Our Hickory double filet is great for most smoking or grilling equipment - So YES-HICKORY THE WOOD TO SMOKE!

Our Hickory double filet is great for most smoking or grilling equipment – So YES-HICKORY THE WOOD TO SMOKE!

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The question is one of the most common we hear.  What is the most popular wood you sell? 

Initially, our response was that there wasn’t one hardwood that was dominating the order system.  That certainly has changed over the course of the past few years.

Without question, Hickory has become the most requested hardwood.

Why Hickory The Wood To Smoke?

I truly believe the catalyst for the popularity of hickory particularly for smoking foods, is television and YouTube.  Yes, all those cooking and food shows and YouTube channels have catapulted grilling/smoking with wood and charcoal leaning toward Hickory.  As if Hickory is the only choice for “real” barbecue.

Some of the roots of the popularity of Hickory is the generational secrets of barbecue.  Hickory has been, for many decades, a commonly found hardwood in the traditional barbecue states who are credited with bringing barbecue to the limelight.  North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and then advancing west to such states as Tennessee, Missouri, and Alabama.  Gradually, those who wanted to duplicate the smoke flavors of the south continued to request hickory.  The result: hickory has become one of the highest demand hardwoods in North America.

Is There a Holy Grail for Smoking Wood?

Without question, those known in the world of barbecue as major players have stimulated the belief that their choice in smoking wood is the key to their success and notoriety.  Here’s is the conflict: many fail to admit that there are many other factors that account for their success.  Although they may have made their mark by sticking with that one wood for the entire time they cooked and gained popularity, they also committed to specific equipment, fuel product say a specific brand of charcoal, meat supplier, whether they keep the bark on the wood or remove it, and brands or recipes for rubs/sauces/marinades.  ALL these items factor into the overall success of a cooking event even in barbecue.

Life of the Tree is Key

I won’t get into the details about one brand of charcoal or briquette over another, or the influence of a wet or dry rub on the meat’s ability to absorb smoke vapor.  Those discussions will be for another day.  What I will stress is that the climate and soil of tree’s location is by far a key determinate in whether it will make a great smoking or grilling wood.  Specifically, the more balanced the pH level of the soil the tree’s roots are bound to and the amount of precipitation the tree is exposed to in a given year, directly affect how favorable the wood will be for smoking, grilling, and cooking in general.

I’m often told by new customers who had previous experience with hickory and found it to be too strong in flavor, producing too dark a coloring to the food’s exterior, and often producing a sooty appearance to both the food and equipment, that once they tried our wood, they had the exact opposite result.  Why?  The easiest answer is we simply have better-growing conditions in the Northeast than other areas that grow Hickory trees.  Plus, we have access to the better species of this hardwood family.

More Choices Don’t Always Mean Better Outcome

With over 20 species of Hickory in North America, they are not all equal when it comes to cooking with them.  Many of these 20 species are known to produce bitter undertones when foods are exposed to their smoke vapor.  That means poor results for the cook or Pitmaster who believes in hickory for their food production.

I like to compare hardwoods for cooking to extra virgin olive oil.  There are hundreds if not thousands of brands of olive oil available.  Yet, many producers marketing an extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) are using low-grade oils in the production rather than meet the requirements for EVOO labeling.  Wood is similar.  There is no obligation to label where the wood comes from, how old it is, how it was processed, what species it is from, and if it is from the raw material of the timbered tree or a by-product or waste product of another use.  Just like olive oil producers using pomace or the olive residue left over from the traditional production of olive oil, hardwood can be a leftover as well and re-purposed into something it wasn’t initially intended for.

Blaze Your Own Trail

My hope is that I’ve stimulated some thinking into what makes for a great smoking wood, grilling wood, or cooking wood in general.  Instead of duplicating a celebrity figure or following a current fad, blaze your own trail into what pleases you and the people you are serving your amazing grilled and smoked foods from the wood fire to.  With so many factors affecting a food’s taste, appearance, and aroma, it’s time to simply experiment, keep a log, and find what pleases you.  It may turn out to be one hardwood that you feel is the wood or it could simply be the food that guides you.  Hope you enjoyed our blog IS HICKORY THE WOOD TO SMOKE & GRILL WITH?

The Culinary Crew wants you to know …

… that your wood cooking and food smoking experiences can offer a good variety of great tastes and awesome flavors by using the full range of acceptable hardwood species.  Without a doubt, hickory commands a lot of media market attention and is a very popular choice but don’t look past other hardwoods like oak, maple, cherry, alder, beech and ash to deliver great results!

We hope this latest posting was informative.  Leave a comment or suggestion as we love hearing from you, especially when it comes to what you want to learn about next.  As always, subscribe and follow us so you don’t miss out on the latest information.

Additional reading the topic of wood species and other cooking ideas!

Additional reading the topic of wood species and other cooking ideas!

Additional reading:

-WHAT A NUTTY CHOICE!

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

-WHAT’S IN THE SMOKINLICIOUS® WOOD CHUNK BOX?

-TO BARK OR NOT

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chips- Minuto® & Piccolo®

Dr. Smoke- "While hickory is the number one choice for Southern barbecue, it should not be your only choice. When asked YES-HICKORY THE WOOD TO SMOKE!

Dr. Smoke- “While hickory is the number one choice for Southern barbecue, it should not be your only choice. When asked YES-HICKORY THE WOOD TO SMOKE!

Plant-based burger taste better when cooked with wood chips or wood chunks for added flavor!
Plant-based burger taste better when cooked with wood chips or wood chunks for added flavor!
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There is no question that this has become the new rage.  Plant-based burgers have been introduced not only to the grocery meat case in over 8000 locations but to thousands of restaurant locations world-wide.

What is a plant-based burger?  It is a genetically modified version of heme, the iron containing molecule in soy plants, which is what accounts for a “meat” flavor.  It also incorporates coconut oil and potato starch to give a more burger-like texture, something that has been a complaint with vegetarian or vegan patties.  Brands like Impossible Burger® use a braiding of minerals, fats, and proteins to keep the burger from falling apart. 

To compare an animal protein burger with a plant-based burger from a nutritional view, you’ll find that the plant-based burger may not always be the better choice.  It really depends on the brand but know you should look at the saturated fat level and calories as the plant-based burger is not always lower than the traditional beef patty or even a poultry patty.  Sodium levels should also be monitored.

Make It More Like A Burger Experience

You may know that many people accept that there are two camps for cooking burgers: grill grates whether on a gas grill or charcoal, and a griddle whether on a stove top or on a griddle insert of a grill.

I would argue, however, that there is another camp.  Those of us who believe in live fire with wood for cooking common items like burgers and dogs.  This is how you take an average burger and maximize the experience of eating while creating a newness to a very popular American item. 

The influence of plant material combustion and release of the flavonoid composition of this material is what can take your average burger to the next level.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had dinner guests inquire how I made something like a burger taste so high quality.  It’s only then that I reveal my use of hardwood, whether chunks in a smoker box, chunks directly on hot charcoal, or a sprinkle of wood chips on a griddle or plancha.  Wood takes even the most basic food item and brings out umami. 

Grill Set Up

For the easiest cooking of your plant-based burger, start by setting up an outdoor grill with a two-zone cooking set up.  That means one half of the grill has no burners lit for the gas grill, or no hot coals on one half of the charcoal unit. 

Start the burger cooking by placing the plant-based burgers on the indirect side (no direct heat) and adding wood to the direct side.  This is where a smoker box comes in handy on the gas grill, which I fill with small wood chunks.  Close the lid and cook for about 7 minutes, unless the burger is particularly thick which would call for 10 minutes cooking.  Open the lid and turn the burgers over still using the indirect side for cooking and allow to cook for another 7 minutes (or 10 for thicker cuts). 

If you’re going to medium finish which is 145°F, then at about 125°F internal temperature, move the burgers to the direct heat side of the grill and cook leaving the lid up.  This will sear the outside.  Be sure to keep flipping the burgers every minute to ensure a perfect sear and not an overdone burger. 

To me, this makes a plant-based burger even more of an authentic burger flavor with the simple addition of hardwood on the grill of your choice.

