Brining Sciene for the ultimate meat!

Brining Sciene for the ultimate meat!

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BRINING SCIENCE -You’ve likely heard the term brine and might have a concept of what is involved when this solution is applied to meat but have you every understood the simplicity of how this solution improves the overall quality?

Let’s equip you with the science behind brining and a guide on producing a successful brine solution for meats, poultry and fish.

Osmosis and Diffusion

Brine is a salt and water solution used to soak food in, usually meat proteins, to improve the overall quality by a change in the structure of the proteins in the muscle of the brined meat.  There are three primary reasons to brine: texture, flavor, and moisture retention.  To get these results, osmosis must take place.

Osmosis is the movement of a higher concentration of water to a lower concentration of water through a semi-permeable membrane.  To create osmosis, you must start with a solution. The water being solvent (higher percentage of water) and the salt being the solute (lower percentage of salt to the water percentage).

With a balanced solution, brined proteins have an increased level of moisture when compared to non-brined proteins.  Now, know up front, that you certainly could soak a protein in plain water and have it gain moisture but this process would be much slower than if you add salt to the water.  Also, proteins don’t bind to water as effectively during the cooking process which is why salt is introduced when cooking.

Here’s the process of a brine: Salt is sodium chloride (NaCl) and when dissolved into water, it breaks into a positively charged sodium ion and negatively charged chloride ion.  Both these ions will diffuse throughout food flowing from areas of higher concentration to areas of lower concentration.  It takes 100-1,000 times longer for salt to diffuse into food than heat.  The negatively charged ions repel one another creating gaps in the muscle fiber for water to enter the food product.  The food protein will then bind water more tightly which prevents the muscle fibers from shrinking and squeezing water out during the cooking process.

Three Types of Brining Strategies

There are three recognized methods of brining: Dry Rub Brining, Gradient Brining, and Equilibrium Brining.

Dry Rub Brining:

This is likely the most widely used form of brining as it is fast and easy.  Salt and other dry ingredients like herbs and spices rubbed onto the surface of the meat.  How do you know the percentage of salt?  Start by calculating 1% of the proteins weight.  For example, if you are doing a rack of pork ribs that weigh 3 pounds, the amount of salt used in the dry rub would be 1% of that weight minus the bone weight, which is generally calculated as 40% of the gross weight.  Thus, that 3 pound rack of ribs would be reduced to 1.8 pounds for the calculation of salt at 1%.

Gradient Brining:

This is referred to as a traditional brining method as is includes a 5-10% salt content which after the food is soaked in the brine solution, the surface of brined foods is rinsed under cold water to remove excess sodium from the surface.   Salt is dissolved into water with the amount of salt used determined by the desired brine salinity, again, usually between 5-10% of the weight of the water (desired brine salinity X water weight = salt weight).  As an example, it takes 1,000 grams of water to cover chicken.  If we want 5% salinity, then we would require 50 grams of salt in our brine solution (1,000g X .05 (5%) = 50g salt).

Equilibrium Brining:

This method of bring requires a salt or salinity meter to read the salt content in the brine solution during the brining process.  The goal is to have the parts per million (PPM) on the meter drop to half of its initial reading.  This is the state of equilibrium and brining is complete.  This method requires you to calculate the PPM – 1 parts per million equals 1mg/1,000g.  1g = 1,000mg.  If you desire a 1% salt water solution, dissolve 10g or 10,000mg of salt into 1,000g or 1,000,000mg of water producing a salt content of 10,000PPM.

A Bit of Sweet

Although we refer to a brine as a salt and water solution, there is a third component to consider for use.  Sweetener usually in the form of sugar but can be honey, or even a sugar-based soda.  Although sugar does nothing for the texture of the brined meat, it does add flavor and promotes better browning of the skin. 

Once you have your brine solution, there are a few methods to speed up the brining process.

Jaccard meat tenderizer
Jaccard

The first method is a Jaccard, a mechanical meat tenderizer.  A Jaccard tenderizer utilizes several rows of thin, penetrating blades, honed to a razor sharp edge on two sides that cooks can press into the meat’s surface, to create a series of small channels that break up the tough tissue and create a more tender texture.

