Smokinlicious® Cooking Wood in the chimney starter!

Smokinlicious® Cooking Wood in the chimney starter!

COOKING WOOD WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW Click To Tweet

 

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I’m going, to be frank. When having an opportunity to search through social media photos of various foods cooked by fire and smoke and seeing a reference to the wood, I get uncomfortable. There doesn’t appear to be the same concern for the choice of wood as there is for the rub, cut of meat, quality of meat, choice of equipment, and sauce.

Why is it that the wood used to flavor the foods grilled and smoked is an afterthought?

Rating Scale for Cooking Wood

Recently, I ran across an article in Reader’s Digest that focused on the dangers of wildfire smoke, especially for those living in areas of the United States that are hit repeatedly by these events. What struck me the most was the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index: good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, and hazardous. This guide is used to recommend evacuations of locations, use of HEPA filtration to allow people to remain in an affected area, and as a method of gaining valuable data post-fire on the effects, smoke has on plant life. There is considerable data available from tree bark which has long been known to absorb pollutants.

This got me thinking about hardwoods used for smoking, grilling, and overall cooking of foods. There is no regulatory agency that oversees wood used for cooking. Despite efforts to get the Food Safety and Inspection Services division to recognize the risks associated with cooking with wood, no governmental agency has stepped up to offer regulations in this area such as established inspections of equipment and wood.

Why Kosher is important for Cooking wood!

As the manufacturer of all the products sold under the brand SmokinLicious®, we struggled with what steps to take that would demonstrate our commitment to only offer hardwoods that are considered safe for cooking. Although we stressed that we are bark-free (an important step to reduce the exposure to toxins locked in the bark layers), that we only manufacture from the heartwood (an area of the tree that is known to be resistant to insects and decay), and that we manufacture each cut to the wood for the end cooking product, we simply desired some validation of these steps.

Since we’ve always considered the wood another ingredient to cooking, we decided to explore the options from the food perspective. What certification could we apply for that would demonstrate that we are a food-related item? Kosher certification was the perfect place to start!

Certification Means?

For us, the steps we’ve taken to obtain Kosher certification via VA’AD HAKASHRUS OF BUFFALO verified our commitment to keep our manufacturing facility at the highest standard possible. People are drawn to kosher food for various reasons including quality, a healthy lifestyle, food safety, and allergy security. By securing this certification, we can demonstrate to the public that our products satisfy the food quality and safety requirements they should strive for daily. As such, our customers don’t have to settle for an unregulated product that frankly, could contain pretty much anything in the package because, as pointed out, there is no system of check on wood cooking and smoking products.

The SmokinLicious® Cooking Wood Index

Taking a page from the Environmental Protection Agency, I thought it would be helpful to develop an index to use for hardwood intended for cooking. Our grading system is based on toxicity factors of a wood, ease of lighting, sustained burn, coal formation, smoke production, and heat level. Our index is: Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, Unhealthy.

Excellent: Alder, American Beech, Ash, Cherry, Hickory, Pecan, Maple, Apple

Good: Persimmon, Red Oak, White Oak, Mesquite

Fair: Birchwood, Chestnut, Walnut, Peach

Poor: Aspen, Basswood, Poplar, Sycamore, Butternut, Cottonwood, Elm, Willow, Dogwood

Unhealthy: Buckeye, Hackberry, Gum (Sweetgum)

We hope you will find this guide useful. Use it as a means of sorting through all the types of wood offerings to make an educated decision, to look for key information on the packaging that will confirm you are making a safe decision. After all, why take any additional risks when it comes to the health and safety of your family.

Making you an informed consumer through valuable articles like this one. Hope you enjoyed this blog about cooking with wood! Leave us a comment and subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor, that’s SmokinLicious®.

Products discussed in this Blog:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Charwood

More related reading on Cooking wood, how to use and alter its great flavoring capabilities!

More related reading on Cooking wood, how to use and alter its great flavoring capabilities!

Additional reading:

-WHAT WOOD TO USE FOR SMOKING: A PRIMER

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

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

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

Dr. Smoke- Cooking wood provides great flavor in our BBQ, Smoked Bacon, Ribs and even on Vegetables!

