higher!

After many decades of non-regulated chemical use in various products – think pesticides, flame retardants, building material preservatives, etc. – and with the subsequent halting of production of many of these highly toxic chemicals in the 1980s and 90s, research now shows that as those chemicals evaporated, they became air borne particles. Those particles landed and were absorbed by the outer tree bark.


My experience with bark-on woods used for the intended purpose of cooking has been that bark results in temperature control issues. Often, when the bark combusts it does so in variable levels, producing a short burst of elevated temperature. This is likely due in part, to the chemical air pollutant particles that have settled into the outer bark layer. Knowing that bark harbors impurities that the tree is exposed to, I hypothesize that there likely are other particles, likely transferred via air as well as direct contact from the carrier (think animals, humans, etc.), that are absorbed by the tree’s bark.


Just as lighter fluid can add unpleasant or at the very least a distinct taste difference in foods cooked over product lit with lighter fluid, I caution that some of you will also find an off taste to foods cooked over bark-on woods.

If you are lucky enough to have a source of wood within your own property, that has no neighborly contact with chemical industry, and you feel confident that the bark-on wood is safe, then the choice to cook with it may be easy. If, however, you rely on an outside source say a firewood supplier, you may want to rethink cooking over that bark-on product or at the very least, take the time to rid the bark.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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There are so many methods of getting a message out rapidly given the speed of technology and the many platforms for posting opinions and marketing strategies today. In doing research for a publication, I came across a statement made by a charcoal company that made me a bit … confused.


This company claimed that their charcoal product was an ingredient not a fuel!

Not a fuel? That statement is in direct conflict to what charcoal manufacture was designed for – heat.

I realize that when used with 100% accuracy, charcoal will produce no smoke and a consistent heat. We all know that the 100% accuracy is the kicker – pretty much no one is proficient at producing full ignition of the charcoal with stable air intake to maintain the high heat level the product was designed for. What usually occurs is that we start out with full ignition but given the need for longer cooks, we add charcoal and thus, start to fluctuate the oxygen feed. Only during those fluctuations does production of smoke occur with charcoal.


Charcoal production is the act of carbonizing wood which means all the volatiles of the wood are burned off until what is left is pure carbon or at least a high percentage of carbon. There is no refuting that charcoal burns cleaner, hotter, and more evenly than wood only.

Here are where differences occur though when it comes to types of charcoal.

Lump charcoal is made from various scrap wood sources like furniture manufacture, wood packaging manufacture, flooring manufacture, and building material scraps. Due to the high level of variation in these pieces, most often there is not 100% carbonization of the lump charcoal production. That’s why you can get some smoke and flavor from that product; when combustion of a non-charred piece occurs, you’ll stimulate organic compounds that produce flavor. Keep in mind, because scrap wood is used you can get other debris in the purchased bag as often this is scooped up from a site and transferred to a production facility, with the scoop gathering anything that may be in the area.

Traditional charcoal manufacture also known as briquets, is also made from scrap wood, sawdust and wood chip product. It is known that some manufacturers include a percentage of softwood but for the most part, product is derived from hardwood. Briquets do have binders added and there are some types that have accelerants added to make them extremely quick to lite. Personally, I can detect those additives and feel they do change the overall flavor when cooking foods over them but you can make that determination for yourself.

Controlled flavor only comes from wood and the best and safest flavors, from hardwood. Charcoal is a fuel, it is for heat, and the only flavor it produces is when meat/poultry drippings fall directly on the hot coals and vaporize, stimulating flavors. Never are flavors stimulated from the briquet or charcoal.


If the definition of an ingredient is a substance that contributes or makes up a mixture, then truly hardwood is an ingredient in wood-fired cooking recipes as it gives off its distinct organic flavor compounds that make up the cell structures. Heat is NOT an ingredient and that is what charcoal is: HEAT! A claim to be an ingredient just holds no truth.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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As with most breakfast potato recipes, this one has just a handful ingredients to make it oh so memorable at the breakfast table. It starts with a key ingredient – smoked potato – which you can find the technique for on our previous posting. This is a recipe that can certainly accommodate your specific preferences so alter it as you please. For my rendition, you’ll need the following:


2 cups smoked potato cut into pieces no larger than 1 inch

2 cups of chopped sweet pepper – I’m using red, yellow and orange for a pop of color

1 Jalapeno pepper diced

1 cup of rough cut onion

1 Tablespoon oil – I’m using coconut oil for its high heat level

1 tablespoon of olive oil or flavored olive oil – I’m using a Tuscan flavor

1 cup of ricotta cheese

1 red tomato sliced into ¼ inch thick slices

Oven safe skillet


Be sure you’ve readied all the ingredients as this recipe can be completed quite fast. Place your oven safe skillet over medium-high heat and allow to heat. Add the tablespoon of high heat oil and move the pan around to ensure the oil coats the entire bottom surface. Add the cup of chopped onion and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes. You’ll know you’re ready for the next step when the onion becomes translucent. Add the 2 cups of chopped sweet pepper and mix well. Allow the vegetable mixture to cook until tender, about 8 minutes.


Once you see the vegetables take on a shine and tenderness, it’s time to add the diced jalapeno pepper, mixing well. After just a couple of minutes, go ahead and add the 2 cups of smoked potato to the mixture. Mix well and allow to absorb some of the existing cooking oil and moisture. The colors will begin to blend as well as the flavors getting us close to the finished dish.


