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Our reference guide for what wood to use for smoking with pictures of our double filet for each species

Our reference guide for what wood to use for smoking

WHAT WOOD TO USE FOR SMOKING

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.

Absolutely No Softwoods

Right up front, let me tell you, only smoke with hardwood.  Softwoods or coniferous woods should never be used for cooking because they have elevated sap levels and more air in their cell structure.  This causes the wood to burn fast, hot, produce lots of sparks, and produce unpleasant flavors not ideal for flavoring foods.  Let’s be clear on what a softwood is: pine, redwood, cedar, fir, spruce, hemlock, larch, cypress.

I realize that cedar has been a popular softwood used for plank cooking or wrapping foods.  If you want to learn more about the risks associated specifically with cedar, see my earlier article  and learn why you should discontinue this practice.

Meet the North American Hardwoods for what wood to use for smoking

Now, meet the North American Hardwoods!  Known as deciduous trees that produce broad leaves, produce a fruit or a nut, and generally go dormant in the winter, hardwoods are the woods to use for cooking and makeup roughly 40 percent of all trees in the United States.  However, not all hardwoods are created equal when it comes to flavoring foods.  Let’s examine some of the specific hardwoods of North America.  I am referencing our key to the boldness of the wood’s flavor (= Mild = Medium = Strong)

 Alder:

Part of the Birch family of hardwoods, Alder is a relatively soft hardwood of medium density.  It is most commonly used to smoke fish but can be used with mild poultry cuts, pork, vegetables, fruits and spices for natural wood flavoring/smoking.  The flavor profile is mild on our scale of boldness.  Alder provides a neutral coloring to the outer skin of foods and is the preference for those who like to cold smoke.

Ash:

Ash hardwood is part of the Oleaceae family or olive family of hardwoods and can be used with any food for natural wood flavoring/smoking.  The flavor profile is on the light side making it ideal for most any food but in particular, it works great with wood-fired pizza as it can lose moisture quickly providing for a great bed of coals.  Ash provides a neutral coloring to the outer skin of foods.

Aspen:

Considered a lightweight hardwood, Aspen is known to have “wet pockets” which can lead to some difficulty with using this as a cooking wood due to its tendency for bacteria development.  Variations in moisture can result in temperature variation during cooking which is directly opposite the goal when fire cooking.

   Basswood:

This hardwood is known as the preferred wood for carving.  It grows commonly with red oak, white ash, and sugar maple trees.  This wood is soft and light which makes it a quick burner.  It does not have any notable odor or taste which makes it a poor choice as a cooking wood.

American Beech:

This hardwood grows in large stands and mixes in with many of the other dominate hardwoods.  It is a popular filler wood for making charcoal so you know it burns long and evenly.  It is classified as moderate in flavor boldness.

 

Birchwood:

This can be an ideal firewood choice due to the prevalence of the varieties of birch and the strength of the wood itself.  However, it is not a highly flavorful hardwood for cooking and burns too hot.  If used for fire cooking, you will have a challenge controlling the cooking temperature.

Buckeye:

This hardwood produces a poisonous nut as well as twigs.  For that reason alone, it is not recommended as a smoking/cooking wood.

  

Butternut:

This hardwood belongs to the genus that includes walnut though it is not as weight-heavy a wood as walnut.  Don’t let the name confuse you.  There is no buttery taste to this wood.  In fact, it does not offer any balanced qualities when used for cooking and for that reason, is not recommended.

 

Cherry:

Like Oak, there are many species within the genus of cherry.  It has an obvious fruity aroma and tends to light easily producing a steady burn and flavor.  Wild or forest grown cherry is very different from orchard cherry which can have bitter undertones which may in part, be due to the chemical application commonly applied to nursery trees.  Feel free to use it with poultry, beef, pork, lamb, even vegetables, as it is a workhorse when it comes to flavoring foods.  Be sure to use a meat probe when cooking with cherry wood as this wood provides a reddish-pink hue to the meat that can easily be mistaken for under-cooking.

  Chestnut:

This is a very hearty hardwood that is resistive to decay so it is not necessarily an easy lighting wood.  It can be used for smoking though I certainly feel there are better choices out there.

  Cottonwood:

This hardwood is part of the genus that contains the aspens and poplars.  As such, like its siblings, it does not make for a good smoking wood.  In fact, when it becomes wet, it produces a sour odor which can transfer to food.

 

  Elm:

Although this is a dominant hardwood in the USA it is a hardwood that has no characteristic odor or taste.  For that reason, it does not make for an ideal cooking wood.

  Gum (Sweetgum):

A very heavy hardwood that holds moisture for indefinite periods of time which causes it to be a poor choice for pleasant smoke flavors.  This can produce musty aromas that can transmit to foods.

  Hackberry:

This is a moderately hard wood that has a yellow to grayish heartwood that does not make it the best choice for smoking.  The benefits of exposing food to this wood are not well documented and for that reason, is not an ideal choice.

  Hickory/Pecan:

Since these hardwoods are part of the same genus they share similar qualities: dense wood that is strong, can be difficult to lite, but produce a lot of color and flavor to foods.  What should be noted here is that not all the species are the same.  Some hickory varieties are very bold and can have bitter undertones.  It is important to learn the differences between varieties before selecting one for cooking.

   Maple:

There are over 120 species of maple so let’s clarify some of the terms.  Sugar maple and black maple are also called hard maple.  Silver maple, red maple, and boxelder are called soft maple.  These maples make for excellent smoking and cooking woods producing beautiful even coloring and a moderate flavor level.

   Persimmon:

This is not a heavily populated hardwood in the USA and it is a slow grower.  It can be confused with Hickory due to similar coloring.  However, it does not produce the same flavors as hickory.