Injection tube for adding brine deep into food
Injection

The second, is injection.  A special marinade/brine injector dispenses the brine to the interior of the meat, thus, speeding up the process of diffusion.

Vacuum brining machine
Vacuum brining

 The last method is vacuum tumbling.  This process “tumbles” proteins and brines/marinades together under vacuum.  The combination of low atmospheric pressure and the tumbling process can reduce the time needed for brining to mere minutes.

Brining Guide

The goal of a brine is to produce juicy, tender and seasoned items. Overall, brining foods adds less than 1/8 teaspoon of salt equivalent to your overall daily sodium consumption so you can brine without worry about exceeding the recommended sodium allowances.

Smokinlicious Brine guide
Smokinlicious Brine guide

SmokinLicious® Products:

Smoking Wood Chunks- Double and Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chips- Minuto® and Piccolo®

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

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

Other valuable information:

SALT CHOICES: HOW MUCH AND WHAT KIND?

GRILLING & SMOKING QUESTIONS/ANSWERS THAT MAY SURPRISE YOU!

-SO YOU WANT TO MAKE YOUR OWN DRY RUB

WHY IS MY BARBECUE MEAT DRY??

Dr. Smoke- follow our Brining guide
Dr. Smoke- follow our Brining guide

During stay at home or Quarantine doesn't mean you should place your taste buds on hold!

During stay at home or Quarantine doesn’t mean you should place your taste buds on hold!

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Stay at Home

You’ve committed to a stay-cation.  Lists of games to play, tasks to complete, books to read, and movies and shows to see have been compiled.  Now its time to give some thought to the food that will sustain you during this time.

Don’t compromise taste because your afraid to make too much work out of cooking.  Using the grill is a super easy way to keep your foods and meals highly flavorful.  Let’s give you some ideas that will provide options for everyone to feel satisfied and pleasantly full.

The Breakdown

I think the easiest way to view meal preparation when you focus on the grill as your primary method of cooking is to breakdown foods by categories.

Fruits:

This group of food can make some of the best grilled items.  Already sweet in flavor, grilling them produces more vibrant flavor as the heat caramelizes the natural sugars and produces a char to the outside of the fruit.  When selecting fruits for the grill, be sure they are ripe but not over-ripened to where they present as soft, or they will have tendency to break apart on the grill.  Keep the pieces of fruit large when placing on the grill to maintain as much cell structure as possible.  Brush the fruit pieces lightly with a high heat oil like coconut, avocado, or grape seed.  The key is to leave the pieces untouched for at least 3 minutes before flipping to get great char and flavor infusion.  Perfect fruits for the grill: banana, avocado, apple, mango, peach, papaya, pineapple, peach, pear, plum, grapes, cranberry, eggplant, kiwi, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, tomato.

Vegetables:

You likely are already aware of popular vegetables to grill like corn on the cob, peppers, and onions, but there are so many more that pair perfectly with the grill.  In fact, I would go as far as saying ANY vegetable is appropriate for the grill, you just need to control those that should be exposed to direct heat versus indirect.  The easy method of determining heat level is the thicker the skin on the veggie, the more tolerant to direct heat.  All vegetables can cook on the grill in less than 10 minutes so time really isn’t a factor.  Always remember to avoid moving the vegetables on the grill until they have cooked for at least 3-4 minutes.  For preparation to the vegetables, most require just quartering or slicing in half, with some going on whole like tomatoes and smaller mushrooms.  Basting with high heat tolerant oils is also recommended.

Nuts and Seeds:

These are foods that react with a super boost in flavor when exposed to the heat of a grill and flavor of wood on the grill.  Any seed or nut can be grilled by using a disposable foil pan or griddle pan designed for grilling.  These items take about 15-20 minutes and should be stirred every 5-8 minutes to prevent scorching.

Baked Items:

Anything you normally would bake in an oven can be done on the grill.   This includes cookies, cakes, breads, pies, tarts, and pastry.  Just remember, like vegetables, these items can be a bit more fragile.  Using a two-zone cooking set up on the grill – baked item placed on the unlit side of the grill while the heat is on the opposite side – produces a radiant heat that will cook the item evenly and without any direct hot spots.  I will say that baked items tend to do best on a LP/Gas grill versus charcoal unit.

