December 2020


Collage of Smoked Chestnuts go on a Stovetop Smoker

Collage of Smoked Chestnuts go on a Stovetop Smoker

SMOKED CHESTNUTS ON A STOVETOP SMOKER!

Depending on where your located, chestnuts may only be available for a short period each year, usually around the holidays. Mostly pan roasted in the oven, why not do something unique with this prized fruit and smoke them! In addition to the chestnuts, you’ll need a stovetop smoker, purchased or you can make your own with tools likely in your kitchen. You can see our writing on the “The Kitchen Find” which will guide you on what is needed.

You will also need:

  • Minuto® Chips Size #6 from SmokinLicious®
  • a cutting board and knife
  • about 2 hours of time. Be sure you also have a hood vent where you will be using the stovetop smoker in order to maintain a smoke-free kitchen.

You will find chestnuts available prepackaged or in bulk when in season. Although the packaged product will include a directive to cut an X in the flat surface of each nut, I grew up in a household where we always cut off the stem side. This is the small, dark cap side to the chestnut. The chestnut has a cap and a pointed end giving it a bloated teardrop look. I have found that when smoking, I get better control of the smoke infusion with a fresh cut to one end. Keep in mind, not all the chestnuts purchased will likely be viable as often mold will take hold of some of the chestnuts which you won’t see until you cut into them. As the chestnuts age, they can develop a fuzzy mold on the outside which will tell you not to waste your time cutting that one open! Simply discard!

Generally, chestnuts have a flat side and a rounded side.

To prepare them:

  • lay the chestnut on the cutting board with the flat side down. Place your knife blade over the small dark cap, and slice off in one motion. This will reveal the chestnut meat inside which will have a yellow-white hue. Once the cap is off, you’ll be able to tell if any mold has set in as it will have a marked gray/black appearance. If any mold is noted, discard the chestnut as it won’t cook tender. If the majority is free of mold, go ahead and keep it for the smoking/cooking process.Triming the chestnuts

 

To do stovetop smoking, there are 4 parts needed:

  • a pan to hold the heat and wood chips
  • a drip pan to prevent rendered fat and juices from entering the wood. Generally, you only need the drip pan when you actually have a food item that will produce juices or fat drippings.
  • a grill pan
  • a lid.

Note: Smoked chestnuts will not produce any drippings though they do have a percentage of water that will be released as steam into the lid of the pan. Just be sure when you open the lid that you keep any collected water from dripping back into the cooking grate.

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Tom did pay attention to our tips on how to store wood chips!

Tom did pay attention to our tips on how to store wood chips!

How to store wood chips Click To Tweet

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It is one of our top questions. Wood storage. Where to store wood, how to store wood, temperature ideal for storing wood, shelf life of stored wood. If you are an avid follower of our readings, you are likely familiar with our two cartoon characters, Tom and Bert. Thru these characters, SmokinLicious® has been able to guide millions of home grilling and smoking enthusiasts on techniques and tips to make every wood-fired cooking event a success.

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Thinking about using cedar wood for cooking? 6 reasons to don't!

Thinking about using cedar wood for cooking? 6 reasons to don’t!

6 REASONS TO AVOID CEDAR WOOD FOR COOKING

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You love different techniques for cooking and absorb new information like a sponge. In particularly, you love outdoor methods of cooking. One of your favorites is plank cooking on cedar wood. Every time you read a recipe, they all call for use of a cedar plank or other methods to use cedar wood for cooking.

But is cedar really the best choice? More so, is cedar wood for cooking a safe choice?

Let’s examine the top 6 reasons why cedar wood for cooking may not be an ideal choice. Click To Tweet

#1 Softwood Classification Presents a Concern for Using Cedar Wood for Cooking

Cedar wood is not a hardwood. It is a softwood that is from the gymnosperm trees meaning, it is a conifer or cone producing tree. As a rule, softwoods should not be used for cooking as they contain a lot of air and sap which equates to a fast burn and unpleasant flavors. In fact, there are many softwoods that can be toxic if cooked over.