  Poplar:

An extremely light hardwood that does not hold any ideal moisture for smoldering to produce a clean smoke.  Poplar burns too quickly to be an ideal choice for cooking.

  Sycamore:

Although this hardwood has a medium weight and can burn evenly and for good length, it does not do anything for coloring foods or adding any pleasant flavor.  For this reason, it is not recommended for cooking.

  Red Oak:

The oaks are the one hardwood that worldwide dominates with the greatest number of species.  This is a heavy wood that can be difficult to light but once it ignites, it produces intense smoke and flavoring that is easy to distinguish when consuming foods cooked over it.  Red oak has a strong aroma and flavor, requiring a trained hand to use it.

  Walnut:

One of the heaviest hardwoods available, it belongs to the same genus as hickory and pecan.  If classified as smoking, it is on the bold side and should be used in small quantities.  The wood produces a very dark outer “bark” coloring.

  White Oak:

Similar in structure to Red Oak, the white variety tends to be less strong aromatically though it still produces an obvious bold flavor to foods.  Because it is a heavy, dense wood, it holds moisture for a long time making it more ideal for hot smoking and grilling rather than for cold smoke application.

There you have a quick guide on the hardwoods of North America and those considered ideals for fire cooking.  Experiment and keep a written log of what works with the other ingredients you use in your wood cooking.  Hope you enjoyed our discussion of what wood to use for smoking!

what wood to use for smoking

Purchase products:

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chunks- Single & Double Filet

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Additional reading:

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

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

-TO BARK OR NOT

what wood to use for smoking

Dr Smoke Our reccommendation on what wood to use for smoking

Dr. Smoke- Our recommendation on what wood to use for smoking

The history of fire cooking part I

THE HISTORY OF FIRE COOKING: PART I

Listen to the audio of this blog the history of fire cooking part I

 

to the history of fire cooking part I

 

For thousands of years, it was the only way to cook.  Many believe that this discovery separated man from the other animals.  Fire.

Estimated to have been discovered some 2 million years ago, the discovery of fire and more importantly, the discovery of how to tame fire, resulted in man’s brain development, value of food, changes in our body, and social structure.  It gave us survivability.  It extended our life by improving daily calories and nutritional needs by allowing us to cook poisonous plants and meats.

So how did fire cooking get discovered?  That is the million dollar question.  Here are some of the hypotheses out there regarding the discovery of fire for cooking:

Nature Provides Ignition

There are some scientists who believe that fire cooking was found by accident.  A lightning strike or grass fires that sprung up due to the excessive dry conditions exposed to the hot sun.  Many don’t feel man did anything to “discover” fire other than observe the characteristics of fire: it produces abundant heat, light, and when it traps an animal within its flames, it produced a more tender meat, easier to digest food source, and more pleasing aroma to the meat.

Tool Construction

There are others who believe that early humans realized the importance of tools.  By sharpening stones to produce spears, cutting tools, etc., these early beings observed spark.  Either through intention or perhaps with Mother Nature’s assistance, these sparks caught twigs, brush, fruit, and/or grains on fire.  Remember, early human life did not involve a developed brain.  A discovery of fire, however, would help advance not only our brains, but our bodies into the erect beings we are today.

The Earliest Cave Cooking

In South Africa’s Northern Cape province, a dwelling known as Wonderwerk Cave, contains the earliest evidence that our ancestors and apelike ancestors were using fire.  Compacted dirt showed evidence of ashes, carbonized leaf and twig fragments, and burnt bits of animal bones.  Scientists were then able to analyze this material and determine that the fragments were heated between 750 and 1300°F, which is the heat level of a small fire made of twigs and grasses.

If indeed our earlier species learned to harness fire for cooking, this would account for the advancement of our brains and our ability to become erect beings walking on two legs.  Cooking on fire allowed for easier chewing and digestion and produced extra calories to fuel our brains. Fire also warded off nighttime predators, allowing for sleep on the ground or in caves rather than in the trees.

It’s All About Energy

Raw food diets have been popularized as a method of losing weight and of being healthier.  However, only a fraction of the calories in raw starch and protein are absorbed by the body via the small intestine.  As a result, the remainder passes into the large bowel, where it is broken down by the organ’s high population of microbes, which consume the majority for themselves.  However, cooked food is mostly digested by the time it enters the colon. For the same amount of calories ingested, the body gets roughly 30 percent more energy from cooked oat, wheat or potato starch as compared to raw, and as much as 78 percent from the protein in an egg.  In experiments, animals given cooked food gain more weight than animals fed the same amount of raw food.

Cooking breaks down collagen (connective tissue in meat) & softens the plants’ cell walls to release their storage of starch & fat.  The calories to fuel the bigger brains of successive species of hominids came at the expense of the energy-intensive tissue in the gut, which was shrinking at the same time.  If you look at early imagery of apes, you’ll see how we morphed into narrow-waisted Homo sapiens.– the history of fire cooking part I

Coming up in The History of Fire Cooking: Part II, learn more about why cooking foods by fire made us who we are today.  In conclusion, did we provide you with new information you didn’t know?  Additionally, leave us a comment and subscribe as we bring recipes, tips, techniques, and the science behind the fire and smoke.

Purchase products:

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Additional reading:

-OPEN PIT COOKING FIRE BUILDING: PART I

-GRILL-BUILDING THE PERFECT COOKING FIRE- PART II

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

I hope you enjoyed the the history of fire cooking part I

I hope you enjoyed the history of fire cooking part I

 

6 reasons not to cook on Cedar wood

6 reasons not to cook on Cedar wood

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

Listen to the audio of this blog

You love different techniques for cooking and absorb new information like a sponge.  In particularly, you love outdoor methods of cooking.  One of your favorites is plank cooking on cedar wood.  Every time you read a recipe, they all call for use of a cedar plank or cedar wrap.

