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!

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.”

When its Called Barbecue?

What does it mean when its called Barbecue Click To Tweet

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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!
Wood Lignin is what produces the great flavor in Barbecue
Wood Lignin is what produces the great flavor in Barbecue

Choosing wood species for their lignin can help your BBQ! Click To Tweet

Listen to the audio of this blog

Let me start this article by first reminding you that wood contains hundreds of compounds that honestly, we don’t know everything about.  For this reason, I am only speaking today regarding those known compounds and what they contribute to foods cooked by wood fire.  Specifically, I’ll be looking at lignin which is the only large-scale biomass source that has aromatic functionality.  In English, this is what gives wood-fired foods the distinct flavor and aroma.

Often, you read about specific flavors and aromas as they apply to meats but today, I want to delve into the compounds that are most prevalent by wood species and what they offer to food.

Refresher on Lignin

Lignin is one of the primary compounds responsible for cell construction in a tree and makes up 15-30% of wood cells.  It has a primary role in conducting water to feed the tree’s cells and when burned, yields a tremendous amount of energy.   Plus, lignin produces rigidity in cell walls which prevents rot. 

As a polymer or large molecule composed of many repeated subunits that bond together, it is the only one that is not composed of carbohydrate (sugar) monomers.  Because lignin is a polymer, there are many possible bonding patterns between the individual units, thus, we don’t have full knowledge of all the possibilities.

What we do know is lignin contains phenols or hydroxyl groups which are alcohols.  As these compounds work together, they produce a preservative action on the food which is antibacterial in nature.  The surface of the smoked food is modified with resulting flavors and aromas which are associated with barbecued foods.   Let’s take a closer look at these smoke vapor flavors.

Profiles of Smoke Compounds Click To Tweet

If you recall our publication on wood-tar creosote we tapped into the science of wood-tar creosote and its purpose as a preservative as well as producer of flavor, color, and aroma to barbecued foods.  In that article, we just barely mentioned the compounds responsible for the flavors.  Let’s provide you with the main compound list and what the odor and flavor descriptors are.

Phenol: this compound provides the sharp, robust aromas and the astringent, sharp aftertaste to wood fired foods.

Dimethylphenol: another compound that has a sharp, robust odor that also has a sweet aromatic undertone.  Flavors are sweet, charred, and astringent.

Isoeugenol: this is the compound associated with vanilla aromatics in addition to sweet and fruity.  Flavor descriptors include sweet, smoked-ham notes, hydrolyzed vegetable protein-like, with clove-like undertones.

4-Methylguaiacol: another compound that includes vanilla-like, fruity, cinnamon-ish, and smoky odors, with flavors of caramel, vanilla, sweet, and pleasant notes.

o-Cresol: odors are smoked sausage like with robust, sharp undertones.  This one on its own can produce more unpleasant smoky flavors.

Guaiacol: Smoky, sharp, aromatic aromas with flavors that are spicy, sharp, sweet and dry.  This is the yellowish aromatic oil that forms from creosote.

Syringol: Sausage-like aromatic that is sharp and sweet, with a spicy note.  These flavors include whiskey notes with smoky-char taste.

Lignin Levels in North American Hardwoods

I’m going to report the lignin levels of common North American hardwoods derived from the Klason lignin method, which values the residue remaining after solubilizing the carbohydrate with strong mineral acid.  What follows are percentages of oven-dried woods with temperatures ranging from 68°F/20°C to 248°F/120°C. 

