Is it fresh, is always a question that comes from new customers! At Smokinlicious® we are cutting products daily and measuring moisture to maintain the best smoking wood in the world

Is it fresh, is always a question that comes from new customers only! Our old customers know that at Smokinlicious® we are cutting products daily and measuring moisture to produce the best smoking wood in the world!

Is It Fresh? Here’s Why You Need to Know

Listen to the audio of this blog

I always find it interesting when we receive a new inquiry about providing specialty products for commercial-grade smokehouses.   I’m speaking specifically to the large commercial-grade smokehouse.  The type that utilize walk-in, wall smokehouse units that can turn out hundreds of pounds of product each cycle.

First, there’s always the question if we can duplicate the current wood chip product.  That’s where the education begins.

The Truth Is in The Sample

Sending the current wood supply sample is key to determining what should be used in product.  Once we provide the video review of what is in the sample in terms of sizing, we’re on the way to getting an understanding of why the current product may not be ideal.  Our concern is not just the overall flavor and color to the finished product, but also to reducing equipment failures that may occur from clogging of the wood material due to dust particulants.

Is It Fresh- Is Best

we check all our products for the proper moisture levels for the proper balance of too dry and just perfect for smoking. Following our discussion on product sizing, it’s time to explain why ordering fresh product is key.  We don’t operate on the concept that you need tons of extra product inventory sitting in your location, making the potential for color changes to the wood, moisture depletion, and susceptibility to mold spores a reality.  Instead, fresh product is produced when you need it, allowing for consistency in your smokehouse products’ flavor and color.  I know this is a stretch when there are many suppliers out there who encourage you to order pallet after pallet of product with the incentive of saving 10% if full truck loads go out.  Good luck getting the premium flavor and color your looking for with that old, dehydrated product!

We’ve Got Your Back

We know every customer we have the privilege of doing business with needs assurance that we can cover their needs.  That’s why our entire Team is involved to ensure that we can ship earlier if needed.  We take the time to monitor your Company’s usage and predict your next order.  Or, we can set up a shipping schedule you’re comfortable with that is easy for everyone involved and won’t require extra, valuable storage space be used.

our Minuto wood chips are a clean bark free wood chip for superior results in any commercial smokehouse. There are many sizes to fit any equipments need.Yes, you could say we are not the norm and we’d be just fine with that.  In fact, we encourage it.  To us, there’s nothing like cooking with fresh product that has been designed with your Company’s needs in mind.  That’s why our superior product will give you a superior outcome.  Fresh hardwood product for unmatched smoke infused food products. That’s the SmokinLicious® way!

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Related reading:

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

-CAN HARDWOOD BE TOO DRY FOR COOKING?

-TO BARK OR NOT

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Dr Smoke giving advice- "Fresh is best in food and in the wood products you use for smoking."

Dr Smoke- “Fresh is best in food and in the wood products you use for smoking.”

Open Pit cooking fire We built by using Smokinlicious ash wood to develop great coals for our ember cooking of Peppers

Build an open pit cooking fire for grilling and ember cooking! Is easier than you may think follow our steps below!

BUILDING THE PERFECT OPEN PIT COOKING FIRE

SmokinLicious® receives a lot of questions about wood-fired cooking and one of the most repetitive concerns the building of the fire for cooking.  We’ve developed this series to address how to build the  fire by equipment and technique.  For Part I, we cover the open pit cooking fire.

Get Organized

The first step is to know where you will build the fire.  Are you planning on using an outdoor fireplace, a fire pit, or will you construct a temporary fire location?

When using an existing fireplace located outdoors, you must ensure that the firebox is clean of previous ash and wood.  The same is true for a open pit cooking fire pit.  If you will set up a temporary location for the fire, consider what you will use for materials to secure the area.  It is never recommended to use your patio, paved driveway or lawn because a hot fire is sure to damage them or, at the very least, mar their appearance (thin charcoal black coating the surface).  Using large stones, interlocking bricks, or a metal fire ring work great at securing the area to contain your fire.

Once you’ve decided on the location, you’ll need to collect some supplies to make the cooking safe and fun.

▪ material to contain the fire like stones, bricks or a cast iron/wrought iron ring.  You can use an outdoor fireplace or open pit cooking fire pit whether permanent or portable

▪ water, shovel, dirt, and/or fire extinguisher to deal with potential fire spread or wayward embers

▪Smokinlicious® smoking wood chips for quick lighting

picture of Smokinlicious Double filet wood chunks make a perfect source for developing the perfect cooking firesmall twigs or small pieces of hardwood to create a tepee around the wood chips (we like our Smokinlicious® smoking double or single filet chunks)

▪ larger hardwood pieces to create a 2nd tepee around the first (Smokinlicious®1/4 cut logs work great for that)

▪ rolled newspaper or fire starters

▪ have additional hardwood for producing more coals for cooking as needed

▪ a coal rake, fireplace tongs for moving and relocating wood pieces, spray bottle of water to tame flames near food, instant read thermometer (you can also use a traditional wrought-iron log holder to make the fire – the hot coals will fall through and then you rake them to the cooking side)