To add another level of flavor, a tablespoon of flavored olive oil, I’m using a Tuscan blend, is incorporated to the vegetable mixture. Once this has cooked for a few minutes, I add the cup of ricotta cheese in dollops to the skillet. Using my spatula, I break this down with the heat to provide a creamy consistency. The creaminess of the ricotta will help balance the boldness of the smoke and aide all the flavors to mellow. After 5 minutes of medium heat, this pan will be ready for a quick trip to the oven to finish everything off.


After taking the skillet from the stove top, I place it in a pr-heated 350°F oven to finish. This will only take about 10 minutes. Remember, if using cast iron, this material will hold a lot of heat, so once the pan is removed from the oven allow the dish to sit untouched for about 5 minutes. Then plate to your favorite platter.

I like to add sliced fresh tomato and a sprinkle of fresh parsley to the top. This is a perfect dish for any type of eggs or served an accompaniment to sausage. Of course, it can stand alone as well so feel free to treat is as its own meal.

Smoked potato from the charcoal grill with a medley of vegetables gets you to the perfect Smoked Breakfast Potato!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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With 10-13 Beech varieties available throughout the world, this is a hardwood tree that can age to some 300 years. Visually, they are quite impressive often with distinct “root feet” and gray, smooth bark. The scientific name is Fagus Grandifolia but in North America we know this as American Beech.


Beech is a relative to the White Oak hardwood family. However, there is some differences in its performance as a fuel wood and flavoring wood. Beech tends to hold more water or moisture than white oak and for that reason, you need to be sure you are using this for cooking when the level is closer to 20-25% or lower. Anything higher will produce a brown smoke as the energy generated is used to evaporate the water. Using Beech with a higher moisture level could produce some off coloring to the foods.


Beech is a very easy hardwood to burn and produces a nice bed of coals. It does not throw spark when it combusts so it is ideal for all types of equipment including fire pits and camp pits. It has minimal aroma when burned but produces a balanced flavor profile to foods.

The MBTU level is considered high so know you will get a long cook time from this wood.


In my opinion, Beech is one of those hardwoods that is neutral when it comes to food pairing. I have found the ability to cook vegetables, fish, meats, poultry, and even flavor seasonings and herbs with its flavonoids. You really can’t miss with this choice. Knowing it is a hot burning wood and makes a great bed of coals, you should attempt to get all the wood can give from a heat point of view. Think about raking hot coals to one side of your equipment and cooking foods directly in the coals while the remaining fire cooks more traditional foods on the grate. Remember, there is value in the wood through the entire stages of combustion.


Coloring to foods tends to be on the earthy palette side giving a very pleasant appearance. Because this wood is so well balanced, you can select both sweet and savory ingredients without causing any muted flavoring. This is true whether the wood is in chunk, chip or dust form.

This can be a harder hardwood to locate since it is more prevalent in the Northeast, especially New York State but if you can locate it, pick some up and enjoy the many benefits of this grand tree.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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If you enjoy fruity drinks or smoothies, then the Smoked Strawberry Aqua Fresca is perfect! Using seasonal fresh strawberries will bring this to the ultimate flavor height but any store purchased variety will work as well. This is the perfect cocktail for a summer event or as a non-alcoholic refresher on an exceptionally warm summer day. Get ready as we tell you how to do the smoking technique then construct this fabulous drink.


Start with strawberries that are at their peak. Gently wash them and then trim the stem end. I cut smaller strawberries in half and larger in quarters to ensure the smoke vapor can penetrate easily but you certainly can leave them whole. In addition to the strawberries – at least one quart to produce enough liquid for a few drinks – you’ll need the following ingredients and materials


4 tablespoons sugar – reserve some extra in case you want to make this sweeter

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Pinch of fine or coarse sea salt

Juice of 2 limes

Handful of fresh basil or mint

Ice cubes


Mixing bowl

Mortar & pestle (optional)

Sheet pan lined with parchment paper

2 double filet wood chunks from SmokinLicious®

While you are getting the strawberries ready you can have your grill warming up. Set all burners to medium-low and close the lid.


Cooking with wood chunks can be done on the LP Gas Grill by using the heat shields or diffusers, whose purpose is to ensure even heat output over the grill grate. By keeping a medium-low heat on the burner containing 2 wood chunks from SmokinLicious® – I’m using 1 ash and 1 cherry – you won’t get the wood erupting in flames but rather a slow combustion that releases plenty of wood-fired flavor. While the wood heats up, I combine my strawberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and a pinch of sea salt.


When you smoke strawberries on the grill, all the locked in pectin water will be released by the heat. That’s why it’s so important that you line your sheet pan with parchment paper so you don’t end up with a hard to clean mess.

After mixing in the vanilla extract, sugar, and salt it’s time to spread the strawberries onto the lined sheet pan and place on the grill. Once the pan is in place, turn off all the burners except for the one that has the wood chunks on the diffuser. Cooking time will be about 40 minutes with a grill heat of 300°F maintained with the lid closed and 1 burner lit.


Whenever I smoke fresh strawberries, it brings the memory of my Mom making strawberry jam. As the strawberries react to the smoke vapor, you will see the pectin release and a beautiful, thick glaze will form around them. This is the stuff that will make an exceptional aqua fresca so be sure you don’t lose any when removing the pan from the heat. You’ll see the finished strawberries take on a much darker coloring and reduce size slightly from the water loss. Now get ready for the fun part – getting our drink together.


To start our drink creation, you will need a blender and I prefer a mortar and pestle for combining citrus and fresh herbs. Add the smoked strawberries to the blender and the remaining sugar. You can add the lime juice and fresh basil or mint right to the blender or add to a pestle and combine with the mortar. Once combined, add to the blender. Process the mixture. Add a few ice cubes and process again until a smooth mixture is revealed. You may add lime juice, sugar and ice as you see fit at this point – the recommended amounts are merely a guide.