Acer saccharum Marsh./Sugar Maple = 22%

Alnus rubra Bong./Red Alder = 24%

Betula alleghanienstis Britton/Yellow Birch = 21%

Carya glaubra (Mill.)/Sweet Pignut Hickory = 24%

Carya ovata (Mill.) K. Koch/Shagbark Hickory = 21%

Fagus grandifolia Ehrh./American Beech = 22%

Fraxinus Americana L./White Ash = 26%

Populus tremoides Michx./ Quaking Aspen = 19%

Prunus serotine Ehrh./Black Cherry = 21%

Quercus alba L./White Oak = 27%

Quercus prinus L./Chestnut Oak = 24%

Quercus rubra L./Northern Red Oak = 24%

Quercus stellate Wangenh./ Post Oak = 24%

What do all these percentages mean when it comes to your barbecue?  You can assume that the higher numbers mean there are larger numbers of compounds at work to flavor your foods.  It’s obvious that woods like hickory and oak have great percentages of phenol, guaiacol, and dimethylphenol, since these woods tend to produce the boldest flavors.  Those hardwoods like cherry, alder, and maple have the compounds of methylguaiacol and isoeugenol coming forward in the flavors which results in sweeter and more toned coloring to meats. Another factor that must be kept in mind when examining lignin is the heat level the wood is exposed to.  Cook at a higher temperature and these compounds can become muddier as combustion occurs more rapidly producing ash accumulation that can change flavors and aromas quickly.   All factor in to the resulting flavor, color and aroma of barbecued foods, whether animal protein, vegetable, fruit, or other.  This just further supports that wood-fired cooking is an art that requires a balanced hand that understands the importance of controlling as many factors as possible, primary of which is cooking temperature and airflow to bring out the highest percentage of beneficial compounds the wood can offer.  

What is your favorite hardwood or mixture of hardwoods to cook with?  Leave us a comment to share your views.  Bringing you informative recipes, techniques, and the science beyond the fire, smoke, and flavor.  That’s SmokinLicious®!

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

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

More information on the composition of wood:

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

-TO BARK OR NOT

-Lab Report on Moisture and storage of wood

-10 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE PURCHASING WOOD FOR COOKING, GRILLING & SMOKING

Dr. Smoke-
Dr. Smoke- the amount of wood lignin and taste is the “art” of Barbecue

Your BBQ shoes for safety is as important as comfort!
Your BBQ shoes for safety is as important as comfort!

“Wear your shoes!” how to protect  your feet around  hot embers!

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I remember a particular year, I believe it was 2007, when my Culinary Events Crew traveled to 29 of the 50 states in the US and 4 provinces of Canada.  I felt like I never slept in my own bed and constantly was repacking the suitcase with clothing suitable for the area we would be traveling to.

That was the year I lost my favorite lace up/zipper ankle boots to the fire.

Not literally burning in a fire but from repeated exposure to hot, stray coals that are common when you engage in wood fired cooking.  I was constantly stepping on these stray embers and this consistency lead to me putting more than one hole in my favorite boots.

It was a lesson well learned and one I want to pass on to you.

Don’t Be Surprised

Just as your educated that the standard oven mitt won’t cut it when your dealing with excessive heat levels in metal equipment commonly used for wood fired cooking, the same holds true for your footwear.  When working around chimney starters that spit and shoot hot sparks of scalding coals and water pans that hold 212°F water, flip flops are not the ideal choice in footwear.  Unlike the professional kitchen where Chef’s clogs are the ideal to prevent slips and falls on the constantly wet floors as well as to keep your tootsies comfortable when on your feet 15 hours a day, cooking with fire takes some thought for footwear practicality.

That led me to look at options in footwear designed for safety, specifically fire safety.

We are testing the indestructible shoe for hot ember resistance on the soles
indestructible shoes

Indestructible® Shoes

We run a factory operation at SmokinLicious®, which means we have strict policy when it comes to personal protective equipment or PPE.  That includes policy on footwear that specifies the need for steel toed footwear.

Over the course of a decade, safety footwear has seen a metamorphosis in style, comfort level, and level of protection.  Gone are the days of limited color options and welcome the new days of vibrant patterns and even height options on the boot cuff.  I was particularly intrigued with a relatively new shoe on the market called the Indestructible® Shoes. 

Not only are the shoes stylish, but they offer features many other work shoes can’t match.  Like the steel toed cap that cannot be penetrated by nails, saw blades, and weight (see the very impressive videos on these tests). With a shockproof midsole, these are also a work shoe that can be worn for hours.

But given that we work around a lot of extremely hot fires that emit stray coals, we wanted to ensure that the anti-slip rubber soles would not only protect you from slips but also from the penetrating heat of hot coals and embers.  That led us to conduct our own tolerance testing.

The Test

After firing up the charwood production oven and running a full day of production, we removed hot embers from the oven that had a heat temperature of nearly 1000°F.  Our controlled testing included establishing a coal bed within an aluminum foil pan since aluminum is a great medium for radiating heat.  We also elected to test the shoe without weight bearing so note that we cannot speak on this parameter, merely the shoes’ outer sole tested on high heat without weighted pressure from a wearer.

There were three levels of testing: 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and 90 seconds which in our opinion, simulated the length of time a person would stand stationary at a high fire or cooker.  Following each test, the shoe was placed in snow with an ambient temperature of 30°F.  We also alternated shoes between tests to ensure no carryover temperature of significance factored in to the stability of each test level.

