back to top
Community

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!

Posted on

WOOD GRILLING AVOCADO

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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.

MAKING IT MORE THAN A GRILL

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.

SIMPLE AVOCADO PREPARATION

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.

PREP TO FINISH IN LESS THAN 20 MINUTES

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 info@smokinlicious.com. Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.

PEACHES GO SMOKY FOR A FLAVORFUL GAZPACHO

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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

FRESH IS KEY

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.

RELEASING SWEET SMOKY FLAVOR

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.

FLAVOR IN NO TIME AT ALL

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.


SEASONAL FRESH INGREDIENTS

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


BLENDING YOUR WAY TO FABULOUS FLAVOR

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 info@smokinlicious.com. Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.

IS HICKORY THE WOOD TO SMOKE & GRILL WITH?

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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.


WHY HICKORY?

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.


IS THERE A HOLY GRAIL FOR SMOKING WOOD?

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.

LIFE OF THE TREE IS KEY

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.

MORE CHOICES DON'T ALWAYS MEAN BETTER OUTCOME

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.

BLAZE YOUR OWN TRAIL

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

WHAT’S IN THE SMOKINLICIOUS® WOOD CHUNK BOX?

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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!

THE SPECIFICS YOU'VE ASKED ABOUT

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.

IT'S IN THE NUMBERS

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.

INDIVIDUAL WEIGHTS

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.


WHAT DID YOU LEARN?

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

ARE FRUIT WOOD TREES LIKE THE APPLE “SNOW WHITE” BIT INTO?

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

ELECTRIC SMOKERS: WHEN IS A WOOD CHIP ‘DEAD’?

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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.

ARE THERE FLAVOR DIFFERENCES?

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.

THE SMALL WOOD APPETITE

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.

SOLID BLACK WOOD CHIPS

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.

COMBUSTION HAS NEEDS

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.

CAN BLACK CHIPS BE RE-USED?

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

TO BARK OR NOT

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

SHOULD I COOK WITH BARK ON WOODS OR GO BARK-FREE?

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.

WHAT IS BARK?

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.

CHEMISTRY OF BARK

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

AIR POLLUTANT METER

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.

TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATION

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.

CHANGE OF TASTE

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

WHY CHARCOAL IS NOT AN INGREDIENT

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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.

AN INGREDIENT NOT A FUEL

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.

NON-CARBONIZED WOOD IS FLAVOR

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.

SO, WHO IS THE INGREDIENT?

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

THE BREAKFAST POTATO TAKES ON SMOKE!

Dr Smoke & the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

GIVE IT A SMOKY START

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:

GATHER THESE INGREDIENTS:

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

ONE HOT SKILLET MAKES IT EASY

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.

ADDING HEAT AND SMOKE

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.

MELLOWING OUT THE BOLDNESS

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.


THE SPECTACULAR FINISH

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

BEECH IS CERTAINLY “GRAND” IN EUROPEAN SMOKER WOODS

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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.

I'M WITH THE WHITE OAKS

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.


COOKING SPECIFICS

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.

NEUTRAL WAYS

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.


MY TAN SKIN

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

STRAWBERRIES GET SMOKY FOR AN AQUA FRESCA COCKTAIL

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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.

STRAWBERRIES LOVE SMOKE

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

INGREDIENTS & 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

Blender

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.

GAS GRILLING WITH WOOD CHUNKS

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.

GET READY FOR JUICY BUBBLES

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.


TASTE IS THE SWEET AROMA

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.

STRAWBERRY BASE

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.

CREATING THE ULTIMATE AQUA FRESCA

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

LEARN WHAT THE SMOKE COLOR MEANS WHEN COOKING WITH WOOD

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew

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 = NO OXYGEN

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.

GRAY/BROWN SMOKE = POOR WOOD QUALITY

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.

WHITE SMOKE = INITIATION OF HEAT

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.

BLUE SMOKE (OR NEARLY INVISIBLE) = HOLY GRAIL

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.

FINDING THE PERFECT WOOD WITH THE PERFECT MOISTURE LEVEL

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

TOP 10 VEGETABLES TO COOK IN HOT EMBERS

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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 RULES OF EMBER AND ASH COOKING

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.


HOT EMBERS BIRTHED IN ONE HOUR

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.

VEGETABLES THAT LOVE HOT COALS

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

KIWIFRUIT GETS SMOKY FOR A FLAVOR BOOST

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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.

THE EASE OF HAND HELD SMOKING

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.

LET THE SMOKE IN

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.


A PINCH OF HARDWOOD IS ALL IT TAKES

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.


A CLOUD OF SMOKY GOODNESS

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.


CONTAINMENT IS KEY

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.


15 MINUTES TO SMOKY GOODNESS

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

COOKING WITH OAK- A BOLD FLAVOR

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

I WOULDN'T GRILL WITH MOLDY WOODS, YOU SHOULDN'T EITHER- LEARN WHY

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

WHY WON’T MY SMOKER WOOD CHIPS SMOKE??

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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.

Why?

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

HOW TO CUSTOMIZE YOUR WOOD COOKING TECHNIQUES

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

GRILLING: THE WOMAN'S GUIDE

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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.

Just Because It’s Outside Doesn’t Change The Purpose

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.


Accessorize!

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.


#1 Grill Grate Accessories:

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.


#2 Easy Charcoal Lighting:

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!


#3 Purchase 2 Thermometers

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.


#4 Silicone

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.

Diversify!

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:


Tip #1: Cast Iron and Charcoal

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.


Tip #2: Cast Iron and LP/Gas Grill

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.


Tip #3: The Upper Grill Rack

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.

Tip #4: The Rotisserie

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.


Flavor It Up!

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.


Why Smoking Wood Chunks?

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!

Final Points

“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 info@smokinlicious.com.

HOW TO TURN YOUR LP/GAS GRILL INTO A SMOKER

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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!

LP/GAS GRILLS OF ALL TYPES

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.

HOW TO ADD GRILLING WOOD TO THE LP/GAS GRILL

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.

WOOD CHUNKS ON THE DIFFUSERS

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!


INDIRECT COOKING METHOD

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.

WATER KEEPS EVERYTHING MOIST

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.


MOIST COLD SURFACES ATTRACT SMOKE VAPOR

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.

LEAVE THE LID ALONE!

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

To purchase the products mentioned in this article visit here

FOREST STEWARDSHIP WILL PROTECT THIS PRECIOUS RESOURCE

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

IS HEARTWOOD REALLY THE ‘HEART’ OF THE TREE?

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

By now you’ve come to recognize SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products as the Company that produces it’s cooking wood products from only heartwood. Yet, there are still many questions out there as to what that means for the individual using our products. Is heartwood where all the life forces of the tree thrive?

The short answer is, no, but there are benefits to using woods derived from the heartwood of the tree for cooking. Let’s explore!

Mini molecular-biology course: wood is an organic material that is porous and fibrous. It contains hundreds of organic compounds but there are three primary compounds responsible for the cell construction in trees: Cellulose which is a glucose that is tasteless and odorless but comprises 40-50% of the cell. It is crystalline so it provides for the strength of the cell wall. Hemicellulose is also a glucose and carbohydrate but unlike cellulose, it has little strength and makes up 15-25% of the tree’s cell structure. Lignin is the cell compound that is responsible for the structural materials in the support tissues of wood and bark, and makes up 15-30% of wood cells. Lignin is what fills the cell wall spaces between the cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin components and is crucial for conducting water. Lignin yields more energy than cellulose when burned. Most importantly, lignin is what gives wood-fired cooked foods their flavor and aroma.

Now, on to the heartwood. All wood starts life as sapwood, the living, outermost portion of the tree that is just under the bark. Sapwood is where water and dissolved minerals are transported from the roots to the crown of the tree. Essentially, it is where energy for the tree is stored. As older sapwood cells age and die, they become heartwood, which plays no role with transport of essential nutrients for the tree. Then what are the benefits to heartwood?

Heartwood is known to be resistive to insects and decay. An additional benefit is heartwood tends to be darker in color than the sapwood. Because the cells die off, the moisture level is less difficult to manage than sapwood, meaning it can be dialed in with greater ease. That’s why traditional firewood can take so long to season (up to a year) as it will contain bark, sapwood and heartwood due to the splitting of the harvested tree. The combination of these three distinct components can alter the aroma and flavor when used together in cooking, producing a more muddled flavor profile. This is where the risks for toxicity in cooking reveal themselves.

One of the reasons that SmokinLicious® has specific hardwood species in our product offerings is because the hardwoods we’ve selected tend to have a healthier heartwood to sapwood ratio, are known to have less risk of heartwood rot, and have lignin percentages that are more complimenting to cooking. We’ve done the hard thinking for you so go ahead and select one of our hardwoods with confidence that you will get a super aroma and taste to your wood-fired menu items!

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

Smoked Potatoes- A New Flavor Twist

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

As the #1 crop in the world, available all year, potatoes are a favorite for a variety of reasons. Get the nutritional benefit of this abundant vegetable by adding flavor in a different way – cooking it over charcoal and hardwood!

INGREDIENTS:

New red and white potatoes

3 tablespoons of oil (grape seed, walnut, almond, vegetable, or canola)

Coarse salt

Fresh pepper

Heat-safe pan

Kettle grill

Charcoal

SmokinLicious® Sugar Maple wood chunks & Wild Cherry Grande Sapore® wood chips

SIMPLE PREPARATION FOR A SIMPLE VEGETABLE

I’m using small red and white potatoes. You’ll need a knife and cutting board, as I like to cut these small potatoes in half to allow for maximum wood fire flavoring. I’m going to use a vegetable grill pan but you can use any heat safe pan whether foil, glass, heat safe ceramic, or cast iron. Cut each potato in half, and place in the grill pan.

SEASONING AND OIL BRING OUT THE BEST

Just 3 simple ingredients are needed before the pan is placed on the grill. Drizzle three tablespoons of oil over the halved potatoes, then add coarse salt and fresh pepper. The oil can be grapeseed, walnut, almond, vegetable, or canola, anything you have and prefer. Mix well to ensure each potato is coated, then let rest to allow the seasonings to penetrate before adding to the hot grill.

CHARCOAL GRILL SET UP

Time to get the grill ready. I’ll be using a combination of charcoal and wood – charcoal as the fuel for heat and wood chunks and chips for flavor. Keeping my intake vents open on the kettle grill, I start a chimney full of charcoal. Just one chimney will be needed for the actual cooking. I lay a small line of unlit coals down both the right and left side of the charcoal grate to keep my temperature stable through the cook. I pour the hot coals in the middle then add two Sugar Maple wood chunks and a handful of Wild Cherry Grande Sapore® wood chips on top of the hot coals. On goes the food grate and then my vegetable pan of halved seasoned potatoes.

