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!

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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 (EVOO) are using low-grade oils in the production rather than meet the requirements for EVOO 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?

The Culinary Crew wants you to know …

… that your wood cooking and food smoking experiences can offer a good variety of great tastes and awesome flavors by using the full range of acceptable hardwood species.  Without a doubt, hickory commands a lot of media market attention and is a very popular choice but don’t look past other hardwoods like oak, maple, cherry, alder, beech and ash to deliver great results!

We hope this latest posting was informative.  Leave a comment or suggestion as we love hearing from you, especially when it comes to what you want to learn about next.  As always, subscribe and follow us so you don’t miss out on the latest information.

Additional reading the topic of wood species and other cooking ideas!

Additional reading the topic of wood species and other cooking ideas!

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

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chips- Minuto® & Piccolo®

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!

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!

We ask the question why people grill and found the response much different than our expectation.
When you ask why people grill we found the answer very interesting!
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You may not be aware that every year a trade show is held usually in the month of March that is dedicated to all things related to fireplace, stove, heater, barbecue, and outdoor living appliances and accessories.  In addition to the trade show, this organization, known as HPBA or Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, conducts various surveys every couple of years.   A recent survey was posted asking the question “Why do people grill?”

The top answer to this survey surprised and THRILLED me!

Most Recent Statistics

For North America, owning a grill is common.  Currently, in the United States, 7 of 10 adults own a grill while in Canada that number increases to 8 of 10.  Gas grills remain the most popular (64%) with charcoal units coming in second (44%).  When looking at the most popular times of the year to use the grill, holidays, of course, dominate.  Memorial Day and 4th of July are the clear winners for firing up the grill but Father’s Day remains a high demand grilling day as well likely due to this holiday falling right before true summer begins on the North American calendar.  Of course, Labor Day is not far behind on the list. 

This survey will be conducted again in 2019 with updated numbers likely available by the close of the year.  I can’t wait to view them to see current trends.

Now to the question of “Why do people grill?” 

It’s All About Flavor

The number one reason people stated for grilling is for flavor!  This got me thinking about this answer. 

What exactly made the flavor difference? Is it that the heat of the grill produced changes in the ingredients used?  Was it the charring affect from direct fire of the grill which leads to a distinct taste?  Or was it the flavor choices used when grilling with wood like wood chips, wood chunks, and charcoal?

I think without adding these follow up questions, it’s very hard to know just what the flavor enhancer is when grilling for these respondents. 

For me, there is no question that it is the introduction of smoke to my outdoor cooking experience.  Whether I’m cooking on a gas grill that I’ve included a smoker box of wood chunks, a charcoal grill equipped with hardwood charcoal or charwood plus wood chunks, an electric grill I’ve incorporate a micro wood chip product, or my outdoor fireplace that I’ve converted to an open pit fire using hardwood, I let the tantalizing smoke vapor work with the other ingredients of my foods to bring out the best of all the blended flavors. 

Smokinlicous Charwood products.
#charwood

Direct fire or indirect cooking, either way the eating experience of foods cooked grilled, smoked, or by embers is unique and is likely the reason why people from around the world continue to seek out these methods of cooking. 

Smokinlicious Double filet smoking wood chunks
Smokinlicious Double filet smoking wood chunks

So I agree with the 72% of North Americans who say they grill for flavor but I’d certainly add that I grill for flavor that is heightened by the addition of the natural plant material known as hardwood which takes my grilling to an umami level that’s hard to beat by any other cooking method.

What is your reason for grilling?  Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on all platforms.  Providing tips, techniques, recipes, and the science behind the flame and fire to improve your skills with wood-fired cooking! That’s SmokinLicious®!

SmokinLicious products in this blog:

Charwood

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

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

More blogs you might enjoy:

BOOST UP THE FLAVOR OF YOUR SMOKER BOX!

GRILLING & SMOKING QUESTIONS/ANSWERS THAT MAY SURPRISE YOU!