Temperature of the hot embers is 963 F
963 degrees F of heat
shoe on the hot embers
Shoe on the hot embers
measuring the time resting on the hot embers
Time for resting on the hot embers- 30, 60, 90 seconds
Sole inspection post resting on hot embers
Sole inspection post resting on hot embers
shoe sole resting in the snow to provide the cool down for our experiment
Shoe sole resting in the snow to provide the cool down for our experiment
Temperature of sole post cool down
Temperature of sole post cool down

Results

At all three test levels, the Indestructible® Shoes performed brilliantly.  Although there is an obvious odor of the heated rubber, it is not considered excessively dangerous.  Keep in mind, the thermodynamics of heating rubber results in the rubber shrinking not expanding with heat like other materials.  This is due to the molecules of the rubber becoming disordered unlike when they are at a normal temperature which results in the molecules becoming less disordered (i.e. entropy/isothermal).

There was minimal discoloration to the lightest coloring of the rubber sole which is a reaction of the rubber’s cells and the carbon in the combusted material.

Overall the Indestructible® Shoes proved to be a great option for those who work with live fire and hot coals for cooking.  Between the steel-toe and the thick rubber outer sole, as well the shock-proof inner sole, these are an option in footwear for the barbecue and live-fire cooking enthusiast, whether amateur or professional, in protective footwear that is comfortable, long-wearing and fashionable.

You can find the Indestructible® Shoes at: https://indestructibleshoes.com/

What is your favorite footwear when you barbecue?  Leave us a comment to share your views.  Bringing you informative recipes, techniques, and the science beyond the fire, smoke, and flavor.  That’s SmokinLicious®!

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:

-Outdoor kitchen location tips

-Does Outdoor Kitchen Stainless Steel Rust

-10 TIPS FOR GRILLING SAFETY

-COOKING WITH WOOD YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT YOUR SAFETY

Dr. Smoke- testing BBQ shoes for your safety!
Dr. Smoke- testing BBQ shoes for your safety!
This 18th century smokehouse reminds us that the art of smoking food with wood is part of our heritage.
This 18th Century Smokehouse reminds us that the art of preserving food with wood is part of our heritage.

Exploring this Smokehouse in New Jersey

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

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

A Necessity to Farm Life

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

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

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

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

The Hopewell Smokehouse

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

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

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

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

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

the side view with window providing work light

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

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

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

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

Additional reading:

-WHY MICROBIAL BACTERIA RISK IN YOUR SMOKEHOUSE IS WINNING

-Food & Smokehouse Processing Double Standard?

-WOOD SUPPLIER- ARE YOU GETTING WHAT YOU PAID FOR?

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

Prevent microbial bacteria in the food system. Click To Tweet

Listen to the audio of this blog

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

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

Hosts of Contamination

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

Raw Material Transport

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

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

Decreasing Your Risk

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

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

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

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

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

SmokinLicious products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

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

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

Additional reading:

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

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

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

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

Our Fresh Herbs smoked and Iced ready to bring great flavors to our winter soups!

Our Fresh Herbs smoked and Iced ready to bring great flavors to our winter soups!

HERBS SMOKED AND ICED MAKE THE PERFECT WINTER FLAVOR CUBE

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#smokinlicious

Here’s the perfect way to keep great flavors on hand for when you need them.  I’m going to show you how to make smoked herb flavor cubes which consist of our previously smoked fresh herbs and, in my case, bone broth.  Whether you smoke all the components of these flavorful cubes or not is up to you.  I happen to like the combination of smoked bone broth and smoked herbs for some of my soups, sauces, and glazes.   These are the perfect little flavor gems for all your recipes and the prefrozen cubes make adding so simple.

Tools

#flavorcubes

Here is all you need to make these  flavorful cubes .  Silicone ice cube trays, your choice of herbs and spices, as well as broth or stock.  It will take about one quart of broth to make 40 flavor cubes.

To make portioning the cubes a snap, I use a measuring cup for the liquid.  As I previously smoked my herbs and placed them in spice jars, I can portion out the herbs directly from the jars. Today, I’m using smoked parsley and oregano dust for infused broth cubes.  These are two of my more popular blends for sauces, soups, and extra flavor to vegetables.  Be sure your broth or stock is well strained before adding to the cube trays.

Tasting Notes: Don’t forget about fruits as well.  These make perfect flavor cubes and can be cold smoked using a  handheld food smoker .    