Dr. Smoke- Cooking wood provides great flavor in our BBQ, Smoked Bacon, Ribs and even on Vegetables!

Learn why moldy hardwood is unfit for cooking and smoking food. Do not GRILL WITH MOLDY WOOD!

Learn why moldy hardwood is unfit for cooking and smoking food. Do not GRILL WITH MOLDY WOOD!

SHOULD YOU GRILL WITH MOLDY WOOD? Click To Tweet

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listen to Grill with Moldy Woods

There are many opinions out there in the BBQ world when it comes to the wood used for smoking and grilling. Some people preach it doesn’t matter where the wood comes from as long as it isn’t a treated lumber. Comments include, “don’t worry if there are bugs or bug holes – if they’re in there, they’ll just burn up”, or “fires are hot so anything on the wood just burns so you can grill with moldy wood”.

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Our Old Hibachi Wood Grill after the spring cleaning

Our Old Hibachi Wood Grill after the spring cleaning

DOING THE HIBACHI WOOD GRILL WAY! Click To Tweet

Everyone starts their grilling career on this convenient, inexpensive, small piece of equipment. But do we do it correctly? Let’s review the basics.

 

First, this is for grilling over an open fire; it needs high heat to cook. It has a low (height) fire pan and generally no hood or lid. Great high heat cooker/grill – not a smoker.

Lesson #1 Hibachi Wood Grill:-plan what you cook properly!

Now, let’s review how to set up the fire. The region that gave the hibachi its popularity is the Far East which has access to a type of charcoal called “bichiton”. This is a very dense, heavy charcoal made from oak that is direct fired to a high carbonization level. This charcoal produces an extremely high heat; 3-4 times the heat level of an American charcoal!

Can’t locate “bichiton” charcoal or don’t want the expense if you find it? Well, you can use SmokinLious® products to get close to the results. Let’s begin with charcoal – North America produces lump charcoal pieces that are too large for the small Hibachi. So take 2-3 pieces(depending on size), put them in a small paper bag (lunch bag size) and press with your hands to break them into smaller “thumb” size pieces (or you can use a meat mallet). Then pour into the firebox. If the firebox is not full –repeat until you fill it. If you don’t have a small torch available, put some paper under the charcoal, then ignite. Or, you can place the original charcoal pieces in small paper bags, then break the pieces apart, and place the bag in the firebox for lighting.

SmokinLicious® wood chips are crushed from the center of hardwood

Once the charcoal burns down (gray in color), start adding Grande Sapore® wood chips as this will provide for immediate heat and eventually, some flavoring to the food. Once the charcoal/chip combo’s flames settle down, you can begin cooking! Remember, hibachis are traditionally used for thin meats so adjust your cook time to what you’re cooking.

What I like about hibachi cooking is the ease of adding more wood chips when more fuel is needed!

Once you master the fire set up, you will enjoy some wonderful food and some really fun cooking the Hibachi way. Think Korean BBQ! Yum!

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Example of the layers that form a tree showing the heartwood of the tree

Cross section of a harvested hardwood tree showing the heartwood of the tree

IS HEARTWOOD REALLY THE ‘HEART’ OF THE TREE?

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By now you’ve come to recognize SmokinLicious® as the Company that produces it’s cooking wood products from only heartwood. Yet, there are still many questions out there as to what that means for the individual using our products. Is heartwood where all the life forces of the tree thrive?

The short answer is, no, but there are benefits to using woods derived from this part of the tree for cooking. Let’s explore!

Mini molecular-biology course: wood is an organic material that is porous and fibrous. It contains hundreds of organic compounds but there are three primary compounds responsible for the cell construction in trees: Cellulose which is a glucose that is tasteless and odorless but comprises 40-50% of the cell. It is crystalline so it provides for the strength of the cell wall. Hemicellulose is also a glucose and carbohydrate but unlike cellulose, it has little strength and makes up 15-25% of the tree’s cell structure. Lignin is the cell compound that is responsible for the structural materials in the support tissues of wood and bark and makes up 15-30% of wood cells. Lignin is what fills the cell wall spaces between the cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin components and is crucial for conducting water. Lignin yields more energy than cellulose when burned. Most importantly, lignin is what gives wood-fired cooked foods their flavor and aroma.