Animal Proteins:

Of course, animal proteins are well known as a grilled food item.  My recommendation here is to marinate items with either wet or dry rubs for 8 hours to ensure great moisture in the finished product.

As a final note, grilled foods store very well and don’t lose any of their flavor when refrigerated.  Plus, it’s easy to grill a variety of items at the same time.  Any meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner – can be done exclusively on a grill.  For those that love even more char flavoring, think about adding wood chunks either in a smoking box or directly on grates or heat shields.  You can learn more about this technique for the gas grill here.

Do you plan to take a stay-cation?  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!

Purchase products:

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

Wood Chunks- Single & Double Filet

More related reading on more to do during this staycation year see our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More related reading on more to do during stay at home time see our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More blogs you might enjoy!

-HOW TO KEEP FOOD INTERESTING, PRESERVED & SAFE DURING QUARANTINE

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

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

-HOW TO TURN YOUR CHARCOAL GRILL INTO A SMOKER

Dr. Smoke-

Dr. Smoke-Don’t put your taste buds on hold during this stay at home or Quarantine year!

The ways to use wood chunks on gas grill!

The ways to use wood chunks on gas grill!

Try wood chunks on gas grill for a natural taste! Click To Tweet

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

 

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

LP/Gas Grills of All Types

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

How To Add Grilling Woods to the LP/Gas Grill

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

Wood Chunks On The Diffusers

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

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

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Our collage for makeing Spatchcock Smoked Turkey showing the breast bone removal

Spatchcock Smoked Turkey is perfect for even cooking! Moist and smokey what a delectable combination

Try this Spatchock Smoked Turkey Click To Tweet

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Smoked Spatchcock Turkey

Often when faced with cooking a whole turkey, you find the challenge of ensuring every part of the bird is cooked to temperature.  This can result in some extra work in ensuring that certain parts that cook faster don’t dry out or burn on the exterior.  Think the wings and drumsticks.  It’s a lot of work!

I’m going to introduce you to a method of cooking a turkey that will ensure every part cooks at the same rate and to the same doneness level without having to cover specific parts with foil.  Spatchcocking a whole turkey meets that goal and by doing the cooking process on the gas grill with hardwood, you get the added benefit of a smoke flavor and oven room for preparing other dishes.

Order up a whole turkey, preferably under 24 lbs., and let’s meet in the kitchen to prepare the bird for smoking.

Does Fresh Make a Difference?

Our Fresh Turkey out of the box ready for us to do Spatchcock Smoked Turkey

#freshturkey

 There is no question that I prefer a fresh turkey over frozen as the flavor is simply cleaner and the bird produces super moist meat compared to a frozen turkey.  We are fortunate to have within 10 miles of our location, a fresh turkey farm that harvests turkeys once a year, just a couple of days ahead of Thanksgiving.  My bird weighed in just under 22lbs. The organs and neck are removed from the cavity and the bird flipped breast side down to expose the backbone.  This is where we start our spatchcock process. Get sharp cutting shears ready as we prepare to remove the backbone of our turkey.

Tasting Notes: If fresh whole turkey is not available, you may substitute frozen whole turkey.  Just be sure it is completely defrosted and pat dried before starting this recipe.

Flatten and Rub for a Perfect Spatchcock Smoked Turkey

I won’t lie to you.  Removing the backbone of a fresh turkey can be a bit of work, but it is so worth it.  Start on one side of the backbone, insert sharp kitchen shears, and start to snip away.  You’ll draw the shears along the edge of the backbone, releasing the bone from the meat.  Done correctly, the spine will come out in one piece.

We have cut and completely removed the breast bone, which will allow us to press down and flatten the turkey

#spatchock

With the backbone removed it’s time for the final preparation to the turkey.  Flip the turkey back so the breast is facing up.  Time to break the breastbone so the turkey will lay flat on the cooking sheet pan.  This will take both hands and a lot of force.  Position your hands across the breast and push down with all your force until you hear the breast plate break.  Now the turkey should be able to lay flat on a sheet pan equipped with a rack for rendering all the juice and allowing even heat distribution around the entire bird.  The rack is key to use so heat distributes evenly.  The turkey is now ready for a rub with your favorite seasonings, herbs, and spices.

