As Fall and Winter Approach think about the storage of cooking wood ….
Posted By Donna G
You’ve likely heard the warnings circulating regarding the pending Polar Vortex which is targeted to be particularly impacting to the Northeast. In preparation for whatever is coming our way, we thought we’d take a minute to remind you about the storage and maintenance of your gourmet wood products as the weather begins to cool down.
As many of you have heard me say in the past, wood is hygroscopic which is a fancy word for saying wood can attract and absorb water. This is a good thing for those of us who prefer to do hot smoking. But what you likely aren’t aware of are the variant shock waves that the hardwood can incur when it is exposed to extremes in temperature and humidity too quickly.
When wood “drinks” or takes in moisture, the molecules expand. As such, throughout the seasons, all hardwood will expand and contract as moisture and climate conditions change. What you may not know, is some species of hardwood are more hygroscopic than others which can result in some challenges at different times of the year and in various locations throughout North America. So what can you do?
Here are some suggestions to stabilize the cooking hardwoods you may have purchased from us during seasonal changes:
• purchase smaller quantities of wood that will meet your immediate cooking needs, meaning what you can reasonably use within a month’s time
• don’t store the wood directly on concrete or in plastic. Harwood will seek out the moisture in concrete and plastic can often make the wood sweat resulting in mold spore development
• try to maintain the hardwood in a storage location that has a temperature which will not exceed 55-60 degrees and relative humidity in the range of 40-50%
• for larger quantities of wood, try rotating or shaking the wood that is located at the bottom of the storage container to the top so you can ventilate the pieces equally
• if you should see signs of surface mold developing, mix 1 part vinegar (I prefer white) to 10 parts water and place in a spray bottle. Then spray the mixed solution on the wood pieces to halt and reverse any growth. For wood that is showing more severe mold, you may mix the same formula in a soaking bucket, and leave the pieces in the solution to soak for about an hour.
Lastly, keep in mind that the denser the hardwood, the more prone it is to instability. Here is the order of our hardwoods from most dense to least: Hickory, Oak, Beech, Ash, Maple, Cherry, Alder.
With a little planning, you can continue to enjoy our premium cooking woods during all seasons of the year with little to no additional work. Don’t forget, Fall and Winter are two perfect seasons to fire up the grill and/or smoker and start experimenting with the seasonal foods available in your area!