Foodborne illnesses and allergies are common problems that affect many Americans. The CDC estimates that Americans acquire roughly 9.4 million food related illnesses each year, and more than 19 million people were diagnosed with allergies in 2017 alone. Between one and three percent of beef may contain toxic strains of E. coli, which sicken as many as 265,000 Americans each year. Fortunately, the high temperatures involved with smoking meats can help protect your family from E. coli infection. Since the kitchen is a haven for germs and irritants that can make you and your family sick, knowing how to maintain a sanitary environment can make the difference between a healthy family and one who becomes ill frequently.
Eliminating Mold for a Safe Kitchen
Although mold doesn’t grow quite as readily in the kitchen as it might in the bathroom, without proper attention, your kitchen can become an ideal home for types of mold that could be aggravating or even causing allergies in the younger members of your family. The heat and humidity that is the result of cooking in a kitchen provides an optimum environment for mold. Kitchen sink leaks may also lead to the development of mold if left undetected as well as garbage cans and disposals. Turning on kitchen fans and opening windows in the kitchen and in the whole house will lower the level of humidity in the kitchen while also allowing fresh air to enter. If you live in a humid climate, purchasing a dehumidifier will be the best bet for preventing humidity related mold growth. Checking for leaks regularly, as well as keeping your kitchen environment clean, including the regular sanitation of cupboards and drawers will also help to eliminate mold growth in the kitchen.
Preventing Foodborne Illnesses in a Safe kitchen
common way that an unclean kitchen can lead to illness is through foodborne
illnesses, due to incorrect preparation or spoiled food. Proper handling
of foods, particularly raw meat, can prevent your family from making that list.
Smoking meat and other delicious foods can have rewarding results, but if food
is not handled properly, unfortunate consequences may result. Washing hands for
20 seconds with warm, soapy water both before and
after preparing food is the first line of defense against
foodborne illness. Washing hands immediately after coming into contact with raw
meat, as well as any surfaces the meat might have touched with hot, soapy water
will help you have peace of mind that your meal will not make you sick. Proper
food handling, like cooking meat to the correct temperature, will allow you to
fully enjoy a delicious steak, possibly smoked with hickory chips.
sure to create a clean and safe environment, free from mold, germs and various
contaminants, will allow your family to maintain the high levels of health we
all strive for. Be sure to always follow proper food safety guidelines,
and check for mold regularly, as not doing so could negatively affect your
It’s time to bring a smoky flavor to one of my favorite though limited in availability, vegetables – smoked okra! Known as a super healthy food but one that sometimes confuses people on how to cook and eat it, I’m going to bring you an easy method of tenderizing and infusing okra with a pleasant smoky flavor that doesn’t stimulate the sticky juice known to lurk inside.
Though I’m going to use a stove top smoker for my infusion, you can easily adapt this method to the gas grill, charcoal grill or electric smoker using a vegetable basket or tray. Seek out some vibrant green, firm okra and let’s get started on a new way to cook and flavor this healthy vegetable.
I’m using my Nordic Ware Stove Top Kettle Smokerfor this hot smoking method. To start, I place the smoker base on the unlit burner and add about ¼ cup of Minuto® Wood Chips– I’m using a #6 in Sugar Maple – from SmokinLicious®. I place the drip pan on top of the wood chips and then ensure the food insert pan is clean and dry. For vegetables, I usually use a medium heat setting on my stove – I have a gas stove top. This will register between 200-250°F on the kettle smoker’s temperature gauge. Next, I’ll do a simple preparation to the okra and we’ll be ready to turn on the heat to the stove top unit.
Tasting Notes: For the charcoal grill set up, use a two-zone cooking method – charcoal and wood lit on one half of the grill while the vegetable tray or basket containing the okra will go on the unlit side of the grill. Do the same set up on the gas grill. For the electric smoker, be sure to use a lower heat setting – around 180°F.
Nothing could be simpler than the preparation for okra. You’ll want to ensure that the outside is clean and dry so a simple water wash is good with a pat dry. I like to remove the stem top to allow penetration of the smoke vapor into the center of the pod.
about one pound of fresh okra with the stem tops trimmed into the smoker’s food
tray. Try making an even layer of pods
so the smoke vapor can flavor the pods evenly.