 The Perfect Fire

Always take note of the day’s temperature, wind conditions/direction, and conditions of your wood (dry or wet, fresh cut or aged) before you start.  You want to be sure you set up and start the fire where the wind direction won’t cause smoke to enter house windows or the dining area.  Keep those locations upwind.

stack the wood into a teepee shape to maintain the flame and burning processIn your fire safe area, pile up a few handfuls of hardwood chips (you can use newspaper but I like to try to stay with wood in its natural state).  Make a small tepee around the wood chips using small wood pieces (our single filet wood chunks work great) or twigs.  Make a second tepee of larger wood pieces around the first one.  You’ll see that you’re graduating from small wood pieces to larger as you build but you’re also ensuring good oxygen pockets to help feed the fire to the next level.  This is what ensures even combustion and even coals.  Now, light the wood chips at the center and allow everything to ignite.  Don’t add any additional wood until you see the outside wood ablaze.

Fire for Fuel, Coals for Cooking

The purpose of your shovel other than as protector of wayward fire, is to take those hot coals and move them to the cooking area.  Remember, the fire area is not where you are going to cook.  That location is nearby but not with the flames.  You should never cook over direct flame as it will overcarbonize the foods and result in bitter tastes.

Ideally, you want to cook over coals that have a white colored ash over them.  Now, here’s how to determine temperature of those coals: hold your hand over the coals the distance your foods will be.  If you can only hold your hand for a count of 2 seconds before you need to pull it away, that is high heat.  3-4 seconds is medium-high, 5-6 seconds is medium and 7-8 seconds is low heat.

Bring on the Food!

We have burnt down the ash single fillet into a bed of hot coals. Ash wood is a perfect coaling wood to useOnce your coals are at the perfect temperature for the foods you want to cook, it’s all about cooking!  Remember, you can set up different heat areas to cook different foods.  That’s what makes the experience with wood cooking, specifically with coals, so exhilarating.

We hope this article was full information you didn’t know.  Leave us a comment and subscribe so you don’t miss anything concerning wood fired cooking, flavors, and the science behind the fire.

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Interested in reading more? Try:

-Top 10 Vegetables to Cook in Hot Embers

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

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Double and Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Smoker Logs

Dr Smoke- "Spending time on fire preparation will enhance your cooking results."

Dr Smoke- “Spending time on fire preparation will enhance your cooking results.”

We explore the question "is creosote" bad for your BBQ food?

We explore the question “is creosote” bad for your BBQ food?

Listen to the audio of this blog

There are lots of stories out there in the BBQ world about creosote!  Most have the same tone: creosote is not something you want when you cook with wood.

Unfortunately, that can never happen as creosote is always present in wood.

So, why has creosote become the monster of BBQ cooking?

Likely because there is confusion with another type of creosote: coal-tar creosote, commonly used to preserve such things as railroad ties, telephone poles, bridges, etc.  You know when material has been exposed to coal-tar by the black, charred appearance.

The Advantages of Wood-Tar Creosote

One of the primary advantages to having creosote in hardwood is its ability to act as a preservative.  Long before equipment was designed for cooking, people would dig holes in the ground to produce a smokehouse for preserving game meats they hunted.  It was the only method of ensuring safe consumption when refrigeration wasn’t readily available.

Wood-tar creosote is colorless to yellowish and presents as a grease or oil consistency.  It is a combination of natural phenols which are the natural compounds that produce the flavors of BBQ when the wood is combusted or burned.  In addition to the distinct flavor, phenols are also responsible for the aroma and color of BBQ foods.

Guaiacol is a compound derived from methyl ether and is responsible for BBQ’s smoky taste while the dimethyl ether syringol is the chemical responsible for BBQ’s smoky aroma.

Risks of Wood-Tar Creosote

Now that you know not all of creosote’s chemical composition is bad, what are the risks to a wood-tar creosote?

The biggest risk is in burning wood that is not at an ideal combustion rate.  I’m sure you’ve had experience with campfires that produce an acrid aroma and literally cause a foul “taste” in the air from poor combustion rate (too slow burning).  That is the challenge and risk when using wood products with food for hot smoking.  Remember, hot smoking requires temperatures that are lower – generally below 275°F.  To achieve a consistent low temperature, you must control air intake and damper or exhaust.  If you don’t achieve a good balance, the result will be a sooty, bitter tasting and smelling food outcome.

How do you know if your crossing into risky and poor outcome territory?

By the color of the smoke.  A poorly balanced combustion of wood will produce a black smoke.  Repeat these conditions and you’ll stimulate creosote deposits within your equipment which can reduce the draft needed to ensure the fire gets enough air to optimally combust.  Remember, creosote on its own is highly combustible which is why there are many wood stove house fires occurring due to poor maintenance/clean out of these units.

Not All Hardwoods Are Equal In Compound Percentages

Now that your aware that phenolic compounds, specifically guaiacol and syringol are key to tasty, flavorful BBQ foods, let’s talk about these compounds in specific hardwoods.

