The sign is the entrance to the allegheny national forest which includes 513,175 acres or 801.8 square acres and includes the allegheny reservoir natural habitat

This Forest Covers 513,175 acres (801.8 square miles) and includes the Allegheny Reservoir Natural Habitat.

THE PRECIOUS FOREST

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!

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Dr Smoke- “Appreciate our renewable resource.”

Picking the proper cooking wood can only lead to success versus a flop

Menu board found in most restaurants

WHEN A FLOP COULD HAVE BEEN A SUCCESS!

There is no question that 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 at 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:

  1. Carrabba’s Italian Grill
  2. Applebee’s Grill & Bar
  3. Outback Steakhouse
  4. Red Lobster
  5. Logan’s Roadhouse
  6. 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 is 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.  

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 & BarMore 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. At some locations, though not all, you would find a log holder with 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.  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 advice 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.

Dr Smoke

Dr. Smoke

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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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Wood chips the size of a coinJOIN OUR WEIRD NAME CLUB (FOR YOUR WOOD CHIPS)!

The conversation always ends the same when we inquire about the size chip product needed.  “It’s the size of a penny”, or sometimes they say a nickel, dime or quarter.  That is the only reference we are provided with to produce a wood chip product quote!   With all due respect, coin currency is not the same from country to country including the penny which is now obsolete in Canada!

A great deal of commercial brand equipment, especially industrial smokehouses, are manufactured in Europe and Canada.   These countries use the metric system, a concept that is all but lost on most American companies since it is not a commonly used practice.

This is not the case for SmokinLicious® which currently tracks 9 sizes in our manufacturing process so we can assure consistent product manufacture. And yes, we reference the metric system in our sizing!

Taking a page from the “Dummies” guide book concept, we found that most companies producing a wood chip product screen for two common sizes.  In fact, they often sell the two sizes by reference to packaging bag color.   We at SmokinLicious® screen for 9 different screened sizes!  Why?  Because for food manufacturing companies to be cost effective while gaining optimal level of flavour infusion to their food product(s), correct wood product size matters!

Smokinlicious® Custom Sizing Process

Smokinlicious® Custom Sizing Process

If you comprehend that an incorrect size chip product in your commercial equipment will compromise the overall flavour profile due to variability in combustion of the product, then you would be ready to maximize not only the budget for the smokehouse operation but likely preserve more capital that would have gone to equipment breakdown expenses caused by inappropriate sized wood product clogging smoke regulators.

We know what the various equipment manufacturers recommend; well, to be honest, we know what they think is best for their equipment.  But let’s face it – their goal is to produce a state of the art, mass volume producing, time efficient smoke house with the hope that it will be efficient with the wood product material selected by the user.  They do not commonly source the wood product material to go with the equipment once sold and they certainly don’t know the intricacies of hardwood.   That’s where SmokinLicious® will step in.  Our Team has the expertise to make the perfect size match that will produce ideal combustion rate which in turn results in ideal flavour infusion, color infusion, and function of the smoke house. Plus, we dial in the suitable moisture level to generate that perfect combustion rate that produces consistent results every time the smoke house operates.

Once you join us, you’ll come to appreciate our “weird” names like Grande Sapore® (our larger screen chip sizing), Minuto® (covering 4 mid-screen sizes) and Piccolo (are smallest screen production that includes 3 micro sizes). We’re confident that you will come to understand and appreciate that our “weird” names provide assurance that we know what we’re talking about, we know what will work with your specific equipment, and that each order will have consistent particle sizing.  No “two color” bag option that contains whatever scrap wood happened to be available that day for processing.

We don’t complicate things.  By offering more options in wood chip/sawdust product, we can give our customers the flavour outcome they never imagined and cost efficiency they only dreamed about.  Let’s find out what your favorite “weird name” will be and make you a member of our “club”!

 

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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october-page-oneoctober-dr-smoke-newsletter-october-2016_page_2

 

Bon Bar B Q

 

Dr Smoke and the Culinary Crew

SmokinLicious® LogI read a lot. It is the nature of a scientist. It doesn’t matter if it’s a plant molecular-biology journal article or a cooking/food magazine that is readily available on any newsstand. I love to read and analyze the content. So, when I came upon Bon Appétit’s “Best of 2016” list (September 2016 issue), I was drawn to #11 on the list: a reference to using compressed sawdust blocks for cooking.

Now, if you follow us on our Blog, Flipboard, or our social media platforms, you know our stand on wood used for cooking: no bark ever, only specific hardwoods known to be free of or minimally contain toxins that can accumulate in the human body, use of heartwood only in our manufacturing process, and moisture rich products so we can control that variable for the specific cooking technique.

I certainly have knowledge of compressed sawdust products used in the heating industry for standard wood stoves and fireplaces, but I had never come across a reference to using them for cooking aside from the pellets commonly used in pellet-style smoker equipment, products that have been around for years. So why did the red flag come up when this reputable magazine referenced a renewable heat product? Because none of these compressed wood product manufacturers ever referenced using the product to cook with. In fact, most stress the use of caution for the intended use in fireplaces and wood stoves, stressing that the BTU level of the product is much higher than standard firewood or cordwood. But let’s take a look at a number of other factors you should weigh before considering these products for cooking application.