Using your hands to push down and flatten the Turkey on the cooking sheet allows for an even cook!

#spatchocking

I’m using a simple herb rub that includes fresh sage, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper, black pepper, marjoram, basil and cumin.  I place my ground rub all over the skin of the bird and on the exposed meat side, reaching under the breast skin as well.  Now cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  All this work can be done the night prior to grilling ensuring all that is left to do, is the simple two-zone cooking.  Remember, two-zone cooking  involves turning only half the burners on and placing a metal smoker box of wood chunks on the hot grate or directly on the heat shield of the hot burners.   Be sure you have the box and hardwood at the ready for this step.

With our prepared spatchcock turkey readied, the sheet pan is added to the grill on the no heat side and the lid is closed.  I leave this to cook on its own for about two hours before returning to rotate the pan, checking the smoker box of wood chunks I’m using on the lit side of the grill for the great smoke flavor.  Remember, the heat from the burners that are lit will radiate throughout the entire grill, grill-roasting the turkey while the heat stimulates the release of the smoke vapor from the wood.

We use our smoker box with Double Filet Wood chunks to add the smoke while doing a two zone cooking method!

#twozonecooking #woodchunks#smokerbox

Tasting Notes: If you prefer, you can cook the turkey directly on the grill grate.  Just be sure to place a water pan under the grate to collect all the juices.

Ready in No Time

My nearly 22 lb. fresh turkey takes about 3-3/4 hours to reach a 165°F internal temperature.  In total, I use about 8 double filet wood chunks for the entire process.  The best part, I can do other things while the turkey cooks, then rest it for about 20 minutes before carving.  Don’t forget about all the beautiful juice it produces in the pan as well.  Make gravy, use it as au jus, or save it for producing stock.  Spatchcock fresh turkey – the easiest method of no-fuss grilling and smoking of a turkey!

What’s your favorite spatchcock turkey recipe?  Leave us a comment to opine and subscribe to get all our postings on tips, techniques and recipes.  Bringing innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®.

Nice golden brown color to the bird, just cut into it for the best moist meat!

#spatchcocksmokedturkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SmokinLicious® Products used in this technique:

Our hand split double filet smoker wood chunks

#woodchunks

Wood Chunks- Double Filet

More related reading on Spatchcock Smoked Turkey and other Sptachcocking itmes see our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More related reading on Spatchcock Smoked Turkey and other Sptachcocking itmes see our smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More blog topics you might enjoy:

-SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN IS THE WAY TO MOISTURE & HARDWOOD FOR FLAVOR

-SMOKE A TURKEY- LEARN HOW

-THE NOT-SO-SMOKEY SMOKED TURKEY

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

Dr. Smoke- Great moist smokey meat from our Spatchcock Smoked Turkey- awesome way to cook the "bird"

Dr. Smoke- Great moist smokey meat from our Spatchcock Smoked Turkey- awesome way to cook the “bird”

We discuss how long do wood chips last in an electric smoker!

We discuss how long do wood chips last in an electric smoker!

How long do wood chips last in an electric smoker Click To Tweet

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Without question, electric smokers are by far the easiest smokers to manage as they require no charcoal lighting, no constant checking of the fuel supply, and usually no messy ash pan.  These are units that are designed to run on very little wood product, usually between 2-5 ounces because the actual ‘fuel’ is an electric coil.  No gas, charcoal, or pellet.

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Tom and Chef Burt discuss the Fun Things to Smoke other than Meat!

Tom and Chef Burt discuss the Fun Things to Smoke other than Meat!

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Fun things to smoke beside Meat! Click To Tweet

 

We are going beyond the obvious and the traditional when it comes to items that you can smoke.  It’s time to up your skills and menu items with the top things you would never think of to smoke.

Keep in mind, we are not just referring to hot smoking.  We’re including the quick technique of handheld food smoking as well as stove top smoking in a pan.

Let’s get to it!