Interestingly, Beech wood is highly prized and used in Europe for smoking particularly in meat processing facilities.  This is no surprise to me since Beechwood has one of the highest percentages of guaiacol when at a high heat level (distilling).  Know that the phenolic compounds present in all wood distill at variant percentage levels and usually require a combustion temperature of nearly 400°F to peak.   This is just another reason why you want to keep a balance to your fire so combustion is optimal and the resulting flavors and aromas are pleasant.

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Related reading:

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

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

-SMOKING FOODS IN FOIL: PROS & CONS

Purchase products:

Wood Chips- Minuto® and Piccolo®

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chunks- Double and Single Filet

Dr Smoke- "We as chefs need to always monitor how much creosote is good for our BBQ by balancing the time of each cook versus the taste of our results."

Dr Smoke- “We as chefs need to always monitor how much creosote is good for our BBQ by balancing the time of each cook versus the taste of our results.”

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.

Listen

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 roast “ember fired fresh zucchini” directly on the hot coals.

Building A Small Fire

Starting the fire to burn down the wood into coals Know 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 charwood 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

With 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 gentle 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

After 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.

Check in soon for our posting 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 enjoying reading:

-Top 10 Vegetables to Cook in Hot Embers

-EMBER FIRED ZUCCHINI & RICOTTA GALETTE

-SUCCULANT WOOD FIRED STUFFED TOMATO WITH HERB RICE

-Ember cooked Sweet Peppers

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Single Filet

Charwood

 

Add a great flavor to Avocado by grilling them!

Add a great flavor to Avocado by grilling them!

Listen

Oh, the wonderful, healthy, creamy, flavorful avocado.  With more potassium than a banana and 18 amino acids for daily intake, you can’t go wrong with this single seed fruit.

Did you ever think to grill this fabulous fruit with a little wood to give it even more flavor?  We’ll show you just how easy it is to wood fire avocado on the gas grill using wood chunks for your smoke infusion.

Making It More Than A Grill

Regardless of the brand of gas grill you have, you can add wood chunks to the grill for wood fired flavor.  My grill has heat shields over the burners so I use that area to add one small wood chunk under the grill grate, directly on the heat shield.  No, you won’t damage your grill, as the wood combusts to ash and basically blows away.

One chunk is all it will take to get great flavor into the avocados.  I keep the burner that the wood chunk is located on set to medium as well as the burner next to that one on medium.  Since I have 4 burners, 2 are on and 2 are off.

Once the grill is to 300° F, this technique will take less than 20 minutes.

Simple Avocado Preparation

The only preparation needed for the avocados is to cut them in half and remove the seed.  The avocados are placed flesh side down on the grate only on the side with the burners off.  The heat captured within the grill will spread throughout the grilling area and cook the avocado while adding wood smoke vapor.  Note, it’s important that you don’t attempt to move the avocados for at least 10 minutes otherwise you will find the avocado flesh will stick to the grate and you’ll lose much of the fruit’s flesh.  Wait until some of the fat renders and chars making removal so simple.

Prep To Finish In Less Than 20 Minutes

In less than 20 minutes you will have wonderfully wood flavored, charred flesh avocados ready for your favorite recipes.  Think of using this fruit in smoothies, dips, on salads, as a creamy ingredient for sauces – remember, avocado can be used to substitute the amount of butter used in most recipes.  We will take some of our avocado and make a wood fired guacamole first.  Our recipe will post soon so stay tuned and don’t’ forget to send us your pics of wood fired avocado.

Did you get motivated to fire up the grill with wood?  Send us a comment or your avocado fired pics and don’t forget to subscribe.  Bringing  you fun, innovative tips, techniques and recipes on all wood fired methods for foods, beverages, spices, herbs and so much more.

Be sure to check out:

-The Top 10 Vegetables To Cook In Hot Embers

-HOW TO TURN YOUR LP/GAS GRILL INTO A SMOKER

-STEPPING UP RADISH SALAD WITH A WOOD-FIRED FLARE

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Double and Single Filet

Dr Smoke- "For a great smoky flavor to this popular fruit try wood fired cooking and smoking approaches."

Dr Smoke- “For a great smoky flavor to this popular fruit try wood fired cooking and smoking approaches.”

Add a great flavor to Avocado by grilling them!

Add a great flavor to Avocado by grilling them!

 

our Hickory double filet is great for most smoking or grilling equipment

Our Hickory double filet is great for most smoking or grilling equipment

Listen

IS HICKORY THE WOOD TO SMOKE & GRILL WITH? Click To Tweet

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?

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 root of 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 in to 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 (EVO) are using low grade oils in the production rather than meet the requirements for EVO 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.

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

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

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chips- Minuto® & Piccolo®

"While hickory is the number one choice for Southern barbecue, it should not be your only choice. Think of the other 7 species that add unique flavor to any of your dishes."

Dr Smoke- “While hickory is the number one choice for Southern barbecue, it should not be your only choice. Think of the other 7 species that add unique flavor to any of your dishes.”

 

 

 

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.

our Hickory double filet is great for most smoking or grilling equipment

our Hickory double filet is great for most smoking or grilling equipment

This Diagram shows the two key elements of the tree that can effect your Barbecue results. Smokinlicious® only harvest wood from the heartwood of the tree.