TEMPERATURE, MATERIAL AND TIME DETERMINE WHEN ITS CALLED BARBECUE

Dr. Smoke-
Dr. Smoke- The answer to Why people grill was a pleasant surprise to our Smokinlicious® products and the flavour they bring to BBQ foods!

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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 of 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.

The Culinary Team wants you to know …

… although Beech is common in many areas of the world and often used to smoke foods and brew beer in the European tradition, our harvest region of the Eastern Appalachian Mountains has a distinctive balance of soil Ph levels and climate conditions which give our Beech hardwood cooking products a ‘one of a kind’ smoky flavor profile that can be used for a wide variety of foods!

Smokinlicious® products used in this Blog:

Wood Chunks- Double Filet

Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Additional blogs to read:

-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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CRUSHED OR DICED WOOD CHIPS? Click To Tweet

You see the options all the time.  Crushed or diced tomatoes?  Every chef knows when and why you choose one over the other. Did you know the same concept is true for wood chips?

At SmokinLicious®, the only true cooking wood Company, we produce our wood chips in the same manner as tomato processors! We crush the wood for our Grande Sapore® chips – these pieces produce a unique flavor because of their shape just like crushed tomatoes give a deeper flavor to recipes!  These chips are meant to last and work with other ingredients for full flavor balance. We also offer our “diced” option of predetermined wood slices to produce our Minuto® and Piccolo® chips for smoldering on heat plates, cast iron, and flavor bars.  Just as diced tomatoes give a fresh-from-the-garden taste, diced wood chips likewise produce a different, often more intense fresh wood flavoring.

SmokinLicious® only manufacturers cooking woods.  That is our primary and only business.  We know hardwoods for cooking, all types of wood-fired methods.  And we know wood flavoring – how to get the best clean flavors from the select hardwoods ideal for cooking!

See for yourself why we are a superior product with a superior outcome.  Enjoy the benefits of the knowledge of our flavorists and get the options you are looking for.  Made the SmokinLicious® way!

Dr. Smoke- there is a smoking difference between crushed or diced wood chips

Dr. Smoke- there is a smoking difference between crushed or diced wood chips

Our Culinary Team wants you know

… that the crushing and dicing method of our making of culinary wood chips is strikingly similar in concept to how grapes are processed in the phases of wine making?  For example, the Ripasso method of Italian wine production starts out with crushed, partially dried grapes and proceeds on to fermentation with the leftover skins.  Both Ripasso produced wine and our crushed or diced wood chips offer distinctive flavor, body and personality in a class of their own!Our process is very similar to making wine from grapes

We have selected some of our Quora Grilling & Smoking Questions/Answers for you!
We have selected some of our Quora Grilling & Smoking Questions/Answers for you!

Gilling & Smoking Questions/Answers Click To Tweet

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Grilling & Smoking Questions— We’ve all heard the saying, “There are no stupid questions”.  I answer a lot of questions about cooking, grilling, smoking, and wood-fired cooking over the course of a week.  I am always surprised that when writing on these topics, I don’t often think of the truly novice cook and offer very basic tips.  So, today, that’s what my goal is. 

Grilling & Smoking Questions: When cooking a rack of ribs, do you cut them into individual pieces and then grill or leave them on the rack?

I honestly understand where this question comes from.  You often see ribs served pre-cut into single bone servings at restaurants so why wouldn’t you start to think they must be cooked that way.

Unfortunately, the best way to cook ribs is as a rack when purchasing baby back or St. Louis cut spare rib for pork or beef ribs.  This allows a crust to form on the outside when cooked, and for the rub to penetrate the entire rack so the flavors are more even.

Grilling & Smoking Questions : What is the white stuff on the bottom of the pork ribs?