1-2-3 And Done!

The best part of making flavor cubes is the freezer does most of the work.  I simply place previously  smoked  herbs of my choice into the bottom of the silicone tray compartments and pour in the broth.  I like to put my cube trays on mini sheet pans for easy placement and removal from the freezer.  Just be sure to label the trays so when you go to un-mold, everything will be easy to identify.  That’s it!  How easy is that??

Tasting Notes: You do not have to use silicone cube trays but I prefer these to metal or plastic.  I find they don’t taint the flavor of the cubes and they are extremely easy to release.

A New Umami

pouring bone broth into the trays

#smokedherbs

After adding smoked herbs to silicone ice trays and pouring in smoked bone broth, these flavor cubes just take hours of freezer time to set and then they are ready for use.  I like to un-mold mine and place in storage bags that allow me to reach in, grab what I need, and reseal the rest.  The depth of flavor these little cubes add to  soup  and sauces, whether for meats and poultry or vegetables, is fabulous.

Don’t forget to experiment with a variety of tastes and don’t feel you are restricted to just one herb or spice per cube.  Make flavor blends like Indian flavor cubes with curry, ginger, allspice, and cumin.  Or an Italian blend with oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and rosemary. Or, combine fruit and spices for cocktail-like blends. There are no rules to the combinations you can use so find the flavors you love and flavor cube away!

SmokinLicious® products used in this blog:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Minuto & Piccolo

More Related reading

More of our blog writings other than -Herbs smoked and iced #flavorcubes . follow us weekly as we update our blogs

Related reading:

-SMOKED HERBS FLAVORS WITH SMOKED HERB DUST

-STOVE TOP SMOKED CHIVES

-SMOKED BONE BROTH FOR HEALTH & FLAVOR

 

 

Dr. Smoke don't waste the flavor of fresh herbs this winter. Herbs smoked and iced for winter use brings great flavors all winter long!

Dr. Smoke don’t waste the flavor of fresh herbs this winter. Herbs smoked and iced for winter use brings great flavors all winter long! #smokedherbs

Don't ruin your Smoking & Grilling Experience by making simple mistakes!

Don’t ruin your Smoking & Grilling Experience by making simple mistakes!

10 THINGS YOU DO THAT RUIN YOUR SMOKING & GRILLING EXPERIENCE

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#smokinlicious

We’ve all had those moments when the food comes off the smoker or  grill  and we wonder, What went wrong??

Sometimes the event is so bad you want to swear off  outdoor cooking  for good.  I’m here to ask you to step away from the ledge and think about whether you do any of the following things.  The more items on the list you engage in, the more likely you can benefit from my suggestions.

#1 Resting Meat

This tends to be the common practice for roasts and steaks/chops.  You’ve managed to get a nice crisp skin to the roast or steak and then you let it sit or rest, thinking it will make the outcome juicier.  You end up with a soft skin, a wet outside, and waxy fat.  These are meat cuts that don’t require resting.  In fact, they will rest enough on your dinner plate so they are best served hot of the grill or smoker, without a rest period.

#2 Using Too Much Wood

You know that charcoal and gas are the fuels used to reach and maintain temperature while you’re cooking, and that hardwood is what flavors your food.  You want to ensure there is adequate smoke flavor so you add 10 pieces of  wood chunks  to the hot coals when you start cooking.  Then after the first hour, you add another 6 pieces of wood.  STOP!  That is way too much and simply put, a waste of a tree. On average it takes just 6 ounces of wood to start flavoring meat.  My rule of thumb is to add 3-4 wood pieces for a full chimney of charcoal plus a couple of pounds of unlit.  Only when those pieces are fully combusted (black and ashy) do I add a couple more pieces.  Depending on what and how long I’m cooking, I may only use 6 pieces total.

#3 You Soaked Your Smoking/Grilling Wood

I know this is one of the biggest controversies out there when it comes to smoking with wood.  To soak or not.  I take the stand that you should never soak the wood as adding water will only fluctuate your cooking temperature and take more energy away from the fire to steam the water from the wood.  Remember, the wood cannot start to combust until the excess water has been vaporized.  Work with a wood that has at least 20% moisture for the best flavor.

#4 Room Temperature Meat

It is well documented that when you want to attract smoke vapor from burning wood, colder temperatures are like a magnet.  Don’t take the meat out of the refrigerator until right before you’re ready to place it on the grill.  In addition to attracting smoke vapor, colder temperature meats will warm up faster in your equipment than if you left them out on the kitchen counter.