This Diagram shows the two key elements of the tree that can effect your Barbecue results. Smokinlicious® only harvest wood from the heartwood of the tree.

LISTEN

This is one of my favorite debates.

Should I cook with bark on woods or go bark-free?

I’ve heard all kinds of reasoning for leaving the bark on: it burns up right away so you don’t need to worry.  It’s what gives the flavor to foods.  It’s what gives the color to smoked and grilled foods.  It is the essence of BBQ!

Well, my intention is to simply provide you with more detail about what is in the bark and then you can decide for yourself if you want to include it in your wood fired cooking method.

What Is Bark?

There are two types of bark in every tree: living bark which is called phloem and dead bark called rhytidome.  For today’s discussion, I am only focusing on the rhytidome or dead bark which is the outer bark layer.

Outer bark’s main purpose is to protect the wood tissues against mechanical damage and preserve the wood tissues from temperature and humidity variations.  Bark chemistry is much more complicated than wood tissue chemistry but let’s cover the basics.

Chemistry of Bark

Outer bark has high concentrations of pectin, phenolic compounds, and minerals.  Although the exact chemical levels vary by species, location of the tree, age of the tree, and growth conditions of the tree, let me list some of the common extractives:

ethyl ether – a common laboratory solvent as well as a starter fluid component

dichloromethane – common compound used in paint strippers and degreasers as well as to decaffeinate coffees and teas

calcium oxalate crystals – a calcium salt found in plant materials with a link to kidney stones in humans

Air Pollutant Meter

For many years, university and research facilities around the world have used tree bark as a bio-indicator of air pollutant levels as bark is highly porous, rough, and high in lipids making its surface ideal for absorption.  It’s been proven that tree bark soaks up airborne gases and particles.  In fact, in my own home state of New York, the Niagara Falls area trees have been noted to have significantly higher levels of Dechlorane Plus, a flame retardant chemical that is produced by a factory in that city.  How much higher?  Several thousand times higher!

After many decades of non-regulated chemical use in various products – think pesticides, flame retardants, building material preservatives, etc. – and with the subsequent halting of production of many of these highly toxic chemicals in the 1980s and 90s, research now shows that as those chemicals evaporated, they became air borne particles.  Those particles landed and were absorbed by the outer tree bark.

Temperature Fluctuation

My experience with bark-on woods used for the intended purpose of cooking has been that bark results in temperature control issues.  Often, when the bark combusts it does so in variable levels, producing a short burst of elevated temperature.  This is likely due in part, to the chemical air pollutant particles that have settled into the outer bark layer.  Knowing that bark harbors impurities that the tree is exposed to, I hypothesize that there likely are other particles, likely transferred via air as well as direct contact from the carrier (think animals, humans, etc.), that are absorbed by the tree’s bark.

Change of Taste

Just as lighter fluid can add unpleasant or at the very least a distinct taste difference in foods cooked over product lit with lighter fluid, I caution that some of you will also find an off taste to foods cooked over bark-on woods.

If you are lucky enough to have a source of wood within your own property, that has no neighborly contact with chemical industry, and you feel confident that the bark-on wood is safe, then the choice to cook with it may be easy.  If, however, you rely on an outside source say a firewood supplier, you may want to rethink cooking over that bark-on product or at the very least, take the time to rid the bark.

We hope you found the article interesting and helpful.  Leave a comment or suggestion as we’d love to hear from you so we can bring the information you’re looking for.   And don’t forget, follow us and subscribe so you don’t miss anything!­­

Additional Reading You May Like:

10 Thinks To Consider Before Purchasing Wood For Cooking, Grilling & Smoking

Purchase products:

Smoking Wood Chips- Grande® Sapore

Dr Smoke- "Dr Smoke is very biased over this topic. After years of cooking, the inclusion of bark in a smoker adds impurities trapped in the bark to your food. We are a no bark proponent!"

Dr Smoke- “Dr Smoke is very biased over this topic. After years of cooking, the inclusion of bark in a smoker adds impurities trapped in the bark to your food. We are a no bark proponent!”

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

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

 

WHY CHARCOAL IS NOT AN INGREDIENT

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

An Ingredient Not A Fuel

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

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

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

Non-Carbonized Wood IS Flavor

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

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

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

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

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

So, Who Is The Ingredient?

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

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

For related reading:

HOW TO TURN YOUR CHARCOAL GRILL INTO A SMOKER

HOW TO USE CHARCOAL WITH WOOD IN COOKING

Purchase Products:

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chunks- Single & Double Filet

Dr Smoke

 our food scale demonstrates Grande Sapore® and Double Filet wood chunks as a guide to adding wood flavoring with our Smokinlicious® products.

Our food scale demonstrates Grande Sapore® and Double Filet wood chunks as a guide to adding wood flavoring with our Smokinlicious® products.

HOW MUCH WOOD TO ADD

WHEN SMOKING

One of the most common questions asked when it comes to smoking foods on a gas grill, traditional charcoal grill or smoker is, how much wood do I need?  Likely the second most common question is where does the wood go?

 Let’s break this down by equipment and method of smoking so you have a good place to start in answering the above questions.