That is a membrane we call silver skin that generally is left on the rack when the butcher cuts the meat.  You always want to remove that membrane as it can prevent the meat from tenderizing and is rubbery if eaten.  Simply take a butter knife and insert between the membrane and the meat at one end.  Loosen it and then gripping the membrane with a paper towel, peel it off, trying to get it in one piece.

Grilling & Smoking Questions: How do I cook chicken on the grill so it doesn’t dry out?

For those that don’t feel like a master of the grill, just doing meats on the grill can pose a challenge.  Chicken is no exception.  In fact, it can be a difficult protein to grill since white and dark meat cook at different rates.  The easiest method of ensuring moist and flavorful chicken, is to cook it on a two-zone grill set up.  That means only half the burners are turned on while the chicken is placed on the grate that has no burners on.  This allows the heat to radiate to the chicken and cook without burning the skin or cooking beyond 165°F.

Grilling & Smoking Questions : Do I soak my wood chips or chunks to make smoke?

Great question and one to ask before you start.  No, do not soak the chips or chunks or any wood product for that matter unless a manufacturer of specific equipment requests it to be soaked.  When you soak the wood, only the outer layer, about 1/8-inch thick gets wet.  Once a wet wood is applied to a hot fire, the fire’s energy works to remove the excess water in the form of steam.  This take energy from the fire which means you can alter the cooking temperature of the equipment.  Apply wood product dry to get the best flavor from the wood even if using a smoker box or aluminum foil.

Grilling & Smoking Questions : What differentiates charred food from burnt food?

Let’s first define what charred foods are.  When you char a food which usually is an animal protein or thick-skinned vegetable but can be just about anything, a dark colored outer crust forms either around the edges of the food item or completely across the food’s surface.  The inside of the food will retain moisture and tender texture. If the food item is dry, tough, and an ugly color, it’s burnt.

Grilling & Smoking Questions: Does soaking your steak in marinade overnight make it juicier?

Marinades are ideal when you want to add a flavor level to meats, poultry and fish.  The thing with marinades is you need to be careful not over-marinate.  Since meat is 75% water, adding another liquid i.e. marinade, will not penetrate beyond the outside.  Oh, you can cut some slits into the meat, fish, or poultry to get is a bit deeper but marinating something overnight will not get any more flavor into the food item.  Plus, you take the risk of producing a mushy result if the protein of the meat is broken down too far.

Grilling & Smoking Questions : I assume when you smoke with wood it takes quite a bit of wood to make the smoke.  Exactly how much do I need?

This is one misunderstanding that drives me crazy!  It is not about the quantity of wood for hot smoking.  Quality and moisture are the keys.  First, find a hardwood and only hardwood, that has some moisture to it.  About 25% is ideal.  Whether you’re using a gas grill, charcoal grill, or electric unit, you’ll only need about 6-8 ounces of hardwood to start.  Know up front, you won’t and shouldn’t see a ton of smoke and that smoke should be light in color. 

Grilling & Smoking Questions : How do a get “fall off the bone” ribs when I grill?

I’m going to be completely honest – you don’t want fall off the bone ribs!  If you prepare the ribs correctly – trimming the excess fat, removing the silver skin, and marinating with your favorite rub, brine or marinade – grill and/or smoke them at a lower temperature (I prefer 225°F) for roughly 3 hours, and then check for doneness with the “bend test”.  Taking a pair of tongs, lift the ribs in the center of the rack from the grate.  If they bend and have slight cracking to the meat, they are done.  You’ll still find the meat will come right off the bone when you bite into it.

Grilling & Smoking Questions : What should you do first before using a new grill or smoker?

Clean it then test burn it without food.  You need to clean the surfaces – inside lid, grates, side walls – to remove any remaining chemicals from the grill’s construction.  To extend the life of the grill grates, season them with a high heat oil such as avocado, peanut, or canola oil. Simply brush or wipe on the oil with a small, clean paint brush or with a paper towel. Wipe off the excess and then follow with a test burn.