#5 Searing to Lock in Juices

This is the one item even well-known restaurants can get wrong.  Searing meats before finish cooking does not lock in the juices.  What it does do is brown the outside of the meat and firm up the outer surface, giving a distinct pleasant flavor.  The meat fibers do not get sealed by this method or produce any additional juiciness to the meat.

#6 Marinating Overnight or Longer

As marinades tend to contain oil and meat is made up mostly of water, the two tend to compete against each other.  Here’s the thing with marinades.  Marinating for long periods of time do not allow the marinade to penetrate any deeper than if you marinate for just one hour.  In fact, you have an increased risk of breaking down the meat fibers too far with a marinade, producing a soggy outer layer.  Stick to short marinade times and understand most of that flavor will penetrate only to the outside layer.

#7 Don’t Trim the Fat Cap

Just like meat being made up of mostly water, fat is made up of oil.  Again, water and oil don’t mix.  Leaving a fat cap on meat only allows it to melt and drip into the equipment you’re using.  This can produce some additional flavors to the meat but allow too many drippings into the fire area, and you’ll cause flare ups that will deposit soot onto your meat.  Don’t forget, most of us have a habit of trimming fat off meat before we consume it.

#8 It’s Done When There’s No Pink Meat

I’m not sure how many ways I can say this so I’ll be blunt.  YOU NEED AN EASY READ DIGITAL THERMOMETER WHEN YOU COOK!!  That is the only way to know when various meats and poultry are fully cooked.  Follow safe temperature guidelines and don’t go by the color of the meat.  Remember, bone marrow reveals itself differently in animal proteins which causes variation in pink, red and even purple coloring near bone.

#9 Steak Should Always Have Grill Marks

Grill marks are not the mark of a great  steak !  A uniform brown coloring on the meat’s surface is what your goal should be.  That means a deep sear was achieved and great flavor is hidden underneath.  The only way to achieve that is to learn how to direct cook the steak with a higher cooking temperature and frequent turning.  This allows for maximum radiant heat and even coloring and cooking.

#10 You Use Something Other Than Water in the Water Pan

There are all kinds of justifications for why liquids like beer, juice, wine, etc. should be used in a water pan while cooking.  It produces better flavor, it penetrates deeper, it produces more moisture.  Let me be clear.   It’s called a water pan for a reason.   It is designed to hold water and hot water at that.  By starting with hot water, you allow the energy of the fire to go directly to cooking the meat not heating up the water.  Water evaporates which produces a moisture rich environment keeping meats from drying out.  Other liquids will not evaporate and could even burn in the pan due to sugar alcohol levels.

Even if you’ve checked off a lot of these items as practices your guilty of engaging in, it’s easy to turn around your outdoor grilling and smoking skills.  In the end, it will be safer for your guests, better for your meat investments, and an overall more pleasurable experience doing the cooking.

Do you have a bad habit you turned around when you grill and smoke?  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 tips, techniques, recipes, and the science for all things wood-fired cooked.

SmokinLicious® products used in this blog:

Wood Chunks-  Double & Single Filet

 

 

 

 

More Related reading

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

 

Additional reading:

-WHY IS MY BARBECUE MEAT DRY??

-WHY WON’T MY WOOD CHIPS SMOKE??

-WHAT WOOD TO USE FOR SMOKING: A PRIMER

-HOW MUCH WOOD TO ADD WHEN SMOKING

 

Dr. Smoke bringing you Smoking & Grilling tips, tricks and technique to make you the "King of the neighborhood Q"

Dr. Smoke bringing you Smoking & Grilling tips, tricks and technique to make you the “King of the neighborhood Q”

Our preparation of smoked herbs, from picking, smoking and grinding to make smoked herb dust. Adding great flavor to dishes.

Our preparation of smoked herbs, from picking, smoking and grinding to make smoked herb dust. Adding great flavor to dishes.

SMOKED HERBS FLAVORS WITH SMOKED HERB DUST

Listen to the audio of this blog

Don’t make the mistake of thinking fresh herbs are to be used in dishes as, well, fresh only.  Although you may have dried your fresh herb harvest before, we are bringing another alternative to you.

We hot smoke the fresh herbs on the grill then turn them into a dust for use in all types of dishes.  The smoking process will bring a depth of flavor that you’ve likely never experienced before.  Go to the herb garden and pick your favorite varieties and let’s get making smoked herb dust!

