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!
Dr. Smoke- “A little biology knowledge can help your cooking!”
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!
New red and white potatoes
3 tablespoons of oil (grape seed, walnut, almond, vegetable, or canola)
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.
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our feature so start the conversation with a comment!
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?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
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.
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.
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.
Today, 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!
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.
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.
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.
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 un-dried wood. This is the direct reason why the National Conference onWeights and Measures – Uniform Regulation for the Method of Sale of Commodities does not allow for the sale of wood products by weight. It would not 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 in foods cooked over wet woods that 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, does not mean it started out for that intended purpose. Often wood is used first for a primary business like furniture manufacturing, hardwood flooring, or cabinet making. It’s only the waste wood that is re-purposed 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 de-humidification 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 moisture content. 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 moisture content 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 moisture content in our hardwoods using a controlled heat method with a re-hydration parameter. Our sole/primary business is wood-fired cooking woods! That’s it! We have no reason to reach for moisture content in the single digits and for cooking purposes, you would NEVER want this! The ideal moisture content for cooking is in the 20% range (this is dependent of wood species, however).
We ALWAYS provide you with a moisture content 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 is just one of the reasons whySmokinLicious®is a superior product for superior outcome in wood-fired cooking!
8 common mistakes to avoid when cooking with wood.
THE TOP 8 MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN COOKING & GRILLING 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 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.
#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” 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!
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 Piccolo® 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.
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:
Gourmia® 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 available. I’m going to use Cherry today to keep the fruit flavoring marriage.
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 being sure not to stuff. Remember, once lit, these hand held units produce a lot of smoke vapor quickly so everything needs to be set up well.
PREPARING THE BANANAS:
Removing the peel
I have a preference for using a small sheet pan or cookie sheet when I cold smoke fruits. It makes it very easy to expose the fruit to the smoke vapor without the need to rotate the food. 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 placed the cut pieces on the sheet pan, and then secure a food storage bag or plastic wrap over the pan. Be sure you are 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 the Bananas with the Gourmia® Mini Smoker
My Gourmia® hand held food smoker is assembled and filled with Wild Cherry Minuto® wood chips in Size #8 from SmokinLicious®. I now position the smoking tubing within the sealed bag or under the plastic wrap if you are using that, and cinch the excess around the tube to prevent any smoke from exiting while the unit is on. I turn on the hand held 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.
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
Product Sold By: Cubic feet for logs/pounds for chunks & chips
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.
Established: 1992 under the name Cowboy Charcoal; purchased in 2015 by Duraflame, Inc.
Wood Types: Apple, Hickory, Mesquite
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
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
Harvest: None specified – indicates they source woods from all over the USA
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
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.
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.
There you have it! A place to start. Of course, if you’ve reached us on our site then you already know the answers to above key areas for SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products! These companies may provide some opportunity to purchase woods not offered by us so you have a pantry full of options!
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 & 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 Prunus. Most 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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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 ourMinuto® 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. Thatisour primary andonly 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!