But is cedar really the best choice?  More so, is cedar a safe choice?

Let’s examine the top 6 reasons why cedar may not be an ideal cooking wood choice.

#1 Softwood Classification

Cedar wood is not a hardwood.  It is a softwood that is from the gymnosperm trees meaning, it is a conifer or cone producing tree.  As a rule, softwoods should not be used for cooking as they contain a lot of air and sap which equates to a fast burn and unpleasant flavors.  In fact, there are many softwoods that can be toxic if cooked over.

#2 Poor Fire Resistance

During plank cooking, you are using the wood as a vessel to infuse flavor to whatever food is placed on top of the plank.  Here’s the concern with cedar – because it is a lower density wood (23 lb./ft³), it has very poor fire resistance.  That means, it reaches full combustion much faster than hardwood and will burn as a result.  Certainly, that’s not what you’re looking for when you plank cook.

#3 Poreless

Unlike hardwood which contain pores in the cell walls, softwoods like cedar are poreless.  They use cell components called tracheids to transport water and nutrients.   In addition, the organic compound lignin found in the cell walls, is much lower than in traditional hardwoods used for cooking.  Why is this an issue?  Lignin is what gives wood fired cooking the distinct flavor and aroma to foods.  For cedar, the average lignin composition is 20%±4 compared to common hardwoods used for wood-fired cooking which average 28%±3.

#4 Plicatic Acid

Cedar contains chemical properties (specifically plicatic acid) that are shown to be a good absorber of odors and moisture.  This is one of the key reasons why cedar is a preferred softwood for pest control to keep fleas, ants, mites, moths, and mosquitoes away.  When exposed to plicatic acid for lengthy periods of time, a condition known as “cedar asthma” can develop.

Additionally, a regular exposure to the cedar oil found in the wood can result in contact dermatitis or skin irritation, rhinitis, and conjunctivitis.

#5 Animal Toxicity

There are many studies available on how the use of cedar wood chips and shavings have affected animals continually exposed to these products.  Most studies show a correlation with liver dysfunction in animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters.  In fact, smaller animals, like guinea pigs and hamsters, have a higher incidence of death which may be attributed to plicatic acid exposure.  The phenols and aromatic hydrocarbons also have been shown to cause respiratory problems in animals like those listed above.

#6 Not All Cedar Is The Same

Cedar is part of the pine family of trees with native origin in North Africa and Asia.  There are no native cedar trees to North America.  The red cedar common in the Eastern USA is part of the Juniper family and can be highly toxic if taken internally.  Under no circumstances should you ever cook with red cedar from the Eastern states of the USA.

USA cedar trees are referred to as false cedars since there are no native varieties.  There are commonly 5 varieties of the false cedars available: Western Red Cedar (common to Southern Alaska, Northern California, and the Rockies), Northern White Cedar (Southeastern Canada, Northeastern quarter of the USA, south into Tennessee, and west into Iowa), Eastern Red (Aromatic) Cedar (Eastern USA), Yellow Cedar (Pacific Northwest from Alaska to British Columbia into Oregon), Spanish Cedar (although Native to South and Central America, it was planted in Florida).  Every false cedar has some known health risks with the most common being respiratory due to toxicity of its pollen, oil, or other chemical compound.

Now you’re asking..

“So if there are all these documented health risks, how did cedar plank cooking gain so much popularity?”  I suppose the easiest answer is that cedar was used by the earliest settlers in the Pacific Northwest as a means of preserving, storing and cooking the seasonal fish.  Think about the limitations of the day: they would be using resources that are available without thought to the items we ponder today like health, future risk, etc.  This concept was examined from a different perspective many years later with the desire for flavor, appearance, and functionality.

We often make the mistake of jumping into something full throttle before asking some of the key questions to keep our bodies safe and healthy.  Remember, there’s lots of documentation out there stating why you should not cooking with softwood yet when it comes to plank cooking, specifically, cedar plank cooking, we don’t seem to carry that issue forward.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand why.

We love providing information to our readers and subscribers that is not in the open and letting you weigh the information for your own verdict.   All types of questions are welcome and we 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.

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Additional reading:

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

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

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

Dr Smoke says "Just because it is "fad," it may not be good for your health."

Dr Smoke- “Just because it is “fad,” it may not be good for your health.”

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

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

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

Listen to the audio of this blog

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

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

The Truth Is in The Sample

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

Is It Fresh- Is Best

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

We’ve Got Your Back

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

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

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Related reading:

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

-CAN HARDWOOD BE TOO DRY FOR COOKING?

-TO BARK OR NOT

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

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

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

We explore the question "is wood-tar creosote" bad for your BBQ food? (see our Listen button)

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

IS CREOSOTE THE ‘MONSTER’ TO WOOD-FIRED COOKING

Listen to the audio of this blog

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

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

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

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

The Advantages of Wood-Tar Creosote

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

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

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

Risks of Wood-Tar Creosote

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

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

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

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

Not All Hardwoods Are Equal In Compound Percentages

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

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

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Related reading:

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

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

-SMOKING FOODS IN FOIL: PROS & CONS

Purchase products:

Smoking Wood Chips- Minuto® and Piccolo®

Smoker Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Smoking Wood Chunks- Double and Single Filet

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

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

Wrap or no wrap is our topic. The pros and cons for smoking foods in foil- in particular your BBQ and how it can affect the food.

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

SMOKING FOODS IN FOIL: PROS & CONS

Listen

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

 It is a common question heard when it comes to hot smoking.  In fact, there is even a technique called the Texas Crutch that relies on wrapping meats like ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket in foil with 1-2 ounces of liquid into the foil and then sealing all ends tightly so no liquid or steam escapes.  This process tenderizes and speeds the overall cooking process, which with hot smoking, can be quite lengthy.