DEPTH OF FLAVOR THROUGH SMOKE

Once the wood is set up and the food grate is on, the pan of potatoes is added. Put the grill cover on and adjust the lid outtake vent to 1/3 open position. Now, adjust the lower intake vent to ½ open position. Let the potatoes cook for about 25 minutes prior to stirring. You’ll see the golden hue from the maple and cherry smoke vapor. Be sure to rotate the potatoes on the bottom to the top so that there is even color and flavor to each piece. The total cook time will be close to an hour but each grill and charcoal will perform differently so be sure to watch closely after the first 35 minutes. Remove when the potatoes can be pierced easily with a toothpick or knife tip.

FULL FLAVOR WITH ALL THE NUTRITION INTACT

With all the nutritional value still intake, these golden, smoky potatoes are ready to eat as is or you can include them in your favorite potato recipes. I’ll be giving a smoky edge to my interpretation of a potato curry in our next recipe feature. Take advantage of this popular comfort vegetable and the ease of using a charcoal/wood grill for cooking and give your meals a memorable flavor enhancement.

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

WHEN A FLOP COULD HAVE BEEN A SUCCESS!

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

There is no question, being in the franchise restaurant business is a challenge especially given that there is a national menu dictated by the brand you partnered with. I am amazed the risks brands will take when it comes to making major capital investment in marketing strategies, equipment upgrades, and personnel training for single concepts. Case in point: the obsession with wood-fired grilling to get customers in or coming back!

Here are just a few brands that took the leap of faith into the wood-fired grill market: Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Applebee’s Grill & Bar, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Logan’s Roadhouse, Bonefish Grill®

Certainly, not all these efforts have resulted in 100% failure as often the addition of a wood-fired oven or grill was added for other menus items that had an established following or existed from the conception of the franchise. For instance, Carrabba’s Italian Grill offers wood-fired pizza in their brick oven so it’s not a giant leap for them to do wood-fired chicken. The same can be said for Bonefish Grill® whose focus is fresh fish. Logan’s Roadhouse and Outback Steakhouse bring diners in for mostly steak and that is a protein accustomed to being cooked by fire. But what happens when a decision is made by a brand to go into this unchartered area?

There are two franchises that standout on this topic: Red Lobster and Applebee’s Grill & Bar. More than 6 years ago, Red Lobster began a major marketing campaign on their newly launched “wood-fired assisted grills”. The brand stated a commitment to using oak wood for their wood-fired menu items and at some locations, though not all, you would find a log holder of firewood logs outside or just inside the front door. In 2016, Applebee’s Grill & Bar attempted a major menu change with the introduction of wood-fired steaks, pork, chicken and salmon which required the purchase and installation of wood-fired grills to its nearly 2000 locations. So, why don’t you see these two brands focused on wood-fired menus any longer? The short answer is, they didn’t study the market on wood-fired cooking with the help of a wood expert!

What should have been done to make this capital venture, this leap-of-faith, successful? By far, the most pivotal mistake made was not understanding the roll the wood plays in food flavor. Both Red Lobster and Applebee’s Grill & Bar defaulted to using oak, an extremely strong wood to use in cooking. Also, they elected to use firewood meaning that the variety of oak, if not sourced by one supplier, would vary by region or state, if indeed they received oak exclusively. Most firewood suppliers do not sell one type of wood. In fact, firewood could be a mix of softwood and hardwood which should be of great concern when you are targeting cooking.

Understand, that most franchise brands do not come up with a concept and immediately put it in place. There is a testing period, usually two, whereby they take a small sampling of their locations and put the new menu items in place. Then they collect feedback and data. The catastrophic failure that occurred for Applebee’s Grill & Bar is that they did not stay true to the procedures set in place during the testing period when they rolled this out to nearly 2000 locations. The result: they will turn in the worse 2016 sales numbers for a franchise restaurant.


What is the lesson to take away?

If you are considering adding wood-fired menu items to your business, do your research! Don’t get enamored with the idea of this style of cooking. Learn from an expert what occurs to foods exposed to live fire, what changes result flavor wise, and what to avoid in wood choices based on the equipment. Most of all, start out by understanding not all wood is appropriate for cooking and not all suppliers have great wood. Then take advise from the expert rather than risking not only the success of your business but the health and experience of your guests who dine with you.

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 info@smokinlicious.com.

Before You Cook- Know the Risks!

Dr Smoked and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

KNOWING YOUR WOODS IS IMPORTANT BEFORE YOU COOK

Let me begin by emphasizing that we have a lot more research to do on woods used for cooking! There has been a great deal of attention to developing countries who, out of necessity, have to rely on wood fires for cooking to survive.

I’m going to first relate the information on why the risks in North America are not the same as developing countries and then I will highlight the top six (6) potential reactions we face when using specific woods for cooking. This will be generalized reactions to wood compounds and not the direct result of a specific cooking technique.

Developing countries generally use very primitive equipment for cooking the daily meals needed to sustain families. The simplest method is with three large stones to contain the fire with a pot or other metal container placed on top for the cooking. The fires are fueled with solid materials like coal, wood, dung, and crop waste. All these materials release harmful particles into the air as they burn. Here’s the issue: they employ this cooking set up INDOORS, where they live which generally is in homes constructed from thatch, mud, and/or animal skins. Chimneys may not be present or if present, have no flue to draw the contaminated air out.

WHAT RESULTS FROM THE EXPOSURE TO SMOKE FROM COOKING DAILY IN THESE SITUATIONS?

Respiratory Infections

Asthma

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Ocular Disorders

Lung Cancer and Upper Airway Cancers

Death (from long-standing exposure)

In North America, we view wood-fired cooking as entertainment as we are blessed with having other options for our primary cooking needs, specifically, gas, electric and convection cooking equipment. Our equipment is built from high end materials with proper ventilation key to installing and using this equipment. All our cooking can be done safely with minimal exposure for the health risks listed above.

Most of us engage in wood-fired cooking outside, where the particulate matter of smoke cannot accumulate in one area lowering our risks for compromised health. Restaurants who include wood-fired menu items do so by having specialized ventilation that must pass rigorous inspection. All this ensures that we don’t suffer the same consequences as these developing countries.

The question is: are there any other variables that put us at risk when we cook with wood even outdoors?

I’m going to pick some of the most popular woods to cook with in North America and isolate some of the potential concerns with these woods. I will list these by two categories: fruit wood and hardwood.

FRUIT WOODS

In this group, I’ll include Apple, Cherry, Grape, Peach, Pear as these tend to be the favorite fruit woods to use for wood-fired cooking. Let’s address the gorilla in the room first– pesticides.

Like the fruit these trees produce, the wood absorbs the pesticides that are applied to the trees. Eat a non-organic apple (keep in mind organic produce also is exposed to pesticides but usually these are natural derivatives and not synthetic), wash it, and you will still absorb any pesticide that has been absorbed into the actual fruit meat. Same is true for the tree. Pesticide applications embed into the soil base of the tree, which then enters the root system, and is on the way to the other parts of the tree. Now let’s be clear, pesticides can also become air born as they turn into a vapor and travel with air. Bark of any tree is a great absorber of these air particles. Once pesticides enter the human body, they are stored in the colon.

For the Prunus Armeniaca family which includes ornamental cherry, peach, plum, and apricot trees and shrubs, it is the stems, leaves, and seeds that pose the greatest risk if these are consumed by animals, even the dog and cat. Cyanide is present and can be lethal to animals so if you bring in wood with bark and/or leaves intact, be sure these are away from all animals.

HARDWOODS

Popular hardwoods to use for cooking include Beech(nut), Cedar, Alder, Pecan, Mesquite, Hickory, Maple, and Oak. For all these woods as well as the fruit woods, dust irritation in the form of rhinitis and general respiratory reaction is a given. Wood dust is an irritant. How people react to the dust is dependent on each person’s immune system. You should make every attempt to purchase wood for cooking that is clean of dust, particularly for wood chips. Often sellers of wood chips don’t screen the product sold and you can often end up with a bag or box full of wood dust. This will certainly aggravate most respiratory systems and potentially could exacerbate already compromised systems.

Many hardwoods trigger pollen sensitivities. New research in the areas of allergens and immunology are beginning to show that many allergens survive combustion or wood burning when used in cooking and trigger the same allergic reaction or sensitivities as a pollen sensitivity.

Of the hardwood listed above, these are the noted potential reactions:

Alder: dermatitis, rhinitis, bronchial effects, eye irritation

Apple: seeds contain cyanogenic (cyanide), pesticide risk/reaction

Beech: irritant likely from bark lichens, dust, leaves

Cedar: allergic contact dermatitis

Cherry: cyanogenic


Grape:
pesticide risk/reaction

Hickory: irritant from dust

Peach: pesticide risk/reaction

Pear: pesticide risk/reaction

Pecan: irritant from dust; high level of ethanol extract in bark

Maple: irritant, asthma, sensitizer

Mesquite: dermatitis, coughing, respiratory

Oak: irritant, sensitizer, asthma, eye irritation, dermatitis

I’ve highlighted only those hardwoods that have gained popularity as a cooking or grilling wood. In future articles, we will explore the hazards of using woods that are less common and more toxic. Don’t assume just because you’re cooking outdoors, the risks are few. Be informed on the wood choice before you make a lethal mistake.

Start a conversation with us on this topic by leaving a comment!

Written by the SmokinLicious® Culinary Team offering tips, techniques, and recipes about wood, ember, and smoking cooking.

All You Need to Know & More About BBQed Brisket

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

We receive a lot of questions about preparing and smoking a beef brisket on different equipment. There is no question, that people in North America love their beef and anyone who has sampled prime BBQ knows that brisket has a truly unique flavor that puts this food experience on many people’s bucket list. Let me share some of the key tips we offer as well as some of the interesting questions posed regarding this infamous meat.

WHAT'S WITH ALL THE NAMES?

Whole packer, Flat, Point, Deckle, Burnt Ends. These are likely names you’ve heard or seen float around. Let’s start with what brisket is – pectoral muscles (there are two) of the animal. They get a lot of work, bearing more than half the animal’s weight, which causes them to get tough. Thus, the reason for a low temperature, long cook time to get this cut of meat tender. Oh, and yes, you can use a slow cooker but that just isn’t BBQ!