Have you tried and loved a specific brand of plant-based burger?   Leave us a comment to state your preference and follow us or subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor.  That’s SmokinLicious®.

SmokinLicious® products:

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

Wood Chunks- Double and Single Filet

More related reading on Applewood and other orchard woods see our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!
More related reading on Plant-based burger and other smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More topics to read about:

BOOST UP THE FLAVOR OF YOUR SMOKER BOX!

GRILLING & SMOKING QUESTIONS/ANSWERS THAT MAY SURPRISE YOU!

APPLEWOOD – WHY WE DON’T USE IT! – HERE’S WHY

Dr. Smoke- Plant-based meats need wood chunks or chips to enhance their flavor profiles
Dr. Smoke- Plant-based burger need wood chunks or chips to enhance their flavor profiles

Zucchini is a great vegetable to not only grill but ember cook. It has the density to hold up over the high heat. Add a distinct char taste to this abundant vegetable either as a side dish or an ingredient by making ember fired fresh zucchini.

Zucchini is a great vegetable to not only grill but ember cook. It has the density to hold up over the high heat. Add a distinct char taste to this abundant vegetable either as a side dish or an ingredient by making ember fired fresh zucchini.

EMBER FIRED ZUCCHINI

How to cook your zucchini on hot coals.

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I love thick-skinned vegetables that come in season during Summer.  They are the perfect items to light a fire and make some hot coals to ember fire flavor into them.

We’re getting ready to coal roast one of my favorite vegetables – zucchini!  This is so simple to do and produces an extraordinary flavor for zucchini to be eaten on its own or to be used in your favorite recipe.  Clean out the fire pit, charcoal grill or outdoor fireplace and prepare to roastember fired fresh zucchini” directly on the hot coals.

Building A Small Fire

Starting the fire to burn down the wood into coalsKnow this from the start – You do not need a large fire!  A small fire is best to accomplish your cooking in about an hour’s time.  For my fire, I am using ten SmokinLicious Single Filet Wood Chunks in Ash with a couple of pieces of chardwood that were left over from a previous cook.   Why Ash hardwood?  Because it is hands down, the best hardwood to produce an even bed of coals which is what you want when you coal roast.

I stack the wood so there is quite a bit of air space between the pieces.  This ensures I have good oxygen flow to produce combustion quickly. My technique is to stand the wood pieces on their end and make a circle. I try to have a couple of pieces in the center kind of tipped on to each other.  Remember, you want to produce hot embers quickly so it only requires a little wood and a lot of oxygen to burn things down.  I light my wood using a small butane torch. Leave the torch in place until I’m sure the wood has ignited.  I keep the lid off my charcoal grill so I can push the combustion process through completion and get those ash covered, hot embers.

Red Means Hot

Red Hot coals is the goal before adding the zucchiniYou will know when the coals or embers are ready for cooking when you have uniform coals and they are glowing red from the bottom and gray on top.  I keep a couple of larger coals banked to the side to maintain heat and for reserved hot coals. Just in case I need to rake more to the cooking side.  I like to nestle a high heat metal cooking rack on the hot coals and then place my whole zucchini on the rack.  This allows for little ash to accumulate on the skin.  Remember, those coals are very hot so the zucchini will take less than 20 minutes to tenderize and char.

Turn For Full Char

Zucchini on the grilling rack over the hot fire coalsWith the zucchini and coal rack in place, I give the embers about 8 minutes to char and cook the first side of the zucchini.  After that time, I gently turn the zucchini so that each side gets an even char.  Once the first 8 minutes are done, there will be less time needed for each of the other sides as the zucchini will hold heat.  I’ve added one additional wood piece to my banked fire just to be sure I have enough heat in the coal area.  I will not put the lid on the unit during the entire cooking process as this is open fire cooking.  My total coal cooking time is approximately 16 minutes.

Perfection In Smoke & Char on Ember Fired Fresh Zucchini

Dr. Smoke's clock for the cooking time requiredAfter placing my ember fired fresh zucchini on hot coals for about 16 minutes total, turning several times to get an even char, this spectacular vegetable is ready for eating.  You will see, there is very little coal bed left following this technique so remember, if you are cooking more than a couple of zucchini, you will need a larger coal bed.

For those of you thinking that the black, charred skin will be bitter and not appealing to eat, think again.  Most of the char will rub right off but the flavor will be infused throughout the ember fired fresh zucchini.  I’ve sliced mine about ¼-inch thick as I plan to make a galette of ricotta, garlic oil, and basil.

The Culinary Crew wants you to know

… that ember roasting is ideal to boost up the bland, delicately flavored zucchini and will add a rich, wood-fired taste dimension to any dish featuring this exquisite summer squash.  So, be prepared to enjoy a rich, char-smoked variation of your ratatouille, quesadillas, stuffed zucchini or soups from ember cooked zucchini!

Check in soon for our post on that recipe.  Did you love this wood-fired technique?  Leave a comment and subscribe as we continue to bring you new ideas, tips, techniques and recipes for all things wood-fired, smoked, and charred!

You may also enjoy reading:

-Top 10 Vegetables to Cook in Hot Embers

-EMBER FIRED ZUCCHINI & RICOTTA GALETTE

-SUCCULENT WOOD FIRED STUFFED TOMATO WITH HERB RICE

-Ember cooked Sweet Peppers

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Single Filet

Charwood

Savory Smoky-Grilled Potatoes

Savory Smoky-Grilled Potato (es)

SMOKY-GRILLED POTATO: OUR #1 CROP GETS A NEW FLAVOR TAKE

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As the #1 crop in the world, available all year, potatoes are a favorite for a variety of reasons.  Get the nutritional benefit of this abundant vegetable by adding flavor in a different way – cooking it over charcoal and hardwood!

Ingredients:

Simple Preparation For a Simple Vegetable

I’m using small red and white potatoes.  You’ll need a knife and cutting board, as I like to cut these small potatoes in half to allow for maximum wood fire flavoring.  I’m going to use a vegetable grill pan but you can use any heat safe pan whether foil, glass, heat-safe ceramic, or cast iron.  Cut each potato in half, and place in the grill pan.

Seasoning and Oil Bring Out the Best

Just 3 simple ingredients are needed before the pan is placed on the grill.  Drizzle three tablespoons of oil over the halved potatoes, then add coarse salt and fresh pepper.  The oil can be grapeseed, walnut, almond, vegetable, or canola, anything you have and prefer.  Mix well to ensure each potato is coated, then let rest to allow the seasonings to penetrate before adding to the hot grill.

Charcoal Grill Set Up

Time to get the grill ready.  I’ll be using a combination of charcoal and wood – charcoal as the fuel for heat and wood chunks and chips for flavor.  Keeping my intake vents open on the kettle grill, I start a chimney full of charcoal.  Just one chimney will be needed for the actual cooking.  I lay a small line of unlit coals down both the right and left side of the charcoal grate to keep my temperature stable through the cook.  I pour the hot coals in the middle then add two Sugar Maple wood chunks and a handful of Wild Cherry Grande Sapore® wood chips on top of the hot coals.  On goes the food grate and then my vegetable pan of halved seasoned potatoes.

The depth of Flavor Through Smoke

Once the wood is set up and the food grate is on, the pan of potatoes is added.  Put the grill cover on and adjust the lid outtake vent to 1/3 open position.  Now, adjust the lower intake vent to the ½ open position.    Let the potatoes cook for about 25 minutes prior to stirring.  You’ll see the golden hue from the maple and cherry smoke vapor.  Be sure to rotate the potatoes on the bottom to the top so that there is even color and flavor to each piece.  The total cook time will be close to an hour but each grill and charcoal will perform differently so be sure to watch closely after the first 35 minutes.  Remove when the potatoes can be pierced easily with a toothpick or knife tip.

Full Flavor With All the Nutrition Intact

With all the nutritional value still intake, these golden, smoky potatoes are ready to eat as is or you can include them in your favorite potato recipes.  I’ll be giving a smoky edge to my interpretation of a potato curry in our next recipe feature.  Take advantage of this popular comfort vegetable and the ease of using a charcoal/wood grill for cooking and give your meals a memorable flavor enhancement.