With our strawberry mixture completed, it’s time to combine everything into a refreshing drink or cocktail. If making a cocktail, select your spirit of choice. I recommend tequila, vodka, or rum. Add some ice cubes to a glass. If making the alcoholic version, add an ounce of alcohol to the glass. Pour in the strawberry mixture and stir. Add a sprig of basil or mint to the glass and serve.

If you are a frozen drink person, add more ice during the blending stage to thicken this up and make a milkshake like consistency. This is so refreshing and so fitting for the warmer months. Enjoy the Smoked Strawberry Aqua Fresca your way as you stay cool this summer season!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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You smell it before you see it! The aroma of foods being cooked outdoors. When those foods involve cooking over wood – hardwood to be specific – well, it’s a flavor experience that is in a league of its own.

Today, instead of concentrating on the cooking technique of wood-fires, let’s examine the smoke vapor.

Does the color of the smoke being produced mean anything for flavor outcome?

The quick answer: absolutely! Let’s take a closer look at the finer points of smoke vapor colors.

From Black to Nearly Invisible, The Language of Smoke

There are four basic attributes to smoke when it leaves equipment: volume, velocity, density, and color. It is the combination of these attributes that reveal so much about the color of smoke vapor or gas produced from combusted wood.


Black smoke is unattractive, highly dense, consisting of large particles, and the key sign that the wood is starved for oxygen. When air intake is left uncorrected, this black smoke vapor can turn foods acrid, bitter, and sooty. Certainly, this is not the goal of wood-fired cooking! Don’t cook with smoke that is black in color. Learn how to control air intake and exhaust for proper air flow and the best smoke vapor infusion for great flavor.


You understand air flow, the balance needed between air intake and outtake. Despite you optimal setting of air flow, you still find gray to brown smoke color occurring. What happened?

Often, this boils down to a case of poor wood choice. Gray or brown smoke occurs when there is a mixture of moisture and hydrocarbons. Bark on woods can stimulate brown smoke as this is the driest and most impure part of the wood. You can also see gray to brown smoke color when there are other stimulants on the wood. It may be that something dripped on the wood, was deliberately applied to the wood, or was part of the wood’s manufacturing process if the wood is a bye-product from another process.


Virtually all solid materials exposed to combustion emit white smoke. This means heat is being stimulated to the wood and drying it out. Remember, moisture is water and when heat finds water it has to induct it to produce steam. This takes energy from the fire or ignition and can stall full stages of combustion. Once moisture is evaporated you will observe white smoke to transition to a clearer color, hopefully the infamous blue. For longer, lower temperature cooking, wait for the white smoke stage to pass before adding the food to the grates. For hotter temperature cooking like burgers, steaks, etc., go ahead and add to the grates even with white smoke present. The abundance of aromatics at the white stage will allow for flavor to permeate shorter cook items.


Keeping in mind that you don’t always need an invisible or blue smoke to have a flavorful wood-fired cooking event, this is still the goal when cooking with wood for many hours. Blue or invisible smoke means that full combustion has occurred to the wood and the lignin compound is releasing the smoky aromatic that will stick to moist food surfaces. Take advantage of this pristine stage and get cooking for the best wood-fired flavors.


As a final note, don’t be fooled into thinking that using dry wood will save time on waiting for the fire’s heat to evaporate excess water and get to the flavoring. There is extensive research demonstrating that the ideal smoke composition containing flavor stimulating compounds called carbonyls and phenols is in hardwoods that have a higher moisture rating not the 10% or less that is considered seasoned wood. Use caution when making the wood purchase. Knowing key details about the wood prior to purchasing will help to achieve the smoke color that produces maximum flavor.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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I want to be perfectly clear – this is not cooking over hot flame or direct flame. This is cooking after the wood and/or charcoal has burned down in to very hot coals; when the coals develop a white-gray ash coating. THIS is the time to ember or coal cook these select vegetables.


The essence of using all that the wood can give for cooking. That it was ember or coal cooking is. I want to be sure there is no misunderstanding on what is needed to do this type of cooking safely and effectively.

Rule #1: If going with all wood for the coals, only use hardwood and clean hardwood at that. You’re going to lay foods into this material so I believe it should be clean and mold free with moisture level 15-20%. If higher, it will simply take longer to get to the coal stage.

Rule #2: Again, if using all hardwood, try to limit the bark or go bark-free if possible to reduce the potential for mold spores that can be released into the air.

Rule #3: Have everything ready before you start. You’ll need an ash-coal hoe, fire gloves, and small coal shovel at the ready. I would also have tongs for those times when you don’t bury your foods completely in the coals but rather lay them which requires turning of the vegetables.

Rule #4:
Equipment wise, you can use a charcoal grill that has fire brick added for insulation, a clean fireplace (I prefer an outdoor unit), a clean fire pit, or an open pit built in a safe area with brick or gravel as the base to protect the fire from spreading.


On average, it will take about an hour to move a small fire from flame to hot ember. Depending on whether you elect to use charcoal or wood will determine the amount of time the fire needs to burn down – an all charcoal fire will be 30-45 minutes; all hardwood fire about 45-60 minutes. Remember, charcoal produces heat and little smoke, whereas hardwood, produces heat, smoke and specific aromatics and flavorings in that smoke. At the ember-coal level, both have equal carbonization and act similar for this method of cooking.

Using approximately 8 lbs. of charcoal or 10 lbs. of hardwood, or any combination of the two, light a fire in the equipment of your choice. Let the fire completely burn down until only hot coals remain. Rake the coals to produce a thick even bed. Then select your favorite vegetables from the ones listed below, and you’re on your way! Always keep a small fire going for additional hot coals if doing large amounts of vegetables.


