Cherry blocks specially preffered for chefs around the world to enhance flavoring of foods through smoking, griling, ember cooking

WILL CHERRY SWEETEN EVERYTHING IT TOUCHES?

 

Without question, Cherry is one of the most popular woods for wood-fired cooking, particularly when it comes to hot smoking using traditional smoking equipment.  Despite information SmokinLicious® has provided on this hardwood species (Put a Cherry on It blog) or (Cherry Wood Question blog), there are still many questions posed and many misunderstandings about this wood.  My intention here is to speak on the cherry varieties in North America and ensure that you can make an informed decision when selecting this hardwood for cooking.

I think the one key question is always on the varieties of cherry that people have access to, whether it’s in their own yard or a neighbor’s, or they come across a “firewood” seller along the roadside or an ad online or in print.  A good place to start is with a primer on exactly what types of cherry would be common in this scenario and if all of them are suitable for using in cooking.

Black Cherry or Prunus serotine Ehrhart is the most prevalent variety of cherry in North America likely due to its ability to grow in rich bottomlands and moist hillsides as well as drier climates.  It is the primary variety used for commercial purposes in the Northeast.  Other common names are Wild Black Cherry, Rum Cherry, and Mountain Black Cherry.  Black cherry grows from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick west to Southern Quebec and Ontario into Michigan and eastern Minnesota; south to Iowa, extreme eastern Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, then east to central Florida.  You can even find small areas in Georgia, Texas, and Alabama.

Let’s be clear, though.  There can be great differences in the wood from state to state.  Remember, Black Cherry has a high commercial purpose, meaning, it is harvested for cabinetry, paneling, trim work, etc.  To make the wood into those products it must be very dry.  Keep that in mind when you see prepackaged cherry under the name Black Cherry as the extremely low moisture level will make this hardwood burn more rapidly.

Prunus pensylvanica L.f. with the common names Pin Cherry, Fire Cherry, Bird Cherry, Wild Red Cherry, and Pigeon Cherry is a variety that does not tend to grow as large as the black cherry mainly due to its role as a cover for wasteland and protector of soil beds.  Usually once larger trees establish themselves, this cherry variety will be crowded out.  It is a wood commonly harvested in New York and Pennsylvania during timber harvesting (SmokinLicious® sources this variety) so it is plentiful in these areas.  Because this variety is not as readily found as Black Cherry, it does not have as popular a selling point for the grade lumber to produce the home construction items listed above.  If you can locate this variety of cherry, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at its performance as a cooking wood.

Now, briefly, let me touch on the ornamental cherry trees that usually are encountered within neighborhoods and are the trees most people inquire about for trimming and using in their equipment.  All cherry trees are part of the genus PrunusMost of what is sold as ornamental are the Prunus serotine variety.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that cherry means anything cooked with that wood will have a cherry-like flavor!  Nothing can be further from the truth.  The wood itself will have variation in aroma as you may readily find when you burn wood in a fireplace; burn a fireplace frequently enough and you can pick up the aromatics that come from cherry versus maple versus ash, etc.

Flavor from the wood is directly influenced by the other ingredients incorporated and exposed to the heat.  It will NOT produce a cherry flavor even if you had plain meat in the cooking chamber with the wood.

In fact, I dare you to find two people who would describe the flavor of a food item cooked over cherry hardwood with the same description.

If you get a hold of an ornamental cherry tree or you take trimmings from a tree, here are my cautions:

  • hydrogen cyanide, a poison, is present in the leaves and seed so never burn these when cooking foods as they are very bitter and you increase the potential for a reaction or worse
  • many ornamental trees are treated with chemicals to keep them free of insects, larvae, and mold – don’t cook with woods exposed to chemicals as this can contribute to a bitter flavor to foods and increase your risk for an allergic reaction
  • using trimmings that are fresh from the tree can produce an acrid smoke due to the high level of water in the wood. It’s best to allow any collected pieces to dry to ensure some of the water has evaporated

There are 18 Prunus varieties available in North America.   With a little research and trial and error, you should be able to source a suitable variety for cooking that will give you wonderful wood-fired food memories.