By running a test burn, you can remove any further impurities left from the manufacturing of the unit so you have no tainted flavors to your foods. If you’ve purchased an LP/Gas unit, test for leaks before lighting the grill.  Oh, and always read the manual first thing so you know full operation and warnings on your unit.

I’ll be sure to provide follow up posting on questions that come my way in the future to ensure that I’m always assisting everyone – from novice to pro cook.

Making you an informed consumer through valuable articles like this one.   Leave us a comment and follow us or subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor.  That’s SmokinLicious®.

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

More related reading on our Grilling & Smoking Questions and technique see our directory on previous blogs!
More related reading on our Grilling & Smoking Questions and technique see our directory on previous blogs!

Other common questions

-HOW MUCH WOOD TO ADD WHEN SMOKING

-3 METHODS OF SMOKING BOSTON BUTT FOR AUTHENTIC BARBECUE FLAVOR

-WHAT WOOD TO USE FOR SMOKING: A PRIMER

Dr. Smoke-
Dr. Smoke- We have selected some of our Quora Grilling & Smoking Questions/Answers for you!

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

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listen to JUST BECAUSE YOUR SMOKING FOOD

Recently, I received a very interesting question regarding the safety of ingesting foods and beverages that have been exposed to smoke vapor using hand-held food smokers.  Specifically, the question consisted of whether you need to be 18 years of age for items that have been infused with smoke using these gadgets.

The breville handheld smoker

#handheldsmoker

This got me thinking:

  • does the word “smoke” automatically give off the bad vibe response?
  • why do people only inquire about the smoke without needing to know more about the plant source that produces that smoke?

There is a lot of data out there on carcinogenic effect to high heat grilled foods like burgers, chicken, and steaks, even data on hot smoking foods at lower temperatures.  Really, what it all boils down to is, if you grill meats to the point where you blacken them, that increases the risk for the carcinogens.  Even if you cook to the blacken state, eating these foods in moderation will halt any real risk over an average person’s lifetime.

So why the question on legality to consume smoked foods and beverages?

 If you understand that the tobacco industry had to start putting warning labels on tobacco packaging back in 1966, and smokeless tobacco products in 2010, then you comprehend that smoke vapor does contain toxins.  Everything regarding the level of toxicity with cooking is related to the type of food, method of cooking, cooking temperature, and length of cooking time.

Let’s examine those parameters from the handheld food smoking perspective.

You are not cooking the food by this method, merely infusing it with the smoke flavonoids, so there is no temperature (cold smoking technique).  You are not exposing the food to smoke vapor for hours – it really comes down to minutes.  Most importantly, you are not directly attempting to inhale the smoke vapor into your lungs.  Yes, if your standing near the container that is holding the cold smoke when you open it, you will have some exposure but not like the person that takes a drag directly from a tobacco product or is chewing on a tobacco product!

Like anything else in our world, there are risks to everything we do, experience, sense, taste, explore, desire.  Hot smoking is another name for roasting just at a lower temperature and usually with cheaper cuts of meat.

SmokinLicious® Double Filet wood chunks are clean and bark free wood pieces that will provide a tasty tinge of smoke to all of your favorite ingredients.

SmokinLicious® Double Filet wood chunks

What should never be compromised is the plant material – the wood – that is used to extract these flavors.

I believe it is time to start asking more questions about the hardwood products being used for the smoking process rather than focusing on the process itself. Click To Tweet  Perhaps the risks associated with dirty, moldy, contaminated wood are too high to ignore anymore.

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

More related reading on the art of smoking food and cooking wood

More related reading on the art of smoking food and cooking wood

More blog topics like this one:

-APPLEWOOD – WHY WE DON’T USE IT! – HERE’S WHY

-SHOULD YOU GRILL WITH MOLDY WOODS?

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

-SMOKING-GRILLING WOOD SELLING TERMS DEMYSTIFIED

Dr. Smoke hopes you enjoyed-JUST BECAUSE YOUR SMOKING FOOD (THAT IS!) DOESN’T MAKE IT ALL BAD!