Here are the top 10 vegetables to introduce to the hot embers for fantastic flavor:

* Asparagus

* Broccoli

* Cauliflower

* Eggplant

* Garlic

* Leeks

* Gourds (squash, pumpkin)

* Onion

* Peppers

* Potato

If you want minimal monitoring to the actual cooking process, then place the selected vegetables into the bed of coals and then shovel hot coals and ash over the top so that the entire vegetable surface is covered in embers. Leave untouched until tenderized, which will be 45-60 minutes depending on the vegetable selected. Otherwise, you can set vegetables within the coal bed and turn them during the cooking process to ensure even char.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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Kiwifruit is now in season! It’s time to use this potassium, vitamin A, C & E enriched fruit in your favorite recipes. How about doing something to up the flavor level a bit?

Packed with more vitamin C than an orange and as much potassium as a banana, Kiwifruit, more commonly called kiwi, is also a fiber powerhouse. I’m going to take this creamy fruit favorite to a new flavor level by cold smoking it.


To do this technique, you’ll need a hand held food smoker, SmokinLicious® Minuto® Smoking Wood Chips in size 6, 8 or 10, a lighter, a sheet pan, a food bag large enough to go over your sheet pan, and a cable tie. Then gather together the number of kiwifruit you’d like to infuse with smoke vapor, and have a knife and cutting board available.


Simply cut your kiwifruit in half to allow the smoke vapor to penetrate the fruit flesh. As kiwifruit is covered by a brown, fuzzy skin, you will need some of the fruit’s meat exposed to get real smoke flavor incorporate. Otherwise, leaving them whole won’t bring much of a smokiness to the fruit meat.

What I love the most about cold smoking with a hand held food smoker like The Smoking Gun™ Smoker, is how fast this flavoring can be done to any food, beverage, liquid, spice or herb item. After cutting me kiwifruit in half to allow for maximum penetration of the smoke vapor, I place the cut halves on a sheet pan. I then slip a food bag over the sheet pan.


Time to prepare The Smoking Gun™ Smoker or other hand held food smoker you might have. I take just a pinch of Alder Minuto® Smoker Wood Chips and place in the bowl of the food smoker. I insert the tubing into the food bag, about ½ way back and gently draw in the end of the bag around the tubing. I’m now ready to turn the food smoker on and light my Alder chips.


Once the smoke is dispensing at a good rate into the food bag, turn the hand held food smoker off and remove the tubing, cinching the food bag tight. I attach a cable tie to the end to keep it closed tight. Here’s a tip: have your cable tie pre-looped for easy application and less chance for any leaking smoke vapor.

Allow the smoke vapor to remain in the bag until dissipated. If you want an extremely light smoke flavor, then feel free to release the smoke vapor as you see fit. For me, I will patiently wait for it to clear before releasing the cable tie on the bag.


Not only are hand held food smokers, like The Smoking Gun™ Smoker easy to operate and extremely fast at infusing smoke flavor, they generate a lot of smoke that can be easily capture. Although I’ve used a food bag over a sheet pan, feel free to place the kiwifruit on a plate fit with a dome cover or simply use plastic wrap. Anything that can trap the smoke is ideal. You will see as the smoke is produced, it will travel throughout whatever container your using covering the entire food surface. Although this looks like a huge amount of smoke that would potentially produce strong or bold smoke flavor, I remind you that I am using a very mild hardwood – Alder – to infuse smoke flavor to the kiwifruit. I highly recommend whenever doing a fruit item – go with a milder hardwood for the infusion process.


This simple method of using a hand held food smoker with SmokinLicious® Minuto® Smoking Wood Chips in Alder to add a mild smoky flavor to seasonal kiwifruit takes just 15 minutes. All of the nutritional benefits remain in this healthy fruit; rich in potassium, vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fiber. Think about all the things you can do with this super fruit: add it to a smoothie, cut it up for fruit salad, pair it with a grain like quinoa, rice, or farro, or simply enjoy it as is. For me, I’m thinking of entertaining so I will start with a cocktail recipe.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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New York State is home to the most varieties of Oak anywhere in the world! Currently, there are 16 native to New York State alone, with many more varieties having been brought into the state. In Central Park alone, there are 18 species of oak represented. Comprised of two subgroups – white oaks and black oaks – there is one key distinction between these groups. White oaks produce acorns that are usually sweet while black oaks produce bitter acorns. So how does this translate when using Oak wood for smoking?

At SmokinLicious®, we try very hard not to make flavor descriptors of each hardwood we manufacture into cooking wood, as we hold to the belief that there are so many factors that contribute to the reveal of the underlying wood flavonoids (i.e. temperature the wood is exposed to, other ingredients used on the food cooked over oak, moisture level of the wood, etc.). However, we do have a scale to guide the user on the boldness of flavor. Oak is at the highest end of that scale. It is the boldest flavor we offer!

Knowing that oak is a powerful flavor, I must remind you that smoke particles do not penetrate completely into the meat. In general, for meats, smoke vapor only penetrates about an 1/8” meaning the “flavor” you will decipher from the oak is actually to the outside area of the meat. Certainly, if you cook a meat until it can be shredded, you will mix the outside flavor areas with the less wood flavored inner meat and get a good balance to the smoky flavor.

As I’ve tried to stress, cooking foods with a specific hardwood is the choice of the cook. I am not one to say that you can never cook a specific food with a certain hardwood. Everyone’s palate is different and tolerates different levels of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. I will, however, remind you that bold flavors need to be balanced and this can easily be done through the other ingredients incorporated with that food item or even on that food. This will allow you to use oak wood for smoking: cold smoking say beef jerky or game jerky, hot smoking lamb, goat or beef, grilling steaks of beef or pork, stove top smoking pungent flavors like onion and garlic, and hand held cold smoking say a robust cheese.