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Our investment in good air handling systems provide peace of mind for our customers during this COVID-19 outbreak that our products are packaged safely!

The Smokinlicious custom air handling system

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You’re likely at the point where you’re starting to ask a few more questions about the handling of some items you purchase that previously may never have been given a second thought. You also may be receiving frequent updates from suppliers apprising you of the steps they are taking to ensure no viral agents are being transferred with products they are handling.

Air Handling- Our Priority to Provide for a Healthy Product Line

This is the point where SmokinLicious® is different. Handling and cleanliness of our products has been a priority from the start. We worked to establish our procedures and improve on them as our business grew.

Air Handling- Dust Free Products

Currently, we have in place an air collection system that allows us to capture our sawdust and wood chip products utilizing clean air piping that provides for a dust-free product outcome, cleaner air for our employees to work in, and ease of moving the products from the collection bins to the finished packaging areas. An added benefit, the product is not exposed to human handling. Our employees handle the bins of finished product initially, then stage these for packaging as needed.

Our products are not stored as raw material on the ground or floors. There are dedicated storage bins for each level of product that can easily be disinfected with natural, food-grade disinfectant methods as needed.

For SmokinLicious®, steps were already in place to maintain a healthy safe environment for our employees and products that make this recent pandemic concern easily managed by us.

It’s further piece of mind that we can continue to supply our pure, clean cooking woods for those that value the benefits of live fire cooking, whether on the grill, fire pit, smoker or fireplace. Embrace the safety and ease of grilling at home once again with the incomparable flavor of wood.

Do you plan to grill and/or smoke more at home with the recent COVID-19 scare? Leave us a comment and subscribe to get our latest tips, techniques, recipes and the science behind the fire and smoke, for all live fire cooking methods. That’s your SmokinLicious®! Ensuring your safety and knowledge.

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

More related reading on air collection and other grilling safety tips see our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More blogs you might enjoy:

 

-WOOD SAFETY AND OUR EFFORTS TO PROTECT YOU!

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

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

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discussion of the 8 common wood cooking mistakes to avoid.

Discussion of the 8 common wood cooking mistakes to avoid.

COMMON WOOD COOKING MISTAKES Click To Tweet

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We are approaching that exciting time of the year when just about all of North America can start to enjoy cooking outdoors again! Make it the best outdoor cooking season yet by learning the steps to using wood for cooking and grilling successfully, avoiding the common wood cooking mistakes that can sink those outdoor meals.

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image of wood safety and our 75-75 rule

Our 75 degree c for 75 minutes is for wood safety product to protect your health and the environment.

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Wood Safety

You’re likely giving thought to many more potential hosts for the COVID-19 in an effort to keep everyone important to you safe and healthy. Without question, everything you touch has the potential to be a host for the virus that is spreading so rapidly around the world. It is without question, a scary time. What you likely don’t realize is SmokinLicious® has always been committed to protecting our customers from the transfer of potential contaminants.

Our Commitment for Wood Safety- Not Just Any Wood Supplier

In our previously published article titled, DEMYSTIFYING TERMS USED FOR SELLING SMOKING & GRILLING WOOD we attempted to explain what the varying words used to describe preparation to wood sold for grilling and smoking actually meant. The important point to take from this article is that these various “labels” don’t relate to what can assure bacterium and viral agents don’t survive if they grab onto the wood to ride as a viral or bacteria host. In the end, we are the only current supplier who not only sells hardwood only for the purpose of cooking, but utilizes a heat treatment process that is at a level to ensure no microbial or viral agent can latch on to the wood and infect the user.

Even though we use an intense heat level of 75°C/167°F, we developed a method to ensure the hardwood is not dried out to to where it would be classified as firewood, something we never want to be compared with.

Remember, we know some fungi spores are only killed at 60 °C/140 °F, mold spores at 56 °C/133 °F, and listeria at 74 °C/165.2 °F. Although there is no confirmed data on the heat level that COVID-19 dies, we do know that sunlight results in the viral agent only surviving a few hours, given the intensity of the ultraviolet rays. This suggests that heat does play an important role in reducing the virus surviving.