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BBQ Smoke color, Black, Brown White or Blue is the key to successful Barbecue flavor

BBQ Smoke color, Black, Brown White or Blue is the key to successful Barbecue flavor

BBQ Smoke Color know the differences Click To Tweet

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

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

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

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

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Our Grill drawing for breaking out on your staycation

The Grill is the focal point of your Staycation this year!

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The Grill

The reports are in and all point to one common theory: people are likely to cancel previous plans to vacation away, especially those considering foreign travel, and instead opt for a staycation.

What does this mean for the economy?  Of course, there will be negatives with this decision not to travel but one potential positive is the soar in potential grill sales as people begin to ponder ways to keep home cooking interesting.

The Many Grilling Options

Likely the first assessment for most considering a staycation is what do we do for food.  People often have dining out plans built into their weekly schedule but due to concerns with visiting populated locations like a restaurant, food truck, or even street vendor, these locales will likely be one of the first voluntary bans.  That means, cooking at home just moved to the front of the line.  Cooking on the stove top or in the oven are certainly options, but given you want to keep your body from getting bored you’ll likely want to branch out to the outdoors and start grilling, especially if the weather makes that enticing.

Here’s where the lesson needs to be learned.  Don’t just settle for cooking direct heat method like you do with hamburgers, hot dogs and sausages.  Learn how to grill with indirect heat and you’ll be in great position to put a variety of foods including vegetables, animal proteins, and even fruits and nuts on the grill.

The starting point, however, is to assess your current outdoor cooking equipment and decide the following:

► Is the equipment in good working order to be used frequently?

► Are there any components of the grill that need replacing?  For example, the grill grates, heat shields, ignitors, wheels on a portable unit, charcoal pan, water pan, etc.

► Is the current equipment of adequate size to feed your family all at once?

► Is the equipment easy to operate meaning it won’t burdened you with constant supervision?

► Does the equipment have an option for a dedicated fuel set up like LP gas conversion to natural gas which will allow you full use without having to worry about filling LP tanks?

► If you want to up the flavor of your grill foods, can you easily add wood to the unit?

If you’re in the market for a new grilling unit, assess the frequency of its use and what you want to be able to cook on it before making the purchase.  The more frequent use the higher quality the materials that make up the grill need to be, to keep the grill functional for a very long time.

In the end, you not only will have piece of mind in knowing you can feed your family great tasting foods, but you’ll likely have a great opportunity to bond in a great outdoor environment.

Do you plan to take a staycation?  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:

Charwood

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

 

More related reading on breaking out the grill on this years staycation and  for more smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

More related reading on breaking out the grill on this years staycation and  for more smoking & Grilling tips and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

Related reading:

 

-HOW TO KEEP FOOD INTERESTING, PRESERVED & SAFE DURING QUARANTINE

-Thermal Heating Process is Why You Shouldn’t Be Concerned About Receiving a SmokinLicious® Package

-OUR AIR HANDLING PROCESSES PAY OFF IN THE BATTLE WITH COVID-19

Dr. Smoke-

Dr. Smoke- don’t let your staycation this year affect your meals.  Break out the Grill for great tasting meals

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

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

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

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

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Learn how to turn your charcoal grill with the right hardwood chunks and chips!

Learn how to turn your charcoal grill with the right hardwood chunks and chips!

LEARN HOW TO TURN YOUR CHARCOAL GRILL INTO A SMOKER Click To Tweet

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

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

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

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

Smokehouse products, need fresh Smokinlicious® Minuto® and Piccolo® wood chips to produce the finest smoke flavor! Click To Tweet

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

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

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The Smoker <strong><span style="color: #3366ff;">Water Pan</span></strong> explained for grilling and smoking techniques!

The Smoker Water Pan explained for grilling and smoking techniques!

THE SMOKER WATER PAN EXPLAINED FOR GRILLING & SMOKING Click To Tweet

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If you’ve purchased a smoker, you’re likely familiar with the term “water pan”.  If, however, you’re more of an LP/Gas Grill person, than this term is likely one that escapes your knowledge.

Water pans are a means of introducing valuable moisture into the cooking environment which has immense value when grilling and smoking.  Let me explain each of the pros of learning and using a water pan for your outdoor cooking, no matter the type of equipment you’re cooking on.