The Culinary Crew wants you to know

that potatoes are one of the easiest veggies to grill or smoke!  A minimum amount of effort will yield maximum deliciousness.  Go ahead and experiment with a variety of your favorite spices or ingredients when grilling or smoking your spuds.  Cilantro, curry, garlic or onion powder and even a touch of cayenne pepper can add a taste zip to these great and hardy tubers.  There are many varieties of potatoes and they all do well on a grill or in a smoker but, just remember- the fresher the better!

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our feature so start the conversation with a comment!

Dr. Smoke try this smoky-grilled potato technique!

Dr. Smoke try this smoky-grilled potato technique!

Related Reading

-HOW TO USE CHARCOAL WITH WOOD IN COOKING

-HOW TO TURN YOUR CHARCOAL GRILL INTO A SMOKER

Smoked cheesy potatoes- what a wonderful twist!

SMOKED CHEESY POTATOES- WHAT A WONDERFUL TWIST

SmokinLicious® Products in this blog:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Hot Ember cook- can be done in a cast iron plan, fire box and even in a Hibachi! Try this unique cooking method to add a flare and unique tastes to your outdoor grilling and cooking!

To Hot Ember cook vegetables it can be done in a cask iron plan, fire box and even in a Hibachi! Try this unique cooking method to add a flare and unique tastes to your outdoor grilling and cooking!

TOP 10 VEGETABLES TO HOT EMBER COOK

I want to be perfectly clear – this is not cooking over hot flame or direct flame.  This is cooking after the wood and/or charcoal has burned down in to very hot coals; when the coals develop a white-gray ash coating. THIS is the time to hot ember cook or coal cook these select vegetables.

The Rules of Hot Ember and Ash Cooking

The essence of using all that the wood can give for cooking. That it was ember or coal cooking is.   I want to be sure there is no misunderstanding on what is needed to do this type of cooking safely and effectively.

Rule #1: If going with all wood for the coals, only use hardwood and clean hardwood at that.  You’re going to lay foods into this material so I believe it should be clean and mold free with moisture level 15-20%.  If higher, it will simply take longer to get to the coal stage.

Rule #2: Again, if using all hardwood, try to limit the bark or go bark-free if possible to reduce the potential for mold spores that can be released into the air.

Rule #3: Have everything ready before you start.   You’ll need an ash-coal hoe, fire gloves, and small coal shovel at the ready.  I would also have tongs for those times when you don’t bury your foods completely in the coals but rather lay them which requires turning of the vegetables.

Rule #4: Equipment wise, you can use a charcoal grill that has fire brick added for insulation, a clean fireplace (I prefer an outdoor unit), a clean fire pit, or an open pit built in a safe area with brick or gravel as the base to protect the fire from spreading.

Hot Embers Birthed in One Hour

On average, it will take about an hour to move a small fire from flame to hot ember.  Depending on whether you elect to use charcoal or wood will determine the amount of time the fire needs to burn down – an all charcoal fire will be 30-45 minutes; all hardwood fire about 45-60 minutes.  Remember, charcoal produces heat and little smoke, whereas hardwood, produces heat, smoke and specific aromatics and flavorings in that smoke.  At the hot ember-coal level, both have equal carbonization and act similar for this method of cooking.

Using approximately 8 lbs. of charcoal or 10 lbs. of hardwood, or any combination of the two, light a fire in the equipment of your choice.  Let the fire completely burn down until only hot coals remain.  Rake the coals to produce a thick even bed.  Then select your favorite vegetables from the ones listed below, and you’re on your way!  Always keep a small fire going for additional hot coals if doing large amounts of vegetables.

Vegetables That Love Hot Coals

Here are the top 10 vegetables to hot ember cook for fantastic flavor:

 

Asparagus         Broccoli          Cauliflower        Eggplant

Garlic        Leeks         Gourds (squash, pumpkin)

Onion       Peppers       Potato

If you want minimal monitoring to the actual cooking process, then place the selected vegetables into the bed of coals and then shovel hot coals and ash over the top so that the entire vegetable surface is covered in embers.  Leave untouched until tenderized, which will be 45-60 minutes depending on the vegetable selected.   Otherwise, you can set vegetables within the coal bed and turn them during the cooking process to ensure even char.

The Culinary Team wants you to know …

that cooking food with wood, whether it be directly on embers or more of the traditional way- above the heat source on grates, needn’t be an all meat, all protein cooking episode.  As our blog explains many vegetables can and should be the “main event” for your wood-fired cooking events.  Dense or thick-skinned fruits are great too!  So, be it veggies or fruits, ember cooked or grilled conventionally, your taste buds will be treated to rich, unparalleled flavors.  Give ‘em a try!

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 a thing!­­

For related reading:

-THAT EMBER GLOW!

-EMBER FIRED ASPARAGUS ON THE HIBACHI

-EMBER COOKED SWEET PEPPERS

-EMBER COOKING/ROASTING GARLIC IN AN IRON SKILLET

SmokinLicious products in this blog:

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Dr Smoke- “Try ember cooking; it is a great way to entertain your guests and enhance your grilling skills.”

We ask the question why people grill and found the response much different than our expectation.
When you ask why people grill we found the answer very interesting!
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You may not be aware that every year a trade show is held usually in the month of March that is dedicated to all things related to fireplace, stove, heater, barbecue, and outdoor living appliances and accessories.  In addition to the trade show, this organization, known as HPBA or Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, conducts various surveys every couple of years.   A recent survey was posted asking the question “Why do people grill?”

The top answer to this survey surprised and THRILLED me!

Most Recent Statistics

For North America, owning a grill is common.  Currently, in the United States, 7 of 10 adults own a grill while in Canada that number increases to 8 of 10.  Gas grills remain the most popular (64%) with charcoal units coming in second (44%).  When looking at the most popular times of the year to use the grill, holidays, of course, dominate.  Memorial Day and 4th of July are the clear winners for firing up the grill but Father’s Day remains a high demand grilling day as well likely due to this holiday falling right before true summer begins on the North American calendar.  Of course, Labor Day is not far behind on the list. 

This survey will be conducted again in 2019 with updated numbers likely available by the close of the year.  I can’t wait to view them to see current trends.

Now to the question of “Why do people grill?” 

It’s All About Flavor

The number one reason people stated for grilling is for flavor!  This got me thinking about this answer. 

What exactly made the flavor difference? Is it that the heat of the grill produced changes in the ingredients used?  Was it the charring affect from direct fire of the grill which leads to a distinct taste?  Or was it the flavor choices used when grilling with wood like wood chips, wood chunks, and charcoal?

I think without adding these follow up questions, it’s very hard to know just what the flavor enhancer is when grilling for these respondents. 

For me, there is no question that it is the introduction of smoke to my outdoor cooking experience.  Whether I’m cooking on a gas grill that I’ve included a smoker box of wood chunks, a charcoal grill equipped with hardwood charcoal or charwood plus wood chunks, an electric grill I’ve incorporate a micro wood chip product, or my outdoor fireplace that I’ve converted to an open pit fire using hardwood, I let the tantalizing smoke vapor work with the other ingredients of my foods to bring out the best of all the blended flavors. 

Smokinlicous Charwood products.
#charwood

Direct fire or indirect cooking, either way the eating experience of foods cooked grilled, smoked, or by embers is unique and is likely the reason why people from around the world continue to seek out these methods of cooking. 

Smokinlicious Double filet smoking wood chunks
Smokinlicious Double filet smoking wood chunks

So I agree with the 72% of North Americans who say they grill for flavor but I’d certainly add that I grill for flavor that is heightened by the addition of the natural plant material known as hardwood which takes my grilling to an umami level that’s hard to beat by any other cooking method.

What is your reason for grilling?  Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on all platforms.  Providing tips, techniques, recipes, and the science behind the flame and fire to improve your skills with wood-fired cooking! That’s SmokinLicious®!

SmokinLicious products in this blog:

Charwood

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

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

More blogs you might enjoy:

BOOST UP THE FLAVOR OF YOUR SMOKER BOX!

