January 2019

Our Discussion of Hardwood vs Softwood for Cooking

Our Discussion of Hardwood vs Softwood for Cooking

Hardwood vs. Softwood For Cooking! Click To Tweet

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What is the best wood for smoking?

Well, before you ask that question, you should want to know “What woods are safe to use for smoking?”

Hardwood vs. Softwood for Cooking- Softwoods:

Softwoods or coniferous woods should never be used for cooking because they have elevated sap levels and more air in their cell structure. This causes the wood to burn fast, hot, produce lots of sparks, and produce unpleasant flavors not ideal for flavoring foods. Let’s be clear on what a softwood is: pine, redwood, cedar, fir, spruce, hemlock, larch, cypress. These are all no-no’s!

Hardwood vs. Softwood for Cooking- Hardwoods:

Known as deciduous trees that produce broad leaves, produce a fruit or a nut, and generally go dormant in the winter, hardwoods are the woods to use for cooking and makeup roughly 40 percent of all trees in the United States.

Hardwoods are made up of mostly three materials: cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Cellulose and hemicellulose are the basic material of the wood cells; lignin acts as a kind of cell-bonding glue but it is the primary material need for flavoring in barbecue. Lignin contains phenols or hydroxyl groups which are alcohols. As these compounds work together, they produce a preservative action on the food which is antibacterial in nature. Lignin modifies the surface of the smoked food as the wood burns making the food scrumptious!

Hardwood vs. Softwood for Cooking- The Lignin Compound

Although all woods contain compounds which act as a preservative providing both antioxidants and reduction in bacterial growth, there are compounds that are more toxic to people, including compounds like formaldehyde and acetic acid which provide for an overall pH level in wood. Hotter wood fires produce a higher pH level. A good example is mesquite, which produces twice the level of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, meaning it has a pH level almost three times the level of cooler burning hardwoods like Sugar Maple and Oak. Remember, it’s PAHs that are of concern when you grill or smoke and why foods cooked by these methods can get a bad rap.

Hardwood vs. Softwood for Cooking- Orchard Woods

Don’t forget a point about orchard woods which are a hardwood.

Woods like apple, peach, and pecan are traditionally raised for their fruit and nut production meaning they are commonly sprayed with pesticides in order to ensure a productive tree. Unfortunately, these pesticides are absorbed by the tree and released when burned. That means, you release them into the cooking equipment every time you use them for grilling and smoking.

Ask questions about the wood you want to purchase, read wood packaging and look for hardwoods that are known to be ideal for wood-fired cooking like cherry, alder, ash, hickory, maple, oak, and beech. Great food memories at the grill or smoker are made when you start with the perfect smoking wood! Don’t settle for anything less.

Related reading:


More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject






SmokinLicious® Products:

Smoker Wood Chunks

Smoking Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®, Minuto & Piccolo

Wood Blocks for Smoking

Smoker Logs- Full & Quarter Cut



Dr. Smoke, we discuss <a href="https://www/chefsteps.com/activities/wood-selection-guide">Hardwood vs Softwood for Cooking</a>

Dr. Smoke, we discuss Hardwood vs Softwood for Cooking






This 18th century smokehouse reminds us that the art of smoking food with wood is part of our heritage.

This 18th Century historic smokehouse reminds us that the art of preserving food with wood is part of our heritage.

Exploring this Historic Smokehouse in New Jersey Click To Tweet

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I had an opportunity to visit an original historic smokehouse in Hopewell, NJ that is beyond impressive. Knowing that this structure likely dates to the late 1700’s, I was most impressed with how the structure maintained itself over the years and how this piece of history has remained functionally intact.

Let me provide a brief history on these fascinating structures as well as share some images of the Hopewell, NJ structure.

A Necessity to Farm Life

If you were a farm in New Jersey like many New England states, a smokehouse was a necessity. Pigs were commonly raised during the 17th century and butchered in the month of December in order to be able to slaughter and preserve the meat through use of a smokehouse also called smoak house or meat house.