The current regulations in place for wood just don’t make assurances to safety. Our efforts reinforce that potentially fatal bacterium cannot enter our food chain. You can handle our packaging and cook with our products knowing we’ve done our part to ensure no transfer of bacterium or infectious agent.

Can your local firewood or other wood supplier make the same claim? SmokinLicious® – the brand that’s pure, clean, and safe for cooking.

Do you plan to grill and/or smoke more at home with the recent COVID-19 scare? Leave us a comment and subscribe to get our latest tips, techniques, recipes and the science behind the fire and smoke, for all live fire cooking methods. That’s SmokinLicious®!

SmokinLicious® products:

Our hand split double filet smoker wood chunks

#woodchunks

Wood Chunks- Double or Single Filet

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

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

Other blog topics you might like:

-TO BARK OR NOT

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

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

-WHY MICROBIAL BACTERIA RISK IN YOUR SMOKEHOUSE IS WINNING

Dr. Smoke- follow our wood safety when BBQ ng

Dr. Smoke- We practice wood safety with our Heating process!

 

The steps and equipment used for smoked bananas and the release of ultimate smoky creamy goodness!

Collage of smoked bananas & their SMOKY CREAMY GOODNESS!

SMOKED BANANAS- CREAMY GOODNESS!

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Banana’s peak season is from January thru April but you can enjoy this fruit any time of the year! Although you’ve likely enjoyed most of your bananas raw, they are one fruit that works exceptionally well in all types of recipes, from bread, puddings, smoothies, cookies, and muffins, their sweet undertone makes them ideal as a dessert item. With a light, creamy flavor you’ll find bananas are compatible with so many other ingredients like dark and white chocolate, coconut, blueberries, caramel, ginger, honey, sugar, vanilla, and many nuts. The best part, is they work in recipes whether ripe, under-ripe, or overripe! The level of ripeness determines what you do with it.

In this series, we’re going to use the Gourmia® handheld food smoker with Minuto® Chips in Size 8 from SmokinLicious® to get the perfect level of smoke using this quick, easy method. No spending hours over a traditional smoker and taking the risk of your bananas turning to mush! Get ready for a new flavor to your traditional banana for drinks, breakfast items, and desserts.

MATERIALS FOR SMOKED BANANAS:

I’ll be using the Gourmia® handheld food smoker for this series, but any similar unit will work fine. In addition, you will need a cookie sheet, a food storage bag large enough to go over the cookie sheet or you can use plastic wrap, bananas – any variety will do, SmokinLicious® Minuto® Chips in either size #6, #8 or #10, and a lighter or kitchen torch. When selecting your bananas, look for evenly colored yellow bananas flecked with tiny brown specks which indicates ripeness. Avoid those with any visible blemishes as that usually indicates the fruit is bruised.

Be sure you are doing the smoking process in a well-ventilated area or even outside. Kitchen hoods work great!

PREPARING THE HANDHELD SMOKER FOR SMOKED BANANAS:

A good rule of thumb prior to starting your smoking process is to be sure everything is in working order. Check the batteries of your handheld food smoker and the butane level of your lighter. You’ll also need a few tablespoons of SmokinLicious® Minuto® Wood Chips available. I’m going to use Cherry today to keep the fruit flavoring marriage.

Attach the smoking tube to the handheld unit and have a lighter at the ready. It is important not to overstuff the bowl of the handheld smoker with chips as a little goes a long way. Now, place the Minuto® wood chips in the bowl of the unit being sure not to stuff. Remember, once lit, these handheld units produce a lot of smoke vapor quickly so everything needs to be set up well.