GRILLING & SMOKING QUESTIONS/ANSWERS THAT MAY SURPRISE YOU!

TEMPERATURE, MATERIAL AND TIME DETERMINE WHEN ITS CALLED BARBECUE

Dr. Smoke-
Dr. Smoke- The answer to Why people grill was a pleasant surprise to our Smokinlicious® products and the flavour they bring to BBQ foods!

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We have selected some of our Quora Grilling & Smoking Questions/Answers for you!
We have selected some of our Quora Grilling & Smoking Questions/Answers for you!

Gilling & Smoking Questions/Answers Click To Tweet

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Grilling & Smoking Questions— We’ve all heard the saying, “There are no stupid questions”.  I answer a lot of questions about cooking, grilling, smoking, and wood-fired cooking over the course of a week.  I am always surprised that when writing on these topics, I don’t often think of the truly novice cook and offer very basic tips.  So, today, that’s what my goal is. 

Grilling & Smoking Questions: When cooking a rack of ribs, do you cut them into individual pieces and then grill or leave them on the rack?

I honestly understand where this question comes from.  You often see ribs served pre-cut into single bone servings at restaurants so why wouldn’t you start to think they must be cooked that way.

Unfortunately, the best way to cook ribs is as a rack when purchasing baby back or St. Louis cut spare rib for pork or beef ribs.  This allows a crust to form on the outside when cooked, and for the rub to penetrate the entire rack so the flavors are more even.

Grilling & Smoking Questions : What is the white stuff on the bottom of the pork ribs?

That is a membrane we call silver skin that generally is left on the rack when the butcher cuts the meat.  You always want to remove that membrane as it can prevent the meat from tenderizing and is rubbery if eaten.  Simply take a butter knife and insert between the membrane and the meat at one end.  Loosen it and then gripping the membrane with a paper towel, peel it off, trying to get it in one piece.

Grilling & Smoking Questions: How do I cook chicken on the grill so it doesn’t dry out?

For those that don’t feel like a master of the grill, just doing meats on the grill can pose a challenge.  Chicken is no exception.  In fact, it can be a difficult protein to grill since white and dark meat cook at different rates.  The easiest method of ensuring moist and flavorful chicken, is to cook it on a two-zone grill set up.  That means only half the burners are turned on while the chicken is placed on the grate that has no burners on.  This allows the heat to radiate to the chicken and cook without burning the skin or cooking beyond 165°F.

Grilling & Smoking Questions : Do I soak my wood chips or chunks to make smoke?

Great question and one to ask before you start.  No, do not soak the chips or chunks or any wood product for that matter unless a manufacturer of specific equipment requests it to be soaked.  When you soak the wood, only the outer layer, about 1/8-inch thick gets wet.  Once a wet wood is applied to a hot fire, the fire’s energy works to remove the excess water in the form of steam.  This take energy from the fire which means you can alter the cooking temperature of the equipment.  Apply wood product dry to get the best flavor from the wood even if using a smoker box or aluminum foil.

Grilling & Smoking Questions : What differentiates charred food from burnt food?

Let’s first define what charred foods are.  When you char a food which usually is an animal protein or thick-skinned vegetable but can be just about anything, a dark colored outer crust forms either around the edges of the food item or completely across the food’s surface.  The inside of the food will retain moisture and tender texture. If the food item is dry, tough, and an ugly color, it’s burnt.

Grilling & Smoking Questions: Does soaking your steak in marinade overnight make it juicier?

Marinades are ideal when you want to add a flavor level to meats, poultry and fish.  The thing with marinades is you need to be careful not over-marinate.  Since meat is 75% water, adding another liquid i.e. marinade, will not penetrate beyond the outside.  Oh, you can cut some slits into the meat, fish, or poultry to get is a bit deeper but marinating something overnight will not get any more flavor into the food item.  Plus, you take the risk of producing a mushy result if the protein of the meat is broken down too far.

Grilling & Smoking Questions : I assume when you smoke with wood it takes quite a bit of wood to make the smoke.  Exactly how much do I need?

This is one misunderstanding that drives me crazy!  It is not about the quantity of wood for hot smoking.  Quality and moisture are the keys.  First, find a hardwood and only hardwood, that has some moisture to it.  About 25% is ideal.  Whether you’re using a gas grill, charcoal grill, or electric unit, you’ll only need about 6-8 ounces of hardwood to start.  Know up front, you won’t and shouldn’t see a ton of smoke and that smoke should be light in color. 

Grilling & Smoking Questions : How do a get “fall off the bone” ribs when I grill?

I’m going to be completely honest – you don’t want fall off the bone ribs!  If you prepare the ribs correctly – trimming the excess fat, removing the silver skin, and marinating with your favorite rub, brine or marinade – grill and/or smoke them at a lower temperature (I prefer 225°F) for roughly 3 hours, and then check for doneness with the “bend test”.  Taking a pair of tongs, lift the ribs in the center of the rack from the grate.  If they bend and have slight cracking to the meat, they are done.  You’ll still find the meat will come right off the bone when you bite into it.

Grilling & Smoking Questions : What should you do first before using a new grill or smoker?

Clean it then test burn it without food.  You need to clean the surfaces – inside lid, grates, side walls – to remove any remaining chemicals from the grill’s construction.  To extend the life of the grill grates, season them with a high heat oil such as avocado, peanut, or canola oil. Simply brush or wipe on the oil with a small, clean paint brush or with a paper towel. Wipe off the excess and then follow with a test burn.

By running a test burn, you can remove any further impurities left from the manufacturing of the unit so you have no tainted flavors to your foods. If you’ve purchased an LP/Gas unit, test for leaks before lighting the grill.  Oh, and always read the manual first thing so you know full operation and warnings on your unit.

I’ll be sure to provide follow up posting on questions that come my way in the future to ensure that I’m always assisting everyone – from novice to pro cook.

Making you an informed consumer through valuable articles like this one.   Leave us a comment and follow us or subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor.  That’s SmokinLicious®.

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

More related reading on our Grilling & Smoking Questions and technique see our directory on previous blogs!
More related reading on our Grilling & Smoking Questions and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

Other common questions

-HOW MUCH WOOD TO ADD WHEN SMOKING

-3 METHODS OF SMOKING BOSTON BUTT FOR AUTHENTIC BARBECUE FLAVOR

-WHAT WOOD TO USE FOR SMOKING: A PRIMER

Dr. Smoke-
Dr. Smoke- We have selected some of our Quora Grilling & Smoking Questions/Answers for you!

JUST BECAUSE YOUR SMOKING FOOD (THAT IS!) DOESN’T MAKE IT ALL BAD!

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listen to JUST BECAUSE YOUR SMOKING FOOD

Recently, I received a very interesting question regarding the safety of ingesting foods and beverages that have been exposed to smoke vapor using hand-held food smokers.  Specifically, the question consisted of whether you need to be 18 years of age for items that have been infused with smoke using these gadgets.

The breville handheld smoker

#handheldsmoker

This got me thinking:

  • does the word “smoke” automatically give off the bad vibe response?
  • why do people only inquire about the smoke without needing to know more about the plant source that produces that smoke?

There is a lot of data out there on carcinogenic effect to high heat grilled foods like burgers, chicken, and steaks, even data on hot smoking foods at lower temperatures.  Really, what it all boils down to is, if you grill meats to the point where you blacken them, that increases the risk for the carcinogens.  Even if you cook to the blacken state, eating these foods in moderation will halt any real risk over an average person’s lifetime.

So why the question on legality to consume smoked foods and beverages?

 If you understand that the tobacco industry had to start putting warning labels on tobacco packaging back in 1966, and smokeless tobacco products in 2010, then you comprehend that smoke vapor does contain toxins.  Everything regarding the level of toxicity with cooking is related to the type of food, method of cooking, cooking temperature, and length of cooking time.

Let’s examine those parameters from the handheld food smoking perspective.

You are not cooking the food by this method, merely infusing it with the smoke flavonoids, so there is no temperature (cold smoking technique).  You are not exposing the food to smoke vapor for hours – it really comes down to minutes.  Most importantly, you are not directly attempting to inhale the smoke vapor into your lungs.  Yes, if your standing near the container that is holding the cold smoke when you open it, you will have some exposure but not like the person that takes a drag directly from a tobacco product or is chewing on a tobacco product!