 

Dr Smoke

Dr. Smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Smokinlicious pristine wood blocks is a great back drop to the 10 things to consider when purchasing cooking wood

Smokinlicious® wood blocks are a pristine backdrop for the 10 things to consider when purchasing wood for cooking!!

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.

The Pristine, Clean, Bark Free Double Fillet SmokinLicious Wood Chunks Displayed

SmokinLicious® Double Fillet Wood Chunks

#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?

Photo shows the nasty bark on products sold by our competitors

Our competitors’ bark on product

 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?

Dr Smoke

Dr. Smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

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beech-trees growing in the forest setting

Beech tree

Beech- WOOD SPECIES

 

Not the most popular of hardwoods in the North American region and certainly it doesn’t have the following like in the European market.  However, this is still an interesting hardwood to use for wood fired cooking techniques.

Going Beech!  That means your entering the wood family that includes white oak as a relative.  Part of the Fagaceae family, the variety we manufacture is Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.  Unlike its cousin, Beech doesn’t produce a heavy, pungent flavouring but rather a more balanced, medium toned profile.  The common names for the varieties found in the Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania regions are American Beech and Red Beech.

Less temperament than Oak, Beech is considered a rather bland wood to look at.  When it is exposed to steam/heat, it takes on a golden hue and that is commonly what the coloring to various meats, poultry, and fish will also show.  Keep in mind, like all our cooking woods, the descriptors used are truly in the palate of the taster.  There are no rules that say one wood must be used with a specific food.  Experimentation is what the art of fire cooking is all about.  And, the region that the wood is harvested from also factors in to the flavoring it will provide when foods are exposed to it.  The same wood in a western state will not produce the same flavoring as the wood from an eastern state.  Everything interacts with the tree: soil pH, growth location, sun exposure, precipitation exposure, etc.

Heat Level: High – 21.8 MBTU

Fuel Efficiency: Excellent

Ease of Lighting: Poor

Ideal Uses: Baking/Grilling/Roasting/Braising/Pit Roasting/Hot Smoking/Cold Smoking

So, take a go at Beech, even if it takes a bit to get it lite.  The aroma is pleasant, the burn time is extensive, and the infusion appealing.

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CRUSHED OR DICED WOOD CHIPS?

The Difference Between Crushed and Diced Wood Chips

You see the options all the time.  Crushed or diced tomatoes?  Every chef knows when and why you choose one over the other. Did you know the same concept is true for wood chips?

At SmokinLicious®, the only true cooking wood Company, we produce our wood chips in the same manner as tomato processors! We crush the wood for our Grande Sapore® chips – these pieces produce a unique flavor because of their shape just like crushed tomatoes give a deeper flavor to recipes!  These chips are meant to last and work with other ingredients for full flavor balance. We also offer our “diced” option of predetermined wood slices to produce our Minuto® and Piccolo® chips for smoldering on heat plates, cast iron, and flavor bars.  Just as diced tomatoes give a fresh-from-the-garden taste, diced wood chips likewise produce a different, often more intense fresh wood flavoring.

SmokinLicious® only manufacturers cooking woods.  That is our primary and only business.  We know hardwoods for cooking, all types of wood-fired methods.  And we know wood flavoring – how to get the best clean flavors from the select hardwoods ideal for cooking!

See for yourself why we are a superior product with a superior outcome.  Enjoy the benefits of the knowledge of our flavorists and get the options you are looking for.  Made the SmokinLicious® way!

Dr. Smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

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smoke vapor from the grill

Smoke vapor from the grill

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SMOKING (FOOD THAT IS!) DOESN’T MAKE IT ALL BAD!

Recently, I received a very interesting question regarding the safety of ingesting foods and beverages that have been exposed to smoke vapor using hand held food smokers.  Specifically, the question consisted of whether you need to be 18 years of age for items that have been infused with smoke using these gadgets.

This got me thinking:

  • does the word “smoke” automatically give off the bad vibe response?
  • why do people only inquire about the smoke without needing to know more about the plant source that produces that smoke?

There is a lot of data out there on carcinogenic affect to high heat grilled foods like burgers, chicken, and steaks, even data on hot smoking foods at lower temperatures.  Really, what it all boils down to is, if you grill meats to the point where you blacken them, that increases the risk for the carcinogens.  Even if you cook to the blacken state, eating these foods in moderation will halt any real risk over an average person’s lifetime.