Dr. Smoke hopes you enjoyed-JUST BECAUSE YOUR SMOKING FOOD (THAT IS!) DOESN’T MAKE IT ALL BAD!

We don't use or sell Applewood! Too many potential health risks
We don’t use or sell Applewood! Too many potential health risks
We don’t offer any applewood for sale! Here's why. Click To Tweet
Listen to the audio of this blog on why we don't sell Applewod

Why we Don’t Use or Sell Applewood– Those of you living outside of New York State may be surprised to learn that we are the number two state for apple production behind Washington state. However, we do rank number one for the greatest number of varieties of apples.  Annually, our state produces nearly 30 million bushels of apples.

With an abundance of apple trees, the assumption would be that our number one hardwood offering must be apple.  However, you would be wrong.

Applewood Abundance Comes at a Cost

Just because apple wood is abundant in our state doesn’t mean it should automatically be sold as a cooking wood.  This is without question, a favorite fruit.  When something is at high demand it is protected in order to assure the supply for that demand.  For this reason, growers of apples put their priority into preserving the fruit production. 

Keep in mind, an apple tree may not start producing fruit for the first 8-10 years but it can produce for 50 or more years.  In fact, with careful and frequent pruning, these trees do remain in the orchard bearing fruit if they don’t become infested with a disease or pest.

Good Agricultural Practices

Around the year 2001, the New York apple industry began working on a strategic plan in conjunction with Cornell University to develop what they referred to as an integrated fruit production program.  The purpose of the program was to ensure apples were produced using environmentally friendly processes to include eco-friendly insect, mite, disease, vertebrate and weed pest management.  In other words, this was meant to use more “friendly” pesticide applications and methods.  What didn’t change is the that chemicals were still being used.

The USDA has done extensive study on pesticides and their life on agricultural products (USDA Pesticide Data Program). As a result of the studies, here is a list of the common pesticides found to be present on apples in what is termed residual form.

USDA Findings:

Diphenylamine (DPA) 82.8%
Thiabendazole 81.0%
Pyrimethanil 75.2%
Chlorantraniliprole 41.2%
Acetamiprid 28.7%
Imidacloprid 20.2%
Carbendazim (MBC) 17.3%
Tetrahydrophthalimide (THPI) 16.7%
Methoxyfenozide 15.9%
Fludioxonil 13.4%
Thiacloprid 12.7%
Boscalid 12.7%
Pyraclostrobin 11.8%
Phosmet 9.6%
Azinphos methyl 9.2%
Fenpyroximate 8.5%
Endosulfan II 8.1%
Myclobutanil 8.1%
Diazinon 6.5%
Trifloxystrobin 5.8%
Spinetoram 5.0%
Endosulfan I 4.3%
Etoxazole 3.3%
Pendimethalin 3.3%
Fenpropathrin 2.8%
Fenbuconazole 2.7%
Carbaryl 2.4%
Endosulfan sulfate 1.9%
Flonicamid 1.6%
Chlorpyrifos 1.6%
Cyhalothrin, Total (Cyhalothrin-L + R157836 epimer) 1.1%
Spinosad 0.9%
o-Phenylphenol 0.9%
Imazalil 0.5%
Chlorpropham 0.4%
Difenoconazole 0.3%
Permethrin cis 0.3%
Esfenvalerate+Fenvalerate Total 0.1%
Buprofezin 0.1%
Thiamethoxam 0.1%
Pyriproxyfen 0.1%
Tebuconazole 0.1%
Pronamide 0.1%
Methoxychlor olefin 0.1%
Dicofol p,p’ 0.1%
Permethrin trans 0.1%
DCPA 0.1%

The premise for using all these pesticides is the common belief that apples cannot be grown without chemical pesticides. Despite efforts to institute ecofriendly practices, we remain dependent on chemicals.  But here’s the kicker: apples are ranked number 4 out of 12 as a fruit most contaminated by pesticides.  Washing with water doesn’t do enough either. The chemical pesticides can penetrate the skin into the flesh of the apple making every bite a risk.

