July 2017


Charcoal that is produce properly is a fuel and provides heat! Wood adds flavor!

Charcoal that produces properly is a fuel and provides heat! Wood adds flavor!

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WHY CHARCOAL IS NOT AN INGREDIENT

There are so many methods of getting a message out rapidly given the speed of technology and the many platforms for posting opinions and marketing strategies today.  In doing research for a publication, I came across a statement made by a charcoal company that made me a bit … confused.

An Ingredient Not A Fuel

This company claimed that their charcoal product was an ingredient, not a fuel!

Not a fuel?  That statement is in direct conflict to what charcoal manufacture was designed for – heat.

I realize that when used with 100% accuracy, charcoal will produce no smoke and a consistent heat.  We all know that the 100% accuracy is the kicker – pretty much no one is proficient at producing full ignition of the charcoal with stable air intake to maintain the high heat level the product was designed for.  What usually occurs is that we start out with full ignition but given the need for longer cooks, we add charcoal and thus, start to fluctuate the oxygen feed.  Only during those fluctuations does the production of smoke occur with charcoal.

Non-Carbonized Wood IS Flavor

Charcoal production is the act of carbonizing wood which means all the volatiles of the wood is burned off until what is left is pure carbon or at least a high percentage of carbon.  There is no refuting that charcoal burns cleaner, hotter, and more evenly than wood only.

Here are where differences occur though when it comes to types of charcoal.

Lump charcoal is made from various scrap wood sources like furniture manufacture, a wood packaging manufacturer, the flooring manufacturer, and building material scraps.  Due to the high level of variation in these pieces, most often there is not 100% carbonization of the lump charcoal production.  That’s why you can get some smoke and flavor from that product; when combustion of a non-charred piece occurs, you’ll stimulate organic compounds that produce flavor.  Keep in mind, because scrap wood is used you can get other debris in the purchased bag as often this is scooped up from a site and transferred to a production facility, with the scoop gathering anything that may be in the area.

Traditional charcoal manufacture also known as briquets is also made from scrap wood, sawdust and wood chip product.  It is known that some manufacturers include a percentage of softwood but for the most part, the product is derived from hardwood.  Briquets do have binders added and there are some types that have accelerants added to make them extremely quick to lite.  Personally, I can detect those additives and feel they do change the overall flavor when cooking foods over them but you can make that determination for yourself.

Controlled flavor only comes from wood and the best and safest flavors, from hardwood.   Charcoal is a fuel, it is for heat, and the only flavor it produces is when meat/poultry drippings fall directly on the hot coals and vaporize, stimulating flavors.  Never are flavors stimulated from the briquet or charcoal.

So, Who Is The Ingredient?

If the definition of an ingredient is a substance that contributes or makes up a mixture, then truly hardwood is an ingredient in wood-fired cooking recipes as it gives off its distinct organic flavor compounds that make up the cell structures.  Heat is NOT an ingredient and that is what charcoal is: HEAT!  A claim to be an ingredient just holds no truth.

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Other related reading:

HOW TO TURN YOUR CHARCOAL GRILL INTO A SMOKER

HOW TO USE CHARCOAL WITH WOOD IN COOKING

Products discussed in this Blog:

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chunks- Single & Double Filet

Dr. Smoke Charcoal needs to be supplemented by Smokinlicious wood products!

Dr. Smoke Charcoal needs to be supplemented by Smokinlicious wood products!

The grand ole tree beech hardwood adds a very European flavor to smoked foods, especially sausage style products.

The grand ole tree beech hardwood adds a very European flavor to smoked foods, especially sausage style products.

BEECH HARDWOOD IS CERTAINLY

“GRAND” IN EUROPEAN SMOKER WOODS

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With 10-13 Beech varieties available throughout the world, this is a hardwood tree that can age to some 300 years.  Visually, they are quite impressive often with distinct “root feet” and gray, smooth bark.  The scientific name is Fagus Grandifolia but in North America, we know this as American Beech.

I’m With the White Oaks

Beech is a relative to the White Oak hardwood family.  However, there are some differences in its performance as a fuelwood and flavoring wood.  Beech tends to hold more water or moisture than white oak and for that reason, you need to be sure you are using this for cooking when the level is closer to 20-25% or lower.  Anything higher will produce a brown smoke as the energy generated is used to evaporate the water.  Using Beech with a higher moisture level could produce some off coloring to the foods.

Cooking Specifics

Beech is a very easy hardwood to burn and produces a nice bed of coals.  It does not throw spark when it combusts so it is ideal for all types of equipment including fire pits and camp pits.  It has a minimal aroma when burned but produces a balanced flavor profile to foods.

The MBTU level is considered high so know you will get a long cook time from this wood.

NeutralWays

In my opinion, Beech is one of those hardwoods that is neutral when it comes to food pairing.  I have found the ability to cook vegetables, fish, meats, poultry, and even flavor seasonings and herbs with its flavonoids.  You really can’t miss with this choice.  Knowing it is a hot burning wood and makes a great bed of coals, you should attempt to get all the wood can give from a heat point of view.  Think about raking hot coals to one side of your equipment and cooking foods directly in the coals while the remaining fire cooks more traditional foods on the grate.   Remember, there is value in the wood through the entire stages of combustion.

My Tan Skin

Coloring to foods tends to be on the earthy palette side giving a very pleasant appearance.  Because this wood is so well balanced, you can select both sweet and savory ingredients without causing any muted flavoring.  This is true whether the wood is in a chunk, chip or dust form.

This can be a harder hardwood to locate since it is more prevalent in the Northeast, especially New York State but if you can locate it, pick some up and enjoy the many benefits of this grand tree.

Was this post informative?  Leave a comment or suggestion as we’d love to hear from you so we can bring the information you’re looking for.   And don’t forget, follow us and subscribe so you don’t miss anything!­­

Dr Smoke- "Beech hardwood adds a European flavor while also imparting a unique ember glow."

Dr. Smoke- “Beech hardwood adds a European flavor while also imparting a unique ember glow.”

 

For related reading:

TO THE BEECH (WOOD SPECIES) WE GO!

THE TOP 8 MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN COOKING & GRILLING WITH WOOD

Smokinlicious® products referenced in this Blog:

Wood Chunks- Double Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®