When purchased, a whole packer often called Texas Style Brisket will weigh 9-16 lbs. Let’s be clear – the whole packer contains two muscles; the flat and the point. So, there are really 3 cuts offered in most butcher shops: a whole packer brisket (which includes the next two cuts), a flat (1st cut), and a point (the 2nd cut or deckle). These 3 cuts are not the same and will require some changes in cooking. Also, don’t confuse corned beef. Yes, it is brisket but it is a preserved cut that should not be used for barbecue!

DON'T YOU NEED ALL THE FAT LEFT ON TO MAKE IT TENDER?

When brisket is sold whole, it will contain a fat cap side that can be up to an inch of fat. This requires trimming! Fat is oil and meat is essentially loaded with water, so the two do not readily mix. However, fat can add a flavorful component to dishes especially when cooked over or with hardwood. Therefore, I recommend you trim all the outer fat layer to ⅛” or at the most ¼”. Regarding the fat cap, my preference is to remove it, but if you want to add some extra flavonoids to your cooking environment, you can always cook the fat cap separate from the meat, allowing it to drip into the water pan and add flavor to the condensation/steam that develops.

If you elect to cook with the fat cap intact, cook the meat with the fat cap down so it renders into the water pan, or coals depending on what equipment you’re cooking on.

There is silverskin so trim any that you see, much like you do with ribs, as this is stiff connective tissue. Remember, the fat needs to be trimmed for flavor to penetrate the meat. Too much fat, and nothing will get through to the meat!


SIZE: CAN I CUT IT UP TO REDUCE THE COOKING TIME?

Sometimes I think the biggest obstacle to a successful brisket is the thinking that you must keep this cut of meat as one large piece (if purchased as the packer cut). Generally, you end up with a dry thinner portion and undercooked thicker portion given the long cook time. Why not try cutting this so you have two more equal thicknesses to deal with? That is, instead of attempting the whole packer, purchase the flat and point separately. It’s always a good rule of thumb that if you don’t possess great butchering skills, have the butcher do the cutting for you.

ALWAYS FOIL?

Known as the “Texas Crutch”, this is a technique of wrapping the meat in heavy duty foil with 1-2 ounces of liquid. The purpose? Aiding tenderization of a muscle meat and speeding the cooking process. You will compromise some of the crisping of the bark (outside of the brisket) with this method but not the flavor.


BRISKET = ALL NIGHTER?

Not necessarily. Although you need to plan 45-60 minutes per pound at an average temperature of 225° F, and that the meat will likely stall around 150° F (when connective tissue and internal fats liquefy), the average full smoker/grill time will be 12-14 hours. You can do a partial smoke on the grill/smoker and then move to the conventional oven. Here’s how - Smoke until the internal temperature is close to 130° F or when the meat stalls at about 150° F, ensuring great wood-fired flavor. Now, you can move that beautiful meat to the oven. Set is still for a low temperature oven say 200 to 225° F. I recommend tenting the pan. Keep in mind, you won’t get a crunchy bark but you will get the peace of mind of a flavorful meat and the ability to enjoy family and friends. If you need the oven for other food items at a higher temperature, just pull the meat, tent it well and allow it to sit untouched until you’re ready to carve.


RUB/BRINE/INJECTION? WHAT DO I DO?

Food is personal so experiment and find what works for you and the people that you serve. Plus, no one said salt and pepper can’t be your rub so don’t feel pulled to have to add a ton of ingredients for a rub. The key is to marinate the meat with whatever seasoning/rub you choose for at least 6 hours or overnight to ensure that some of the water is rendered out and tenderizing begins. Plus, cold meat will attract smoke vapor. Also, beef does not like sweet so any combination of ingredients you use for a rub, include only a small quantity of sugar.

You can consider injecting the meat with a brine to breakdown the intramuscular fat. The application of salt allows the muscle of the meat to retain moisture and gives the final product greater flavor. Always cook it fat cap side down to the heat. This allows the fat to act as an insulator and keep more moisture in the meat so you don’t have a dry meat result.

FINAL TIPS:

Purchase only USDA Choice or Prime beef. Start with 4-6 ounces of wood and add more every 30 minutes for the first 2-3 hours. If you notice a considerable color difference between the top and bottom of the meat, go ahead and turn it. If you plan to foil, do this at 150° F. Shoot for a finished internal temperature of about 200° F. At that point, let the meat sit in the foil for up to 2 hours on the closed cooker or move to a cooler. If you prefer a crisper bark, you can unwrap the meat from the foil following the 2 hour rest and broil for a few minutes on each side or put on a hot grill. It just takes a few minutes on each side. Always slice the meat with the fat side up, across the grain, preferably with the flat and point separated first. Add any sauce or mop after the slicing.

Now, go get your beef!

Written by the SmokinLicious® Culinary Team offering tips, techniques, and recipes about wood, ember, and smoking cooking.

THE SAFE BET!

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

ALDER

I’m often asked if there is any hardwood that is a safe bet to use with any food item and equipment. One that won’t be too strong if over applied or hurt the equipment if too much wood is used. Well, as you’ve heard me mentioned before, we don’t provide descriptors of the woods we manufacture as we believe there are too many variables that affect the overall flavor of the hardwood. Instead, we offer a rating of our woods based on how bold they are. On the low end of that rating scale? Alder.


FAMILY OF TREES

First, let me state that Alder is part of the Birch family of hardwood. It is a genus that is a flowering plant. Around the world, there are 35 species of both the tree and shrub form. Yes, that is correct. Alder is not always a tree but can be a tall growing shrub. In New York State, we have roughly 13 varieties with our Alder referred to as Eastern Alder. On the density side, this is a lighter hardwood and thus, it does not hold moisture long. This makes this hardwood ideal for very specific cooking applications.

Alder is very light in its stimulating flavor compounds. I’m sure you’ve read that Alder is ideal for fish but there are missed opportunities if you don’t go beyond the fish category. Given there are so many options to infuse smoke vapor, this can be a great wood choice when using a hand held food smoker or even a stove stop smoker or cold smoke generator. Contemplating chocolate, cheese, or fruits? Alder can be a perfect match.

CAUTION

Here’s my one caution. If you are planning to incorporate bolder ingredients with your food item, then alder may not be the first choice. Lots of bacon, chili or cayenne pepper – these will mask the flavor of the Alder wood. Instead opt for foods that have lighter ingredients like herbs, citrus, dairy components.

As mentioned, Alder or Birch will start with a moisture level that is higher but due to the composition of its cell structures, the water will evaporate faster in the hardwood. Using it on a LP grill or in a charcoal unit may require quicker replenishment than another denser hardwood so extra supply is always recommended.

BLENDING

Don’t forget, blending Alder with another hardwood works well too so if you do want a spicier kick to your ingredients, feel free to add Alder with a bolder wood like hickory, beech or oak.

The best part is always in the experimentation so have fun working with this hardwood that I call the safety net – it won’t let you fall flat if you select it for your smoke infusion.

Written by the SmokinLicious® Culinary Team offering tips, techniques, and recipes about wood, ember, and smoking cooking.

CAN HARDWOOD BE TOO DRY FOR COOKING?

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

Here are the misnomers:

Wet = Smolder

Wet = Smoke

Dry = Fast Cook

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear – all wood, whether hardwood of softwood, contains water! As a comparative, when wood is dried to ~20% moisture content (MC), it weighs 40-50% less than undried wood. This is the direct reason why the National Conference on Weights and Measures – Uniform Regulation for the Method of Sale of Commodities does not allow for the sale of wood products by weight. It wouldn’t be a level playing field for those of us selling this commodity.

So, we know that wood has too much water when a tree is first cut down and obviously will need to dry to some degree before being used for cooking. Why you ask? Without reducing the water in the wood, when burned/combusted, the wood will produce an acrid aroma and smoke vapor which in turn, will produce off flavors, colors, and textures when foods cooked over wet woods are consumed.

You might ask, does it matter how the wood is dried?

Absolutely! There are various ways wood products can be dried with the decision on a drying process usually dictated by what the wood will be used for. Just because you purchase a wood chunk bag or other product for cooking, doesn’t mean it started out for that intended purpose. Often the wood is used first for a primary business like furniture manufacture, hardwood flooring, or cabinet making. It’s only the waste wood leftover that is repurposed for cooking use with a focus on BBQ.

Let’s examine the most likely methods of drying woods for this scenario.

KILN DRYING:

Lumber or other wood items that have been dried in a closed chamber in which the temperature and relative humidity of the circulated air can be controlled. There are 3 types of Kiln Drying methods: low temperature drying which is below 130° F, conventional electric dehumidification drying, and conventional steam-heated drying which have temperatures up to 180° F. Of the 3, the conventional steam-heated drying system is preferred due to its computerized programming but the high cost of this system makes it less attractive to most businesses.

AIR DRIED:

The process of drying green lumber or other wood products by exposure to prevailing natural atmospheric conditions outdoors or in an unheated shed. There are 3 dominate Air Drying methods: open yard, shed, and forced-air shed. The first is not held in high regard as the wood is exposed to all the elements making it the longest method of depleting MC. The second, similar to the first, has the addition of a roof covering to maintain a precipitation-free environment. The third option is most used although the use of electric fans increases the cost from the other two options, it produces quicker results meaning products can be sold quicker. Remember, the primary purpose of the wood is not necessarily cooking so quicker is better to get it to the primary business’ production.

WAREHOUSE PRE-DRYING:

A very popular method of drying lumber despite higher capital and energy costs, this system can run consistent drying parameters almost 24 hours per day.

Now, knowing many wood producers sell their products first under the guise of another business before packaging waste wood for cooking, you need to understand where the MC needs to be in order to work for the furniture making, flooring manufacture, or cabinetry business. These are items that require lower MC and that level across the United States and Canada has an average between 4-13% MC!

Can you imagine putting a piece of wood on a grill’s diffuser or on hot coals when it only has a MC of 4%? What do you think will happen to such a dry piece of wood? POOF! It’s gone!

SmokinLicious® developed a method of decreasing MC in our hardwoods using a controlled heat method with a rehydration parameter. Our sole/primary business is wood-fired cooking woods! That’s it! We have no reason to reach for MC in the single digits and for cooking purposes, you would NEVER want this! The ideal MC for cooking is in the 20% range (this is dependent of wood species, however).

We ALWAYS provide you with a MC of the hardwoods you purchase from us, so you can be educated about the conditions of the wood for the type of wood-fired cooking you want to do. That’s just one of the reasons why SmokinLicious® is a superior product for superior outcome in wood-fired cooking!

Written by the SmokinLicious® Culinary Team offering tips, techniques, and recipes about wood, ember, and smoking cooking.