As always, very little quantity of wood is needed to bring forward the unique qualities of the wood and Oak, with its boldness, is not an exception. If you’re in the market for a very bold flavor, then go for the black oak varieties including Pin Oak, Scarlet Oak, and Red Oak. A step down from the black oaks, the white oaks include Chestnut Oak, White Oak, Swamp Oak, and Post Oak. Either choice will bring you hardwood offering that is strong in appearance, aroma, and flavor!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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There are many opinions out there in the BBQ world when it comes to the wood used for smoking and grilling. Some people preach it doesn’t matter where the wood comes from as long as it isn’t a treated lumber. Comments include, “don’t worry if there are bugs or bug holes – if they’re in there, they’ll just burn up”, or “fires are hot so anything on the wood just burns”.

But you should worry. Here’s why.

In the USA, we try hard to re-purpose items so our landfills aren’t overflowing. What we fail to do, however, is ponder the history of that re-purposed item. Let’s take the common wooden pallet for example.

Wooden pallets have enjoyed a rebirth with the DIY generation. Everything from headboards and wine racks, to dining tables and wedding guest books have been constructed from the used wooden pallet. What should be widely discussed, is the potential for toxic exposure to this wood item. Wood pallets, just like scrap woods, can harbor mold spores as well as chemical residue if they were used to transport items containing or exposed to chemical toxins. Use these discarded items for cooking wood and you introduce a whole host of new risks.

A Primer on Mold

Mold growth is stimulated by three specific needs:

#1 Moisture: Mold spores need moist or damp locations to grow

#2 Food Source: Mold spores need food to survive and they love porous materials

#3 Optimal Temperature: Mold spores can thrive in temperatures from 32° to 120°F and have the highest stimulation rate in temperatures of 70-90°F. Yes, even at the freezing mark, mold spores don’t die, they simply go dormant.

The Look of Mold

Mold has a range of appearances but on wood is mostly reveals itself as a fuzzy or discolored layer on the surface of the wood. Molds are a type of fungus and they grow on wood when the three conditions mentioned above combine. Molds feed on the wood nutrients (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin compounds) without weakening the wood itself.

Why is Mold a Risk

Molds produce millions of microscopic spores that can be carried in the air. Mold spores are around us everywhere. They search for the ideal surfaces to land on and grow. When they increase in concentration, allergic reactions are triggered in sensitive individuals. Expand this concentration to multiple locations and you can become highly sick.

Cooking with Moldy Wood

You now know the 3 parameters needed for mold spores to concentrate and thrive. Why would cooking with moldy wood be of concern if you’re simply throwing them into hot coals or exposing them to gas fueled heating elements?

Because mold spores can survive combustion!

Molds can produce mycotoxins, toxic chemicals that are present on spores and small fragments of mold and fungus that are released in the air. When moldy wood is introduced to fire, these toxins are released into the air and can cause anyone around the equipment to experience coughing, sneezing, eye and throat irritation. If a preexisting condition like asthma is present, symptoms will be worse. This can lead to a compromised lung health and disease.

Remember, mold looks for moisture environments so if you are cooking with moldy wood, you take the risk of the airborne spores taking harbor on the food being cooked over that wood. The moist surface of the food is a perfect visiting ground.

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

The biggest challenge is it is almost impossible to distinguish toxic molds from non-toxic which is why I recommend that you never use moldy woods for cooking. Some types of molds won’t reveal themselves on the outside of the wood but will be present within the interior wood cells. It is always best to err on the side of caution and dispose of moldy wood or burn it in an outdoor setting not being used for cooking.

Get Rid of Ash

I highly recommend that you safely dispose of all ash from previous wood-fired cooking to decrease the risk of mold spores and fragments. As mentioned above, mold spores can survive combustion and so they can remain active in ashes. Don’t leave old ash laying around and certainly not within the equipment.

Finding hardwoods at the ideal moisture level, storing the woods in a well ventilated area, and rotating wood to circulate air exchange are good practices to help you stay safe during the outdoor cooking season and maintain healthy lung function for life.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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We’ve all been there! You purposely made a list of all the things you would need for the weekend BBQ. Carefully selected the meat, cleaned the grill or smoker the weekend before, and purchased the wood chips to impart that great flavoring you can only get from hardwood! You marinated the meat 24 hours ahead and woke up on grill day full of excitement.

So, what happened?

Instead of having the best, most flavorful meal you had to settle for an ordinary grill day with no special flare.


The wood chips failed to smoke. Or, worse yet, they just burned up in minutes.

It’s time you learned exactly what to do with those wood chips so this never happens again!

Tip #1: Understand the basics of hardwood

Wood is loaded with water. It’s only after the tree is cut that a loss of water or moisture occurs as there are two types of moisture content in wood: free water which is water in the cell cavities and bound water which is water held in the cell walls.

Try to cook or grill with a wood that has been fresh cut and you’ll likely have a very bad meal; acrid undertones and black, sooty color. Wet wood stimulates acrid smoke vapor.

Now, go the opposite direction. Take a wood that is dry, as in it’s too low to register on a moisture meter, and you have a full heat generator. This is what we want in the fireplace or fire pit to keep us warm, not in the grill, as it will simply generate too much heat and produce overdone, dry foods.