PREPARING THE SMOKED BANANAS:

Cutting and removing the peel to prep the bananas

Removing the peel

I have a preference for using a small sheet pan or cookie sheet when I cold smoke fruits. It makes it very easy to expose the fruit to the smoke vapor without the need to rotate the food. As I want to get the good wood flavor to the bananas, I am peeling them and cutting them in 2-inch pieces as the recipe I plan to use them in will require smaller segments. I then placed the cut pieces on the sheet pan, and then secure a food storage bag or plastic wrap over the pan. Be sure you are able to draw at the end of the bag as if you’re going to tie it off with a twist tie. The ability to cinch off the bag is what will ensure that the smoke vapor produced is trapped within the food bag and infuses each piece. If using plastic wrap, leave one end loose so you can insert the smoking tube. The length of time you leave the smoke vapor in the bag or under the plastic wrap will determine the strength of the flavor. I plan to incorporate dark chocolate, coconut, and nuts with my smoked banana so I will be filling the bag with smoke vapor and allowing it to dissipate on its own. Remember, you have control of when you release the smoke so timing is up to you!

 

 

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Steps to make Homemade smoked Bacon

Steps to make Homemade smoked Bacon

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Just about everyone I know loves bacon, even if it’s the store-bought type. There are so many foods that have been designed around bacon including a chocolate chip cookie recipe featuring caramelized bacon pieces and a bacon ice cream! (which we’ll offer a recipe for soon).

One thing most bacon lovers don’t know is just how easy it is to make your own bacon at home, even the smoked type. You’ll be amazed at how different the taste and texture are with bacon you make at home. Just know, my technique will require you to cure the pork belly for a minimum of 7 days so be sure you have refrigerator room and time to wait. I know – when it comes to bacon it’s sooooo hard! But it will be worth the wait!

Quality Meat a Must for Homemade Smoked Bacon

Our fresh butchered pork belly begining our homemade smoked Belly steps

#porkbelly

When making homemade bacon, you’ll need a slab of pork belly, which is a relatively inexpensive cut of pork. Since this process is a time investment, consider purchasing a quality cut of belly which would be labeled “organic”. This cut normally comes from heritage breeds like Kurobuta and Berkshire. This investment will result in richer, meatier, and cleaner flavors to the finished product.

Although a full pork belly will weigh around 12 lbs., you only need about 3 lbs. to give you a sizeable quantity of bacon. Also, some belly will come with the skin still intact while others will already have the skin removed. Note, you will need to remove the skin before curing so you likely will want to ask the butcher to do this for you. If you’re doing skin removal yourself, simply separate the skin from the fat layer at one corner by inserting a knife point. Grab hold of the skin and begin making horizontal cuts with the knife in short sections, pulling the skin back as you go. Leave as much fat layer as you can. Once removed, it’s time to rub and cure.

Homemade Smoked Bacon- Rub and Cure to Flavor

Curing is preserving the meat. This is done not only by the ingredients in our rub but also by the process of hot smoking which contains antimicrobial benefits. Remember, when we are done with the smoking process, your bacon will be ready to eat as is, though you will be able to crisp it up if you want in a pan.

For my rub, I’ll be combining the following:

  • 1 cup of maple sugar, coconut sugar or regular sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorn
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon pink salt also known as Prague Powder #1
  • 1 crumbled bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
Our seasoning mixture over the pork belly moving along for homemade smoked bacon

#briningporkbelly

Now cover every area of the pork belly with your rub. Place the rubbed pork belly in either a 13×9 baking dish covered with plastic wrap or in a storage bag. I prefer the jumbo size bags. Just be sure to remove all the air from the bag before sealing.

Place the belly in the refrigerator. Now starts the curing process. As it cures, the meat releases liquid. You’ll need to flip the meat every other day to ensure the cure is evenly distributed. Begin checking after 7 days if the belly is fully cured. You’ll know the pork belly is ready to be smoked when the meat feels firm to the touch but is still pliable. Rinse the pork belly under cold water to remove any excess cure or the outcome will be too salty. We are ready to smoke!

For Your Homemade Smoked Bacon- Make the Pork Belly Smoke!