Like anything else in our world, there are risks to everything we do, experience, sense, taste, explore, desire.  Hot smoking is another name for roasting just at a lower temperature and usually with cheaper cuts of meat.

SmokinLicious® Double Filet wood chunks are clean and bark free wood pieces that will provide a tasty tinge of smoke to all of your favorite ingredients.

SmokinLicious® Double Filet wood chunks

What should never be compromised is the plant material – the wood – that is used to extract these flavors.

I believe it is time to start asking more questions about the hardwood products being used for the smoking process rather than focusing on the process itself. Click To Tweet  Perhaps the risks associated with dirty, moldy, contaminated wood are too high to ignore anymore.

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

More related reading on the art of smoking food and cooking wood

More related reading on the art of smoking food and cooking wood

More blog topics like this one:

-APPLEWOOD – WHY WE DON’T USE IT! – HERE’S WHY

-SHOULD YOU GRILL WITH MOLDY WOODS?

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

-SMOKING-GRILLING WOOD SELLING TERMS DEMYSTIFIED

Dr. Smoke hopes you enjoyed-JUST BECAUSE YOUR SMOKING FOOD (THAT IS!) DOESN’T MAKE IT ALL BAD!

Dr. Smoke hopes you enjoyed-JUST BECAUSE YOUR SMOKING FOOD (THAT IS!) DOESN’T MAKE IT ALL BAD!

Our animation of Charcoal-Wood Burning Grills and how well SmokinLicious® wood products flavor!

“MATCH YOUR COOKER” – CHARCOAL-WOOD BURNING GRILLS: THE WOOD MASTER’S GUIDE

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Charcoal-Wood Burning Grills–For those that have followed us for years, you know we are proud that almost from the start of our Company, we were committed to providing a guide for equipment to cooking wood product match.  We refer to our guide affectionately as “Match Your Cooker”.

In this article, we are covering our recommendations for charcoal-wood burning grill equipment; these are grills that capable of using charcoal and wood for authentic charcoal grilling.   As there are always new equipment lines and models released, our plan is to provide regular updates.  We also encourage you to send us a message when you don’t see a manufacturer or model listed.

For now, we introduce you to our wood master’s guide to SmokinLicious® cooking woods for specific smokers.

Barrel Smoker Logs-image of SmokinLicious® full cut log on a Charcoal-Wood Burning Grills

The following equipment/models would be suitable for the SmokinLicious® Barrel Smoker Log/ Full Cut Log:

Aztec model: Commercial Grills

Gaucho Grills models: Supremo Free-Standing, Grilling Inserts

Image of our quarter cut log¼ Cut Wood Logs

The following equipment/models would be suitable for the SmokinLicious® ¼ Cut Wood Log:

Aztec model: Home Grill

Engelbrecht Grills & Cookers: all models

Gaucho Grills all models

Kalamazoo models: Outdoor Gourmet, K75OHS Hybrid Fire Grill

M Grills model: B2, M16, A10

Pitts & Spitts models: Traditional Charcoal Grill, Adjustable Charcoal Grill

image of the SmokinLicious® Block! for extra flavoring on Charcoal-Wood Burning GrillsUnfileted Wood Blocks

The following equipment/models would be suitable for the SmokinLicious® Unfileted Wood Block:

Gaucho Grills all models

Pitmaker model: BBQ Grills 48

Pitts & Spitts models: Traditional Charcoal Grill, Adjustable Charcoal Grill

PK Grill & Smoker

SmokinLicious® Single Filet wood chunkSingle Filet Wood Chunks

The following equipment/models would be suitable for the SmokinLicious® Single Filet Wood Chunks:

American Muscle Grill

Dyna-Glo models:

Grillworks 36

JedaJeda Charcoal Grill BBQ

Kalamazoo Charcoal Smoker Cabinet

Pitmaker models: Tailgater, BBQ Grills 30

West of Memphis Ironman 3

SmokinLicious® Double Filet Wood Chunk in Charcoal-Wood Burning GrillsDouble Filet Wood Chunks

The following equipment/models would be suitable for the SmokinLicious® Double Filet Wood Chunk:

Alfresco Grills: Models with Solid Fuel Insert

Arteflame

Aussie models: Walk-A-Bout Portable Charcoal Grill, Americana Sizzler Charcoal Grill, Americana Traveler Portable Grill

Camp Chef model: Wood Fire Cook Wagon

Char-Broil Models: Kettleman Tru-Infrared Charcoal Grill, Kamander Charcoal Grills, CB940X Charcoal Grill, American Gourmet Charcoal Grills, Charcoal Grill 580 & 780, Charcoal Barrel Grill, CB500X Portable Charcoal Grill, American Gourmet® Portable Charcoal Grill, Deluxe Gas & Charcoal Combo Grill

Char-Griller Grills & Smokers models: Super Pro™ 2121 Charcoal Grill, Deluxe Griller™ 2828 Charcoal Grill, Traditional Charcoal Grill, Outlaw™  2137 Charcoal Grill, Pro Deluxe™ 2727 Charcoal Grill, Wrangler™ 2123, Wrangler™ 2823, 14822 Premium Red & Black Kettle, Legacy Charcoal Grill, Grand Champ™ 8100 Charcoal Grill, Patio Pro® 1616 Charcoal Grill, Patio Pro® 1515 Charcoal Grill, Duel Function™ 5030 2-Burner Gas & Charcoal Grill, Duo™ 550 Gas & Charcoal Grill, Dual Function™ 5072 Gas & Charcoal Grill, Double Play™ 5650 Gas & Charcoal Grill

Cobb all models

Dancook 1900 Charcoal Grill

Texas Pit Crafters models: BBQ King BI, PM 200/200S BI, PM 500/500S BI

Tremor Breeze Smoker

SmokinLicious® Grande Sapore® wood chips to sprinkle over Charcoal-Wood Burning GrillsGrande Sapore® Wood Chips

The following equipment/models would be suitable for the SmokinLicious® Grande Sapore® Wood Chips:

Aussie models: Walk-A-Bout Portable Charcoal Grill, Americana Sizzler Charcoal Grill, Americana Traveler Portable Grill

Camp Chef models: Wood Fire Cook Wagon

Char-Broil: CB500X Portable Charcoal Grill, Portable Charcoal Grill, Portable Kettle Charcoal Grill, American Gourmet® Portable Charcoal Grill

Cobb all models

SmokinLicious® Minuto® wood chips Minuto® Wood Chips

The following equipment/models would be suitable for the SmokinLicious® Minuto® Wood Chips:

Earth Oven

Eco-Que: Portable Grills

Fire Magic Charcoal BBQ Smoker on Stand

Orion Cooker

 SmokinLicious® Piccolo® wood chipsPiccolo® Wood Chips

The following equipment/models would be suitable for the SmokinLicious® Piccolo® Wood Chip:

Orion Cooker

We hope you view this guide as a helpful resource for selecting the perfect culinary wood for your equipment.  As always, our Wood Guide Team is ready to answer your additional questions and further assist you with the perfect grilling and smoking experience!

SmokinLicious® products in this blog:

Smoker Logs

Wood Blocks

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

More Related reading on Charcoal-Wood Burning Grills and other equipment!

More Related reading on Charcoal-Wood Burning Grills and other equipment!

Related reading:

-“MATCH YOUR COOKER” – SMOKERS LIST-OUR WOOD MASTERS GUIDE

-“MATCH YOUR COOKER” – CERAMIC AND KAMADO GRILL: THE WOOD MASTER’S GUIDE

-WOOD BURNING PIZZA OVENS: THE WOOD MASTER’S GUIDE

Dr. Smoke You have to use Smokinlicious custom products in your Charcoal-Wood Burning Grills!

Dr. Smoke You have to use Smokinlicious custom products in your Charcoal-Wood Burning Grills!

THE KITCHEN FIND!

Stove top smoking techniques do not require fancy equipment, there are plenty of pots in your kitchen.