Here’s the thing – when you use this technique, you do so after the meat product has cooked to about 135-150°F.  That means a great deal of smoke flavor has already penetrated.  What about if you start out smoking foods in foil?  Let’s look at the pros and cons of smoking foods in foil, information you can use for traditional oven cooking as well.

Con #1

Aluminum leaches into foods that are wrapped in it.  Current research indicates that the average person can tolerate about 2400mg of aluminum exposure per day due to our body’s ability to excrete the small amounts of this metal efficiently.  Therefore, any ingestion levels over this would be considered a health risk by the World Health Organization.

Pro #1

Aluminum foil is disposable so it is a convenience.  There is no clean up when you cook foods in foil and often there are recycling programs that accept used foil.  It can save on degrading your cookware and grill grates.

Con #2

Aluminum is found in other items like corn, yellow cheese, salt, herbs, spices, tea, cooking utensils, and in over-the-counter medications like antacids.  A derived from aluminum is also used during the purification process of drinking water.  These all must factor into the recommended daily intake of this metal, meaning you need to assess whether cooking in foil will put you over the daily recommended limit.

Pro #2

Aluminum foil aides in producing a convection heat as it is an excellent heat conductor.  Thus, cooking times can be significantly reduced when foods are placed in foil.

Con #3

Foods with higher levels of acid have a higher rate of leaching aluminum into them.  This is true whether the acidic ingredient is in solid or liquid form.  In fact, acidic liquids have a higher leaching rate than solids.  Give this consideration when working with foods such as tomatoes, vinegar and citrus items.

Pro #3

Using aluminum foil can tenderize tougher cuts of meat when you include an ounce or two of liquid.  Additionally, aluminum foil is leak proof when you seal all ends.

Con #4

When you cook acidic ingredients in foil, both the appearance and taste of the foods can be altered by the reaction to aluminum.  The tastes are often described as metallic.

Smoking Considerations

From the smoking perspective, if you start the foods on the grill grates without any aluminum foil, cook until 135-150°F internal temperature, and then wrap in foil to finish, you likely will find very little change in taste.  Ingredients containing acid would have cooked down and not be at a level that would interact as aggressively with the aluminum.

If you do elect to cook on the smoker, charcoal grill or LP grill with foil, know that you can see firsthand the reaction of the aluminum with food ingredients. You can see the wood molecules by the smoke vapor particles that develops on the outside surface of the foil.  As foil is a heat conductor, it also is somewhat of a sponge and will steal some of the smoke vapor particles from the food.

Remember, one of the key benefits to using aluminum foil is its ability to seal tightly whether preventing spillage to a piece of cookware or sealing in liquids for cooking.  Cooking smoked items wrapped in foil from start to finish will not allow for full penetration of the smoke vapor particles that account for the unique color, texture, and taste to smoked foods.  Plus, you likely will increase your risk of health issues with repeated exposure to high aluminum levels.

Thank you for the question submission and we hope you found value in our information.  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 tip, techniques, recipes, and science for all types of wood-fired cooking.

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Here’s some additional reading:

Why Charcoal Is Not An Ingredient

How Much Wood To Add When Smoking

Purchase products:

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chunks- Double and Single Filet

Dr Smoke- "To foil or not to foil? That is the question (personal preference)."

Dr Smoke- “To foil or not to foil? That is the question (personal preference).”

"<yoastmark

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

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

Listen to the audio for HICKORY THE WOOD TO SMOKE

to IS HICKORY THE WOOD TO SMOKE & Grill WITH

 

 

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

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

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

Without question, Hickory has become the most requested hardwood.

Why Hickory The Wood To Smoke?

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

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

Is There a Holy Grail for Smoking Wood?

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

Life of the Tree is Key

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

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

More Choices Don’t Always Mean Better Outcome

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

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

Blaze Your Own Trail

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

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject besides HICKORY THE WOOD TO SMOKE

Additional reading:

-WHAT A NUTTY CHOICE!

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

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

-TO BARK OR NOT

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chips- Minuto® & Piccolo®

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

Our double filet box of pristine, NO BARK, hardwood wood chunk for smoking ready for the next customer!

Our double filet box of pristine, NO BARK, hardwood wood chunk for smoking ready for the next customer!

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WHAT’S IN THE SMOKINLICIOUS® WOOD CHUNK FOR SMOKING BOX? Click To Tweet

These two questions have been quite common for the 12+ years we’ve been in business.  What does a cubic foot box of wood weigh?  How many pieces do you estimate are in a cubic foot box of wood?

Due to the regulations imposed by The National Conference on Weights and Measures -Uniform Regulation for the Method of Sale of Commodities, we cannot specify weight on a wood product, even though we are a cooking wood.  Instead, when asked about weight, we only provide an estimate clearly stating that wood is not sold by weight due to the variation in moisture level and density of the wood selected.

I can, however, tell you the details that a recent first-time customer posted to an online forum that had me elated!

The Specifics You’ve Asked About

This customer took a lot of time and effort to get to the details about our wood; the packaging and the weight not just of the carton, but of specific select pieces.  This customer purchased the Serious Smoker Double Filet Wood Chunk which is our cubic foot carton product with the smallest chunk sizing.  We offer an option to select up to 3 wood choices for this carton size, with this customer selecting our 3 most popular hardwoods: Hickory, Sugar Maple, and Wild Cherry.

First, let’s look at this customer’s overall purchase.

It’s In The Numbers

The packaged hardwood weighed in a 32.5 lbs.  A total of 139 pieces of wood were packaged.  Of that total, 48 pieces were Wild Cherry, 44 pieces Sugar Maple, and 47 pieces Hickory.