 Smoke Vapor Infusion

Fresh herbs on the grill using a grilling cage

One thing about this smoked herb technique is you can do the smoke infusion by a variety of equipment methods.

For those with a gas grill, add wood chunks either directly to the heat shields on one side of the grill or add wood chunks to a metal smoker box that can be placed on the heat shields or the grill grate.  For charcoal grill owners, light your charcoal and allow to reduce to hot coals only.  Add a piece or two of hardwood chunks or a handful of hardwood chips to the hot coals.  If possible, push the hot coals to one side of the grill.  For both grill types, you want to use a two-zone cooking method so the herbs don’t catch fire.

For those that don’t own grilling equipment or who simply don’t want to bother lighting up the grill, you can use a handheld food smoker.  Simply place micro wood chips in the bowl of the unit, place the herbs in a storage bag with the tubing of the smoker unit, cinch the end of the bag around the tubing, and light the chips.  I like to leave the smoke in the bag for maximum smoke vapor infusion.

I used both my gas grill and charcoal grill for the smoke process by placing my herbs in a vegetable basket and grilling with the herbs on the unlit side of the grill.    Within the first 5 minutes, you’ll see how the herbs lose moisture and begin the drying stage.

Tasting Notes: I find the handheld food smoker will produce the boldest smoke flavor to the herbs.  The intensity of flavor rated from lightest to boldest based on equipment would be a gas grill, electric smoker, pellet smoker, charcoal grill, handheld food smoker. 

Grinding Process

smoked herbs in the food processor for reduction into smoked herbs dust

Once the herbs have charred and dried, it’s time to remove them from the grill and bring them to the food processor.  I have a mini processor that only has two settings: chop and grind.  I prefer to use this appliance to bring the smoked herbs to dust level but a spice grinder works just as well.

First, remove all the herb leaves from the stems and place a small quantity in the food processor bowl. You can remove the leaves by placing the entire herb sprig in a colander and pressing the leaves through to parchment paper.  Secure the lid and grind until you get as fine a dust as the appliance will allow.  Both the appliance and the herb will determine how fine the herb dust will get.  As you will see, basil dust becomes finer than oregano.  This technique will work for just about any herb you can grow or locate at the market.  Store the herb dust in glass or metal jars for up to a year.

Tasting Notes: Smoked herbs are much stronger in flavor than the standard dried herb.  Adjust the amount used in recipes as needed.  It is often best to start with less, taste, and then add more as needed.

So Many Uses

finished herb bottles of smoked Basil and Smoked oregano

Experimentation is key when it comes to #herbdust.  Most often, herbs will be applied to meats and poultry, perhaps rice and pasta dishes, but there are so many more foods that are good pairings for herb dust.  Let’s take parsley as an example.  Commonly used with fish and beef, parsley is a great pairing for sweet items as well.  This includes banana and cream.  It’s important that you look beyond the traditional side dishes and entrees and explore the sweet side of what herbs can offer.  By doing so, you’re sure to find endless combinations that will tickle your palate and give you more pleasing menu experiences.

SmokinLicious® products used in this blog:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Minuto & Piccolo

 

More Related reading on smoked herbs and other great grillable flavoring ideas

More Related reading on smoked #herbs and other great grillable flavoring idea

 

Additional reading:

-WHY TWO-ZONE COOKING METHOD LET’S YOU WALK AWAY FROM THE GRILL

-STOVE TOP SMOKED CHIVES

-PAN COOK ZUCCHINI ON THE GRILL WITH WOOD FLAVOR

Dr. Smoke- Our process to prepare the smoked herbs is easily done on our gas grill with our double or single filet wood chunks!

Dr. Smoke- Our process to prepare the smoked herbs is easily done on our gas grill with our double or single filet wood chunks!

The SmokinLicious® culinary crew's two-zone cooking method set up to smoke Fava Beans on the Gas grill with Wood chunks!

The SmokinLicious® culinary crew’s two-zone cooking method set up to smoke Fava Beans on the Gas grill with Wood chunks!

WHY TWO-ZONE COOKING METHOD LET’S YOU WALK AWAY FROM THE GRILL

Listen to the audio of this blog

We all know that the key to easy and successful outdoor cooking is to control the temperature.  I also believe that outdoor cooking should not hold you hostage at the grill.  That’s why everyone should learn the two-zone cooking method for grilling.