Get A Food Scale

As a reminder, wood should not be sold or referenced by weight so I always recommend you keep a food scale handy to weigh pieces of wood or handfuls of wood chips until you get comfortable with eyeballing your needs.  After working with wood on your specific equipment, you’ll develop a sense of how much will produce a smoke infusion level you and your food guests like.

To make easier understanding of the amount of wood needed, I will be referencing by ounces in my breakdown lists.

The Traditional Smoker

If you adhere to the basic rule of low temperature cooking on a smoker, then you’ll likely be cooking between 225° and 250°F.  You will also likely be using lump hardwood charcoal or traditional charcoal known as briquets, for the fuel or heat.  That is the material that keeps the smoker at a steady temperature.

Regardless of whether you use the snake method, minion method, or simply dump the charcoal in the smoker’s charcoal area, wood will be needed in some form to provide the actual flavor to the foods being smoked.  Why?  Because wood is what gives foods that smoky flavor and distinct texture and appearance.

For the smoker, here is a guide on wood quantity based on food being smoked and for using wood chunks.  Note, you can smoke different foods at the same time with small adjustments to these amounts.

 

Fruits/Vegetables Turkey/Chicken Ribs Pork Shoulder/Brisket
2-4 ounces 4-6 ounces 8 ounces 10 ounces with additional needed during cooking

For placement of the wood chunks, these can go directly on the hot coals with some wood banked to the side to catch as the hot coals spread.

The Charcoal Grill

Essentially, you will be doing the same steps as above for the traditional smoker. The main difference between these two units is that smokers are for hot smoking and generally don’t do well when used for grilling.  In fact, I would highly recommend you never try grilling on a smoker.   Charcoal grills, on the other hand, can do both but you will have to make some airflow adjustments with the unit’s venting to ensure that you can maintain a low temperature consistently for smoking.  You also may find adding a heat insulator like bricks or stones works well to attract and use radiant heat.

Here is the guide on wood quantity based on food being smoked as well as type of wood product.  Remember, a wood chip product will combust faster so you will need more chips on hand when hot smoking.

Wood Fruits/Vegetables Turkey/Chicken Ribs Pork Shoulder/Brisket
Chips 2 ounces 6 ounces 10-12 ounces 16 ounces
Chunks 2-4 ounces 4-6 ounces 8 ounces 10-12 ounces

For placement of the wood chunks, these always go on top of the charcoal.  You should have a piece on the hot coals and then stage some on unlit coals that will ignite during the cooking process and keep the flavor going.

The LP/Gas Grill

I think the key misnomer is that LP/Gas Grills can only use wood chips if you want to attempt to do wood-fired cooking.  That has certainly changed with the advent of dual fuel or multi-purpose grills on the market today, as well as the development and design of diffusers over the gas burners for traditional grills.  The heat covers on burners are the perfect place for wood chunks.

Even if you don’t want to add chunks directly to a component of the grill, you can use a standard wood chip smoker box and simply put chunks in the box versus chips.  Usually these boxes will hold 3-4 small chunks of wood.  The box also aids in capturing ash.

Here are the options for wood placement:

  • wood chips in a foil pouch placed over a hot burner or directly on a heat bar/diffuser
  • wood chips in a smoker box placed on the grill grate with the heat under it
  • wood chunks in a smoker box (these will be small pieces about 2×2-inches) place on a grill grate with the heat under it
  • wood chunks directly on a heat bar/diffuser (3-4 pieces) with the heat on medium

Here is a guide on wood quantity based on food being smoked as well as type of wood product.  Remember, a wood chip product will combust faster so you will need more of it on hand than wood chunks when hot smoking.

Wood Fruits/Vegetables Turkey/Chicken Ribs Pork Shoulder/Brisket
Chips 2 ounces 6 ounces 8 ounces with replenishment needed as they reduce to ash 8 ounces with replenishment needed multiple times
Chunks 2-4 ounces 4-6 ounces 8 ounces – may need to add an 1-2 pieces 8 ounces with replenishment needed at least once

 

Also, keep in mind that if you’ve purchased a “green” wood or air-dried wood, it likely holds more moisture than a kiln dried wood.  This will change the weight.  Pieces of wood that fall into the “green” category, even if they are the same size, will weigh differently.  Work with wood long enough and you’ll develop a feel for what is just about at the perfect weight for wood-fired cooking.

Dual Fuel or Hybrid Grills

With technologies advancing in the grill world you now have so many more options for using charcoal and wood in the convenience of a gas fired grill.  For those looking to have that level of ease but the flavors of charcoal and wood at your fingertips, those equipment manufacturers are to be considered.  Just get ready to make a substantial investment as these models do not come cheap.

We hope this article provided you with new information.  Leave a comment and remember to follow us on social media for additional tips, techniques, recipes, and great photos.  As always, your suggestions on other article topics are always welcome.

Additionally reading you may enjoy:

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

WHY WON’T MY WOOD CHIPS SMOKE!

ELECTRIC SMOKERS: WHEN IS A WOOD CHIPS ‘DEAD?’

Purchase Products:

Wood Chunks- Double Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

 

Dr Smoke- "With our moisture controlled products, you need a lot less wood then you think. Please follow our guide which is specifically directed to the use of our products. If it's in a plastic bag, it is not moisture controlled."