Individual Weights

This customer owns equipment that references specific weight of wood needed to smoke optimally.  In this case, just 2-4 ounces of wood is ideal.

Although weights for each of the 139 pieces of wood were not obtained, sufficient sampling was done.  Here is what was reported:

The lowest weight of a Wild Cherry chunk (remember, these are all double filet) was 1.5 ounces and the highest was 4.1 ounces.

The lowest weight of a Sugar Maple chunk was 2 ounces and the highest at 5.7 ounces.

The lowest weight of a Hickory chunk was 2.8 ounces and the highest at 6.4 ounces.

For this equipment user, there was an estimate that 139 pieces of hardwood would provide for some 100 smoking events!

What I loved the most about this report is that it correlates specifically to the density of these 3 hardwoods.  Hickory has the highest density of the 3 kinds of wood selected and this is reflected by the weight of the individual pieces sampled.  Sugar Maple would be next in density followed by the Wild Cherry, all proven with the reported weights.

What Did You Learn?

Unquestionably, there is a lot of wood chunk pieces in a cubic foot carton!  Which means you want to ensure you can use that much wood in a reasonable amount of time to maximize the freshness factor and peak level for function as a smoking wood.  Individual pieces will vary in weight even if the dimensions of the pieces are relatively the same.  That is the nature of a water-rich material – the water weight influences the overall piece weight.

We are indebted to this customer for taking the time to inform us all of his findings since, by law, SmokinLicious® can’t offer this detail.

We hope you liked this post.  We’d love to hear from you so subscribe, comment and follow us on all social media platforms.  Keep those suggestions coming for the future information you crave.

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on wood chunk for smoking and other cooking tips and recipes

Additional reading:

HOW MUCH WOOD TO ADD WHEN SMOKING

BOOST UP THE FLAVOR OF YOUR SMOKER BOX!

THE ART OF CUSTOMIZING YOUR COOKING EXPERIENCE

Our Products Discussed in this Blog:

Wood Chunks- Double Filet

Dr Smoke- "Thank you to this great customer for analyzing our box."

Dr. Smoke- “Thank you to this great customer for analyzing our box- wood chunk for smoking.”

Fruitwood trees are sprayed with pesticide to maximize the fruit yield. Spraying of chemical on the bark may not be too good for using in barbecue?

[Fruitwood trees are often sprayed with pesticide to maximize the fruit yield. Spraying of chemical on the bark may not be too good for using in barbecue?]

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ARE FRUITWOOD TREES LIKE THE APPLE “SNOW WHITE” BIT INTO?

There is a fierce debate out there about the use of fruitwood trees, specifically apple and cherry varieties, for cooking purposes.  As a Company, we frequently get the same question – “Why don’t I see Applewood as an option to purchase?” Here’s the short answer: We do not, and will not, produce our products from orchard-based woods.  Our reason is simple – we do not believe in smoking foods over woods that have been or have the potential to be sprayed or growth enhanced with chemicals.

Let’s review a fact about trees.  All trees produce prussic acid, better known as hydrogen cyanide.  We feel that humans can use woods produced in nature when they have been left alone, unburdened by the human hand in trying to manage what sometimes is the normal cyclical pattern of nature.  In the areas in which we purchase the heartwood for our cooking wood production facility, the varieties of cherry (Prunus pensylvanica L.f.) we commonly deal with are: Northern Pin Cherry, Fire Cherry, Wild Red Cherry, and Pigeon Cherry.  Of course, predominately, we bring in Wild Red Cherry.  There are many different cherry tree varieties available throughout North America.  The main difference in these woods is that our forest trees, the type we manufacture, tend to be on the sweet-tart side versus the sour-bitter.  For the most part, hydrogen cyanide is found mainly in the leaves and seeds of the cherry tree.  Black Cherry bark is also commonly used in herbal cough remedies.

The dominant opinion is that when used in small quantities, the hydrogen cyanide is a moot issue. Now let’s talk about the smoking application of wood.  Cyanogenic compounds WOULD remain a factor in our production of cooking wood.  This is because we do not allow our gourmet woods to deplete their moisture content to a level that other wood product manufacturers may (what is commonly referred to as “seasoning of the wood”).  For ideal smoking of foods, wood needs to have a moisture level preferably at ~20%.  This results in the wood smoldering rather than burning at a rapid rate.  The resulting smoke from the plant material provides for that wonderful flavor.  Because smoking is done at low temperatures for longer periods of time, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) found in wood molecules are not stimulated as they normally would be when cooking, say, a steak over a hot flame.  Thus, the health risk associated with PAH’s and smoked foods is not considered an issue.  The same can be said for ember cooking – using the heat of the residual coals to cook foods.

Our main concerns regarding woods used for wood-fired cooking methods is to always ensure a bark-free product.  Bark does not hold moisture but rather is designed to rid the tree of wastes by absorbing them and locking them into this area.  In fact, this is the reason why bark-on woods burn so much faster than bark-free wood pieces.  This portion of the tree is responsible for temperature flare-ups, tainted smells, ‘spotty’ appearance of the food’s skin, creosote, an increase in the production of ash.  Additionally, once the temperature is increased during wood-fired cooking, heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, are created due to the reaction of the amino acids and creatine with the higher cooking temperature.

In a nutshell, a person is at greater risk of cyanide exposure in treated wood products for home construction than they are when consuming BBQ or other wood-fired foods. Knowing the source of the wood being used in the cooking application is vital to ensure that the necessary steps have been taken to prevent tree disease and pest infestation spread, as well as to ensure that the wood has not been exposed to any chemical/toxin treatments.

It is our hope, that one day soon, inspection of the wood products used by restaurants, caterers, BBQ competitors, and grocery stores who promote smoked and natural-wood fired foods, will occur as normally as food inspections.  After all, I think we all can agree that WHAT you cook the food over is just as important as what food you are cooking!