In the Fruit, In the Tree

So what does this mean for the actual tree growing the apples?  Spray the tree with chemical pesticides to protect the fruit production and consequently, you compromise the tree for any other purpose including cooking.  Pesticide applications embed into the soil base of the tree, which then enters the root system, and is on the way to the other parts of the tree.  Pesticides can also become air born as they turn into a vapor and travel by airflow (think wind).  The bark of any tree is a great absorber of these air particles.  Once pesticides enter the human body, they are stored in the colon.   Symptoms then progress to stomach pains, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Certainly, toxicity can advance and produce colorectal cancer.  Know that once the chemicals are absorbed into the tree’s roots and nutritional supply center, they are there for life.

As a company, SmokinLicious® just can’t participate in risk to the public’s health.  If we can offer products that are as natural as possible, bark-free to prevent absorption of pollutants captured by the bark, we will do it.

Avoid Applewood and orchard woods only use Forest Fresh wood for Smoking.
Our Forest Fresh Symbol

Given there are so many other choices for safe hardwoods free of potential chemical contamination. We opt to dismiss apple wood even though we are a state in apple abundance.

In conclusion SmokinLicious® makes you an informed consumer through valuable articles like this one.   So leave us a comment and follow us or subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor and fire.  Most importantly, that is SmokinLicious®.

SmokinLicious® Products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

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

Additionally, read more on orchard woods:

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

-TO BARK OR NOT

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

-THE BALANCE OF WOOD LIGNIN IN BARBECUE

Dr. Smoke- Now you know the reasons we don't use or sell Applewood or any other Orchard woods for Smoking, Grilling or Cooking!
Dr. Smoke- Now you know the reasons we don’t use or sell Applewood or any other Orchard woods for Smoking, Grilling or Cooking!

We never apply THE 5 SECOND RULE at Smokinlicious®

We never apply THE 5 SECOND RULE at SmokinLicious®

THE 5 SECOND RULE

We’ve all heard it!  The infamous 5-second rule.  When something falls on the floor, you have 5 seconds to pick it up and still consume it. At SmokinLicious®, that will NEVER be the case.  If it falls to the floor, it is NEVER used in our manufacturing process!

You might ask, “Why to apply this rule when we’re only talking about wood, right?”  If you understand the basis of wood-fired cooking then you understand that smoke is a vapor.  And like any vapor, it attaches itself to anything in its surrounding area.  When you cook with wood, you are adding its smoke or vapor as an ingredient to the foods being cooked.

So, do you really want something that has been on the floor for a short period or a longer period to be considered an ingredient in the food you will consume?

SmokinLicious® is proud to be Kosher certified

SmokinLicious® is unique in this thinking and as a result of this approach allowed our wood processes to be Kosher certified! We handle everything with care and with your food consumption in mind.  To us, wood is a flavor ingredient and needs to be exceptionally clean.

Whether it’s our larger cuts of hardwood like our friction logs, barrel logs, and assorted chunk sizes or our smallest product, Smokin’ Dust®, we ensure that the wood never touches the ground or floor.  SmokinLicious® developed custom storage containers and air collected systems that preserve the cleanliness of the wood and assure no product is EVER swept from the floor!

Our Double Filet wood chunk

Why wouldn’t you want to deal with the leading cooking wood manufacturer in North America?  Especially when others are simply recycling their waste wood products.

Don’t you think your customers care about the 5-second rule and deserve to know if you allow it?

Get the peace of mind AND a guarantee with a REAL cooking wood company…  SmokinLicious®!