Water Pan Pro #1

Temperature control.  This is the ultimate need when you grill or smoker, especially when you smoke.  Maintaining a stable temperature that you’ve predetermined.  When the day is scorching hot and the equipment is made of metal, you will experience a challenge with temperature control.  Introduce a water pan, and your battle can be won.

A water pan goes above the heat source.  If using a charcoal grill or charcoal/wood smoker, this pan would be placed above the coal area.  Have an electric unit and you’ll find the pan over the electric heating element.  If you want to introduce a water pan on an LP/Gas Grill, this would be placed over the lit burners.  Many vertical smokers come with a water pan.

Water Pan Pro #2

Water cannot go above the boiling point which is 212°F.  Additionally, evaporative cooling also takes place as the water is exposed to heat.

Water Pan Pro #3

A water pan can become the number one tool when doing direct heat cooking over an open flame.  Why?  It acts as a repellent for the flame giving your foods a chance to survive without becoming a blackened, dried out, former piece of food.

Water Pan Pro #4

Are you having trouble with hot spots in your equipment?  Well, a water pan will even them out.   Now, the temperature you desire can essentially be locked in just by using a water pan.

Water Pan Pro #5

Humidity that develops from the use of a water pan keeps the surface of the meat moist, which in turn, attracts smoke vapor, which in turn, produces great flavor.  The water vapor mixes with the combustible gases which are emitted from the burning material and add to the overall flavor.  Yes, water is a passageway to all things flavorful!

What Goes in the Water Pan

It’s called a water pan for a reason.  It is designed to hold water, specifically hot water to keep the cooker from wasting energy on heating cold water put in the pan.  Here’s a tip when you fill the water pan: use a teapot to fill the pan while it’s in place so you don’t take the chance of spilling hot water on surfaces or you.  Remember, water evaporates while other liquids don’t evaporate.

Don’t Make the Water Pan a Drip Pan

Here’s the thing with a drip pan.  Due to its location directly over the heat source, when used on vertical units it often serves double duty as a drip pan.  Don’t do that!  Here’s why.  The rendered fat drippings can produce an oil slick on the surface of the water which will prevent water evaporation.

Make Cleaning a Snap

Here’s a couple of tips when using a water pan.  If your unit comes with a water pan, line it in aluminum foil which will allow you to simply pull the foil off and preserve the condition of the original pan.

If you’re using a unit that has no water pan but want to introduce one, simply purchase a disposable foil pan.  You will want to purchase one that is compatible in size to the unit your using, that will fit comfortably over the heat source, and that can hold enough water to prevent you from having to make refill trips every 15 minutes.

Purchase products:

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

Wood Chunks- Single & Double Filet

More Related reading on smoker water pan, see our links for related readings

More Related reading on smoker water pan, see our links for related readings

Additional reading

-PREVENTING DRY BBQ IN YOUR SMOKER

-CAN HARDWOOD BE TOO DRY FOR COOKING?

-TURNING YOUR CHARCOAL GRILL INTO A SMOKER

-TURN YOUR LP/GAS GRILL INTO A SMOKER

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Dr. Smoke- The smoker water pan explained is essential for moist results in grilling and smoking.

Dr. Smoke- The smoker water pan explained is essential for moist results in grilling and smoking.

Our Readers Are Asking…

What does water pan do in a smoker?

A water pan induces moisture directly into your smoker as an ally for the indirect dispersion of heat.  Never use your water pan as a drip pan.  Remember- drip pans = a collection unit for residual or run off grease from the cooking process; a water pan = water for moisturizing foods.

We discuss the pros and cons for using aluminum foil in smoking foods- in particular your BBQ and how it can affect the food.

We discuss the pros and cons for using aluminum foil in smoking foods- in particular your BBQ and how it can affect the food.

USING ALUMINUM FOIL IN SMOKING: PROS & CONS Click To Tweet

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“Does using aluminum foil in smoking foods still allow the wood flavor to penetrate?”

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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®

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 WOODS!

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

SHOULD YOU GRILL WITH MOLDY WOODS? 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”.

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