From earliest times, a smokehouse was a small enclosed shelter, where a fire could be kept smoldering for weeks, which slowly released its smoke to the hanging meat that was hung to keep it safe from vermin and thieves.

Smoke has long been known to contain compounds that act as preservatives. Phenol and other phenolic compounds in wood smoke are both antioxidants which slow rancidification of animal fats, and antimicrobials, which slow bacterial growth. Antimicrobials in wood smoke include formaldehyde, acetic acid, and other organic acids, which give wood smoke a low pH.

Although the process of smoking the meat could take days of preparation, generally the fresh cuts of meat were packed in tubs of coarse salt for about six weeks while the salt drew most of the water from the flesh. Then the salted meats were hung in the smokehouse that contained a small fire which smoldered for one to two weeks. The result was dried, long-lasting, smoke-flavored meat that would age in these historic smokehouses for up to two years before being consumed.

The Hopewell Historic Smokehouse

With its original mortar and stone, this Hopewell, NJ smokehouse is a real gem!

The only door into the smokehouse, made wide for loading and unloading

Estimated to date in the late 1700’s, this was used for both storing and smoking meats, as evidence by the original steel hanging system. You can clearly see the venting chamber which acts as the outtake while circular holes present air intake. These were so well made that despite minor ground shifting, they are still as strong as ever.

The chimney stack for venting
look at the amount of light from the window built into this smokehouse

This structure contains stacks of original bricks which were found in the house and subsequently moved to this location. The house still contains the original, super large stone fireplace that served as the wood fire cooking area and heat generator for the home.

the side view with window providing work light

Without question, these early smokehouses are an opportunity to view just what living was like before refrigeration and other luxuries of our current society. I’m constantly keeping me eyes toward the fields and yards of historic areas in search of these hidden gems that started us on our hunger for smoked foods.

Is there a historic smokehouse near you? Leave us a comment to share your views. Bringing you informative recipes, techniques, and the science beyond the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®!

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®, Minuto® & Piccolo®

More related reading on how Smokinlicious® reduces the risks of Microbial bacteria in our wood products
More related reading on smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

Additional reading:


-Food & Smokehouse Processing Double Standard?


Dr. Smoke- Great day exploring the history of smoking when there were actual structures!
Dr. Smoke- Great day exploring the history of smoking when there were actual structures!
We need to keep out Microbial Bacteria from the food chain!

We need to keep out Microbial Bacteria from the food chain!

Prevent microbial bacteria in the food system. Click To Tweet

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With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting some 48,000 cases of food borne illness events each year, resulting in some 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, food borne illness outbreaks often generated from microbial bacteria is a serious concern. This is an added stress to manufacturing facilities that produce smoked food products as they must adhere to multiple regulations regarding the raw food product, smoke process and final smoked food product. The last thing a facility needs is to worry about the wood material used in the smoking process but that should be a priority for these facilities. Why?

Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella enteritidis, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Lactobacillus plantarum, Pseudomonas fluorescens, and Aspergillus flavus have all been shown to survive on plastic material meaning that if a supplier utilizes the standard GMA pallet commonly found in the grocery industry, these microbial bacteria or viruses survive and can flourish increasing the risk that they can be introduced to new food product placed on these recycled plastic pallets.

Microbial Bacteria- Hosts of Contamination

With the recent outbreaks affecting romaine lettuce (from E. coli) and beef (from salmonella), attention is being drawn to other potential hosts for the transfer of the bacteria. We know the common hosts: unsanitary conditions at a farm or packaging facility, food handlers failing to employ personal hygiene standards prior to working with food, food exposed to climate conditions that stimulate the bacteria development. One potential host that has not been fully publicized is the packaging materials used to transport. Unfortunately, it is the lack of enforcement in this area that puts the smokehouse industry at further risk.