Tip #2: Understand Oxygen Flow

Even when using equipment with fuel assist like LP, gas or electric, you still need to be aware of air flow. Quality equipment is always designed with insulation in mind to keep heat from escaping but all equipment has some level of venting built in. Whenever you use grilling or smoking woods with equipment, you need to find the balance between air intake (oxygen) and exhaust damper or vent.

Some manufacturers will build in the ideal location for the wood chips by incorporating a drawer. Even if you don’t have this option on your grill, you can still provide the perfect spot for producing combustion to the wood by simply placing your wood chip container on or above the heat source. That’s it! Often this can be accomplished by putting your container right on the heat diffuser or bar that is under the grill grate.

Tip #3: Understand What the Lid is For

Have you ever wondered why charcoal grills have a completely removable lid while LP/Gas and Infrared grills always have a hinged lid that is permanently attached?

The reason is very basic; grill grates, regardless of material construction, are designed to absorb heat and produce conduction heat where they contact the food items (conducting heat from the grate to the food). The lid of the grill reflects the heat back to the food grates in what is termed convection heat (transferring heat by air flow or through a liquid medium like water (think boiling eggs). These grills maintain vents somewhere on or near the lid to vent out the gases from the LP or natural gas used to operate the grill. Remember, LP needs to be mixed with air to burn, thus, the reason for all those vents on LP grills!

Here’s the thing – if you keep opening the lid while using wood chips, you change the dynamic of the heat absorption forcing the unit to work harder to produce both conductive and convection heat. Plus, you will keep altering the stages of combustion of the wood chips. Leave the lid alone!

Tip #4: Don’t Wet the Wood Chips

I hear this all the time that the worry with wood chip use on a grill is that they will burn too fast. Let’s break this down so you understand just what happens when smoke vapor is produced from wood material.

The drier the wood the faster it will go through the stages of combustion and the more heat it will produce. If you have wood that is without measurable moisture, you will get limited or no smoke production, just heat. You need to purchase wood chips that have some measurable moisture to work effectively. Chips labeled as kiln dried are likely too dry for producing smoke vapor.

Tip #5: Step Up from Chips to Chunks

Maybe it’s time to abandon wood chips all together in favor of bigger pieces of wood. Here’s how to know what would work better:

If you’re cooking one item and it is a short cook time, then chips will serve you well. If, however, you are planning on loading the grill with an assortment of foods say sausage, chicken, corn, peppers, ribs, etc., then you may want to consider using wood chunks either directly on the grill’s diffusers or in a wood chip metal box (learn how to do this). These pieces, being large and dense, will burn longer giving off more smoke, which means less work for you to replenish. Plus, you can do different types of wood chunks all at the same time (one cherry, one maple, one hickory … you get the point).

Success with wood chips can be had if you learn to purchase wood with some moisture, use the wood dry (no pre-soaking), keep the wood over the heat source of the equipment so it can combust, and use the right type of wood product – chips versus chunks – for the length of cook time.

Then get ready to truly have the best grill day ever!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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Why Not Build Your Own Wood-fired Ingredient Box?

I’m old enough to remember the days when the purchase of a new car was very limited in terms of customizing. You didn’t get the opportunity to choose much more than the exterior color and even those choices were limited to a few! Today, you can go online and literally build your own car from the type of engine and fuel it will use, to the color, texture, and material of your interior and everything in between. This got me thinking about customizing when it comes to the wood-fired cooking experience. Why should cooking woods be any different than the car industry? Why not build your own wood-fired ingredient box when it comes to the smoking wood?

Since SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products’ inception, we have offered a level of customization to the user purchasing our products that has been unmatched by any other company. We provide options that empower the user to combine various products as you would the ingredients to a homemade stew.

Why Is This an Option of Value and Importance?

There are times that you need different products on hand to simply do specific functions. For instance, Grande Sapore® Wood Chips are a means of bringing the temperature of some equipment up quickly. Smokin’ Dust® provides for a sudden burst of smoke vapor due to its lower moisture level. Double filet smoker wood chunks tend to be the ideal sizing to place on diffusers/flavor bars of LP grills and achieve smoke vapor around foods being cooked.

I think one of the primary reasons that smoking wood should have a level of customer choice is that most of us don’t own just one piece of equipment. I think I’m safe to assume that all of us have a conventional stove top. That gives the opportunity to do stove top smoking. Many of us have the newer models of LP grills that allow for the placement of woods chunks and/or the use of wood chips. Then there are those that have the conventional stove top, the LP grill, the charcoal grill, and a dedicated smoker. Wouldn’t it be great to source all the products need for these different types of equipment from one supplier and even get the chance to purchase a combination of products for one price?

And the icing on the cake – Now that’s customization at its best!! That’s SmokinLicious®!

It’s time to make your wood-fired cooking experiences uniquely your own by starting with SmokinLicious® and our wide array of species and flavor options just waiting for your hand and imagination to take your wood-fired cooking memories to new heights!

From the Production Team at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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It’s long been the equipment associated with the guys. Perhaps it’s due to the primal start of cooking over live fire which initially was a man’s skill. Hunt the animal and cook it on fire and hot coals.

Recently, the trend has begun to turn around in favor of more women grilling components of a meal on the grill. In fact, it’s not just the traditional LP/gas grill but charcoal grills as well, as women take their new recipe and technique finds out of the traditional indoor kitchen and to the outdoors.


There is no question that outdoor grilling equipment has evolved into something of fantasy. We now have choices beyond the standard LP, natural gas, charcoal, and electric grills. Many brands are now featuring dual fuel cooking, meaning they may have gas or electric assist but use wood and/or charcoal for heat and flavor!

What does this mean for the ladies who want to do more outdoor cooking on the grill?