Stove top smoking techniques do not require fancy equipment, there are plenty of pots in your kitchen.

STOVE TOP SMOKING….

If you’re like me, over the years you’ve become a collector of various cooking gadgets and equipment to the point where you simply don’t have room for one more thing!  Yet, you are enamored with the thought of doing stove top smoking & cooking when the weather isn’t cooperating or you simply prefer to be in the house rather than take food and gadgets outside.

Well, I have got just the solution for you!

Stove top smoking can be as easy as locating a deep pot with lid, metal steamer insert, aluminum foil and tools you likely already own.

Now when I say deep pot I’m talking about a lobster pot, large sauce pot, or even a Dutch oven.  Anything that has capacity to hold a suitable number of food items on a steamer insert will do.

Once you have your pot and food item that you want to smoke follow these steps.

STEPS FOR STOVE TOP SMOKING:

  • Put a piece of foil at the bottom of the pot so it touches both sides
  • Place a second piece of foil or disposable foil pie plate on the chips followed by your steamer insert. (This will keep drippings from falling on the chips.)
  • Place the food items (chicken, fish, pork, beef, vegetables, fruit, etc.) on the steamer. Be careful not to crowd so the smoke can circulate around the food.
  • Depending on the extra room in your pot, if there is a lot of surface above the foods, go ahead and tent the steamer insert with foil so the smoke vapor has less area it needs to travel
  • Put the lid on the pot and seal the rim with foil to ensure none of the smoke vapor can escape
  • Turn the heat under the pot to high and allow to begin the smoking for 5-8 minutes
  • Reduce the heat to medium and cook small food items like chicken, fish, vegetables, or fruit for 10-15 minutes. Large food items like pork tenderloin, beef short ribs, etc. for 30-40 minutes.
  • Shut off the heat and allow the food to rest in the residual smoke vapor for 10 minutes
  • Remove the lid and foil tent if one was used

If you have done smaller cuts of poultry, fish, or meat, these may well be cooked through (175° F for dark meat 165° F for white meat). Otherwise, if cooking is still required, transfer the food to an oven safe dish or sheet pan and finish cooking in the oven.

There you have it!

Minuto wood chipsA simple in-house, smoking technique using tools you likely already have in the kitchen!  Just think, you stayed warm, dry, and comfortable in your own house while the Grande Sapore®, Minuto®, or Piccolo® Wood Chips did their wood-fired magic.

As always, we would love to see your take on the homemade stove top smoker so send along pictures.

info@smokinlicious.com

SmokinLicious® Products used in this technique:

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

Additional reading:

-A DIY STOVE TOP SMOKER MAKES PERFECT SMOKED RICOTTA CHEESE

-THE EASY METHOD TO COLD SMOKED CHEESE

-PERFECTION OF THE SMOKED PEAR!

-TO THE SMOKE THE CHESTNUT GOES!

Dr. Smoke "It doesn't take fancy equipment to smoke foods on the stove top."

Dr. Smoke “It doesn’t take fancy equipment to smoke foods on the stove top.”

Taste is aroma blog discusses how aroma affects our tasting sense.

TASTE IS AROMA

It is likely the most common question posed to us – how does the wood make the food taste?  Although I have answered this question hundreds of times, it started me thinking about my answer.  It was not complete.  I was not explaining that taste IS aroma.

Flavor by Mother Nature

Flavor by Mother Nature

Our experiences with food revolve around our senses and of those senses 3 deal primary with food: taste, touch, and smell.  Obviously, you would assume that the sense of taste is the absolute in food experience but you would be wrong.  10,000 plus different odors are relayed via our sense of smell which occurs through our nose and mouth.  As much as 80% of what is referred to as taste is aroma.

smoke vapor

Cooking smoke vapor flavors food

Now, apply this information to the fact that we use wood in cooking techniques that involve infusion of smoke vapor to foods and ingredients, and you will begin to understand where I am going with this.  We have all had the experience of smelling a neighbor burning fallen leaves come Fall.  It is not a pleasant aroma.  Could you imagine someone putting food over a fire that contained leaves as fuel and then tasting the food cooked over that fuel source?  Terms that come to mind include bitter, acrid, burnt, and pungent.

Overall Flavor is Dependent on a lot of Factors

I have my answer to the question “What kind of flavor does (insert wood type here) produce.” The overall flavor is dependent on a lot of factors.  These include:

  • climate and soil of where the tree is grown: the more balanced the pH level of the soil and a location that has suitable precipitation throughout the year, are more favorable to a hardwood tree’s benefit as a cooking wood
  • bark or bark-free: this affects burn rate and flavor, and yes, it can fluctuate your temperature control
  • moisture level: the drier the wood the faster it goes through combustion and the more heat it produces. You need some level of moisture left in the wood to produce smoke
  • humidity of the cooking environment: dry cooking environments do not allow for smoke vapor to stick
  • type of dry rub and/or sauce/marinade used: wood needs to be viewed as an ingredient to the entire cooking experience so ALL the ingredients need to marry to produce a great flavor. The wood is just one flavor component
  • what you’re cooking (beef, turkey, pork, chicken, lamb, goat, etc.): maple used on beef will taste completely different than maple used with chicken. Plus, the type of meat/poultry also influences the flavor,  so think generic versus farm raised and cage free versus free range. Just as the soil and climate affect the trees so too does the diet and climate affect the animal.

Flavor Guide

Although we offer a SmokinLicious® flavor guide with descriptors of the undertones the wood can produce, here is my best summary of the hardwoods we provide:

Mild: Alder, Ash, Sugar Maple, Wild Cherry

Moderate: Beech, Hickory

Strong: Oak

If you treat the wood as an ingredient you will come to appreciate all that it can offer. Now, you will be able to produce some spectacular tasting and aromatic dishes both during the cooking process and at its final stage!

Dr. Smoke

Dr. Smoke

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Minuto®

More blogs on this topic:

-WHAT WOOD TO USE FOR SMOKING: A PRIMER

-SMOKING-GRILLING WOOD SELLING TERMS DEMYSTIFIED

-6 REASONS WHY CEDAR WOOD SHOULD NOT BE YOUR TOP CHOICE FOR COOKING

-TO BARK OR NOT

When its Called Barbecue?

What does it mean when its called Barbecue Click To Tweet

Listen to the audio of this blog

It’s time I go there.  I’ve fielded way too many questions to ignore it.  Now is the perfect time for me to opine on this highly controversial topic: when it’s called barbecue.

How do you define “true” barbecue?

I have three parameters to cooking that I’d like to address that should help explain my justification for what qualifies as barbecue.

Temperature Comes First

People are often surprised that I don’t include equipment in my considerations but if you’ve followed our recipe blog “Cooking With Dr. Smoke”, you’re well aware that we include a wide array of equipment to demonstrate wood flavor infusion to all types of foods.  One area we do focus on, however, is temperature when cooking.

Extremely Low Temperature (below 80° F):

If the first thing that comes to mind is a temperature under 80°F is just not cooking, you’d be right.  Basically, this is a temperature that is ideal to complete cold smoking.  Fish, cheese, and some meat products can be exposed to this low temperature process when a combustible plant material is used.  In most cases, that is wood to smolder and produce a gas or vapor.  The smoke vapor produced from the smoldering wood invokes flavor and preservative qualities to the foods without causing fragile items such as cheese, chocolate, and similar food items to have their molecular composition destroyed by heat. When meats are exposed to this low temperature environment with smoldering wood, the smoke vapor penetrates completely through the meat since there is no high heat surface hardening that occurs like with hot smoking temperatures.

Low Temperature (180° to 300°F):

We’ve all heard the term low and slow cooking.  This is the low temperature reference to cooking tougher cuts of meat.  However, for me, even more tender cuts can be done using low temperature cooking, especially when paired with an indirect cooking set up or two-zone cooking.  Additionally, this temperature range is not just for meats and poultry, but fish, fruits, and vegetables also benefit.

our thermometer at 350 degrees F is the beginning of high temperature cooking.
high temperatures

High Heat Temperature (350° to 550°F or more):

Higher temperatures are generally for cooking smaller cuts of meat and poultry that don’t require a lot of cooking time.  Plus, high heat temperature can develop the char crust exterior on foods that many people crave with outdoor meals.  Know that you can use traditional grills for both direct, high heat cooking as well as indirect set up.  The indirect will allow you to cook the food through by placing on the indirect, non-heat side and then use the direct side for adding a sear to the finished foods.