Raw Material Transport

Many smokehouse operations purchase wood product for the smoke infusion from companies that supply the wood chip in paper bags that are then stacked on wooden or plastic GMA pallets. Although some of these suppliers may be able to attest that the wood chips have been kiln dried or heat treated to a certain temperature, none confirm to a heat level that would kill all the bacteria previously listed. Specifically, listeria, which requires a temperature of 74 °C/165.2 °F to be killed, is a key concern in smokehouse operations that include meat, poultry and fish products.

The risk is elevated by the potential for these bags to be penetrated by a stray nail from a wood pallet or sharp edge of a plastic pallet. If the pallet contains the bacteria, it is a host that can transmit to anything it has contact with.

Decreasing Your Risk of Microbial Bacteria

In previous testing of wood pallets, one or more of salmonella, E. coli, and listeria were found to be present in as much as 6.8 million spores/gram which is classified as an extremely high count. Given that domestically, there is no requirement for wood pallets to be heat treated for movement between states, the contamination can be passed to multiple locations with food when the pallet remains in the transportation system.

Although there have been efforts to change the transport of food by road and rail through the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), to date nothing has been regulated on the packaging materials that the food is placed on.

One encouraging finding is that cardboard materials, if correctly stored, reduce the potential for cross-contamination of food due to a quicker viability loss by spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms compared to the plastic packaging. For this reason, SmokinLicious® only packages our smokehouse wood chip products in cardboard packaging that is then placed on a pallet that has been heat treated to an internal core temperature of 75°C/167°F and holds this minimum temperature for 75 minutes. We adhere to a higher heat treatment standard as the health and safety of everyone using our culinary products is of highest importance. We believe that hardwood used for cooking should be regulated independently and adhere to stricter standards than those currently in place for the general wood industry. Until that regulation is written and enforced, SmokinLicious® will self-regulate our product to this level.

At SmokinLicious®, we believe in Quality and Safety over profit! Isn’t it time your smokehouse joins us and takes a proactive stand against microbial bacteria like listeria, salmonella, and E. coli and help in the fight to rid our foods of life-threatening bacteria.

What is your biggest concern in your smokehouse food operation? Leave us a comment to share your views. Bringing you informative recipes, techniques, and the science beyond the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®!

SmokinLicious products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

More related reading on how Smokinlicious® reduces the risks of Microbial bacteria in our wood products

More related reading on smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!


Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®, Minuto® & Piccolo®

Additional reading:




Dr. Smoke- we do our part thru heat treatment to reduce microbial bacteria risks!
Dr. Smoke- we do our part thru heat treatment to reduce microbial bacteria risks!

Himalayan Salt Blocks used for grilling

Himalayan Salt Blocks used for grilling! – #himalayansaltblock

Himalayan Salt Blocks: Benefits, Uses, and Tips

Jeffrey Lewis (Bio)

Hey there, friends! I’m Jeffrey. I’m a blogger at Ittefaq Salt. Thank you for joining me, as I share different aspects of my life. I’m so thrilled you stopped by! I love to create a beautiful, thriving life around me and helping others to do the same. I love writing about nature, health, food and nutrition-related topics.

You must be aware of the importance of salt for our body. It is required for the proper functioning of many body functions. But have you ever heard about using Himalayan salt blocks for cooking? Well, this is becoming a trend among those who want to add a wow factor to their cooking. The idea of cooking on these salt blocks is itself very fascinating. But there are more benefits that you can get from these incredible salt blocks as well.

Keep on reading to know more about these amazing salt blocks.

What Are Himalayan Salt Blocks?

As the name suggests, these are the big Himalayan salt slabs that are hand mined from Khewra salt mines in Pakistan. These are hand carved into different sizes and thickness. Click here to know more about these salt blocks.

These salt blocks are made of pink hued Himalayan salt crystals that are locked up in mountains for over 250 million years. This salt is unrefined, unprocessed and free from contaminations. This is to be the purest salt due to the extreme pressure that it has experienced over a long period of time.

