discussion of the 8 common mistakes to avoid in cooking with wood

8 common mistakes to avoid when cooking with wood.

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 Peaking 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 (http://www.smokinlicious.com/blog/?p=405 ) 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!

Dr Smoke

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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Smoking Boxes Available at Retail Locations

Smoking Boxes Available at Retail Locations

                                                               BOOST IT!

People are always in search of that great flavor to food that only comes from hardwood.  In fact, it is common for discussions around outdoor cooking to use the terms grilling and barbecuing interchangeably as if they mean exactly the same thing.  Let’s be clear – cooking with just LP/Gas is grilling.  Barbecue is outdoor cooking over hot coals or wood, whether in lump charcoal form or straight hardwood pieces.

In an effort for grilling equipment manufacturers to compete with charcoal grills and smokers, many began integrating a wood chip drawer in their units to imply that “barbecue” was possible on a gas grill.  If you ever tried these, you likely were disappointed in finding that the intensity of flavor just didn’t compare to charcoal equipment.  Then the smoker box was developed with a wide variety of design options from rectangular in shape, v-shaped at the base to fit between grill grates, and venting hole configurations that made claim to more intense smoke penetration.  Here’s the thing – no one ever discussed what should go in the smoker box.  The assumption was to always use wood chips but I am going to take you on a flavor journey using that box that will open your eyes to understanding cooking with hardwood.

One of the key complaints I hear is that when using wood chips in a smoking box or drawer, the chips don’t seem to give off enough smoke and have a very short burn life.  In fact, refilling the box or drawer is often needed to finish a simple food item like chicken pieces or ½ slabs of pork ribs.  Wood chunks or uniformed sized pieces of hardwood lend to a much longer burn/smolder rate and give off great flavor infusion.

Smokinlicious® Double Filet Wood Chunks

Smokinlicious® Double Filet Wood Chunks

So how can you still work with your smoker box?  Simply remove the lid or, if hinged in place, open the lid and place 3-4 SmokinLicious® Double Filet Wood Chunks in the box.  Be sure the box is placed on the hot area of the grill and let it go.

The increased volume of the wood allows for things to smolder longer which means the combustion stages are extended, thus, the flavor infusion is extended.

No cover is needed on the box.  What I like the best about this application is the box acts as an ash collection tray so removal for cleaning is quick and easy.  Keep in mind, LP/Gas units have heat diffusers – although they may go by other names like heat distributors, flame tamers, heat plates, burner shields, and flavorizer bars to name a few – so you already have a built-in method of using wood chunks for maximum flavor infusion to the foods on the grate (see our previous postings on this).

So are wood chips obsolete for the LP/Gas unit?  Absolutely not!  It is just another option for you especially those of you who pine for more smoke flavor to your cooking.

Go on the hunt and locate what you did with the smoker box.  Then visit SmokinLicious® .com in the USA or SmokinLicious® .ca in Canada and order up some Double Filet Wood Chunks and test out this easy method for yourself.

Examples of Smoke Boxes Available at Retail Locations

Examples of Smoke Boxes Available at Retail Locations

 

Smokinlicious® Double Filet Wood Chunks

Smokinlicious® Double Filet Wood Chunks

This is part our cooking series. See our Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook for recipe videos. #smokinliciousmenu

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Bon Bar B Q

 

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew

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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In Harvest Recipe for September: Potatoes

As a new feature to our blog and recipe section, we will be highlighting a seasonal product in a smoking or natural wood-fired grilled recipe, to help you take advantage of the wonderful seasonal offerings we have for fruits and vegetables. For the most part, we will be following the harvest schedule in the Northeast but may occasionally make reference to a different region’s harvest schedule.

For September, we our highlighting potatoes! One of my favorite variety of potatoes is Fingerlings. Feel free to modify the recipe below to your preferred ingredients.