SMOKED BANANA DOUBLE BITES

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

If you joined us for our series on smoking banana, now it’s time to learn just what you can do with this flavorful fruit. This recipe for Smoked Banana Double Bites makes for a perfect snack, kid loving dessert, or even a sweet party item.

GATHER TOGETHER:

• 6 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate

• 1/4 cup shredded coconut, the finer the better

• 4 oz. slivered almonds, crushed

• 2 tablespoons butter

• 4-5 smoked bananas (see our previous series on this process if you missed it)

You’ll also need a saucepan for melting the chocolate or a microwave safe bowl, popsicle sticks or similar disposable handle for inserting in the banana segments, and a small cake spatula for spreading the chocolate. I would also keep on hand some hot water in case the chocolate should seize or harden on you. If that occurs, simply add 1 teaspoon of hot water at a time, mixing well, until you restore the smooth consistency.

PREPARING:

It’s important that you get the other ingredients ready prior to melting the chocolate as you want to prevent the chocolate from hardening. Take your 4 ounces of slivered almonds and add to a storage bag. I am old school so I will crush my almonds using a canned good. You can use a kitchen mallet or rolling pin, whatever is the easiest for you. Be sure you just crush the almonds – don’t make almond dust or flour! Then prepare a sheet pan with wax paper and get your popsicle or other wood stick ready for putting the Smoked Banana Double Bites together. I named this recipe after the average bites it takes to get one of these little flavor explosions into your tummy.

MELT THE CHOCOLATE:

Once the other ingredients are at the ready and your sheet pan with wax paper is set, it’s time to melt the semi-sweet chocolate. You can do this a couple of way. In a double boiler which is the preferred method, in a saucepan set to a low temperature, or in a microwave. Your choice just be sure you get a consistency that is not too thin or thick so the banana will coat easily. I add 2 tablespoons of butter to the chocolate to produce a shiny result. Melt until just smooth being careful not to go beyond that stage or the chocolate will harden. If you do go too far, simply add 1 teaspoon of hot water to the mix to thin and recover it.

ASSEMBLING THE BITES:

With the chocolate melted we are now ready for assembly of our Smoked Banana Double Bites! Taking your popsicle stick or similar wooden item, insert into the center of a banana segment. Remember, I had cut my bananas into 2-inch segments when I did the smoking process. Now dip into the melted chocolate and begin to spread into an even layer using a small cake spatula. Just get the top and sides coated so they can roll in the next two ingredients. Again, if your chocolate should seize or harden on you, simply add 1 teaspoon of hot water to bring it back.

With our banana segment covered in chocolate, we are now ready for “the roll”. First, place some crushed slivered almond on a piece of wax paper. Then roll the chocolate covered banana into the almonds being careful not to press down. Just allow the almonds to stick on their own. Next, a trip to the shredded coconut. You can put the coconut on a wax sheet as well or leave in a small container that can accommodate the size of your banana. Let the coconut fill in all the spaces between the almonds then lay on a sheet pan covered with wax paper. These will need to harden a bit in the refrigerator.

THE YUMMY, CREAMY, CHOCOLATE FINISH:

So here we are. The finale! After taking our bananas to a smoky place using SmokinLicious® Minuto® Wood Chips, we gave them a bath in luscious dark chocolate. Then the roll – into crushed almond and shredded coconut – 2 fantastic flavor pairings for banana. Then off to the sheet pan covered with wax paper to set everything up in the refrigerator. You just need about 45 minutes of setting time then it’s off to the party, or for a snack or that great dessert.

Don’t forget to put your own spin on this recipe by swapping the dark chocolate for white, the almonds for pistachio or pine nuts. Always keep the holidays in mind too. Use pastel dyes for the coconut or white chocolate for a great Easter dessert, green and red dyes for Christmas, and blue for Hanukah. Make this great, simple recipe your own. You can even do whole bananas, set them up, and then slice them over ice cream or pound cake with a hit of fresh cream. Get your imagination going and expand on the great use of smoked banana.

From Dr Smoke of Smokinlicious® Gourmet Wood Products

Follow us on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Flipboard, Google+

THE TOP 8 MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN COOKING & GRILLING WITH WOOD

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

We are approaching that exciting time of the year when just about all of North America can start to enjoy cooking outdoors again! Make it the best outdoor cooking season yet by learning the steps to using wood for cooking and grilling successfully, avoiding the trademark pitfalls that sink those outdoor meals.

#1: DON'T SOAK THE WOOD CHIPS OR CHUNKS

The goal when you cook on outdoor equipment is to maintain a stable temperature for the cooking process. This ensures that your foods cook evenly and have a pleasant flavor from the cooking process. When you add wet wood products to coals, you stimulate a “cool down” effect to those coals which translates to fluctuating temperature. Energy is expended to steam off the water from the wood and bring the coals back up to temperature. Even when you add wet wood product to a gas or electric assisted unit, you still use up energy for temperature control, requiring more energy to generate steam to dry the wood. Always apply wood products dry whether directly to charcoal, to the flavor bars/diffusers of an LP grill or in a smoker box, smoking tube, or disposable pan.

There is a time when wet wood is preferred. If you are going to do a traditional hot smoking technique on a food item that will take more than a few hours, and you don’t want to constantly replenish the wood chips, you can do a “two-pan” set up of wood. Using disposable foil pans, add dry wood chips to both and place under the food grates. Pour enough warm water into one pan to cover the wood pieces. Leave the other pan dry. By the time the dry wood product has combusted completely, the water in the “wet” pan set up will have dried up (steamed off) making the wood ideal to start smoking. This is a great way to keep the wood flavoring the food the whole cook time without having to constantly feed wood.


#2: DON'T ADD A LOT OF WOOD

Likely the biggest mistake made when cooking with wood is to add too much. I always tell cooks to view the wood as another ingredient in the overall dish and have a tempered hand. Smoke is a vapor that contains very small particles of organic compounds with certain compounds that contain the actual flavoring imparted from wood. As a plant material, these flavonoids, when combusted, can be quite bold. Always start with about 6-8 ounces of wood product and only replenish when the wood has reduced to 1/3 its size. Replenishment is only needed to get the full cooking time completed.


#3: DON'T MEASURE FLAVOR INFUSION BY THE QUANTITY OF SMOKE

It will take another article to explain the differences in smoke by color so let’s stick to the basics. As I mentioned above, smoke vapor particles are quite small and are known to be attracted to moist surfaces. With most equipment on the market today, materials used in construction ensure an efficient set up so air does not escape other than out the intended vents. Don’t add wood to the equipment just because you don’t see smoke. The best smoke vapor is barely visible and has a blue tint to it. Rest assured, the wood is doing its job even if you don’t see a lot of smoke. You certainly should smell the aroma of the wood as it combusts.

#4: STOP PEEKING WHEN YOUR SMOKING OR INDIRECT COOKING

I know it’s hard to keep to this rule but you must stop opening the grill hood or smoker lid and looking! Proper oxygen flow, a balance between intake of air and exhaust damper or vent, is critical to keep everything you grill, smoke or wood-fire tasting good. If you’re using wood on a traditional charcoal smoker or kettle style grill, then you shouldn’t be checking anything – water pan, charcoal level, wood combustion – until at least a couple of hours have passed. And for those units that have a charcoal access door, you can cause a temperature differential when you expose the hot coals to a flood of air as well as cause ash to become air born if windy. No one likes ash on their foods! Limit the amount of time you lift the lid.

#5: PICK THE RIGHT MOISTURE LEVEL FOR THE COOKING TECHNIQUE

For most wood-fired cooking techniques, a moisture level of between 15-25% is ideal. That level will allow you to hot smoke either via direct method (heat/smoke directly under the food) or indirect method (food placed to the side without direct heat under), produce smoke vapor on the gas grill using the diffusers/flavor bars or a smoker box, and do direct fire cooking. For ember or coal cooking, I prefer to see a wood with a moisture level around 15%, as that will allow the wood to combust faster and produce the bed of coals needed for this type of cooking. If the wood is too dry, say below 10%, you simply are using something designed for a maximum amount of heat output so that wood should be reserved for campfire cooking or direct hot searing. Remember, moisture means there is water in the wood. It takes some time to evaporate the water out which is how the wood will last longer during cooking.

#6: HARDWOODS ONLY

Without question, the type of wood as well as the species is critical for a successful wood cooking event. ONLY use hardwoods! That means no pine, redwood, spruce, fir, cypress, cedar, or hemlock. Softwoods contain a greater percentage of sap which translates into unpleasant flavors when you cook. Additionally, many of these softwoods can trigger reactions to the digestive track which make many people sick. Also, stick to hardwoods that have been tested for cooking. Favorites include: apple, beech, hickory, pecan, oak, cherry, peach, maple, alder, ash, mesquite, walnut (http://www.smokinlicious.com/blog/?p=746 ).

#7: BUILD A HOT FIRE

Many equipment manufacturers include a charcoal basket or grate for the charcoal and wood to sit on. This is done for a very specific reason; wood needs oxygen to generate heat. If wood product sits in ash, it won’t burn consistently and cleanly. This can result in soot coating your foods. Also, don’t build a huge fire. A small fire that can ignite unlit charcoal and wood is the ideal and produces the best temperature control and flavor.

#8: BALANCE EVERYTHING

Don’t simply purchased grilling, smoking, or cooking wood and throw it on the fire without thinking about how you want the dish to taste. If you’re using sweeter ingredients, than pick a hardwood that has a bit more boldness to it like ash, beech, hickory or oak. Fruity ingredients to the food doesn’t translate to using a fruity wood. Remember, taste is aroma so any wood fire you use for cooking should smell pleasant and enticing.

If you keep these tips in mind, you’re on the way to having one of the best outdoor cooking seasons ever when everyone wants to always gather at your house!

From Dr Smoke of Smokinlicious® Gourmet Wood Products

Follow us on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Flipboard, Google+

BANANA’S ULTIMATE SMOKY CREAMY GOODNESS!

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

Banana’s peak season is from January thru April but you can enjoy this fruit anytime of the year! Although you’ve likely enjoyed most of your bananas raw, they are one fruit that works exceptionally well in all types of recipes, from breads, puddings, smoothies, cookies, and muffins, their sweet undertone makes them ideal as a dessert item. With a light, creamy flavor you’ll find bananas are compatible with so many other ingredients like dark and white chocolate, coconut, blueberries, caramel, ginger, honey, sugar, vanilla, and many nuts. The best part, is they work in recipes whether ripe, under ripe, or overripe! The level of ripeness determines what you do with it.