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More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

For related reading:

TO BARK OR NOT

TASTE IS AROMA!

WOOD FIRED CLAMS MAKE THIS THE PERFECT BITE

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet
Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Dr. Smoke-<em> "Enjoy the fruit of the tree because that is what they're there for. Just be careful when using fruitwood trees from orchard based woods to cook your food."</em>

Dr. Smoke- “Enjoy the fruit of the tree because that is what they’re there for. Just be careful when using fruitwood trees from orchard based woods to cook your food.”

In the Bark or Not debate this Diagram shows the two key elements of the tree that can affect your Barbecue results. Smokinlicious® only harvest wood from the heartwood of the tree.

In the 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.

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

TO BARK OR NOT

Listen to the audio of this blog about Bark or Not

Listen to the audio of this blog about Bark or Not

 

 

 

This is one of my favorite debates:

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

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

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

What Is Bark?

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

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

Chemistry of Bark

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

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

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

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

Air Pollutant Meter

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

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

Temperature Fluctuation

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

Change of Taste

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

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

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

Additional Reading You May Like:

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

Purchase products:

Smoking Wood Chips- Grande® Sapore

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

Dr. Smoke- “Dr. Smoke is very biased over this topic. After years of cooking, the inclusion of bark in a smoker adds impurities trapped in the bark to your food. We are a NO bark propendents in the Bark or not debate”

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

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

HOW MUCH WOOD TO ADD

WHEN SMOKING

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

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

Get A Food Scale

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

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

How Much Wood to Add to The Traditional Smoker

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

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

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

Guide

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

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

How Much Wood to Add to The Charcoal Grill

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

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

Guide

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

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

The LP/Gas Grill

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

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

Here are the options for wood placement:

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

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

Guide

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

 

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

Dual Fuel or Hybrid Grills

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

We hope this article provided you with new information.  Leave a comment and remember to follow us on social media for additional tips, techniques, recipes, and great photos.  As always, your suggestions on other article topics are always welcome. Hope you can use our blog HOW MUCH WOOD TO ADD WHEN SMOKING!

Additional reading you may enjoy:

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

WHY WON’T MY WOOD CHIPS SMOKE!

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

Electric Smoker Guy-HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST ELECTRIC SMOKER

Purchase Products:

Wood Chunks- Double Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

 

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

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

The sign is the entrance to the precious forest- allegheny national forest which includes 513,175 acres or 801.8 square acres and includes the allegheny reservoir natural habitat

The precious Forest Covers 513,175 acres (801.8 square miles) and includes the Allegheny Reservoir Natural Habitat.

THE PRECIOUS FOREST

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Listen to the precious forest blog

It is likely when you have your heart set on some wood-fired cooked foods that you give little attention to the wood that will be required for that cooking event.  You may have seen wood smoker chips or chunks available in your local box store and decided that you can always pick those up last minute, to be assured your plans aren’t foiled. Or, you simply plan to go with charcoal chips without considering that this product is made from wood as well.

STOP and ponder this for a moment – Do you realize where exactly those wood products come from?

Unless you are in a direct county of involvement, you likely have not realized the invasions that are occurring readily to our forests, woodlots, and home landscapes.

To date, here are some of the diseases and infestations we are battling in the United States:

  • Emerald Ash Borer
  • Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
  • Whitebark Pine Beatle
  • Beech Bark Disease
  • Dutch Elm Disease
  • Butternut Canker
  • Asian Longhorn Beetle
  • Dogwood Anthracnose
  • Gypsy Moth
  • Balsam Woolly Adelgid
  • Laurel Wilt disease
  • Sirex Wood Wasp
  • Sudden Oak Death
  • Polyphagous & Kuroshio Shot Hole Borer affecting sycamores, willows, oaks, maples (including Boxelder), and commercial avocado trees.

EVERY state in the US has battled imported forest pests with the hardest hit being New York State followed closely by MA, WI, IL, VA, MI, NJ, OH, and CA.  Every decade, 25 new insect pests are established in the US which can lead for potential decimate of an entire tree species in just decades.

So why if you are a lover of BBQ smoking chips or BBQ wood chunks (smoking using wood chunks or woodchips) or other wood-fired foods, should issues with bugs be of concern?  Because cooking by fire is the oldest known cooking method for humankind.  Right now, you may simply enjoy 3 benefits of trees: for shade, for beauty (viewing), and for a flavor to foods cooked on your grill/smoker.

But there are many other benefits:

  • Decrease atmospheric carbon by capturing and storing CO2
  • Improve air quality by filtering pollutants and releasing oxygen
  • Reduce stormwater runoff and pollutants entering local water bodies
  • Increase property values by 3-7%

The pollutant removal alone that trees are responsible for provides a human health benefit worth $6.8 billion per year!  Trees keep us alive!

As of December 2016, NYS DEC has detected an increased prevalence of Oak Wilt in the state which has no known treatment to contain and kill this fungus.  Oak is one of the most popular hardwoods for wood-fired cooking methods.

Please, take the time to source wood for cooking from reputable sources and follow the laws in place in your specific state to ensure we can limit the spread of these pests and diseases, and continue to enjoy the oldest method of cooking: by fire!

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Additional reading:

-ARE FRUITWOOD TREES LIKE THE APPLE “SNOW WHITE” BIT INTO?

-TO BARK OR NOT

-SHOULD YOU GRILL WITH MOLDY WOODS?

Purchase Products:

Wood Chips-Grande Sapore®

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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Dr.Smoke- <em>"Appreciate the precious forest our renewable resource."</em>

Dr.Smoke- “Appreciate the precious forest our renewable resource.”

WILL CHERRY HARDWOOD SWEETEN EVERYTHING IT TOUCHES?