Smoked Fingerling Potatoes with Pancetta and Dill
 
 

 

 

Ingredients:

2 lbs. fingerling potatoes*, scrubbed and cut into ½-inch lengths

1/4 cup olive oil

½ lb. thick sliced pancetta*, cut into 1/3-inch cubes, cooked

salt and fresh ground pepper

1 onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup finely chopped dill or 2-1/2 Tablespoons of prepared dill

* may substitute any variety of potato and regular bacon for the pancetta

Wood Recommendations:

Wild Cherry and Ash hardwoods (cherry for a tart flavor and Ash for its moisture infusion)

Tear a large piece of foil to make a pouch or use a disposable cake foil pan. If using a disposable pan, also cut a foil sheet that covers the pan.

Place the pre-cut fingerling potatoes, cooked pancetta, sliced onion, and dill in the foil pan or pouch. Add salt and fresh pepper to preference. Toss all ingredients together then drizzle the 1/4 cup of olive oil over the ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Place foil pan or pouch on pre-lite charcoal grill, with woods placed directly under the mixture. Allow to cook/smoke until potatoes become tender (about 2-1/2 hours at 200 degrees). Serve warm.

 

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Welcome QVC shoppers who purchased the Technique Pre-seasoned Cast Iron 11″ BBQ Grill Pan & Smoker over the U. S. holiday weekend (July 4th). Dr Smoke did some research and watched the demonstration of this product by the great people of QVC. During the segment that I watched they recommended the use of Smokin’ Dust® with this unit. While this is true, I would also recommend the use of Smokinlicious Wood Chips as well! We have tested other stove top smokers and found that with the heavier “cast” iron pans our Wood Chips sometimes perform better than our Smokin’ Dust®

When applying our Smokinlicious Smokin’ Dust® with the Technique Pre-seasoned Cast Iron 11” BBQ Grill Pan & Smoker you may have to add water to make a paste and put it on the bottom tray of the unit. This will prolong the burn life of the Smokin’ Dust® and increase the smoke flavor during the cooking process

We have ordered a unit and will be testing our products in the next couple of weeks. Dr Smoke and the culinary crew will be testing this unit and will be adding information to our Match your Cooker section of our web site. Please check back to Smokinlicious®for updates! Please enjoy your unit!

If you need additional assistance, regarding product compatibility, or tips on smoking,please call 1-800-941-5054

Bon Bar B Q!

Dr Smoke

 

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Smokinlicious is pleased to announce that we have added an eighth hardwood species to our product line.  Beech is now available in gourmet wood chips, double and single filet wood chunk, wood blocks and heartwood logs for purchase!

Here is the smoker’s introduction to this species

>> There are ten different varieties of Beech available around the world, but we will generally harvest American Beech or Red Beech(Fagus grandifolia Ehrh).

>> The heartwood is dark to reddish brown.

>> American Beech has been a popular choice for charcoal making because it burns so long.

>> Beech and Oak are part of the same wood family(Fagaceae), therefore, Beech is similar in flavor to White Oak.  It is considered a medium to bold flavor.  In our opinion it should be used mostly with beef, pork, venison and other wild game versus poultry.

We hope you try and enjoy this great addition to our hardwood family of products.  Remember all barbecue, NO bark!

 

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OUR NEW ARRIVAL

Smokinlicious® Gourmet Wood Products is pleased to announce the arrival of our new retail Wood Chunk packaging! Like our gourmet Wood Chips, you will now find our speciality cuts of gourmet 

 

Bag of Smokinlicious Wood Chips

Wood chunks available at select stores in our new paper packaging. Available in our “Double Filet“, “Single Filet“, and “Natural Grilling” speciality cuts, our wood chunks all come with the moisture level reading recorded right on the package! No more guessing about the moisture of the wood! Look for this product and all our exceptional gourmet products at a retailer near you. Or check our website for the nearest distributor.

 

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Join Dr Smoke and the Culinary crew as we visit teams that competed in the Jack Daniels competition! Dr Smoke discusses Barbecue, smoking wood chunks and chips, how teams qualified for the competion!  Overall just a great time during the competition.

 

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