In this series, we’re going to use the Gourmia® hand held food smoker with Minuto® Chips in Size 8 from SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products to get the perfect level of smoke using this quick, easy method. No spending hours over a traditional smoker and taking the risk of your bananas turning to mush! Get ready for a new flavor to your traditional banana for drinks, breakfast items, and desserts.

MATERIALS:

I’ll be using the Gourmia® hand held food smoker for this series, but any similar unit will work fine. In addition, you will need a cookie sheet, a food storage bag large enough to go over the cookie sheet or you can use plastic wrap, bananas – any variety will do, SmokinLicious® Minuto® Chips in either size #6, #8 or #10, and a lighter or kitchen torch. When selecting your bananas, look for evenly colored yellow bananas flecked with tiny brown specks which indicates ripeness. Avoid those with any visible blemishes as that usually indicates the fruit is bruised.

Be sure you are doing the smoking process in a well ventilated area or even outside. Kitchen hoods work great!

PREPARING THE HAND HELD SMOKER:

A good rule of thumb prior to starting your smoking process is to be sure everything is in working order. Check the batteries of your hand held food smoker and the butane level of your lighter. You’ll also need a few tablespoons of SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products Minuto® Wood Chips. I’m going to use Cherry today for a fruity pairing with the banana.

Attach the smoking tube to the hand held unit and have a lighter at the ready. It is important not to over stuff the bowl of the hand held smoker with chips as a little goes a long way. Now, place the Minuto® wood chips in the bowl of the unit.

PREPARING THE BANANAS:

As I want to get good wood flavor to the bananas, I am peeling them and cutting them in 2 inch pieces as the recipe I plan to use them in will require smaller segments. I then place the cut pieces on the sheet pan, and then secure a food storage bag or plastic wrap over the pan. Be sure you’re able to draw in the end of the bag as if you’re going to tie it off with a twist tie. The ability to cinch off the bag is what will ensure that the smoke vapor produced is trapped within the food bag and infuses each piece. If using plastic wrap, leave one end loose so you can insert the smoking tube. The length of time you leave the smoke vapor in the bag or under the plastic wrap will determine the strength of the flavor. I plan to incorporate dark chocolate, coconut and nuts with my smoked banana so I will be filling the bag with smoke vapor and allowing it to dissipate on its own. Remember, you have control of when you release the smoke so timing is up to you!

SMOKING PROCESS:

I turn on the Gourmia® hand held food smoker and lite the Minuto® wood chips. Once I have enough smoke into the bag, I will shut the unit off, remove the tubing, and seal the bag using a cable tie or tighten the wrap around the sheet pan. Can it get any easier than that? This will let you see just how long smoke vapor can last in a contained area.

THE SMOKY FINISH:

As I see the bag start to clear of the smoke vapor, it’s time to release the cable tie and be ready to remove my smoked banana slices for my recipe. So, what do you do with smoked banana? What can you think of? Essentially any recipe that calls for banana can be considered for smoked banana. I’ll get you started with our upcoming series on Smoked Banana Double Bites that you’ll fall in love with. Oh, don’t forget, smoked bananas freeze exceptionally well so put some away for those days when you want something made with the sweet, creaminess of banana and you’ll have a great start.

Bon Appetitó! from SmokinLicious® & the Culinary Crew

BEYOND PRICING: THE TOP THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PURCHASING COOKING WOOD

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

We have your top things to consider when purchasing cooking wood! We are getting closer to peak season in North America for outdoor cooking. What a perfect time to start thinking about what you want to get out of your outdoor cooking time this year so you’ll be able to source the supplies you’ll need and feel confident in your decisions. This includes the wood used for cooking.

There are many companies who offer woods for cooking in the United States. We thought we’d assist you in determining the perfect fit for your needs based on what you’re looking for in the cooking wood as well as a match for your equipment.

Today, we are going to compare 7 popular cooking wood companies who may use the terms cooking woods, grilling woods, wood and BBQ, gourmet cooking woods, or BBQ products. The comparison will include 9 key areas: Established date of the business, where the wood is harvested or sourced from, wood types offered, how the wood is sold, shipping costs, treatment process the wood is exposed to, packaging of the product, if bark is present, and primary claim made by the Company. Following this listing, I will highlight any information that you may want to question further.

Our goal is to arm the purchaser with needed information to ensure that they are getting the perfect wood for the cooking technique(s) they plan to do. Remember, there are different variables needed in a wood for different methods of wood-fired cooking which you can read about further in our blog Taste is Aroma (http://www.smokinlicious.com/blog/?p=405)

CAROLINA COOK WOOD

Established: Unable to locate

Harvest: Local to S. Carolina

Wood Types: Cherry, White Oak, Apple, Hickory, Peach

Shipping: Charge

Product Sold By: Cubic feet for logs/pounds for chunks & chips

Wood Treatment Process: “Naturally cured”; denies kiln drying

Bark On: Yes

Product Packaging: Burlap bags, ½ cord stacked split firewood or on a pallet

Claim: “Our cooking wood is locally harvested, freshly cut and naturally cured”

Notes: All species listed would be native to S. Carolina with Apple and Peach being orchard woods not necessarily forest woods. Although some products are sold by the cubic foot which is the legal method of sale for the wood commodity, others are sold by weight. “Naturally cured” implies air drying so the wood could have laid around for many months.

COWBOY CHARCOAL

Established: 1992 under the name Cowboy Charcoal; purchased in 2015 by Duraflame, Inc.

Harvest: Unclear

Wood Types: Apple, Hickory, Mesquite

Shipping: Charge

Product Sold By: Cubic inches

Wood Treatment Process: Not specified

Bark On: Yes

Product Packaging: Plastic bags, individual foil tins for chip product

Claim: Long standing charcoal manufacturer under various trade names

Notes: Apple would be an orchard wood rather than forest grown. Mesquite is not native to TN and KY which are the manufacturing locations for the Company, thus, it’s likely these woods are imported into the states. Plastic packaging implies the wood has a very low moisture level which would be in line with a charcoal manufacturing practice.

FRUITA WOOD & BBQ SUPPLY

Established: Unable to locate

Harvest: Not specified

Wood Types: Apple, Cherry, Peach, Apricot, Red Oak, Post Oak, Maple, Hickory, Pecan, Pear, Grape, Plum, Alder, Mesquite, Sassafras

Shipping: Included in pricing

Product Sold By: Weight

Wood Treatment Process: “Naturally cured”

Bark On: Yes

Product Packaging: Cartons

Claim: “The wood out of our valley contained more sugar and moisture than any other wood on the market.”

Notes: It is likely that the woods sources for sale are from areas outside of the state since many of the selections are not native to Colorado. This implies that the Company is merely the seller and not directly involved with the manufacturing process. Wood is sold by weight and is air dried as defined by the term “naturally cured”. Their claim to have woods that “have more sugar and moisture than any others on the market” cannot be validated as hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin composition are relative to the wood species. Plus, they indicate that they “naturally cured” their woods which translates to air drying like you do for seasoning firewood to render out the moisture.

MAINE GRILLING WOODS

Established: 2005

Harvest: “Local wood cutters and farmers in Maine”

Wood Types: Acadian Oak, Black Cherry, DownEast Hickory, Golden Alder, Mountain Mesquite, North Atlantic Olive, Northern Beechnut, Northern White Cedar, Sugar Maple, Wild Apple

Shipping: Included in pricing

Product Sold By: Cubic Inches

Wood Treatment Process: Not specified other than “dried”

Bark On: Yes

Product Packaging: Cartons, poly bags

Claim: “Our wood comes fresh from the many small woodlots and family farms in the nearby rural areas of coastal and central Maine”

Notes: I assume that Acadian Oak is a reference to the oak coming from the Acadian forest in Maine while the name “DownEast Hickory” is the company’s nickname since there is no variety of Hickory by that name. I am unclear on the references to North Atlantic Olive as I am aware of no olive trees per se that are native to Maine. Again, Mesquite would not be native to the state of Maine given its poor tolerance to winter conditions.

SHARPE GOURMET COOKING WOODS

Established: 2006?

Harvest: None specified – indicates they source woods from all over the USA

Wood Types: Alder, Almond, Hickory, Peach, Apple, Red Oak, Cherry, Pecan, Wine Barrel, Post Oak, Olive logs, Ash, Avocado, Citrus, Grape, Maple, Mesquite, Walnut

Shipping: Charge (note: delivered and stacked for firewood sold in S. California)

Product Sold By: Cubic feet

Wood Treatment Process: Not specified

Bark On: Yes

Product Packaging: Plastic bags

Claim: “All Sharpe Gourmet Products are custom processed, packed & shipped from The Woodshed in Orange, California. We search the U.S. for the best quality wood & package the finest chips, chunks and logs to enhance the flavor of your favorite foods! We specialize in exotic, hard to find varieties!”

Notes: Since this Company is sourcing woods from all over, there is likely no consistency in the products moisture or overall condition. It is also unclear who is completing the manufacturing of the wood into the chips, chunks, and logs.

VAUGHN WOOD PRODUCTS

Established: Unable to locate

Harvest: Within a few weeks of being sold but does not state where the wood’s origin is

Wood Types: Apple, Cherry, Hickory, Maple, Oak, Alder, Grape

Shipping: Included in pricing

Product Sold By: Cubic feet for chunks, weight for split logs, weight for chips

Wood Treatment Process: “heat treated to prevent mold”

Bark On: Yes

Product Packaging: Plastic bags, shrink wrap, cartons

Claim: “Nearly 95% of all our products come from trees we have harvested within a few weeks of our products being sold. We have high quality and the freshest woods on the market.”

Notes: Although it certainly is possible to harvest fresh wood and heat treat it, as wood, when green can have as much as 50% water by weight, it would take a very long heating process to rid enough moisture from the wood to be able to package it stably in plastic bags.

WESTERN PREMIUM BBQ PRODUCTS

Established: 1986 AS W W Wood Inc.

Harvest: Not specified

Wood Types: Apple, Alder, Hickory, Mesquite, Maple, Oak, Pecan, Orange, Peach, Jack Daniel’s

Shipping: Must be purchased at a partner location

Product Sold By: Liter, cubic feet

Wood Treatment Process: Under USDA-Protocol T-314-a. Compliance Agreement Permit No. TDA-271

Bark On: Yes

Product Packaging: Plastic bags

Claim: “Business has grown from supplying Hickory and Mesquite wood to local barbequers to supplying the world with a multitude of wood flavors and BBQ related items”

Notes: This is a Texas based Company which means some of the species listed are not native to that state. They likely source outside wood supply for the inventory. Online purchases will dictate if shipping is included or is a separate charge based on the online business dealer selected.