Let’s cover what type of cooking you can do by this method, why it’s so successful, and how to set up the zones.

Why Two-Zone is Best

 smoker box and single filet wood chunks

 

Two-zone cooking can be done on any type of grill no matter the fuel source.  What is two-zone cooking?  Using the fuel source on only half the grill while the other half holds the food.  Although you may use the unlit side of the grill for most of the cooking, you have the benefit of finishing crispy skins of items or quick cooking thinner cuts of meats on the direct heat side.

Two-zone cooking is also called direct and indirect cooking.  The indirect side uses indirect convection heat to cook the food which means the heat generated by the lit side radiates into the material of the equipment and produces heat (convection heat) on the unlit side.  The direct side produces the heat within the unit and can be used when quick cooking is needed or when a food that has been cooked on the indirect side needs crisping, additional coloring, or some char.

Set Up a Two-Zone

setting up the smoker box on the grill

The primary reason you want to set up two-zone cooking is most of the grill cooking does not require direct heat.  When you consistently cook foods, especially meats, over direct heat, you easily can have dried, stiff, flavorless results.  This is due to the components of meat reacting at different temperatures that with direct cooking occur too fast to react.

I will tell you that you need a grilling area that is large enough to establish two zones.  I judge the space needed with a rectangular, disposable foil pan.  If the pan can fit on half the grill area without issue, then you have plenty of room for a two-zone setup.   When using a gas grill, this means lighting the burners on one half of the grill.  If you don’t have an even number of burners, then decide how many are to be turned on and how many left off.   With a charcoal grill, placing the hot coals on only half the charcoal area.  On an electric unit, if you can manipulate the heating element, isolate the element to one side of the unit.  The temperature that works ideally for two-zone cooking is 225°F.  Of course, I always add wood chunks to give a smoky flavor to the foods.  Remember, the hardwood goes on the direct side of the grill or lit burner or hot coals.

Note that you can also use a water pan using two zones.  This can be placed on either side of the grill depending on when you need the direct heat side.  Keep in mind, when doing meats, it’s great to place a pan under the meat with vegetables (onions, potatoes, celery, peppers, etc.) and a small amount of liquid that can collect the meat renderings.  You can also place pans of beans to catch those drippings.  Anything is fair game.

For those times when you don’t want to add any additional foods, you can simply lay a thin foil pan under the grill grate of the indirect side or a sheet of foil.  That will collect any fat drippings.

Cook Anything!

Smoking Tomatoes on the gas grill with the two-zone cooking method

 

Since radiant heat is what you are cooking with when foods are placed on the indirect side, you can cook anything.  I love doing tarts and cakes via this method, especially during the hot months when you don’t want to lite your indoor oven.  In fact, those are the times that I cook an entire meal using a two-zone setup.

You can also cook multiple items using both direct and indirect heat.  A long cooking meat goes on the indirect side, is cooked to temperature and held there, while a side dish is cooked on direct heat.  Don’t forget, if the cookware you use is high heat tolerant, you can use cookware as well.  This is how I can make cakes, tarts, and bread on the grill.  You need to view this equipment like an oven as that is essentially what it is!

Use Like an Oven & Walk Away

 I’m going, to be honest.  Although it’s true that you can produce more moist foods using a two-zone method the real reason I love this method of cooking is I can walk away from the grill.  This is particularly true when using a gas grill which holds the temperature steady, which for me, is 250°F for long cook meats and regular baking temperatures for all my cookies, cakes, tarts, bread.  Remember, charcoal grills will still require you to refuel so the temperature can fluctuate more if you’re not careful.  Keeping an extra chimney starter of charcoal going will solve that issue.

As a final note, even though two-zone cooking allows you more time away from the grill, you still need a good digital thermometer to monitor the temperature of the food.  Invest in an easy read one and you’ll really enjoy this new way of grilling and smoking.

SmokinLicious products used in this blog:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on #twozonecooking method and other food items to prepare

Additional reading:

-EASY GRILL ROASTED TOMATOES

-ODE TO THE GRILLED FAVA BEAN

-WOOD ROASTED ONIONS TO DIE FOR!

 

 

Dr. Smoke- The two-zone cooking method on the gas grill is a great time saver for the busy Chef trying to prepare other parts of the meal menu!

Dr. Smoke- The two-zone cooking method on the gas grill is a great time saver for the busy Chef trying to prepare other parts of the meal menu!

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