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.
Pears, pears, everywhere! Depending on where you’re located, you’ll have at least a few varieties 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:
Fresh pears – 4 will likely fill the smoker pan one time
A Chef’s knife, paring knife, and cutting board
A cooling rack
Pears cut in half
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.
Removing the core
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.
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.
Stove-top Smoked pears
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 for, 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.