Now you have the key list of points to compare to us- www.smokinlicious.com. By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Wood Flavourist at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS.

10 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE PURCHASING WOOD FOR COOKING, GRILLING & SMOKING

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

Many of you who reside in the Southern and Western States have the advantage of being able to engage in wood-fired cooking pretty much whenever you want, regardless of the calendar. You may do so on an LP grill, a charcoal grill, charcoal/wood smoker, or electric grill or smoker. Those of us living in the North and to the East - though we could continue cooking outdoors all year - usually elect to restrict our outdoor cooking methods until temperatures climb above 55°F!

Soon, it will be an even playing field when it comes to enjoying the outdoors for all of us so what better way to get prepared than to start thinking about replenishing supplies for our outdoor living and cooking.

Today, I’m going to give you a guide on the top 10 things to consider when you purchase wood for grilling, smoking, or cooking in general.

#1 Is the wood native to the USA?

If the wood comes from outside the United States, it doesn’t necessarily make it a bad choice but you do need to understand that importing wood products into the USA is highly regulated. Mostly, the wood needs to be certified that it has been treated in some way to ensure no insects are hitching a ride in! Remember, that treatment could be with chemicals or by heat only, so be sure you check the label. This product may turn out to only be ideal for hot temperature cooking like searing and grilling due to the dryness of the wood, or if chemicals were used, it shouldn’t be used at all.

#2 Is the wood 100% hardwood?

It is imperative that any wood you use to cook with, over, or in be only hardwood. Look for labeling that attest to the fact that only hardwood was used as some companies will use a mix of softwood and hardwood or include press woods.

#3 How does the company get the wood?

Many of the companies who supply wood for cooking have another manufacturing process that produces a scrap or waste product. Often, those leftovers are used in this secondary business of BBQ woods, smoking woods, or cooking woods, to name a few of the labeling names. Check packaging for the source or origin location of the wood and if that company name matches the one on the front of the packaging label.

#4 Are you getting the wood named on the label?

This seems like a no brainer but honestly, wood is no different than olive oil or cheese. You may not be getting 100% of the wood species listed on the label just as we’re finding extra virgin olive oils may not be extra virgin or grated cheese isn’t 100% cheese! If you find packaging that simply states “hardwood” or “mixed hardwoods” then you don’t know what you’re getting. Be sure to read the entire label and check for a reference to 100% of a species.

#5 Is the brand name the actual manufacturer of the wood or just the distributor?

It is very common for brands to be in a business that they don’t participate in from a manufacturing point. Check the small print on the label to see if the manufacturer of the product is listed or if the label simply states who the product is distributed by. Distributors don’t have a lot of history on the product in the box or bag.

#6 Does the seller make claim to a certain cooking method for the wood?

This is key to ensuring you don’t end up with a disaster. If the packaging clearly states the product is for grilling, then don’t try to use it in your smoker or stove top smoking pan. Compatibility of a cooking wood to equipment should factor in the moisture level of the wood. Too dry, and it will just catch fire. Too wet and you won’t be able to grill with it.

#7 Are there any terms such as “naturally cured” or kiln dried on the label?

The terms generally mean that the wood has been air dried for an extended period, much like you do with firewood before using it in your fireplace, or the wood has been exposed to low temperature drying in an enclosed area. Either method means the wood will usually have a moisture level of 4-13% which will not make it ideal for hot smoking techniques. Again, these woods are best for high heat level cooking as dry wood produces a lot of heat. Woods with a moisture level ~20% are ideal for hot smoking.


#8 Does the wood have bark?

Bark is the protector of the tree and so it is like a sponge, absorbing anything that isn’t healthy to the tree. When bark-on wood is exposed to heat, you will get a lot of separation or weakness to the cell structure of the bark. This can loosen during exposure to heat and burn separately causing flare ups in temperature control, sparks, and leave a coating on your equipment. If you have an option, go bark-free!

#9 Does the packaging label reference cooking or merely say “firewood”?

If you planning on going camping and setting up an elevate cooking grate over the fire, or using a Dutch oven for cowboy-style of cooking, then I don’t have a problem with using split firewood for the cooking part. This is in the great outdoors where there is a lot of area to handle the smoke vapor. But if you are using any kind of equipment that has a contained firebox area, please use something other than firewood to cook with. You simply don’t know where the wood has been or what it may contain so cooking within a confined chamber is not the ideal. Firewood can have a lot of resin, sap, and spark.


#10 Does the brand sell the product by weight?

Wood is a commodity that has a lot of variance when it comes to weight due to differences in density, moisture level, and variety of the species. It is the reason why wood cannot be sold by weight legally. Look at the packaging and be sure there is a reference to cubic inches, cubic feet, liters, centimeters, etc. Anything but weight.

There you have it! A guide for your upcoming outdoor cooking season using cooking/grilling woods. Take a bit of time to check the packaging and examine all the information on a website before making your decision. Most importantly ask yourself: Do I want to eat anything cooked over this?

NOT JUST ANY MAPLE SYRUP!

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

With sugar maple trees tapped and the sap flowing nicely, maple syrup making is well on its way in a good portion of the US and Canada! In keeping with the maple syrup season, SmokinLicious® teamed up with one of our favorite smoke applicators, the Gourmia® Mini Smoker, and took a step on the unconventional, intense side by preparing smoked pure NYS maple syrup! Yes, that’s right smoked maple syrup! Here’s how we went about offering a unique flavor kick to a popular natural and nutritious sweetener:

The Gourmia® Mini Smoker is the perfect equipment for those who want to infuse smoke flavor into raw and cooked foods, beverages, herbs, and spices. Using SmokinLicious® Minuto® or Piccolo® Wood Chips ensures maximum flavor infusion from a clean, 100% bark-free hardwood. Select from 8 hardwood species and combine woods for your own customized flavoring.

We recommend using SmokinLicious® Sugar Maple Minuto® Chips in Size 8. In addition to the smoker and chips, you will need a container to hold the syrup, some plastic wrap and a lighter. Keep in mind, this smoked syrup is not intended to be used on waffles, pancakes, or French toast due to the pungent flavoring. Get ready, for a fun, quick way to smoked maple syrup!

So simple to do, cold smoke generators let you direct the smoke just where you want. With the maple syrup placed in a glass bottle, the tubing of the Gourmia® Mini Smoker is inserted into the bottle and then sealed with simple plastic wrap. This ensures that all the smoke vapor produced is contained within the bottle and exposed to the syrup. You can fill the smoke to the level you want — just a little or right up to the top, like we did. Remove the tubing and tighten the plastic wrap or secure the bottle’s cap, and the infusion begins.

Once the smoke is retained within the bottle, we gentle rotate the bottle, turning the liquid within, so that it mixes with the smoke vapor. Remember, the more smoke in the bottle, the stronger the flavor will be as you mix it in. You can see how the amber color of the syrup darkens as it is combined with the smoke vapor. That’s it!

Now, you can take this smoked maple syrup and use it in place of simple syrup for cocktails, add it to marinades and sauces for a balance of flavors that are unique. We’ll be using this batch in a special glaze for pork (see our recipe blog for our recipe and technique).

Maple syrup won’t break! It’s hearty and often ‘a go to’ favorite base ingredient to many marinades, sauces and even cocktails, so don’t be afraid to render a smoky taste boost to it. Go ahead! Unlock your imagination and get smoking with SmokinLicious® and Gourmia®!

SMOKED PEAR SALAD WITH GORGONZOLA

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

Ok, to the melody of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water”—

When You’re craving salad, feeling tired,

When boring options are in your eyes

This recipe will feed your senses

SmokinLicious® is on your side…

All kidding aside, here’s a flavorful blueprint that will take salad to another taste stratosphere- Smoked Pear Salad with Gorgonzola!

This is a very simple salad once you’ve followed our segment on smoking fresh pears. With pears in season during the colder months, it’s a great time to get your serving of greens. So, let’s get started with what you will need for Smoke Pear Salad with Gorgonzola:

Ingredients:

• 2-3 smoked pears (see our previous series on smoking pears)

•1/2 cup of Gorgonzola cheese

•1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

•1/3 cup balsamic vinegar – I prefer a flavor infused one – I am using Tangerine balsamic vinegar but anything in the citrus line would work well

•1 head of lettuce in my case, I am using Boston lettuce

•Fresh pepper

•½ cup of SmokinLicious® Minuto® Wood Chips Size #6

Preparing the Salad:

Taking your previously smoked pear halves, time to remove the skin and prepare to cut these for the salad. Now, this is where you need to make some decisions on how you want your salad to look. You can either slice the pears to add to whole Boston or Romaine lettuce leaves or you can cube them to add to chopped lettuce. I will be chopping my lettuce and cubing my smoked pears. Ideal sizing is ½ inch thickness for your pears to provide the right balance between the boldness of the smoked pear and the savory bite of the gorgonzola. I’ll be balancing the two out with my vinaigrette.

Boston lettuce is ideal for forming its own bowl and is an ideal choice for this pear salad. If you want to use the leaves whole, lay 1-2 for a good personal size salad. I am chopping my lettuce for a full side dish platter. Be sure to clean the lettuce and pat dry prior to using. The lettuce, if cut, should be rough cut in order to hold the pears and hold the vinaigrette.

Assembling the Salad:

Once the lettuce is cut or laid in whole leaf form to the plate, it’s time to add the cubed or sliced pear. Be sure you try to keep the pears in a single layer. Now it’s time to add the gorgonzola cheese. Depending on your preference for this very strong cheese, begin sprinkling it all around the salad or if using the lettuce as a bowl, providing an even layer of cheese. It’s that simple! Now you’ll see just how well these colors all work together. Pleasing to the eyes and mouth!

Making the Vinaigrette:

Now that the salad components are plated it’s time to prepare the vinaigrette. I like to mix my dressings in a 2-cup measuring cup in order to make it easy to add to the salad. You will need a small whisk as well. First, add 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil to the measuring cup. Then add 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar – I am using a Tangerine Infused Balsamic vinegar for a citrus flavor to this salad. To the liquids, grind some fresh ground pepper and then whisk until combined and thickened. Do not mix the vinaigrette unless you’re ready to serve the salad otherwise you’ll get a breakdown and thinning.