Dr Smoke- “With our moisture controlled products, you need a lot less wood then you think. Please follow our guide which is specifically directed to the use of our products. If it’s in a plastic bag, it is not moisture controlled.”

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

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

BEECH IS CERTAINLY “GRAND”

IN EUROPEAN SMOKER WOODS

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

I’m With the White Oaks

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

Cooking Specifics

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

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

Neutral Ways

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

My Tan Skin

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

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

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

For related reading:

TO THE BEECH (WOOD SPECIES) WE GO!

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

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Double Filet
Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

 

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

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

 

Smoke has many colors and they all mean something special when cooking- learning what they mean could increase your culinary results!

Smoke has many colors and they all mean something special when cooking- learning what they mean could increase your culinary results!

LEARN WHAT THE COLOR MEANS

WHEN COOKING WITH WOOD

You smell it before you see it!  The aroma of foods being cooked outdoors.  When those foods involve cooking over wood – hardwood to be specific – well, it’s a flavor experience that is in a league of its own.

Today, instead of concentrating on the cooking technique of wood-fires, let’s examine the smoke vapor.

Does the color of the smoke being produced mean anything for flavor outcome?

The quick answer: absolutely!  Let’s take a closer look at the finer points of smoke vapor colors.

From Black to Nearly Invisible, The Language of Smoke

There are four basic attributes to smoke when it leaves equipment: volume, velocity, density, and color.  It is the combination of these attributes that reveal so much about the color of smoke vapor or gas produced from combusted wood.

Black Smoke = No Oxygen

Black smoke is unattractive, highly dense, consisting of large particles, and the key sign that the wood is starved for oxygen.  When air intake is left uncorrected, this black smoke vapor can turn foods acrid, bitter, and sooty.  Certainly, this is not the goal of wood-fired cooking!  Don’t cook with smoke that is black in color.  Learn how to control air intake and exhaust for proper air flow and the best smoke vapor infusion for great flavor.

Gray/Brown Smoke = Poor Wood Quality

You understand air flow, the balance needed between air intake and outtake.  Despite you optimal setting of air flow, you still find gray to brown smoke color occurring.  What happened?

Often, this boils down to a case of poor wood choice.  Gray or brown smoke occurs when there is a mixture of moisture and hydrocarbons.  Bark on woods can stimulate brown smoke as this is the driest and most impure part of the wood.  You can also see gray to brown smoke color when there are other stimulants on the wood.  It may be that something dripped on the wood, was deliberately applied to the wood, or was part of the wood’s manufacturing process if the wood is a bye-product from another process.

White Smoke = Initiation of Heat

Virtually all solid materials exposed to combustion emit white smoke.  This means heat is being stimulated to the wood and drying it out.  Remember, moisture is water and when heat finds water it has to induct it to produce steam.  This takes energy from the fire or ignition and can stall full stages of combustion.  Once moisture is evaporated you will observe white smoke to transition to a clearer color, hopefully the infamous blue.  For longer, lower temperature cooking, wait for the white smoke stage to pass before adding the food to the grates.  For hotter temperature cooking like burgers, steaks, etc., go ahead and add to the grates even with white smoke present.  The abundance of aromatics at the white stage will allow for flavor to permeate shorter cook items.

Blue Smoke (or nearly invisible) = Holy Grail

Keeping in mind that you don’t always need an invisible or blue smoke to have a flavorful wood-fired cooking event, this is still the goal when cooking with wood for many hours.  Blue or invisible smoke means that full combustion has occurred to the wood and the lignin compound is releasing the smoky aromatic that will stick to moist food surfaces.  Take advantage of this pristine stage and get cooking for the best wood-fired flavors.

Finding the Perfect Wood with the Perfect Moisture Level

As a final note, don’t be fooled into thinking that using dry wood will save time on waiting for the fire’s heat to evaporate excess water and get to the flavoring.  There is extensive research demonstrating that the ideal smoke composition containing flavor stimulating compounds called carbonyls and phenols is in hardwoods that have a higher moisture rating not the 10% or less that is considered seasoned wood.  Use caution when making the wood purchase.  Knowing key details about the wood prior to purchasing will help to achieve the smoke color that produces maximum flavor.

Was this posting helpful?  Leave a comment or suggestion.  We’d love to hear what you’d like to learn more about in wood-fired cooking methods and techniques.  Don’t forget, follow us and subscribe so you don’t miss out on anything.

For related reading:

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

ELECTRIC SMOKER: WHEN IS A WOOD CHIP ‘DEAD?’

Purchase Products:

Wood Chunks- Double Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

 

Dr Smoke- “Wood choices are very important when it comes to generating the proper color of smoke to flavor your foods.”

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.

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

Purchase products:

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

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

Adding wood chunks to your charcoal can produce smoky results

TURN YOUR CHARCOAL GRILL INTO A SMOKER

Let’s be honest.  When you bought that charcoal grill you were likely thinking that you could both grill and smoke without needing to add anything.  Soon, you realized, that just wasn’t the case.  Now, you’re contemplating whether you need to purchase a smoker.  Well, hold on the shopping trip until you read this.