So why the question on legality to consume smoked foods and beverages?

 If you understand that the tobacco industry had to start putting warning labels on tobacco packaging back in 1966, and smokeless tobacco products in 2010, then you comprehend that smoke vapor does contain toxins (http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/Labeling/Labeling/default.htm ).  Everything regarding level of toxicity with cooking is related to type of food, method of cooking, cooking temperature, and length of cooking time ( https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet ).

Let’s examine those parameters from the hand held food smoking perspective.

You are not cooking the food by this method, merely infusing it with the smoke flavonoids, so there is no temperature (cold smoking technique).  You are not exposing the food to smoke vapor for hours – it really comes down to minutes.  Most importantly, you are not directly attempting to inhale the smoke vapor into your lungs.  Yes, if your standing near the container that is holding the cold smoke when you open it, you will have some exposure but not like the person that takes a drag directly from a tobacco product or is chewing on a tobacco product!

Like anything else in our world, there are risks to everything we do, experience, sense, taste, explore, desire.  Hot smoking is another name for roasting just at a lower temperature and usually with cheaper cuts of meat.

What should never be compromised is the plant material – the wood – that is used to extract these flavors.

Really, I believe it is time to start asking more questions about the hardwood products (don’t even start me on softwoods and waste wood http://www.smokinlicious.com/blog/?p=244 !) being used for the smoking process rather than focusing on the process itself.  Perhaps the risks associated with dirty, moldy, contaminated wood are too high to ignore anymore.

Dr. Smoke

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Smokinlicious Wood Blocks

Smokinlicious Wood Blocks- DrSmoke

 DON’T PUT US LAST!

Case Notes: A restaurant is preparing to open in a new location and made the decision to invest in an Italian made pizza oven that has an option for wood-fired cooking.  This equipment would take 6 months to manufacture and deliver to the USA, which gave the owners time to complete renovations on their new building in preparation for the free-standing oven’s installation.  During that time, menu development and plating options were reviewed and decided upon.

The one planning need that was left to the last minute – locating the supplier for the cooking hardwood and determining appropriate sizing for the new equipment!  WHY???

It always surprises me that restaurateurs are willing to spend $50,000 and up for commercial equipment that does a specific function or technique, yet they don’t spend the time before that purchase ensuring they can obtain the quality accessory needs to get every benefit from that investment.

Here’s the best part: often these equipment lines tote that they can do all sorts of functions including wood-fired cooking techniques.  The truth – they aren’t really promoting that function of their equipment line!  They simply want to sell you the equipment and have you use standard fuel options like electric and gas.  How did I come to this conclusion?  By the content of the user’s manual.

Many do not reference:

  • size of wood product needed for the equipment
  • how to light the product
  • how much of the product to use
  • where to locate a supplier of the cooking wood
  • pictorials of the steps to do the technique
  • provide a troubleshooting guide.

Do you really want to spend $50,000, $60,000, $100,000 and be left to fend for yourself with that investment?

Take the appropriate steps when considering additions to or replacements in your equipment line.  Research not only the equipment but what is needed to do the smoke infusion technique with that equipment.  Yes, wood chips are readily available even though there is a high level of variation between products.  But other products are not so easy to find like wood pieces larger than wood chips but smaller than split firewood logs.

In addition, wood-fired techniques can also require additional “tools” to be available in the kitchen that may not have been standard inventory before.

Such things as:

  • fire retardant gloves
  • fire grade tools like long handled tongs and a wood poker
  • a MAP canister/torch for lighting the fire
  • an infrared thermometer for reading temperatures within the cooking chamber
  • an ash receptacle.

Prioritize the needs of a wood-fired equipment addition by first reviewing the best option in equipment for your business’ need and second, assessing all the requirements of the wood to be successful in bringing this technique to your kitchen!

 

Dr. Smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SmokinLicious® for the Combitherm® Combi Oven by Alto-Shaam®

Alto Shaam Combitherm oven

Alto Shaam Combitherm oven

We love having the opportunity to work with chefs throughout the world in determining what they desire in a wood-fired flavor for various menu items.