#2 Poor Fire Resistance

During plank cooking, you are using the wood as a vessel to infuse flavor to whatever food is placed on top of the plank. Here’s the concern with cedar – because it is a lower density wood (23 lb./ft³), it has very poor fire resistance. That means, it reaches full combustion much faster than hardwood and will burn as a result. Certainly, that’s not what you’re looking for when you plank cook.

#3 Poreless

Unlike hardwood which contain pores in the cell walls, softwoods like cedar are poreless. They use cell components called tracheids to transport water and nutrients. In addition, the organic compound lignin found in the cell walls, is much lower than in traditional hardwoods used for cooking. Why is this an issue? Lignin is what gives wood fired cooking the distinct flavor and aroma to foods. In using cedar wood for cooking, the average lignin composition is 20%±4 compared to common hardwoods used for wood-fired cooking which average 28%±3.

#4 Plicatic Acid

Cedar contains chemical properties (specifically plicatic acid) that are shown to be a good absorber of odors and moisture. This is one of the key reasons why cedar is a preferred softwood for pest control to keep fleas, ants, mites, moths, and mosquitoes away. When exposed to plicatic acid for lengthy periods of time, a condition known as “cedar asthma” can develop.

Additionally, a regular exposure to the cedar oil found in the wood can result in contact dermatitis or skin irritation, rhinitis, and conjunctivitis.

#5 Animal Toxicity

There are many studies available on how the use of cedar wood chips and shavings have affected animals continually exposed to these products. Most studies show a correlation with liver dysfunction in animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters. In fact, smaller animals, like guinea pigs and hamsters, have a higher incidence of death which may be attributed to plicatic acid exposure. The phenols and aromatic hydrocarbons also have been shown to cause respiratory problems in animals like those listed above.

#6 Not All Cedar Is The Same

Cedar is part of the pine family of trees with native origin in North Africa and Asia. There are no native cedar trees to North America. The red cedar common in the Eastern USA is part of the Juniper family and can be highly toxic if taken internally. Under no circumstances should you ever cook with red cedar from the Eastern states of the USA.

USA cedar trees are referred to as false cedars since there are no native varieties. There are commonly 5 varieties of the false cedars available: Western Red Cedar (common to Southern Alaska, Northern California, and the Rockies), Northern White Cedar (Southeastern Canada, Northeastern quarter of the USA, south into Tennessee, and west into Iowa), Eastern Red (Aromatic) Cedar (Eastern USA), Yellow Cedar (Pacific Northwest from Alaska to British Columbia into Oregon), Spanish Cedar (although Native to South and Central America, it was planted in Florida). Every false cedar has some known health risks with the most common being respiratory due to toxicity of its pollen, oil, or other chemical compound.

Now you’re asking..

“So if there are all these documented health risks, how and why have cedar plank cooking and other methods of cedar wood cooking gain so much popularity?” I suppose the easiest answer is that cedar was used by the earliest settlers in the Pacific Northwest as a means of preserving, storing and cooking the seasonal fish. Think about the limitations of the day: they would be using resources that are available without thought to the items we ponder today like health, future risk, etc. This concept was examined from a different perspective many years later with the desire for flavor, appearance, and functionality.

We often make the mistake of jumping into something full throttle before asking some of the key questions to keep our bodies safe and healthy. Remember, there’s lots of documentation out there stating why you should not cook with softwood yet when it comes to cedar wood cooking, specifically, cedar plank cooking, we don’t seem to carry that issue forward. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why.

We love providing information to our readers and subscribers that is not in the open and letting you weigh the information for your own verdict. All types of questions are welcome and we encourage you to follow and subscribe to our social channels so you don’t miss anything. We look forward to providing you with tips, techniques, recipes, and the science for all things wood-fired cooked.

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Additional reading:

-BEYOND PRICING: THE TOP THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PURCHASING COOKING WOOD

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

IS WOOD-TAR CREOSOTE THE ‘MONSTER’ TO WOOD-FIRED COOKING

DrDr. Smoke says "Just because it might be a "fad," cedar wood for cooking may not be good for your health."

Dr. Smoke says “Just because it might be a “fad,” cedar wood for cooking may not be good for your health.”