Himalayan salt provides a number of health related benefits due to which it is being widely used as an alternative to regular table salt. It contains 84 minerals that fulfill our body’s mineral requirement. It is said to be helpful in maintaining the body’s pH level, regulating blood pressure and reducing water retention.

So, these Himalayan salt blocks have all the goodness of this salt.


  • These salt blocks are heat resistant and can hold temperature for a long time which makes them really useful. These are good for both high and low temperature and can be used for cooking and chilling the food.
  • Cooking on a salt block means you are adding flavor along with 84 minerals of Himalayan salt to your food.
  • Salt blocks have moisture retention and low absorbency properties which make them anti-bacterial. Because of this, these blocks are an amazing choice for serving and presenting food.

Seafood resting on top of salt block



Himalayan salt blocks are so versatile in their usage due to their tendency of temperature. These blocks are hand carved into different sizes so that they can be used for various purposes.

  • You can cook and grill different kinds of food on these blocks such as meat, vegetables etc. This will make your grilling more fun and exciting. It not only gives a very subtle saltiness to your food but also imparts minerals to the food.
  • Salt blocks can also be used for curing of some food items such as salmon fish. It will increase the shelf life of the fish.
  • Due to its ability to hold temperature for a long time it can also be used for chilling the food.
  • Another amazing use of this block is to use it for serving a variety of foods. It will make the food more presentable.

salt block on grill with food on top


Tips for Using Salt Blocks:

  • First of all, you need to choose the salt block that has right size and thickness according to your need.
  • Salt block needs to be tempered before using it for the first time. For this, you need to heat it slowly at a low temperature in an oven, then increase the temperature gradually until you reach 500°C. After that, cool it down to room temperature. This process will improve the cooking surface and strength.
  • If you want to use it for cooking, you always need to pre-heat it. It will make cooking and grilling easy.
  • It is also very easy to maintain and clean a salt block. After using it, cool it down and wipe with any damp cloth. Then let it air dry and store in a cool and dry place.

Himalayan salt blocks are not just pretty with their pink hues but also add flavor and nutritional value to the food along with so many other uses. These all natural blocks are a must have cooking tool in any kitchen to add uniqueness and creativity to the cooking. These will not only add to the beauty of your kitchen but also a unique and creative way to cook the food. So, next time if you want to impress your guests, grill and serve food on these blocks.

Smoked Cocktails are the best way to bring in the smoky flavors during the cold wintry nights! Or to just add a pre-taste to your upcoming BBQ!

Smoked Cocktails are the best way to bring in the smoky flavors during the cold wintry nights! Or to just add a pre-taste to your upcoming BBQ! Learn the easy steps


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An easy way to give your guests or yourself for that matter, a change from the old cocktail is to smoke the entire drink or a component of the cocktail. I’m going to provide you with some examples of how to take any cocktail recipe and advance its flavor to something spectacular. Once you see how simple it is to build a balanced cocktail with smoke infusion as one component, you’ll be ready to upgrade your cocktail recipes to include smoked cocktails as your hidden talent.


The easiest method to achieve the smoked cocktail is to smoke the finished drink. However, depending on what cocktail ingredients your using, this may result in a drink that is too strong. Generally, speaking, a sweeter drink can tolerate more smoke vapor.

Here are some options for you to consider when contemplating a smoked cocktail: you can smoke the entire drink, you can smoke one ingredient of the drink, or you can smoke the water to make the ice for the drink. One of my rules is the more ingredients in the cocktail, the more likely you can smoke the entire drink.

For ingredients, any one or a combination of ingredients can be smoked. Simple syrup, cream, citrus, etc. are all good options. Keep in mind that smoke is attracted the most to cold items so if you want an intense smoked cocktail, chill the ingredient first prior to smoking.

Tasting Notes: Keep in mind, when you cold smoke using a handheld food smoker, the intensity of the smoke can be high. Due to the immediate ignition of the micro chips, the smoke production is great. You can control the level of smoke by only trapping a small quantity of smoke for a lighter infusion versus allowing the container to fill completely with smoke vapor.