Cover the kettle smoker with the lid and turn the burner on to a medium
setting. I use my stove’s vent on high
to keep the aroma down somewhat.
Allow the okra pods to tenderize and smoke for about 20 minutes before checking. You just want them to be tender (not falling apart), to where a knife can still cut them into pieces. Once done, remove the pods to a bowl and use these in recipes calling for okra or you can serve as is with a favorite sauce.
I plan to make a soup with this batch of smoked okra that will compliment my diced tomatoes. You’ll find that recipe publishing soon under the title “Wood Fired Okra Soup,” which is a great way to enjoy the healthy benefits of this less used vegetable.
Tasting Notes: By smoking the okra you’ll find the mucilaginous juice reduces significantly. There will still be enough of this juice left within the pods to gently thicken the soup. I prefer to start cooking this soup, then refrigerator overnight, and reheat for serving the next day. This produces the perfect, slightly thickened consistency to be ladled over cooked rice.
you have a favorite method of cooking okra?
Leave us a comment to opine and subscribe to get all our postings on
tips, techniques and recipes. Bringing
innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science
behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®.
“Wear your shoes!” how to protect your feet around hot embers!
remember a particular year, I believe it was 2007, when my Culinary Events Crew
traveled to 29 of the 50 states in the US and 4 provinces of Canada. I felt like I never slept in my own bed and
constantly was repacking the suitcase with clothing suitable for the area we
would be traveling to.
was the year I lost my favorite lace up/zipper ankle boots to the fire.
literally burning in a fire but from repeated exposure to hot, stray coals that
are common when you engage in wood fired cooking. I was constantly stepping on these stray
embers and this consistency lead to me putting more than one hole in my
was a lesson well learned and one I want to pass on to you.
Don’t Be Surprised
as your educated that the standard oven mitt won’t cut it when your dealing
with excessive heat levels in metal equipment commonly used for wood fired
cooking, the same holds true for your footwear.
When working around chimney starters that spit and shoot hot sparks of
scalding coals and water pans that hold 212°F water, flip flops are not the ideal choice in footwear. Unlike the professional kitchen where Chef’s
clogs are the ideal to prevent slips and falls on the constantly wet floors as
well as to keep your tootsies comfortable when on your feet 15 hours a day,
cooking with fire takes some thought for footwear practicality.
That led me to look at options in footwear designed for safety, specifically fire safety.
We run a factory operation at SmokinLicious®, which means we have strict policy when it comes to personal protective equipment or PPE. That includes policy on footwear that specifies the need for steel toed footwear.
Over the course of a decade, safety footwear has seen a metamorphosis in style, comfort level, and level of protection. Gone are the days of limited color options and welcome the new days of vibrant patterns and even height options on the boot cuff. I was particularly intrigued with a relatively new shoe on the market called the Indestructible® Shoes.
only are the shoes stylish, but they offer features many other work shoes can’t
match. Like the steel toed cap that
cannot be penetrated by nails, saw blades, and weight (see the very impressive
videos on these tests). With a shockproof midsole, these are also a work shoe
that can be worn for hours.
given that we work around a lot of extremely hot fires that emit stray coals,
we wanted to ensure that the anti-slip rubber soles would not only protect you
from slips but also from the penetrating heat of hot coals and embers. That led us to conduct our own tolerance
After firing up the charwood production oven and running a full day of production, we removed hot embers from the oven that had a heat temperature of nearly 1000°F. Our controlled testing included establishing a coal bed within an aluminum foil pan since aluminum is a great medium for radiating heat. We also elected to test the shoe without weight bearing so note that we cannot speak on this parameter, merely the shoes’ outer sole tested on high heat without weighted pressure from a wearer.