Combustible Material

If you agree with me that barbecue is cooking with smoke then you’ll understand the need for a combustible material.  Some type of plant material must be used to generate the smoke.  The most popular material is wood or hardwood to be specific, since you should never cook with softwoods due to their higher sapwood content, resin, and air space in the cell walls.

Smoke is a key ingredient to Barbecue
Smoke is a key ingredient to Barbecue

First, understand smoke is a gas or vapor and can result from juices and fats that drip off foods into the fuel area of equipment, result from a fuel source like charcoal emitting smoke at it gains temperature to produce hot coals, and result from wood or other plant material (think herbs, teas, etc.) that is ignited.  You’ve likely experienced the first when cooking hamburgers, hot dogs or steak on direct heat of a charcoal or gas grill and watched the flames start with each drip of the fats/juices.  Just as you’ve likely experienced lighting charcoal and having a plume of smoke sit until the charcoal begins to gray over and produce high heat.  Come Fall and Spring, if you are a leaf burner, you’ve experienced the thick sometimes choking smoke that results from burning leaves, certainly not a pleasant plant material to use for food cooking.

Once you have a source for the smoke understand that not all smoke is good.  For detailed information on this, see our published article on the types of smoke and what they mean for cooking.

Length of Time for Cooking

our Dr Smoke clock,  Always keep track of your cooking time.
Cooking Time is Important

Although you’ve likely read that true barbecue is done low (temperature) and slow (length of time to cook), I will tell you that you can still produce smoked foods using temperatures considered above traditional hot smoking levels and in shorter time periods.  I’ve done bone-in beef shanks on the gas grill using a two-zone cooking method with wood chunks and had these done in about 75 minutes using a temperature close to 300°F.  They, to me, are a true barbecue item, right down to the wet rub, wood flavor infusion, and smoke infused color.

I agree, tougher cuts of meat and poultry benefit from longer cooking times to allow the connective tissue to dissolve.  Plus, my preference is to use a temperature closer to 275°F for most of my animal protein cooking.  For my vegetables and fruits, though, I turn up the heat still using wood for true smoking. I use the tenderness of the vegetable and fruit to guide me on the timing.

Double Filet hardwood chunks pure wood and bark free!
Double Filet hardwood chunks pure wood and bark free!

In short, true barbecue is cooking with smoke and for me that is cooking with suitable hardwoods known to present pleasant flavors to foods you cook.  You can introduce hardwood to pretty much any type of equipment including home made smokers whether for the outdoors or on your indoor stove top.

The key is to utilize an ideal temperature to generate quality and flavorful smoke gas production, as well as a tempered hand in the amount of wood to use at a time.  You’ll find that you can produce the flavors of barbecue with any equipment and any food.  After all, barbecue seems to have gone beyond just animal proteins.

How do you define barbecue?   Leave us a comment to opine and subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor, that’s SmokinLicious®.

SmokinLicious® products in this blog:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

More related reading on when its called Barbecue and other smoking & grilling tips-techniques.
More related reading on when its called barbecue and other smoking & Grilling tips -technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More blogs on this topic:

-YOU ARE WHAT YOU EATII – APPLIES TO WOOD COOKING

-THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN $3.99 WOOD CHIPS FOR SMOKING AND THE SMOKINLICIOUS® BRAND

-SMOKING-GRILLING WOOD SELLING TERMS DEMYSTIFIED

Dr. Smoke-Dr. Smoke- The culinary team explores the question- When its Called Barbecue?
Dr. Smoke- The culinary team explores the question- When its Called Barbecue?
Olive Trees of Italy are facing the same Bacterium invasion as the USA
Italy’s Olive Trees

ITALY’S OLIVE TREES FALL TO BACTERIUM Click To Tweet

I am a wood geek.  I love the living cells of trees and the hundreds of compounds that produce the various aromatics, tannins and flavors that make trees so valuable for medicinal, cosmetic, and flavoring uses.  Whenever I’m in the woods, I always feel like these giants are breathing with me.

Then my joyful thoughts turn sad.  Observing over the years how our lifestyle and explorative ways have changed our atmosphere which in turn changes the natural order of things.  One of those things is our trees.

But North America is not alone!  Battles over the loss of various hardwoods and softwoods continue as we fight to save the forest giants as well as orchard soldiers around the globe.

Prepare for Higher Olive Oil Pricing

It’s called Xylella fastidiosa and it’s a deadly bacterium that is gaining attention as it takes mark on the olive trees and groves of Italy since 2013.  In 2016, this bacterium was blamed for the death of some one million olive trees in Southern Italy most of which were cut down to stop the deadly bacterium from spreading.  But it hasn’t stopped.  Even with netting and routine pruning, olive trees continue to suffer and eventually die or are cut down. 

We know that the bacterium starts somewhere within the heart of the tree and then travels towards the roots and branches.  This is the reason pruning can sometimes be beneficial.  Research has also shown that there are specific varieties of olive trees that are more susceptible to Xylella resulting in growers moving toward varieties with less risk when they replace or add new growth areas.

There is a pest, the meadow spittlebug, that is the carrier of Xylella and the reason it is necessary to net the trees to prevent this pest from traveling and spreading this major bacterium concern to other areas and other countries.

Much like our North American Emerald Ash Borer pest that is responsible for tens of millions of ash tree death and destruction, the meadow spittlebug and the Xylella bacterium it can carry results in loss of olive production to those damaged branches.  Although the olive oil pressed from the olives research shows does not carry any disease or risk, the bacterium has significantly reduced the volume of olives available to produce oil.  Thus, pricing goes up as availability of olives depletes.

It’s Not Just an Olive Concern

You might think this is just an olive tree issue but you’d be deadly wrong.  Xylella is a strain of bacterium that is considered one of the most dangerous plant bacteria in the world.  It causes a tree to die of thirst from the inside out by blocking the xylem or transport tissue of the tree responsible for moving water and nutrients from the roots upwards to other parts of the tree. Xylella is then carried from tree to tree by the spittlebug who latch on to the tree’s xylem tubes sucking out liquid.  When they travel to the next tree to feed, the bacterium they’ve picked up is passed into that tree’s xylem when they go to feed again.  With no cure, the plant or tree stays infected for life, until it dies. 

There have been strains of Xylella fastidiosa in citrus as well as pear, peach and plum.  There is also a potential new strain in Southern California that could affect the grape production which could decimate the wine production something not needed after all the years of wildfires.

Continents currently affected by this bacterium include North America, Europe, and Asia but more are expected.

What’s Next?

In my opinion, the focused concern is on the specific market of product whether it be olive oil, wine, or fruits and not on the tree destruction that is occurring all around us.  I’m wondering how much longer we have to witness century old trees dying and family businesses evaporating from what appears to be nature taking back or returning to the soil what she feels is rightly hers.  I can’t help but think that these pests that are invading our largest plants on our planet are likely the result of our own actions or even inaction.

How concerned are you about the North American trees?  Leave us a comment and subscribe to get our latest tips, techniques, and recipes, plus, the science behind the fire and smoke. 

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

Charwood

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!

More related reading:

-I’LL TAKE MINE WITH AN OLIVE!

-TO BARK OR NOT

-IS THE FOOD INDUSTRY CULPABLE FOR THE SPREAD OF OAK TREE MORTALITY?

Dr. Smoke- Olive trees are threaten with pest just like our forests in the USA.
Dr. Smoke- protect our tree resources.


Picking the ideal fire set up for cooking depends on circumstances- this is the cabin Style
Picking the ideal fire set up for cooking depends on circumstances- this is the cabin Style

YOUR IDEAL FIRE SETUP FOR COOKING Click To Tweet


We are so lucky to have so many options for cooking our foods, not to mention the option to not cook at all!  This got me thinking about the fact that we do rely on our outdoor equipment and cookware when it comes to outdoor cooking.  Even if you’re a person who has experience campfire cooking, you likely do this style of cooking with one type of fire setup .