Even if you don’t own a traditional smoker, you can still smoke the pork belly. Here’s the technique:

Charcoal Grill:

You will set up the charcoal grill using a two-zone cooking method. Start by loading about 3 lbs. of briquets or hardwood charcoal on one side of the charcoal fuel area. Place a water pan filled with water about 2-inches deep on the non-charcoal side. Then fill a chimney starter ½ full of briquets or hardwood charcoal. Lite and allow to burn to hot coals, then pour the hot coals over the top of the unlit charcoal in your charcoal grill. Add a couple of hardwood chunk pieces to the hot coals and allow to start smoking before you add the pork belly. Once the chunks are smoking, place the cured pork belly on the unlit side of the grate fat side up. Put the lid on and allow to smoke for about an hour without disturbing. Keep in mind, your intake vent should be open ½ way as well as the outtake vent at ½. A 3lb. pork belly will take about 1-1/2 to 2 hours to reach 150°F internal temperature. By using both hot and cold charcoal, you should not need to replenish the coal bed, just may need to add another chunk or two of hardwood.

Our Pork Belly on the charcoal grill for our homemade smoked bacon

#charcoalgrilling

Gas Grill:

Place a smoker box of small wood chunks directly on your heat shield or on the grill grate. Turn on only ½ the burners on your gas/LP grill and set to medium temperature setting. Place a small pan of water on the warming grate to keep a moisture rich environment during the cooking process. Allow the grill to reach 225°F and to have the wood chunks begin smoking. Place the cured pork belly fat side up on the unlit side of the grill. Allow the pork belly to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 150°F. Replenish the wood chunks in the smoker box as needed.

Traditional Smoker:

Set up your smoker as normal targeting a 225°F cooking temperature. Be sure to include a water pan if your smoker doesn’t include one (a disposable foil pan works great). Again, use 2-3 hardwood wood chunks for the flavor. Place the pork belly fat side up and cook until the internal temperature reaches 150°F.

Homemade Smoked Bacon- Ready to Eat!

Once the pork belly has reached 150°F internal temperature, it is ready to eat as it is fully cooked! Remember, smoke has an antimicrobial quality which helps to make this consumable at this temperature level. I recommend you allow the bacon to cool to room temperature on a wire rack set over a sheet pan. Then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. This will set all those great flavors.

By slicing it paper thin, you can consume this cold and enjoy a more prominent smoke flavor. However, you may pan fry this like traditional store-bought bacon or oven cook this on a rack over a foiled lined sheet pan for those who prefer a healthier, more rendered fat version. This method also allows you to do a lot more bacon at one time then pan frying allows.

Refrigerated homemade bacon will last 5-7 days while frozen will keep for several months. Once you sample your own homemade smoked bacon, you’ll never purchase prepackaged again!

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Price is NOT everything-THE TOP THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PURCHASING COOKING WOOD

Price is NOT everything-THE TOP THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PURCHASING COOKING WOOD

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PURCHASING COOKING WOOD

 

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We have your top things to consider when purchasing cooking wood! We are getting closer to peak season in North America for outdoor cooking. What a perfect time to start thinking about what you want to get out of your outdoor cooking time this year so you’ll be able to source the supplies you’ll need and feel confident in your decisions. This includes the wood used for cooking.

There are many companies who offer woods for cooking in the United States. We thought we’d assist you in determining the perfect fit for your needs based on what you’re looking for in the cooking wood as well as a match for your equipment.

Today, we are going to compare 7 popular cooking wood companies who may use the terms cooking woods, grilling woods, wood, and BBQ, or BBQ products. The comparison will include 9 key areas: Established date of the business, where the wood is harvested or sourced from, wood types offered, how the wood is sold, shipping costs, treatment process the wood is exposed to, packaging of the product, if bark is present, and primary claim made by the Company. Following this listing, I will highlight any information that you may want to question further.

Our goal is to arm the purchaser with needed information to ensure that they are getting the perfect wood for the cooking technique(s) they plan to do. Remember, there are different variables needed in a wood for different methods of wood-fired cooking which you can read about further in our blog Taste is Aroma.

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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 our blog

listen to our 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.

Two Zone Cooking Method- Why it 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.

Two Zone Cooking Method- The Set Up

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.

Chef Bert & Tom explaining the two zone cooking method

#chefbertandtom

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!

Two Zone Cooking Method- 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.