The breville handheld smoker


SMOKED COCKTAILS- Balancing Smoke with Other Flavors

Whether the cocktail contains fruit, hard liquor, or cream, you can make a flavorful and desired cocktail. For a drink like the Jack Frost which contains lots of sweet juice and cream of coconut, smoking the entire drink provides great balance. For a drink like the Harvest Sparkle, smoking the simple syrup works well. Our Cranberry Bourbon cocktail goes hardy whether served hot or cold when we cold smoke the whiskey. And the Winter Wonderland enjoys a smoky layer to the cream of coconut for a luscious take on this four-ingredient cocktail. Never forget, when in a pinch, consider simply smoking the water to make the ice cubes for a no-fail option on the smoked cocktail, that will remain subtle for most any guest who is served.

Do you have a favorite smoked cocktail? Leave us a comment to let us know and subscribe to our channel to get all the tips, techniques, and recipes we bring your way. Always eager to share our expertise on all things wood fired, that’s SmokinLicious®!

SmokinLicious products used in this blog:

Wood Chips- Piccolo®

More Related reading

More related reading on smoked cocktails and specific drink recipes in our recipe blog!

Additional reading:





Dr. Smoke-

Dr. Smoke- It is easy to make smoked cocktails with a handheld food smoker!

You are what you eat. We discuss the double standards of smokehouse processing emphasizing high quality ingredients but less than quality smoking methodology.

You are what you eat. We discuss the double standards of smokehouse processing emphasizing high quality ingredients but less than quality smoking methodology.

Food & Smokehouse Processing Double Standard?

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Self-disclosure here. I work for a USA cooking and smoking wood company that has earned recognition for its commitment to manufacturing quality products specifically suited for many culinary professions, trades and interests. Even though not required to do so, the company treats its entire product line as food additives. This is an important point for my following observations.

I’ve always been especially impressed how reputable food processors and manufacturers accept, follow and even exceed many of the numerous public regulations in place to provide consumers with safe and healthy food products. For the most part our nation’s food industry operates from a philosophy that maximizes consumer protection by prioritizing food safety. Clearly, we’d be in a world of hurt if it didn’t! In relation what I’ve come to understand with food involved with some smokehouse processing operations, I’m really confused.

Smokehouse Processing? Here’s my dilemma- A Double Standard?

Recently, I tuned into a very popular realty television program which showcases “dirty” jobs- I think you know the name. Maybe you’ve even seen it. Like most other episodes, this show highlighted a series of tough job tasks, performed by hardworking employees. This episode dealt with all food processing elements of a very high quality, perishable specialty deli meat item- Lebanon bologna.

It’s impressing that the company, for over 100 years, goes to great heights in sourcing only the best ingredients. Its processing methods seemed to be top notch. Except a few of the techniques shown in the latter stages of the show highlighting smokehouse operations. At first it was disturbing to see that the main source of smoking wood is wood slabs with bark on considered to be “mill waste material.” If that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t believe when a worker demonstrated their process of generating smoke in the smokehouses. Step #1- douse a rag with kerosene, light it and kick it in to the burn pit of the smokehouse. To me, the very defining aspect of this company’s high-quality food product, smoked bologna, has been denigrated with a cheap, uncleaned and potentially harmful fuel source and an ignition process that is archaic and potentially harmful.

For the life of me, I can’t truly understand why a company that has been in business since 1902 and is apparently known in large markets for having the very best ingredients to make its consumable food products would revert to a smoking operation that involves waste wood being ignited with nearly the same petrochemicals that fuel the likes of a diesel locomotive? Given the residuals of burnt petrochemicals, I’m not sure I’d ever want to eat any of their smoked deli meats.

You Are What You Eat

So, I guess the adage of you are what you eat apparently doesn’t have the same meaning with this company. It appears their smoking method hasn’t evolved much beyond the same dirty way done 100 years ago, before health risks came to the forefront. When considering that smoking methods are a big part of their overall food products, I can’t help but think that a double standard is in place with the consumer to suffer.