The Finish:

Here is the final component to this great salad – drizzling a tangerine vinaigrette over the smoked pears, Boston lettuce and gorgonzola. It’s your choice how much to add but just be sure you get most of the components coated with a bit or you’ll be missing out on the fantastic balance of all the flavors. Smoky depth of the pears, bite of the gorgonzola, crisp freshness of the lettuce and the tang of the oil and vinegar. A perfect way to get heartiness in a salad while enjoying the benefits of healthiness.

You know, the more I think of it, I just bet Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel would be big fans of this dish! Heck, in addition its great taste, ‘Gor-GON-zo-LA’ offers quite a syncopated rhythm opportunity! Bon appetito!

PERFECTION OF THE SMOKED PEAR!

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

Yes, absolutely- fresh pears are available everywhere! But, smoked pears can be an unique culinary treasure deserving of rave reviews! Here’s the scoop:

Depending on where you’re located, you’ll have at least a few varieties of pears to select from. Rather than just enjoy these as a raw fruit, why not try something truly unique that will give them a kiss of wood flavoring?

Stove top smoking is so easy and a great way to still enjoy wood-fired flavorings during the winter months, when you may not want to venture out to the grill or smoker. I’ll be highlighting Bosc pears in today’s technique. To do this technique you will need:

• A stove top smoking pan set up – I’m using the Technique® Cast Iron Smoker Pan
SmokinLicious® Minuto® Wood Chips Size #4 in your choice of wood species
• Fresh pears – 4 will likely fill the smoker pan one time
• A Chef’s knife, paring knife, and cutting board
• A cooling rack

PREPARING THE PEARS

When I purchased my Bosc pears, I made sure that they were firm to the touch so that I would have some longevity to their use in recipes for a while. Carefully, wash each pear and then pat dry with a paper towel. I then slice each pear in half, removing the stem tip. This will give me a flat surface to smoke and cook my pears since I am using a stove top grill pan with my process. That will allow me to form some great grill marks on the pears while they cook. The benefit to using halves of pear is I can feature larger pear cuts in a salad or dessert, highlighting the golden smoked color.

Once the pears are halved and the stems removed, I will core out the seeds and hard seed membrane with a small paring knife. Once that step is complete, I start the heat under my stove top smoking pan.


SETTING UP FOR SMOKING

The base smoker pan will hold the Ash Minuto® wood chips. Remember, the chips need exposure to the heat to release their flavoring. I set my burner to medium heat (a #4 setting on my stove) which is where it will stay during the entire cook. I let the pan heat for just about 5 minutes then I will be ready to add the SmokinLicious® Minuto® Wood Chips for the wood flavoring.

After heating up my base pan for the chips, I add one large handful of Minuto® Wood Chips in Size #4 from SmokinLicious®. I place a drip pan over the chips to prevent any of the pear juices from dripping directly onto the chips. Then on goes my grill pan. If you’re using a standard pot for this process, you will place foil over the chips and then place your grate or steamer insert for the pears to sit on. As my pan is large, I can seat 8 halves meat side down to the chips. Keep in mind, pears are one of the healthiest fruits having a low caloric count, 22% fiber, and high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. The skin has a particularly high phytonutrient benefit making my preference for leaving it intact valid.

SMOKING PROCESS

Immediately, you will see just how much smoke is produced with just a handful of Minuto® Chips. Notice that the skin of the pears is taking on a very coppery finish. Although you don’t need to turn the pears during the cooking process, I have turned mine just to show the great grill marks that are developed from a 70 minute cooking time. Remember, if you have pears that are not very firm, they will require less cook time. I know mine are ready to be removed from the pan when I feel a slight give in the pear meat when I touch them with a set of tongs. Now remove to a cooling rack and start thinking about the ways to use these.

THE PERFECT FINISH

I bet these caramelized, glistening beauties are just making your mouth water! Once I cool these on a rack you’ll see how easy the skin can be removed if you should want to use just the pear meat. There are so many ways you can highlight the smoky flavor: in a smoothie, in a cocktail – think smoked pear bellini, which I will have an upcoming recipe, sliced in a salad with gorgonzola cheese and a drizzle of balsamic, anything your mind can dream up. Not only will you have a tantalizing flavor boost but you’ll reap the benefits of this very healthy fruit that even kids will love.

So, let’s hear it- three cheers for pears and how about three more for the tasty, smoked version!

Bon-Bar-B-Q!

Ember Cooked Snow Peas

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

Cooking directly on hot embers? Are you kidding me? No, I’m not and get ready to learn about a cooking method that is as old as man’s introduction to fire, pretty easy to master and offers phenomenal taste. Once tried, you’ll experience what it can do to enhance great flavor from a wide variety of foods.

Let’s start out with one of the most versatile vegetables available at just about any time of the year that can be used in both hot and cold side dishes and main courses- sugar snow peas! In this article, we will offer instructions on roasting peas using a hot smoking method which brings out a great wood-fired flavor. We know you’ll enjoy this approach!

Ingredients

• At least 1 lb of peas, I like sugar snap peas

• Almond oil

• Sea Salt & Fresh Pepper

• A charcoal smoker, any size will do

• A disposable foil pan or vegetable pan or basket that is high heat tolerant

• 3 lbs. of lump hardwood charcoal

• 1 cup SmokinLicious® Grande Sapore® Wood Chips – Use Wild Cherry chip

Preparation, Fire Building & “Ember Readiness”

We’ll be using a Stok Drum Charcoal Grill for this series. As the Stok has its own charcoal basket, there is no need to prepare any additional lump hardwood charcoal. We’re using a direct method of cooking. Place the charcoal in the unit’s charcoal basket leaving the grate insert off for now. Once the coals turn gray, lift the charcoal basket and allow the coals to advance into the cooking drum. Then add SmokinLicious® GrandeSapore® Wood Chips in Wild Cherry to the coals – about ½ cup sprinkled over the coals. Leave the grate insert off and use a sturdy, fire-resistant vegetable pan to go right over the top of the insert area.

Preparing the Peas

While the coals have been firing, start preparation on the peas. We recommend using sugar snap peas for this recipe, there is very little preparation that has to be done. First, remove all the string membrane that is attached to one side of the snap pea. If any stems are left on, remove those as well. Then, wash the peas in a colander and allow them to drip dry, shaking the colander occasionally to rid any excess water. If needed, pat dry the peas to ensure they are ready for the fire. Then, sprinkle on some Almond oil, sea salt, and fresh pepper to the peas. Now, we’re ready to wood fire!

Wood-Fired Ember Cooking

When the coals are hot and the wood chips are smoking, the peas are ready to be kissed by fire! Place the vegetable pan on the center of the grill and leave the grill cover off. When cooking with wood, know that some temperature fluctuation can occur due to the natural variation in combustion so don’t leave the peas unattended. Once you see the peas start to char, give them a toss with a spoon to ensure an even char cook.

• Usually you will see char begin about 4-5 minutes into the cooking cycle. Once that occurs, you will be looking at another couple of minutes before the peas will be ready to come off the grill. Be sure you monitor that you don’t go too far with the smoking process. If the peas begin to shrivel and wrinkle, you went too far. You can remove them and place in an ice bath or run under cold water to stop any additional cooking from taking place.

• It’s so hard to explain the aroma that comes from the grill when you wood fire vegetables. Keep in mind, that even when the vegetables are chilled, they will retain their char flavor.

Finishing Tips

Try these tips for finishing these beautiful smoked sugar snow peas:

· add some crumbled feta cheese and serve, or

· a splash of lemon juice and dill, or

· even a dollop of ricotta cheese that’s been whipped with a bit of cream.

Ember cooking offers “a taste in itself” that really can’t be simulated by any other cooking method. Your smoked sugar snow peas will treat you and your guests with an exquisite flavor that will certainly place ember cooking prominently in your culinary repertoire. But, please before you impress others with this method, give a little thanks to our ancient ancestors who figured this out a long time ago while keeping a wary eye out for preying sabre tooth tigers and stampeding mastodons!

Bon-Bar-B-Q!

Dr. Smoke & the Culinary Team

SMOKED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH BABY KALE SOUP- A SAVORY DISH TO WARM UP YOUR WINTER!

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

Step into the world of tasty soup making and enjoyment with this easy “Winter Warm Up” recipe starring Smoked Butternut Squash and Baby Kale!

If you joined our series on stove top smoking of butternut squash, then it’s time to take your wonderful smoke-infused butternut squash to the next level and make a fabulous soup just in time for the holidays and cold season. Smoked Butternut Squash with Baby Kale Soup. This recipe will serve 4-6. Gather the following ingredients:

Ingredients:

1 medium smoked butternut squash that was smoked in ½” slices

1 cup of baby kale with stems and membranes removed, washed and dried

¼ cup sour cream or crème fraiche (I prefer the crème fraiche for extra smooth texture in soups)

6 strips of bacon

1 cup broth (you can use chicken or vegetable but water is fine too)

1 medium white onion, diced

Keep in mind, you can keep this vegan but omitting the bacon and cream. For equipment, you will need a food processor or blender, cutting board, chef’s knife, frying pan for the bacon, and soup pot.

Cooking Process:

To start, place a frying pan over medium high heat and allow to heat completely as this will ensure crisp bacon. Add the 6 strips of bacon and cook until well done, about 6-8 minutes. You will want to flip the bacon after the first 3-4 minutes. Take the cooked bacon from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to remove the excess drippings. Reduce the heat under the frying pan to medium keeping the fat renderings from the bacon. To the bacon drippings, add the diced white onion. Cook until slightly golden.

Processing Ingredients:

While the onion is cooking, place the previously smoked butternut squash slices into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Don’t worry if you don’t get all the lumps out as this will be processed a second time. Add this mixture to the cooked onion and combine. After 3 minutes, reduce the heat to low and add the ¼ cup of sour cream or crème fraiche, mixing in well to ensure creaminess throughout.

While the onion, squash, cream mixture is simmering on low heat, add 1 cup of baby kale leaves to the food processor and pulse until reduced to fine particles. Add the chopped kale to the squash mixture and combine well. Then remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool slightly. While the mixture is cooling, chop four slices of the crisped bacon into small pieces. Add to the squash mixture and combine well.


A Velvet Smooth Finish:

Add the slightly cooled smoked squash mixture to a blender or food processor, and start the machine on a low setting. As the mixture is pureed, slowly add 1 cup of broth to thin out the puree. You may use water if you prefer. You may add additional broth until the consistency is at your preferred level but 1 cup should be about the mark. I like this particular soup to coat a spoon which means it will coat my insides! Take your reduced smoked squash mixture and pour into a soup pot and place on a low setting for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to marry.