What is a two zone fire? You may ask…

A two zone fire is also called two-zone cooking method can be used to grill or smoke any type of food on any grill (smoker, gas, charcoal, wood-fired or electric)! Setting up a two-zone cooking method is very easy- have a hotter side on one half of the grill and a lower or no setting on the other half. A two zone fire gives the cook or chef “a stylized or finessed” way to grill without ruining great food flavors by over cooking. It is especially the best way to cook meats and vegetables. Keep in mind that grills radiate and transfer heat, so it’s really not necessary to crank up every burner or heat source to a temp equivalent to the Sun! It’s as simple as that!

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 FiletVisit our store to buy products

More Related reading on great smoking and grilling tips and techniques

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!

Cherry wood for smoking will bring out the sweetness in anything in the smoker!

Cherry wood for smoking will bring out the sweetness in anything in the smoker!

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WILL CHERRY HARDWOOD SWEETEN EVERYTHING IT TOUCHES?-Without question, Cherry is one of the most popular woods for wood-fired cooking, particularly when it comes to hot smoking using traditional smoking equipment. Despite information SmokinLicious® has provided on this hardwood species (Put a Cherry on It blog & Cherry Wood Question blog), there are still many questions posed and many misunderstandings about this wood. My intention here is to speak on the cherry varieties in North America and ensure that you can make an informed decision when selecting this hardwood for cooking.

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Our wood flavoring chart

WHAT WOOD TO USE FOR SMOKING Click To Tweet

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I see the question asked so many times and in so many ways. What is the best wood to use for smoking? What is the best wood to use for smoking (fill in the blank with your favorite food)?

I’m going to shake things up a bit by stating there is no rule book saying a specific wood must be used with a specific food. There are, however, some basic things you should know to reduce the risks of toxicity, damage to your equipment, and overall ruining your barbecue. Use the wrong hardwood and you can bitter any food you expose to that wood’s smoke.

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Try our technique on Smokey Sweet Potatoes for a great addition to your BBQ!

Try our technique on Smokey Sweet Potatoes for a great addition to your BBQ!

Try Smokey Sweet Potatoes for your BBQ Click To Tweet

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We introduced you to smoked potatoes some time ago giving you an easy method of smoking cubed potatoes . Now, we look at sweet potato, a very popular root vegetable that does particularly well on the grill. This time, we’ll smoke the potatoes whole to allow for versatility for recipes.

Get 5 or 6 sweet potatoes selected, preferably of equal size, and let’s get to the grill! Oh, and don’t forget how great it is to grow you own sweet potatoes. Check out this guide to motivate you!

Choose Your Equipment for Smokey Sweet Potatoes

I’m going to use two pieces of equipment today to demonstrate how easily it is to work with what you own to add a smoke component.

For my gas grill, I’ll be using a smoker box equipped with 3-4 wood chunks in double filet size. For the charcoal grill, I’m incorporating both lump charcoal and briquet for the fuel and adding double filet wood chunks for flavor. My charcoal grill is a traditional kettle grill. Both these units are set up for two-zone cooking which means the fuel is on one side – in the case of the gas grill, burners are lit on one side only, for the charcoal grill, charcoal is banked to one side of the grill, using both lit and unlit coals to sustain the heat level. All cooking will be done on the side that does not have any direct heat.

Our Smokinlicious wood chunks on the coals providing great smokey flavor for these smokey Sweet Potatoes

#woodchunks

With a target cooking temperature of 325-350°F, these sweet potatoes will cook up and get smoky in no time!

Tasting Notes: Preparation of the sweet potatoes prior to smoking is simple. Wash the potatoes well, pat dry, and then trim off the two ends. Using a knife, pierce the ends one time and the sides several times to provide injection areas for the smoke vapor. This will ensure an even smoke flavor.

Smokey Sweet Potatoes- No Work Grilling & Smoking

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In the Wood Bark or Not debate 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.

In the Wood Bark or Not debate, this Diagram shows the two key elements of the tree that can effect your Barbecue results. Smokinlicious® only harvests wood from the heartwood of the forest grown tree and recommends that cooking with wood bark not be done.

If you rely on an outside source say a firewood supplier, you may want to rethink cooking with wood bark. Click To Tweet

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COOKING WITH WOOD BARK – TO BARK OR NOT?

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