Versatility! It is so easy to cook an entire meal on the grill without it taking several hours or more.


The key to ensuring that an entire meal can be cooked on the grill is to have the right tools and that includes some accessory items. Let’s look at each recommended item and answer the question why it’s important to the woman’s full meal grill event.


First up, the grill pan, grill basket or grill topper. These are perfect for vegetables and fruits making it so easy to ensure that the food doesn’t stick to the grill grates and that every piece gets cooked evenly. Plus, since many grills are now sold with a side burner, you can always steam or par boil tougher vegetables first, then transfer to the grill pan/basket/topper. Or, use that side burner to make rice for a healthy starch side. Don’t have a side burner on your grill or are using a charcoal grill? Then buy a butane burner! These are so inexpensive yet give you another cooking option to get everything ready at the same time.


If you don’t know what a chimney starter is, time to learn. The charcoal chimney starter is the best way to light a charcoal fire. Although these traditionally use newspaper at the bottom (for ignition) and load charcoal chunks (can be briquettes or lump) into the body of the unit, I take a simple method of lighting my chimney. I load with my favorite charcoal and use a butane torch under the unit to light – no newspaper needed. This allows me to leave the butane on auto fire for a few minutes to ensure the lower coals are lit. Simply pull the torch out, shake the chimney while wearing fire gloves, and return to a heat safe surface until the top coals turn white-gray. Oh, and you can always light the chimney off that side burner too!


Stop guessing at when things are done! You need to invest in 2 quality thermometers; one for the grill/smoker and one instant-read for the food. Be sure the thermometers you invest in can take a reading in 5 seconds or less, have at least a 4-inch probe for thicker cuts of meat, and have cables that are durable (if you don’t go with a wireless), especially for equipment thermometers that are placed through venting holes or under lids.


Anything made from silicone will become a lifesaver at the grill. Silicone pot handle covers, spatulas, heat resistant tongs – you get the idea. This material can handle the high heat of grills so stock up on those items you’ll need and use the most. Suggestions? Tongs, pot handle covers, spatulas, spoons, mat.


Grilling does not necessarily mean you must put all foods on the grill grates. Use high heat cookware to help you out. Think cast iron or high heat clay and enamels meant for the grill. These are perfect for starting one pot wonders like legumes, pasta dishes, even sauces. With a roomy enough grill, you can fit many different items – grill pan/basket, Dutch oven, and rib racks. Don’t forget most grills come equipped with a lower and upper grill rack so more fragile items that need less heat can go to the top. Here’s some tips on food to cooking equipment match:


Cast iron is, without question, the best material for cooking directly in the coals. Here’s a tip – if you have an outdoor fireplace or even a fire pit that uses wood, you can do this method of cooking by placing your cast iron skillet or Dutch oven directly in the coals. Keep in mind, I said coals, not flame. Coals have a very high BTU rating and can cook foods within cast iron as if they are in the oven. Just be sure to pack the hot coals around the cast iron after placing the pan in the coal bed. Perfect items to try: vegetable medley, roasted potato, curry dishes, au gratin dishes.


Just like having the side burner on a grill, cast iron on the grill is like having an extra pot on the stove. Cast iron comes in lots of sizes and cookware type: saucepan, skillet, Dutch oven. Anything you would traditionally make in cookware on the stove can be done on the grill. The key is to ensure that you have this on a section of the grill that isn’t set to “high”, as cast iron holds heat.


Though small in overall size, the upper grill rack is designed for those fragile items or for items that require simple warming. Think melting butter for vegetables, heating sauces, warming bread and rolls. Use it! It can be of great value to keep you from needing anything indoors.


If you have a grill with a rotisserie, use it! Keep in mind, as that item turns on that rod, the meat or poultry renders some fantastic juices. Catch them! Put a high heat pan under the food item with some great vegetables and use the drippings to add superb flavor to the cooking process.


Now, let’s be clear! Unless you’ve invested in a dual fuel or hybrid grill, one that allows you to use charcoal and/or smoking wood, most standard LP grills are just that: grills not smokers. If you don’t have a hybrid but want to get some smoking woods flavoring to your foods, then start thinking of adding charcoal and wood chunks!

Yes, you heard me right. Wood Chunks vs. woodchips which was the product of choice for years with LP grills.


Most grills today are designed with covers for the gas burners to diffuse the heat more evenly. They go by a lot of names: heat distributors, flame tamers, heat plates, burner shields, flavorizer bars. The addition to the traditional LP grill is the reason why you can use smoking wood chunks. Simply place a few small wood chunks under the grill grate right on top of the heat diffuser. Be sure you only put chunks on a burner you will ignite. Replace the grill grate and you’re ready to go! And, yes, you will get real wood smoke vapor to flavor whatever you’re cooking on the grill. I promise!


“Man”-ing the grill is no different than planning a meal in your conventional kitchen. Pick out the components of the meal and decide what needs to cook where on the grill: directly on the grate, on the rotisserie, in cast iron, on the coals. If doing a meat, be sure to marinate 6 hours or best, overnight, to ensure a moist outcome and to reduce cooking time.

Have everything prepped including the grilling tools you will need and this is a walk in the park for the woman that is use to planning daily meals for her family. The best part, you can enjoy more of those great warm days and not sweat in the confines of the hot summer kitchen!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at


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This is the year! You made a promise to yourself, family and friends that this outdoor cooking season, you were going to bring more flavor to meals cooked on the grill by incorporating smoking wood and grilling wood. All you need to know is, what are the options for setting up the grill for this type of cooking without purchasing a smoker?

We have the answer and lots of options to utilize your existing equipment!