You can turn your charcoal grill into a smoker with these simple steps!

Any Charcoal Unit Will Smoke

Obviously, if you own a little tailgate model of a charcoal grill, you won’t be doing multiple slabs of ribs or a full packer cut brisket on that unit.  But you can smoke on any charcoal grill if you follow some simple steps and afford yourself enough time to do it right.

How To Add Smoking Woods to the Charcoal Grill

Essentially, when you smoke on a charcoal grill you are roasting outdoors like you do in your conventional oven.  If you use a good quality hardwood charcoal, you will get some flavor from that product but not like true smoked foods you may have experienced in your favorite barbecue restaurant.  That bolder smokey flavor only comes from hardwoods.

Picking Your Fuel and Smoke Flavor

There are three primary fuel types you can use in your charcoal grill: briquettes with instant lite, briquettes, and lump hardwood charcoal.  Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you to eliminate the briquettes with instant lite.  That is a product that contains an accelerant or petroleum product to make it quick lighting.  Unfortunately, it adds a very distinct, unpleasant component to the cooking process that can transfer off-flavors to your foods.  Stick with plain briquettes or lump hardwood charcoal.  Just note, that you likely will find a bit more ash developing faster with lump hardwood charcoals than you would with briquettes.

Picking the wood for smoke flavor has a few rules you should adhere to: only use hardwoods, try to limit the bark on the wood or go bark-free for the best temperature control, find woods that have some measurable moisture level so they smolder – around the 20% level is ideal, and use chunks of wood versus chips.

Indirect Cooking Method

What truly makes for barbecue and not just grilling is using the indirect method of cooking.  There are many ways to set up a two-zone cooking method which is also referred to as indirect cooking.  Often, what you are cooking and the quantity will determine the setup of the fuel.

There are two popular methods that work the best: banking the charcoal to one side of the unit with the food going on the unlit side and putting the charcoal on each side of the unit with the food going in the middle where no charcoal is present.

For those that need a bit more help keeping everything where it’s supposed to go, there is an accessory called the Slow ‘N Sear that works well with kettle grills and includes a trough that holds water.  This allows you to place foods on the upper grates as well as below on the opposite side of the charcoal.  It certainly will give you ample room to cook many pounds of meat.

Water Keeps Everything Moist

To ensure that any protein cooked on the grill remains moist and tender, include a water pan in your set up.  This is easily done by purchasing readily available disposable foil pans from the discount store.  The shape and size will be dependent on your actual grill.  I like to add warm water to the water pan so the grill does not have to exert energy to heat up the water, which takes heat away from the unit.  Remember, the water will be evaporating during the cooking process so have additional water available if it depletes before the cooking is complete.  Water pans are set in the base of the unit on the charcoal free side, directly under the food.  This will also act as a drip pan, catching all those juices as well.

Chimney Starter for Easy Lighting

Once you have your charcoal set up, the water pan laying in the charcoal free section, it’s time to light the charcoal.  The easiest way to do this and ensure that the grill gets hot pretty fast is to light a chimney starter.  These are portable containers made of metal that allow you to pour a couple of pounds of charcoal into and light from vent openings at the base.  Usually these devices require you to place newspaper at the base which is then lit with a lighter to ignite the cold charcoal.  I skip the newspaper step and simply use a MAP gas canister with easy operating torch head to light the charcoal.  The best part is I can leave the torch under the chimney starter on a safe surface such as concrete, while I finish the grill set up.  Once the charcoal at the bottom of the chimney starter is lit, I remove the torch and allow it to burn up through the rest of the charcoal.  Once the pieces are grayed over and showing hot embers, it’s ready to pour into the grill’s charcoal area.  I carefully pour the hot coals on top of the unlit coals.  This will ensure plenty of fuel during the cooking process.  Next, 3-4 smoker wood chunks are placed on the hot coal area.  I usually disperse these with a couple of inches between pieces.

Moist Cold Surfaces Attract Smoke Vapor

With the grill set up complete, the hot coals going and the smoker wood chunks beginning to smolder, it’s time for the meat.  Always take the prepared meat directly from the refrigerator to the grill COLD!  Cold foods will attract smoke vapor faster, allowing the vapor to condense on the food’s surface.  The water pan will ensure that moisture remains within the grill which also will ensure attraction of the smoke vapor.

Vent Settings Guarantee Temperature Control!

Although charcoal as a fuel also aides in temperature control, I’m going to speak about air control.   To sustain fire or combustion, you need oxygen flowing into the grill, stimulating the hot coals.  This is the intake damper.  Close it completely, and you’ll put the fire out and lose all temperature.  Open it wide and you’ll increase the temperature as the coals get stimulated for more heat.

On the opposing end is the exhaust damper also called a vent or flue/chimney.  This vent is what pulls in the oxygen through the lower intake damper.  Yes, smoke is expelled through the exhaust vent but heat as well as the gases that are derived from the combustion of the fuel material including the hardwood smoker chunks are also vented.  The exhaust vent needs to be partially open all the time.  If the temperature starts to fall, open the intake damper wider.  If the temperature is too high, reduce the oxygen to the fire by closing the intake damper.