Let’s look at some of the options for setting up an outdoor fire that don’t include purchased equipment, just the natural elements found outdoors – rock, tinder, kindling, and logs/wood.  As I always like to remind you, though you may not use this information immediately, you should read it and keep a reference handy for when a situation may arise that you need it, such as a natural disaster, power grid emergency or other such catastrophic event.

Setup #1: Trench Fire

Trench style fire Set up
Trench style fire Set up

One of the best reasons for learning this type of fire set up is it works particularly well in windy conditions.  The key is to dig a trench that is large enough to acquire oxygen to keep it going.  Best sizing is 12 inches wide by 36 inches long by 12 inches deep.  Find rocks to add to the bottom of the trench that are hard and porous-free.  Be sure the 12-inch depth is AFTER the rocks are added.  Now build your fire on top of the rocks.  You can secure tree branches to act as postings for supporting a spit or layer green branches (not dried branches) over the top of the pit for placing your foods.  Of course, if you have a grill grate, place over the hole for direct grilling. 

Setup #2: Dakota Fire Hole 

The Dakota Hole fire set up
The Dakota Hole fire set up

The Dakota Fire Hole measure 12-inches deep by 12-inches wide with a channel that is 6-inches wide off to one side of the main fire area.  There should be a 12-inch space between the chimney opening and the channel.  The channel is dug at an angle meeting at the base of the fire pit area 12-inches down.  Build a fire at the base of the chimney area which draws air in from the side channel producing a draft for outtake at the top of the fire pit.  This is another cooking method that burns wood efficiently and produces very little smoke.  Plus, if you should need to keep yourself concealed, no one can see the glow of the burning fire because it is concealed underground.

Setup #3: Bushcraft Fire

This is an ideal fire setup when you know you can remain in a specified area for a longer time period.  It is perfect for sustaining a fire for days as it includes flat rocks for cooking on, a rock surround for maintaining a safe fire area, and a keyhole channel made of rock that allows you to place larger logs for continuous burn.  This produces a great bed of coals for cooking and if made against a rock barrier or tree stump, it can also provide the heat output necessary to keep you warm.  Plus, you can simply push the long log pieces into the fire circle when additional wood is need for heat and/or coals.  No need to keep splitting wood.

Setup #4: Log Cabin Style

This is a familiar fire set up in the camping world.  It is easy to do as you simply alternate pieces of wood from vertical positioning to horizontal, like building a Lincoln Log set, with tinder and kindling placed inside the base.  This is a setup that produces a great bed of coals so it is perfect for cooking but depending on the amount of time you need for cooking, may require replenishment of wood.  

The Upside Down Fire

This setup is essentially a log cabin style setup in reverse.  Instead of tinder placed under the base of the logs, it is placed on top.  This is also known as a top-down fire.  Although you can use this for cooking, I’ve found it doesn’t produce the best coal bed.  It does, however, burn a long time.

Other Fire Setups

There are some additional fire setups that you may be familiar with but are not considered ideal for cooking. These include:

Tepee Fire: burns very hot and fast producing more ash than usable coals

Teepe Style fire Set up
Teepe Style fire Set up

Lean To: although ideal for windy conditions, this setup does not produce any uniform coal bed and very limited heat

The Star Fire: Although this can produce a very long burn, because of the extension of longer pieces of log in a star-shape to the center of the fire, a true cooking coal bed is not formed, just a lot of ash.

Additional Tips

As a final reminder when it comes to cooking by outdoor fire, you are not cooking with flame or for that matter, direct heat.  Use the hot coals that are produced from the fire to cook with.  That includes placing heat tolerant cookware on or in the hot coals, or even burying within the coals.  The rocks are an energy absorber, producing a lot of heat.  Clean, large rocks can be used like a griddle surface and have foods cooked directly on their surface.  Remember, they get very hot so any unclean quality to them will be burned off with the heat.

A final note, always have fire proof gloves available to grab log pieces in the fire or cookware placement and removal.  A coal shovel is ideal as well for moving hot coals around.  Don’t forget, when you’re finished with the fire you made, ensure that all hot embers and coals are extinguished.

Do you have a favorite method of stacking wood for a cooking fire?  Leave us a comment to let us know.  We welcome all types of questions and encourage you to follow and subscribe to our social channels so you don’t miss anything.  We look forward to providing you with additional tips, techniques, recipes, and the science for all things wood-fired cooked.

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

Charwood

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!

Related reading:

-GOING BEYOND “FIRE” COOKING

-THE HISTORY OF FIRE COOKING PART I

-OPEN PIT COOKING FIRE BUILDING: PART I

Dr. Smoke- picking the ideal fire set up is a great beginning to great results
Dr. Smoke- picking the ideal fire set up is a great beginning to great results
The simple campfire has many uses!
The simple campfire provides more uses beyond just fire cooking!


fire cooking and beyond! Click To Tweet

Listen to the audio of this blog

You’ve likely heard this phrase before whether as a child, adult or at intervals of both.  “Fire is meant to be respected.”  I’m going to go one step further.  Fire should not only be respected, it should be honored and appreciated for all it can offer.   I’m going to point out to you just what other uses fire can present to you.  Perhaps next time you light a fire whether in your charcoal chimney starter, charcoal grill, fireplace, or even outdoor fire pit, you’ll give some pause to the other uses to keep in your knowledge arsenal for times you may need this information.  As I age, I am always in tune with my environment and how I can use it to survive if a situation I can’t control should call for it.

Use #1: Heat

If you are fortunate as I am to have an outdoor source of fire other than your traditional grill, then you’ve likely found yourself enjoying this first benefit of fire.  Heat.  But you likely don’t know about the radiant heat quality of fire.  With a single fire, only the surfaces facing it are warmed.  When it comes to surviving outdoors with heat from a fire, this is when you will want to learn about reflective ability of the fire.

If you have a choice in fire building location when you need it for survival, elect to build one near a large rock or tree stump but add a reflector component on the other side of the fire.  This will allow the rock or tree stump to absorb the heat from the fire and then reflect it back.  By adding a reflector on the other side of the fire, you will enjoy heat both on your back and front, the ideal for surviving if you must rely on fire for body temperature.  Plus, the two reflecting points will force the smoke to go upward allowing you to avoid smoke in the eyes. 

Use #2: Signaling

We all know that fire makes smoke and that smoke acts as a signal.  When you want to be found, this is the perfect means for attracting attention.  What you need to know is that the terrain plays a part in being seen.  If you want to use smoke to signal for help, then seek high points for making one.

Use #3: Water Sterilization

If you are in a dire situation where you’ve been unable to bring many supplies with you, know that fire can aid your ability to stay alive.  You can only survive 3 days without water so finding water is a priority.  You can sterilize water found from any source for consumption by boiling it which is a temperature of 212°F.  Essentially, 1 liter of water per person will get you through survival of 3-4 days. 

Use #4: Preserving Foods

We tend to rely on someone else in the food production chain to preserve food but you may find a time where you either want to do this for your own family or you have to.  Drying, smoking, pickling, and salting are methods of preserving foods from micro-organisms that spoil food.  When you smoke meat you dehydrate it and produce a protective coating on the outside that prevents bacteria and condensation from penetrating.  This is a means of ensuring you have a food supply that can keep you alive for quite a long time.

Use #5: Protection

If you’ve ever been camping or glamping in a forest area, then you know that you are never alone.  Wildlife dominates in these areas.  Fire can be a protector when it comes to keeping these visitors at bay.  Always be sure to have a portable fire set up such as a rag tied to the end of stick or similar tool to use as a portable weapon should a forest resident elect to come close to you.

Do you have another survival use for fire?  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 recommended:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

Charwood

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

Other blogs like this one:

THE HISTORY OF FIRE COOKING PART I

-OPEN PIT COOKING FIRE BUILDING: PART I

-HOW TO TURN YOUR CHARCOAL GRILL INTO A SMOKER


Dr. Smoke-fire is for more than just cooking!
Dr. Smoke- fire cooking and beyond!

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