The Finish:

Now, ladle this silky, smooth soup into serving bowls and place a small amount of the chopped bacon from the remaining two slices to each serving bowl. As you put this luscious soup into your mouth, your palate will pick up the subtle sweetness of the cinnamon and light smokiness from the stove top smoking process, while the silkiness of the cream provides a balance to the heartiness of the bacon. This is a great way to use seasonal squash and keep those of us in the cold portion of the world warm this winter. Bon Appetito!

Don’t fret if the Groundhog signals more winter ahead of us- The velvety, rich smoothness of Smoked Butternut Squash with Baby Kale Soup will promise to warm up whatever winter days remain!

BBQ SHRIMP INSTANT GRATIFICATION!

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

Teaming up Gourmia® and SmokinLicious® showcases the versatility of cold smoking techniques by infusing smoke into these marinated shrimp with BBQ sauce. So much smoky flavor is delivered in very little time. You’ll think your tasty delicacies have been smoked for hours!

The combination of Gourmia® Mini Smoker and SmokinLicious® Minuto® or Piccolo® Wood Chips ensures maximum flavor infusion from a clean, 100% bark-free hardwood. Select from 8 hardwood species and combine woods for your own customized flavoring.

We’re demonstrating the versatility of cold smoke techniques by infusing smoke into fresh, uncooked shrimp that have been marinated in BBQ sauce. I’m using SmokinLicious® Sugar Maple Minuto® Chips in Size 8. In addition to the smoker and chips, you will need to place your marinated shrimp in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or in a food storage bag, and a lighter. Get ready, for a fun, quick way for fabulous smoked BBQ shrimp, in an instant!

So simple to do, cold smoke generators let you direct the smoke just where you want. I’ve taken my uncooked shrimp and marinated them overnight in my favorite BBQ sauce. Any sauce will do whether homemade or store bought. I set up my Gourmia® Mini Smoker with Size 8 Minuto® Wood chips from SmokinLicious®, inserting the smoker’s tubing directly into my marinade bag. I seal the bag around the tubing, turn on the smoker, and light the wood chips. As soon as I see the smoke start to the fill the bag, I turn the smoker off, pull the tubing out, and seal the bag completely.

You can leave the smoke sealed in the bag until you’re ready to cook the shrimp. Any method of cooking will do — in the pan, baked in the oven, on the grill — whatever your pleasure!

Go ahead, unlock your imagination and get smoking with SmokinLicious® and Gourmia®!

Ember Cooking Of Sweet Peppers

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

There’s nothing better than ember roasted sweet peppers in the outside fireplace or pit. Here’s what you’ll need:

•An Outside fireplace or pit that is clean of ashes

•Cast iron skillet, if you prefer to cook in a container rather than directly on the embers

Grande Sapore® Wood Chips from SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products.

•Sweet peppers- medium to large size, any color though multi colored ones provide for a better presentation, 10-18 quantity

Building The Fire

My plan is to roast the peppers directly on the embers in my outdoor fireplace. So first, I need to clean out the fire box from any ash and debris. Then I select the hardwood for the actual cooking. I’m going to use Ash because it is one of the best hardwoods for producing evenly sized coals and heat level when it burns.

While I am using pieces of the SmokinLicious wood chunks, the Grande Sapore® ash chips will produce the same great results. In fact, use of the Ash Wood Chips will likely save some time as their pre-ground state would allow for quicker coal build up due to their faster burn rate. Remember, the need with ember cooking is to ensure that you have a 2-3” buildup of coals so the cooking process is uninterrupted.

The Ember Bed

I now have a bed of coals establish in the bottom of the fire box. Spread them out to provide a wider cooking area and facilitate an even heat level. I will be increasing the depth of the coal bed over the course of my cook by maintaining a perimeter of newly lite wood product. I would suggest using Grande Sapore® SmokinLicious Gourmet Wood chips for the additions as the bed can be built up much quicker and keep the cooking process moving forward.

Adding The Peppers

Once the Ash develops into a great bed of coals you’ll understand why I love to use Ash for ember cooking. The uniformity of the coal bed is so precise! Remember, Ash is part of the olive family of trees so it is known for its mild smoky flavor making it an ideal choice.

I begin adding my peppers to the embers with the stem and seeds intact. It is so much easier to rid the peppers of its seeds once fully cooked so don’t be concerned about them now. I seat each pepper well into the hot coals to ensure that the base is enveloped in that consistent heat level. As the pepper begin the charring process, you’ll see them wrinkle a bit as this is the sign of the dehydration that takes place in this water rich vegetable.

Ember Cooking Technique

Once the pepper are in place, I allow them to cook and char before touching them. Once I see some char marks develop, I gently rotate each pepper around the coal bed, sliding over some new coals to the cooking area with each rotation.

After about 20-25 minutes of ember roasting, the peppers will begin to tenderize. Remember there is a lot of moisture in sweet peppers so you may even hear them whistle a bit! Feel free to pierce them with a knife to release some water/steam. I like to do that step about ¾ of the way through the cooking process.

I want to remind you that this ember cooking technique requires a tempered hand but also some attention throughout the cooking process. You will need to rotate the peppers frequently to ensure even char. Remember, our heat generation is developing from the bed of embers and then radiating to the walls of our cooking area as well as the food. Once removed from the heat source, the peppers will have wilted a bit as they enter an immediate change in temperature and humidity.

THE FINISHING TOUCH

Once the peppers are completely charred and tenderized, remove them to a mesh or other tray to cool. Then you can use them in a variety of ways – cut into strips and drizzled with a lite coating of extra virgin olive oil, a hint of salt, fresh pepper and fresh mint. Or, use these beauties whole as a container for a ground turkey, beef, or lamb stuffing that includes fresh ricotta cheese, parsley, a hint of chili pepper flakes, and a topping of fresh mozzarella. The recipe options are endless so start experimenting or look to your favorite cookbook for inspiration!

Ingredients:

Fireplace or open pit

SmokinLicious® Grande Sapore® wood chips- Ash or your favorite wood species

½ bushel of sweet peppers (approximately 16) in multi colors for presentation

Herbs – optional

Drizzle of Extra Virgin olive oil

Patience

Bon Bar B Que

Dr Smoke

Smoked Squash with a hint of cinnamon

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew / Via smokinlicious.com

Shed off the winter blues, how about trying your hand at stove top smoking? Today, I’m featuring the very popular butternut squash. You’ll need a stove top smoker or a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven with an insert pan and lid, Minuto Chips® in Size #4 from SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products, and about 1 hour of time. Be sure you also have a hood vent where you will be using the stove top smoker. Now let’s gather our ingredients and get ready to infuse great wood-fired flavor!

Ingredients:

I’ve decided to add a little spice to this smoked butternut squash so here are the ingredients you will need to do this flavor:

Curry powder

Cinnamon

Unsalted butter

Coarse salt

Fresh pepper

And 1 medium size butternut squash

Cast iron does take a bit of time to heat up, so you can start the medium high heat under the stove top unit made of cast iron as you are preparing the squash, so by the time you have everything cut, cleaned and seasoned, the smoking pan will be ready to go.

Preparing the Squash:

In addition to the food ingredients, you’ll also need a small saucepan for melting the butter or you may use a microwave safe bowl and melt the butter in that manner. A chef’s knife, cutting board and vegetable peeler are also needed. First, I cut both ends of the squash off so that I have two flat ends to work with. I then peel all the skin and white skin beneath the peel from the squash until the yellow/orange meat is revealed.

Once all the peel and white skin is removed, I cut the squash in half lengthwise revealing the seeded inside. With a spoon, I remove the seeds and membrane strings. I like to pat the squash dry with a few paper towels to remove the excess water as once this vegetable hits the heat, it will start to steam out the water held in the cell membranes. Now, we’re ready to start slicing the squash into ½” slices. Taking each half, I lie it on the flat side on a cutting board and slice into ½” pieces. I add these to a bowl in preparation for the flavor ingredients.

Spicing Things Up:

Now it’s time to add the spices to these beautiful slices. I take about a tablespoon of cinnamon, 1-2 teaspoons of curry powder, a ½ teaspoon of coarse salt and ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. I then melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Be sure you simply melt the butter and do not let it go to the brown stage. I then pour the melted butter over my spiced butternut squash slices and mix well. I like to do this part with my hands to ensure everything is mixed well. Now, we are ready to get these beauties on the grill grate of our pre-heated stove top smoker.

Stove Top Pan Preparation:

Be sure your smoker base pan is clean of any previous wood chips or food scraps. Add the SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products Minuto® Wood Chips in the base of the unit, about a handful is needed. I’m using Sugar Maple Minuto® Chips in Size #4 to bring a balance to the squash with my other flavor ingredients. Because I plan to use my smoked squash as an ingredient in other recipes, and squash has a large amount of water naturally in it, I’m using the stove top smoker unit without soaking my chips. This is commonly how stove top smokers are used as the chips will combust easier in the dry state and provide perfect smoke infusion. I also make sure to turn my hood vent “on” to help reduce the smoke aroma.

Smoking:

I gently lay each squash section on the grill pan doing the best I can to keep everything from being too crowded. A medium sized squash will fill the pan easily. I then cover the pan and let it cook for about 20 minutes without lifting the lid. Remember, squash contains 94% water weight so once you lift the lid to check the squash slices, you will see the accumulated condensation on the inside of the lid. Do the best you can not to allow the water to pool into the lid and go back into the smoking pan.

You will see the squash slices take on a shiny appearance and soften from the water vaporization and smoke vapor infusion. Depending on what you will use the squash slices for – using them as is as a side dish or in another recipe such as a soup, pureed side dish or even a sauce – will determine how long and how tender they need to be. I like mine to be knife tender but not to the point where they fall apart if picked up with tongs. Notice the condition of my Minuto® wood chips when I finish – perfectly carbonized. In fact, I likely could use them for another batch of squash!

The Finish:

With just a handful of Minuto® wood chips in size #4, 1 medium butternut squash, and 1 hour of time, I produced golden, rich flavor with a gently touch of smokiness. Notice the grill marks I still achieved by not fussing with my squash. Using cast iron units allow you peace of mind in knowing the chips are safe so you can walk away and not open the lid. That allows that 94% water to vaporize and give gently crusting to the squash. I’m ready now to take these slices into a recipe that will be extra special and memorable. Find out for yourself how easy it is to smoke on the stove top, and bring summer time flavors indoors.

This post was created by a member of BuzzFeed Community, where anyone can post awesome lists and creations. Learn more or post your buzz!

Every. Tasty. Video. EVER. The new Tasty app is here!

Dismiss