As you can imagine, we get the opportunity to work with a variety of equipment lines that use wood for flavor and coloring.  One of our favorite commercial equipment lines is produced by Alto-Shaam® who specialize in food service and retail markets by offering cooking, holding, display, and chill equipment lines.

Part of the Alto-Shaam® cooking offerings is the Combitherm® Combi Oven which not only offers convection cooking but smoke infusion as well.  This highly efficient oven works with hardwood chips to bring the aroma and taste of wood infusion to all types of meat, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices.  In fact, when SmokinLicious® began development of our micro chip line, we targeted the Combitherm® oven for ideal sizing production to meet the needs of the commercial kitchen.  In the end, we found that our smaller Minuto® Wood Chip line offered even greater flavor than traditionally sized wood chips with little ash residue when used with the Combitherm®.

Here’s the best part: because we manufacture every product, we can offer chefs single species of our filtered specialty wood chip line or we can custom blend to give their menu items greater diversity from others.  That includes blending different wood species as well as sizes.  Smaller chip particles may be used for more pungent woods while larger sizes of sweet or savory chips are included for a fully balanced wood recipe flavoring based on the overall food ingredients.

Chefs who use the Combitherm® simply love the ease of adding our dust free product to the equipment, dialing in the smoke infusion level they desire, and letting the oven do its magic.  The best part is they don’t have to worry about an unclean wood source going into their expensive equipment and causing equipment failure or producing off color and taste to the foods being cooked.

We know we can offer the best flavor in wood combustion by starting with the ideal hardwoods for cooking.  The rest can be left to the cook’s imagination.  We know the effort it takes for those in the food and beverage industry to commit to a specific piece of equipment.  We know the expense involved.  What we don’t understand is why the same time and research isn’t spent assessing the wood supply to be used in the oven?  Why risk this investment to an unvetted supplier?

If you own an Alto-Shaam® Combitherm® Combi Oven or you are in the market for a new piece of equipment, join those who have already experienced the benefits of our exceptional Minuto® wood chip line and get ready to be blown away with the possibilities our products can bring to your kitchen!

Bon Bar B Que!

Dr. Smoke

Dr. Smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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stop watchWe’ve all heard it!  The infamous 5 second rule.  When something falls on the floor, you have 5 seconds to pick it up and still consume it. At SmokinLicious®, that will NEVER be the case.  If it falls on the floor, it is NEVER used in our manufacturing process!

You might ask, “Why apply this rule when we’re only talking about wood, right?”  If you understand the basis of wood-fired cooking then you understand that smoke is a vapor.  And like any vapor, it attaches itself to anything in its surrounding area.  When you cook with wood, you are adding its smoke or vapor as an ingredient to the foods being cooked.

So, do you really want something that has been on the floor for a short period or a longer period to be considered an ingredient in food you will consume?

SmokinLicious® is unique in this thinking and as a result of this approach allowed our wood processes to be Kosher certified! We handle everything with care and with your food consumption in mind.  To us, wood is a flavor ingredient and needs to be exceptionally clean.

Whether it’s our larger cuts of hardwood like our friction logs, barrel logs and assorted chunk sizes or our smallest product, Smokin’ Dust®, we ensure that the wood never touches the ground or floor.  SmokinLicious® developed custom storage containers and air collected systems that preserve the cleanliness of the wood and assure no product is EVER swept from the floor!

Why wouldn’t you want to deal with the leading cooking wood manufacturer in North America?  Especially when others are simply recycling their waste wood products.

Don’t you think your customers care about the 5 second rule and deserve to know if you allow it?

Get peace of mind AND a guarantee with a REAL cooking wood company…  SmokinLicious®!

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We received the following inquiry from a product user and follower:

“I want to smoke ribs on my STOK™ drum charcoal grill but am worried about getting consistent temp and my ratio of wood chips to lump charcoal”?

Listen And Watch PART ONE:

Listen And Watch PART TWO:

 

Thank you, Mr. Brown, for your question submitted @smokinlicious on Instagram.  Follow us on our blog, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Flipboard as we explore the culinary delights of wood-fired cooking and all the superb flavours!  Wood – it’s not just for traditional barbecue – it has SO many  great uses: ember cooking, baking, roasting, searing, cold smoking, etc.

Keep your questions coming!

Bon Bar B Q

Dr. Smoke and the Culinary Smoke Team

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