Now, make your shopping list for your favorite foods to smoke and set up that charcoal grill for a fabulous flavorful day.  It’s really that simple!

Did we get you motivated with this article?  If so, leave a comment as we’d love to hear from you.  Don’t forget to let us know what other questions you have, as we always design our postings after the needs of our followers.  As always, subscribe and follow us, so you don’t miss a thing!

Recommended Additional Reading:

The Precious Forest

Is Heartwood Really The ‘Heart’ Of The Tree?

10 Things To Consider Before Purchasing Wood For Cooking, Grilling & Smoking

Purchase Products:

Wood Chunks- Double Filet

showing how to add smoking wood chunks over the difusser will add wood flavor to any LP grill

Gas grill technique for adding smoking wood chunks to develop a smoke flavor to your cooking.

HOW TO TURN YOUR LP/GAS GRILL INTO A SMOKER

This is the year!  You made a promise to yourself, family and friends that this outdoor cooking season, you were going to bring more flavor to meals cooked on the grill by incorporating smoking wood and grilling wood.  All you need to know is, what are the options for setting up the grill for this type of cooking without purchasing a smoker?

We have the answer and lots of options to utilize your existing equipment!

LP/Gas Grills of All Types

There is a great deal of variation in LP/Gas Grilling equipment in terms of grilling surface space, number of burners, BTU rating, etc.  Know up front, that this will play into how frequently you need to replenish grilling or smoking wood or even to monitor the foods being smoked on the grill.  Essentially, these tips will work on any brand/model that you may own.

How To Add Grilling Woods to the LP/Gas Grill

Heat diffusers are commonly found on newer models of grills.  They are made of high heat tolerant metal and cover the actual burners of the unit.  Their purpose is to ensure even heat distribution throughout the grill so both radiant and conductive heat are maximized.

Wood Chunks On The Diffusers

If you have a grill model that has heat diffusers (remember, they may go by other names like flavorizer bars, flame tamers, heat plates, burner shields and heat distributors) then you’re ready to use smoking wood chunks on your unit!  Yes, I said smoking chunks.  This is by far the easiest method of getting true smoke flavor to the foods being cooked.  Plus, you can set up an indirect method of cooking using smoking chunks.

You will need 3-4 wood chunks sized to fit over your heat diffusers and under the grill grate when set in place.  A 2x2x3-inch size fits most units and these should have some measurable moisture level; at least 20% moisture is ideal meaning you won’t need to presoak the wood.  If you have an old grill model before heat diffusers were standard, you can still use smoking wood chunks by placing them in a smoker box.  These boxes will generally fit 3-4 chunks of the size referenced above but be sure to use a good quality box.  My preference is cast iron.  Insert the chunks into the smoker box and leave the lid off!

 Indirect Cooking Method

What truly makes for barbecue and not just grilling or smoking on an LP/Gas unit is using the indirect method of cooking.  The smoking wood chunks will be set on a burner that is turned on to medium or medium-high heat depending on the BTU level of your unit.  The higher the BTU level, use a medium setting.  Overall, you want the grill’s temperature to average 225-250° F for cooking traditional BBQ items like ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, and poultry.  If using the smoker box, you will place the box on the grill grate of the side with the burner lit.  My preference is, if doing very large cuts of meat, to turn on two burners if you have a 3-burner or more unit.  The foods will be placed on the unlit side of the grill.

Water Keeps Everything Moist

To ensure that any meat or poultry cooked on the grill remains moist and tender, include a water pan or two in your set up.  This is easily done by purchasing readily available disposable pie tins from the discount store.  I like to add warm to hot water so the grill does not have to exert much energy to heat up the water, which takes heat away from the unit.  Remember, the water will be evaporating during the cooking or smoking process so have additional water available if it depletes before the cooking is complete.  Water pans are set on the unlit burner side of the grill, directly under the food.  This will also act as a drip pan, catching all those juices.

Moist Cold Surfaces Attract Smoke Vapor

You have your smoking wood chunks on the lit burner, your water pans on the unlit burner, the grill’s temperature is holding steady, the grill grate has been in place taking on heat – we’re now ready for the meat.  Always take the prepared meat directly from the refrigerator to the grill COLD!  Cold foods will attract smoke vapor faster, allowing the vapor to condense on the food’s surface.  A moist surface also help attract the smoke so feel free to keep a spray bottle of water to spritz your meat’s surface as needed, though this often is not needed.

Leave the Lid Alone!

Remember, this isn’t traditional grilling on the grill.  We are doing barbecue smoking using an indirect method of cooking.  Keep the lid closed!  Every time you do so, you release heat, smoke, and moisture.  What you do need to watch closely is the temperature of your unit as the consistent temperature is what ensures an evenly cooked food item, as well as a tender, moist outcome.

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Recommended Additional Reading:

Boost Up The Flavor Of Your Smoker Box

Can Hardwood Be Too Dry For Cooking?

Purchase products:

Wood chunks- Double & Single Filet

Dr Smoke- “Get the most out of your LP gas grill by adding smoking wood.”

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