There is a great deal of variation in LP/Gas Grilling equipment in terms of grilling surface space, number of burners, BTU rating, etc. Know up front, that this will play into how frequently you need to replenish grilling or smoking wood or even to monitor the foods being smoked on the grill. Essentially, these tips will work on any brand/model that you may own.


Heat diffusers are commonly found on newer models of grills. They are made of high heat tolerant metal and cover the actual burners of the unit. Their purpose is to ensure even heat distribution throughout the grill so both radiant and conductive heat are maximized.


If you have a grill model that has heat diffusers (remember, they may go by other names like flavorizer bars, flame tamers, heat plates, burner shields and heat distributors) then you’re ready to use smoking wood chunks on your unit! Yes, I said smoking chunks. This is by far the easiest method of getting true smoke flavor to the foods being cooked. Plus, you can set up an indirect method of cooking using smoking chunks.

You will need 3-4 wood chunks sized to fit over your heat diffusers and under the grill grate when set in place. A 2x2x3-inch size fits most units and these should have some measurable moisture level; at least 20% moisture is ideal meaning you won’t need to presoak the wood. If you have an old grill model before heat diffusers were standard, you can still use smoking wood chunks by placing them in a smoker box. These boxes will generally fit 3-4 chunks of the size referenced above but be sure to use a good quality box. My preference is cast iron. Insert the chunks into the smoker box and leave the lid off!


What truly makes for barbecue and not just grilling or smoking on an LP/Gas unit is using the indirect method of cooking. The smoking wood chunks will be set on a burner that is turned on to medium or medium-high heat depending on the BTU level of your unit. The higher the BTU level, use a medium setting. Overall, you want the grill’s temperature to average 225-250° F for cooking traditional BBQ items like ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, and poultry. If using the smoker box, you will place the box on the grill grate of the side with the burner lit. My preference is, if doing very large cuts of meat, to turn on two burners if you have a 3-burner or more unit. The foods will be placed on the unlit side of the grill.


To ensure that any meat or poultry cooked on the grill remains moist and tender, include a water pan or two in your set up. This is easily done by purchasing readily available disposable pie tins from the discount store. I like to add warm to hot water so the grill does not have to exert much energy to heat up the water, which takes heat away from the unit. Remember, the water will be evaporating during the cooking or smoking process so have additional water available if it depletes before the cooking is complete. Water pans are set on the unlit burner side of the grill, directly under the food. This will also act as a drip pan, catching all those juices.


You have your smoking wood chunks on the lit burner, your water pans on the unlit burner, the grill’s temperature is holding steady, the grill grate has been in place taking on heat – we’re now ready for the meat. Always take the prepared meat directly from the refrigerator to the grill COLD! Cold foods will attract smoke vapor faster, allowing the vapor to condense on the food’s surface. A moist surface also help attract the smoke so feel free to keep a spray bottle of water to spritz your meat’s surface as needed, though this often is not needed.


Remember, this isn’t traditional grilling on the grill. We are doing barbecue smoking using an indirect method of cooking. Keep the lid closed! Every time you do so, you release heat, smoke, and moisture. What you do need to watch closely is the temperature of your unit as the consistent temperature is what ensures an evenly cooked food item, as well as a tender, moist outcome.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at

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It is likely when you have your heart set on some wood-fired cooked foods that you give little attention to the wood that will be required for that cooking event. You may have seen wood smoker chips or chunks available in your local box store and decided that you can always pick those up last minute, to be assured your plans aren’t foiled. Or, you simply plan to go with charcoal chips without considering that this product is made from wood as well.

STOP and ponder this for a moment – Do you realize where exactly those wood products come from?

Unless you are in a direct county of involvement, you likely haven not realized the invasions that are occurring readily to our forests, woodlots, and home landscapes.

To date, here are some of the diseases and infestations we are battling in the United States:

* Emerald Ash Borer

* Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

* Whitebark Pine Beatle

* Beech Bark Disease

* Dutch Elm Disease

* Butternut Canker

* Asian Longhorn Beetle

* Dogwood Anthracnose

* Gypsy Moth

* Balsam Woolly Adelgid

* Laurel Wilt disease

* Sirex Wood Wasp

* Sudden Oak Death

* Polyphagous & Kuroshio Shot Hole Borer affecting sycamores, willows, oaks, maples (including Boxelder), and commercial avocado trees.

EVERY state in the US has battled imported forest pests with the hardest hit being New York State followed closely by MA, WI, IL, VA, MI, NJ, OH, and CA. Every decade, 25 new insect pests are established in the US which can lead for potential decimate of an entire tree species in just decades.

So why if you are a lover of BBQ smoking chips or BBQ wood chunks (smoking using woodchunks or woodchips) or other wood fired foods, should issues with bugs be of concern? Because cooking by fire is the oldest known cooking method for human kind. Right now, you may simply enjoy 3 benefits of trees: for shade, for beauty (viewing), and for flavor to foods cooked on your grill/smoker.

But there are many other benefits:

Decrease atmospheric carbon by capturing and storing CO2

Improve air quality by filtering pollutants and releasing oxygen

Reduce storm water runoff and pollutants entering local water bodies

Increase property values by 3-7%

The pollutant removal alone that trees are responsible for provides a human health benefit worth $6.8 billion per year! Trees keep us alive!

As of December 2016, NYS DEC has detected increased prevalence of Oak Wilt in the state which has no known treatment to contain and kill this fungus. Oak is one of the most popular hardwoods for wood-fired cooking methods.

Please, take the time to source wood for cooking from reputable sources and follow the laws in place in your specific state to ensure we can limit the spread of these pests and diseases, and continue to enjoy the oldest method of cooking: by fire!

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at