Listen to the audio of this blog

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.

I think the one key question is always on the varieties of cherry that people have access to, whether it’s in their own yard or a neighbor’s, or they come across a “firewood” seller along the roadside or an ad online or in print.  A good place to start is with a primer on exactly what types of cherry would be common in this scenario and if all of them are suitable for using in cooking.

Black Cherry or Prunus serotine Ehrhart is the most prevalent variety of cherry in North America likely due to its ability to grow in rich bottomlands and moist hillsides as well as drier climates.  It is the primary variety used for commercial purposes in the Northeast.  Other common names are Wild Black Cherry, Rum Cherry, and Mountain Black Cherry.  Black cherry grows from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick west to Southern Quebec and Ontario into Michigan and eastern Minnesota; south to Iowa, extreme eastern Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, then east to central Florida.  You can even find small areas in Georgia, Texas, and Alabama.

Let’s be clear, though.  There can be great differences in the wood from state to state.  Remember, Black Cherry has a high commercial purpose, meaning, it is harvested for cabinetry, paneling, trim work, etc.  To make the wood into those products it must be very dry.  Keep that in mind when you see prepackaged cherry under the name Black Cherry as the extremely low moisture level will make this hardwood burn more rapidly.

Prunus pensylvanica L.f. with the common names Pin Cherry, Fire Cherry, Bird Cherry, Wild Red Cherry, and Pigeon Cherry is a variety that does not tend to grow as large as the black cherry mainly due to its role as a cover for wasteland and protector of soil beds.  Usually once larger trees establish themselves, this cherry variety will be crowded out.  It is a wood commonly harvested in New York and Pennsylvania during timber harvesting (SmokinLicious® sources this variety) so it is plentiful in these areas.  Because this variety is not as readily found as Black Cherry, it does not have as popular a selling point for the grade lumber to produce the home construction items listed above.  If you can locate this variety of cherry, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at its performance as a cooking wood.

Now, briefly, let me touch on the ornamental cherry trees that usually are encountered within neighborhoods and are the trees most people inquire about for trimming and using in their equipment.  All cherry trees are part of the genus PrunusMost of what is sold as ornamental are the Prunus serotine variety.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that cherry means anything cooked with that wood will have a cherry-like flavor!  Nothing can be further from the truth.  The wood itself will have variation in aroma as you may readily find when you burn wood in a fireplace; burn a fireplace frequently enough and you can pick up the aromatics that come from cherry versus maple versus ash, etc.

Flavor from the wood is directly influenced by the other ingredients incorporated and exposed to the heat.  It will NOT produce a cherry flavor even if you had plain meat in the cooking chamber with the wood.

In fact, I dare you to find two people who would describe the flavor of a food item cooked over cherry hardwood with the same description.

If you get a hold of an ornamental cherry tree or you take trimmings from a tree, here are my cautions:

  • hydrogen cyanide, a poison, is present in the leaves and seed so never burn these when cooking foods as they are very bitter and you increase the potential for a reaction or worse
  • many ornamental trees are treated with chemicals to keep them free of insects, larvae, and mold – don’t cook with woods exposed to chemicals as this can contribute to a bitter flavor to foods and increase your risk for an allergic reaction
  • using trimmings that are fresh from the tree can produce an acrid smoke due to the high level of water in the wood. It’s best to allow any collected pieces to dry to ensure some of the water has evaporated

There are 18 Prunus varieties available in North America.   With a little research and trial and error, you should be able to source a suitable variety for cooking that will give you wonderful wood-fired food memories.

SmokinLicious® Products related to this blog topic:

Smoker Logs

Wood Chunks: Double and Single Filet

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

More Related reading on this subject

Additional reading:

-PUT CHERRY HARDWOOD ON IT!

-Cherry Wood Question

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

-WHAT WOOD TO USE FOR SMOKING: A PRIMER

Dr. Smoke Cherry Hardwood is my favorite for smoking, grilling or ember cooking with wood

Dr. Smoke Cherry Hardwood is my favorite for smoking, grilling or ember cooking with wood

 

 

 

 

 

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Smokinlicious pristine wood blocks is a great back drop to the 10 things to consider when purchasing cooking wood

Smokinlicious® wood blocks are a pristine backdrop for the 10 things to consider when purchasing wood for cooking!!

Many of you who reside in the Southern and Western States have the advantage of being able to engage in wood-fired cooking pretty much whenever you want, regardless of the calendar.  You may do so on an LP grill, a charcoal grill, charcoal/wood smoker, or electric grill or smoker.  Those of us living in the North and to the East – though we could continue cooking outdoors all year – usually elect to restrict our outdoor cooking methods until temperatures climb above 55°F!

Soon, it will be an even playing field when it comes to enjoying the outdoors for all of us so what better way to get prepared than to start thinking about replenishing supplies for our outdoor living and cooking.

Today, I’m going to give you a guide on the top 10 things to consider when you purchase wood for grilling, smoking, or cooking in general.

#1 Is the wood native to the USA?

If the wood comes from outside the United States, it doesn’t necessarily make it a bad choice but you do need to understand that importing wood products into the USA is highly regulated.  Mostly, the wood needs to be certified that it has been treated in some way to ensure no insects are hitching a ride in!  Remember, that treatment could be with chemicals or by heat only, so be sure you check the label.  This product may turn out to only be ideal for hot temperature cooking like searing and grilling due to the dryness of the wood, or if chemicals were used, it shouldn’t be used at all.

#2 Is the wood 100% hardwood?

It is imperative that any wood you use to cook with, over, or in be only hardwood.  Look for labeling that attest to the fact that only hardwood was used as some companies will use a mix of softwood and hardwood or include press woods.