were three levels of testing: 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and 90 seconds which in
our opinion, simulated the length of time a person would stand stationary at a
high fire or cooker. Following each
test, the shoe was placed in snow with an ambient temperature of 30°F. We also alternated shoes between tests to ensure
no carryover temperature of significance factored in to the stability of each
all three test levels, the Indestructible®
Shoes performed brilliantly. Although
there is an obvious odor of the heated rubber, it is not considered excessively
dangerous. Keep in mind, the thermodynamics
of heating rubber results in the rubber shrinking not expanding with heat like
other materials. This is due to the
molecules of the rubber becoming disordered unlike when they are at a normal
temperature which results in the molecules becoming less disordered (i.e.
was minimal discoloration to the lightest coloring of the rubber sole which is
a reaction of the rubber’s cells and the carbon in the combusted material.
the Indestructible® Shoes proved to
be a great option for those who work with live fire and hot coals for
cooking. Between the steel-toe and the
thick rubber outer sole, as well the shock-proof inner sole, these are an
option in footwear for the barbecue and live-fire cooking enthusiast, whether
amateur or professional, in protective footwear that is comfortable,
long-wearing and fashionable.
can find the Indestructible® Shoes at:
is your favorite footwear when you barbecue?
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®!
Smoked Ricotta Cheese – I know not everyone has a dedicated stove top smoker but I do know that we all have a large stock pot handy. I’m going to show you an easy way to convert that pot to a stove top smoker by using micro wood chips, aluminum foil, and a roasting rack. I’ll explain to you a combination hot/cold smoking method to bring a smoke flavor to whole milk ricotta, that will allow you to use this product in any recipe calling for traditional ricotta. Find your stock pot and roasting rack, and let’s get smoking!
Once you’ve selected a stock pot to use for the smoking, the preparation of the pot is quite simple. Start by placing 2 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil in the bottom of the pot, allowing it to go up the sides slightly. Then select the micro wood chips of your choice – I’m using a Sugar Maple Minuto® wood chip in size #6 – and spread into a thin layer on the foiled bottom. Add a roasting rack. Mine is round to fit easily in my pot. I also like to line the lid of the pot in foil as all hardwood contains creosote which can cause some discoloration to the pot. The foil will protect this from happening and makes clean up a breeze.
place the prepared pot with the lid in place over a medium-high heat and allow the
chips to heat until they are consistently producing smoke. This will take less than 15 minutes.
Once the chips have started to combust and produce smoke vapor, it will be time to add the ricotta. I am doing 3 pounds of whole milk ricotta as I plan to make a dessert pastry horn and then keep some spare smoked ricotta cheese for pasta recipes.
12-15 minutes of heating, lift the lid and place a heat safe container of the
ricotta on the rack inside your smoking pot.
Secure the lid in place and allow this to stay on the heat for about 5
minutes. Then shut the heat off and leave
the pot with the ricotta inside untouched for about an hour. Let the smoke infusion occur with this cold
Notes: Any hardwood
can be used for the smoke infusion but note that by retaining the pot lid in
place, you are limiting the oxygen that can enter the pot. This produces a much bolder smoke infusion
than is common with the same wood used on a traditional smoker or grill.
Here’s something to keep in mind with this stove top DIY smoking technique. I have a very tight seal on my pot which means it doesn’t take a lot of wood chip product to infuse a smoky flavor in the ricotta. Plus, the fat level of this dairy product attracts smoke vapor well as this is high in water content which smoke vapor is naturally attracted to.
after about an hour, and after you’ve sampled the smoked ricotta, you still desire
more smoke, simply turn the heat back on for about 10 minutes to stimulate the
chips for additional combustion. Then
repeat turning off the heat and allowing the ricotta to sit absorbing the smoke
for the set amount of additional time you want.
Once done, refrigerate the smoked ricotta until you are ready to use it,
keeping this covered well. If any liquid
accumulates while refrigerated, simply pour off before using the smoked ricotta
in a recipe.
get your recipe ideas stimulated, I’ll offer up my Smoked Ricotta Pastry Horn
recipe which is super easy, fabulous looking, and can be made with an
assortment of filling options. Keep watching
our website for the announcement on this recipe release.
What’s your favorite food to stove top smoke? Leave us a comment to opine and subscribe to get all our postings on tips, techniques and recipes. Bringing innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®.