Compressed Wood: Most of these companies never reference exactly what woods are used in their manufacturing process. If you know anything about wood-fired cooking you know that ONLY hardwoods should ever be used. Within that group of wood, there are some that are toxic when burned, or when there is exposure to their bark, or even to the sawdust. Of the companies I researched, almosNot all it's stacked up to bet all failed to inform if hardwoods were used exclusively in the manufacturing process. Certainly there is the risk of a mixture of hard and softwoods. One seller even goes so far as to call their byproduct used “wood waste”.

Low Moisture: There are references by these compressed wood companies that they kiln dry the wood fibers for their process. Again, low moisture levels are great if you plan to use the wood for long heat periods. Remember, the lower the moisture level, the less energy that has to be exerted during combustion of the wood to heat and evaporate the water commonly found in wood. But what happens if you want to control your heat level to say less than 200° F? A high BTU product whose intended purpose is to generate as much heat output as possible may not be the ideal. Even if you are using these blocks in an all-wood unit like a pizza oven, it will take a tempered hand to learn when to feed the fire to ensure stability of temperature. Even brick, ceramic and clay ovens can crack when heat levels exceed recommended levels.

Flavor: Although there are many out there in the culinary arts that would say that wood-fired cooking is the technique to do these days, I stress that you really need to know the purpose of why you would choose this method of cooking before you jump into it. Yes, you can use some standard cooking equipment to wood-fire cook, including the simple cast iron skillet that can be loaded with wood chips but ask yourself, am I doing this technique merely for the method’s appearance or to produce an unusual and exceptional flavor that is unique to wood-fired cooking? Here’s the controversy: cooking with compressed woods does nothing for flavor if you don’t know the composition of the wood material used to make the compressed wood product! Yes, you will get heat output for the cooking process but in my opinion, you simply can’t get the same flavor because you don’t know what woods are in the brick to feel comfortable balancing out the other ingredients of your dish. I think we can all agree that what makes a memorable meal and a winning dish is not necessarily the complexity of the ingredients or the technique employed, but rather the marriage of all the flavors that register with your senses.

I want as many Chefs, cooks, and culinary enthusiasts to embrace wood-fired cooking but I also feel an obligation to ensure that they have knowledge of what the risks can be and what to look for in a supplier’s product. Yes, storing firewood for kitchen use in not the ideal given firewood’s tendency for attracting bugs, molds, and sometimes rodents. This IS the reason why we’ve always promoted the fact that SmokinLicious® is not a firewood company but a COOKING wood company.

If storage is the only criterion being factored in to a wood product selection and purchase for cooking application, then you’re not asking the right questions.compressed brick for Blog

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One key factor that is often not consider when the decision is made to purchase commercial-grade equipment is the cooking wood product that the unit derives its flavor from. Don’t be fooled by the statement that “any wood will be fine”, as there IS a difference! In fact, only hardwood should be used as a cooking wood, never softwoods, but even some hardwoods are not ideal for wood-fired cooking and flavor. Some bark is toxic, other woods are too high in resin, and others don’t possess a balance of flavanoids to make them pleasant to the palate.

You take the time to research equipment before making that purchase, isn’t it time you give the same consideration to the cooking wood product you need?

Our video featured here highlights the study, testing, and care we take to ensure a perfect marriage of cooking wood to equipment. Get the full potential from your commercial equipment investment by using only hardwoods DESIGNED for cooking! Be informed, don’t hesitate to asks questions, and find the best source for the investment you’ve made and will continue to make. Remember, the success you pine for in your menu is directly dependent on the skills of both your kitchen staff AND equipment.

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Did you ever have the experience of buying something that you were really excited about only to get it home and realize that you didn’t have a clue how to even begin to operate it?

 

Well, a similar event happened with a national restaurant franchise that we were called in to assist. Here’s how it played out.

 

This particular Company was in the process of launching a wood fired menu and had agreed to install Magikitch’n® charbroilers with the smoke box inserts http://www.magikitchn.com/PDFs/manuals/Series600/L80-104.pdf

 

Of course, they would be in need of a wood supplier to service ALL their locations. Initially, we worked with the test kitchen Chef in supplying samples that we felt had potential to work with the unit. Unfortunately, as commonly can be the case, the size wood pieces sent didn’t seem to be maximizing the unit’s potential. The solution? HANDS ON!!

 

We immediately scheduled to be in the test kitchen some 36 hours later to work directly with the Chef in finding the perfect fit.

 

That’s how it works and that’s what we are all about! Service and knowledge like no other Company.

 

So, if you find yourself longing to bring in equipment that will provide for a wood fired menu but you don’t want to spend months learning about cooking woods, seek us out! Or, if you’re in the equipment business and want to ensure the correct recommendation in wood size, type, and conditions, call us! Isn’t it nice to know that old fashioned customer service still exists?!

 

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