The Pristine, Clean, Bark Free Double Fillet SmokinLicious Wood Chunks Displayed

SmokinLicious® Double Fillet Wood Chunks

#3 How does the company get the wood?

Many of the companies who supply wood for cooking have another manufacturing process that produces a scrap or waste product.  Often, those leftovers are used in this secondary business of BBQ woods, smoking woods, or cooking woods, to name a few of the labeling names.  Check packaging for the source or origin location of the wood and if that company name matches the one on the front of the packaging label.

#4 Are you getting the wood named on the label?

 This seems like a no brainer but honestly, wood is no different than olive oil or cheese.  You may not be getting 100% of the wood species listed on the label just as we’re finding extra virgin olive oils may not be extra virgin or grated cheese isn’t 100% cheese!  If you find packaging that simply states “hardwood” or “mixed hardwoods” then you don’t know what you’re getting.  Be sure to read the entire label and check for a reference to 100% of a species.

#5 Is the brand name the actual manufacturer of the wood or just the distributor?

It is very common for brands to be in a business that they don’t participate in from a manufacturing point.  Check the small print on the label to see if the manufacturer of the product is listed or if the label simply states who the product is distributed by.  Distributors don’t have a lot of history on the product in the box or bag.

#6 Does the seller make claim to a certain cooking method for the wood?

 This is key to ensuring you don’t end up with a disaster.  If the packaging clearly states the product is for grilling, then don’t try to use it in your smoker or stove top smoking pan.  Compatibility of a cooking wood to equipment should factor in the moisture level of the wood.  Too dry, and it will just catch fire.  Too wet and you won’t be able to grill with it.

#7 Are there any terms such as “naturally cured” or kiln dried on the label?

The terms generally mean that the wood has been air dried for an extended period, much like you do with firewood before using it in your fireplace, or the wood has been exposed to low temperature drying in an enclosed area.  Either method means the wood will usually have a moisture level of 4-13% which will not make it ideal for hot smoking techniques.  Again, these woods are best for high heat level cooking as dry wood produces a lot of heat.  Woods with a moisture level ~20% are ideal for hot smoking.

#8 Does the wood have bark?

Photo shows the nasty bark on products sold by our competitors

Our competitors’ bark on product

 Bark is the protector of the tree and so it is like a sponge, absorbing anything that isn’t healthy to the tree.  When bark-on wood is exposed to heat, you will get a lot of separation or weakness to the cell structure of the bark.  This can loosen during exposure to heat and burn separately causing flare ups in temperature control, sparks, and leave a coating on your equipment.  If you have an option, go bark-free!

#9 Does the packaging label reference cooking or merely say “firewood”?

If you planning on going camping and setting up an elevate cooking grate over the fire, or using a Dutch oven for cowboy-style of cooking, then I don’t have a problem with using split firewood for the cooking part.  This is in the great outdoors where there is a lot of area to handle the smoke vapor.  But if you are using any kind of equipment that has a contained firebox area, please use something other than firewood to cook with.  You simply don’t know where the wood has been or what it may contain so cooking within a confined chamber is not the ideal.  Firewood can have a lot of resin, sap, and spark.

#10 Does the brand sell the product by weight?

 Wood is a commodity that has a lot of variance when it comes to weight due to differences in density, moisture level, and variety of the species.  It is the reason why wood cannot be sold by weight legally.  Look at the packaging and be sure there is a reference to cubic inches, cubic feet, liters, centimeters, etc.  Anything but weight.

 There you have it!  A guide for your upcoming outdoor cooking season using cooking/grilling woods.  Take a bit of time to check the packaging and examine all the information on a website before making your decision.  Most importantly ask yourself: Do I want to eat anything cooked over this?

Dr Smoke

Dr. Smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

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beech-trees of the beech wood species growing in the forest setting

Beech tree of the beech wood species

BEECH WOOD SPECIES

 

Not the most popular of hardwoods in the North American region and certainly it doesn’t have the following in the European market.  However, this is still an interesting hardwood to use for wood-fired cooking techniques.

Going Beech!  That means your entering the wood family that includes white oak as a relative.  Part of the Fagaceae family, the variety we manufacture is Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.  Unlike its cousin, Beech doesn’t produce a heavy, pungent flavouring but rather a more balanced, medium toned profile.  The common names for the varieties found in the Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania regions are American Beech and Red Beech.

Less temperament than Oak, Beech is considered a rather bland wood to look at.  When it is exposed to steam/heat, it takes on a golden hue and that is commonly what the coloring to various meats, poultry, and fish will also show.  Keep in mind, like all our cooking woods, the descriptors used are truly in the palate of the taster.  There are no rules that say one wood must be used with a specific food.  Experimentation is what the art of fire cooking is all about.  And, the region that the wood is harvested from also factors into the flavoring it will provide when foods are exposed to it.  The same wood in a western state will not produce the same flavoring as the wood from an eastern state.  Everything interacts with the tree: soil pH, growth location, sun exposure, precipitation exposure, etc.

Heat Level: High – 21.8 MBTU

Fuel Efficiency: Excellent

Ease of Lighting: Poor

Ideal Uses: Baking/Grilling/Roasting/Braising/Pit Roasting/Hot Smoking/Cold Smoking

So, take a go at Beech, even if it takes a bit to get it lite.  The aroma is pleasant, the burn time is extensive, and the infusion appealing.

Smokinlicious® products referenced in this Blog:

Wood Chunks- Double Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Additional reading:

-BEECH IS CERTAINLY “GRAND” IN EUROPEAN SMOKER WOODS

-WHAT WOOD TO USE FOR SMOKING: A PRIMER

-THE PRECIOUS FOREST

Dr. Smoke Beech wood species for a touch of European mellow flavor!

Dr. Smoke Beech wood species for a touch of European mellow flavor!

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