Purchase Products:

Smoker Logs

More Related reading on "What Wood for Smoking" and other great smoking and grilling tips and techniques

More Related reading on “What Wood for Smoking” and other great smoking and grilling tips and techniques

Additional reading:




Dr. Smoke- <em>"Consistency is important with food processing and smokehouse operations."</em>

Dr. Smoke- “Consistency is important with food processing and smokehouse operations.”perfect steak!


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I love the idea of making your own dry rubs for a variety of reasons, but primarily to allow the cook to control the amount of salt and sugar, two ingredients that are in high ratios for many jarred rubs.

This guide is intended to provide tips to achieve a balance of flavors in the ingredients selected. I’m also going to provide listings of ideal ingredients for specific proteins to help stimulate your creative juices.

Dry Rubs Made Easy- Percentage of Water

Before we begin with the actual ingredients for dry rubs , let’s discuss the composition of meat and poultry and why you need to be aware of water content.

Although you may not think of water this way, water is a chemical and it is the dominate one in meat, followed by protein and then fat. For a less active, mature, “fat” animal, water can be 45% of the composition but for a younger, leaner animal it can be as much as 72% moisture. Remember, fat cannot hold water. Texture, color and flavor are affected by the amount of water in the muscle tissue. Water that is retained during forces of pressure and temperature is referred to as “bound water” while water that is lost is called “free water”. You can change the capacity of the muscle to hold the water by disrupting the muscle structure. Examples would be grinding, freezing, chopping, thawing, and salting meat.

Dry Rubs- Salt and Sugar

Hopefully, you are aware of the ingredient rule that states the first few ingredients listed on a nutritional label are the highest percentages of that item. That means, when you see salt and sugar listed in the top three ingredients, note that those dominate the rub .

Research has shown that higher salt content works very well with cuts of beef, fish, and wild game. Pork tends to do well with rubs that contain higher sugar levels. However, I tend to avoid putting salt into my rubs, preferring to add by hand when the food is ready.

Let’s breakdown the types of salt and sugar so you know how to incorporate them.

Table or Refined Salt: a fine grade salt that is made by dissolving in water which removes everything but sodium chloride. These usually have an additive to prevent them from caking in dispensers and may also contain an iodine additive.

Kosher Salt: a coarse grain that may have an anticaking additive, it is slower to dissolve on food surfaces.

Sea Salt: most are refined producing just over 99% sodium chloride but the grain size can vary from brand to brand.

Pickling Salt: contains no iodine or anticaking additive and dissolves well in water making it ideal for brine recipes

Seasoned Salts: a refined salt that contains a flavor ingredient such as garlic, onion, celery

Curing Salts: these should never be used as an ingredient in a rub as they are designed to preserve meats, which means they include nitrite and possibly nitrate.

White Sugar: this is a highly refined cane or beet sugar that can scorch at higher temperatures

Brown Sugar: this is white sugar combined with molasses so it tends to add more flavor

Dry Rubs- Pepper

It’s important to have some level of heat in your rub to balance the sweet and savory ingredients but you need to have a tempered hand to ensure that you don’t add to much. Let’s look at the pepper options:

White Pepper: considered the gentle pepper, it’s light in color and flavor with just a warm heat undertone.

Black Pepper: this can be fine or coarse and has much higher heat level than white and some cayenne peppers.

Cayenne: although I’m listing this separately due to its popularity, cayenne is a chile powder known as ground red pepper, the heat level is front of the line which means you need to add small quantities and taste before adding more.

Chile Pepper: these are the peppers that have a wide variety of heat levels. Common names include: Ancho, Chipotle, Pasilla, New Mexican, Guajillo, Habanero, Jalapeno, Bhut Jolokia, Aji Amarillo.

Dry Rubs Transition- Spices and Herbs