Dr. Smoke does not believe in THE 5 SECOND RULE at Smokinlicious®

Dr. Smoke does not believe in THE 5 SECOND RULE at SmokinLicious®

Oak tree in full autumn canopy.

Oak tree in full autumn canopy.

AS HARD AS OAK HARDWOOD!

With over 60 species of oak hardwood in the USA, this hardwood can be split into two categories: Red Oak and White Oak.  It is one of the most popular hardwoods to use in cooking likely because of its ready availability.  But as we’ve mentioned before, just because something is available in your area, doesn’t make it a success for all cooking techniques and foods.

Oak is a heavy, strong, and ring-porous hardwood resulting in a coarse texture and prominent grain.  Oak hardwood is part of the Fagaceae family of wood.   The scientific names for the varieties we manufacture are Quercus coccinea Muenchh., Quercus falcata Michx. Var. Falcata, Quercus muehlenbergii Engelm., Quercus prinus L., and Quercus velutina Lam.   The common names for the varieties found in the Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania regions include Red Oak, Spanish Oak, Yellow Chestnut Oak, Rock Oak, Smoothbark Oak.

Oak is considered the strongest in flavor for hardwoods.  It is known for providing deep coloring to the outer skin of foods meaning a very dark often black outer skin and it can be overpowering to those who aren’t used to smoked foods.  It also is a hardwood that can mold easily especially when exposed to significant variations in temperature and humidity.  Additionally, it does not like to make contact with metal which can be a challenge when cutting with metal/steel tools!  Oak will show its distaste by producing black streaks on the wood or even coating its entire outside with a black “dye”-like substance.

Heat Level: High – 21.7 (red) 26.5 (white) MBTU

Fuel Efficiency: Excellent

Ease of Lighting: Fair

Ideal Uses: Grilling/Braising/Pit Roasting/Hot Smoking/Cold Smoking (white)

So, if you are keen on bold flavors and definitely like smokiness to your foods, then oak is a clear winner.  However, I do recommend using less of this wood when cooking poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables and herbs/spices especially if you have a gas assist unit or are using lump hardwood charcoal or hardwood Charwood for fuel.

Our Oak Hardwood is a very dense piece of wood for long-lasting wood-fired cooking and smoking

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Blocks

Smoker Logs

Wood Chunks: Double and Single Filet

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

More Related reading on this subject

More Related reading on this subject

Related reading:

-THE BOLDNESS OF OAK!

-IS THE FOOD INDUSTRY CULPABLE FOR THE SPREAD OF OAK TREE MORTALITY?

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

-WHAT WOOD TO USE FOR SMOKING: A PRIMER

Dr. Smoke uses Oak Hardwood for long ember fired cooking and grilling!

Dr. Smoke uses Oak Hardwood for long ember fired cooking and grilling!

Olive Trees of Italy are facing the same Bacterium invasion as the USA
Italy’s Olive Trees

ITALY’S OLIVE TREES FALL TO BACTERIUM Click To Tweet

I am a wood geek.  I love the living cells of trees and the hundreds of compounds that produce the various aromatics, tannins and flavors that make trees so valuable for medicinal, cosmetic, and flavoring uses.  Whenever I’m in the woods, I always feel like these giants are breathing with me.

Then my joyful thoughts turn sad.  Observing over the years how our lifestyle and explorative ways have changed our atmosphere which in turn changes the natural order of things.  One of those things is our trees.

But North America is not alone!  Battles over the loss of various hardwoods and softwoods continue as we fight to save the forest giants as well as orchard soldiers around the globe.

Prepare for Higher Olive Oil Pricing

It’s called Xylella fastidiosa and it’s a deadly bacterium that is gaining attention as it takes mark on the olive trees and groves of Italy since 2013.  In 2016, this bacterium was blamed for the death of some one million olive trees in Southern Italy most of which were cut down to stop the deadly bacterium from spreading.  But it hasn’t stopped.  Even with netting and routine pruning, olive trees continue to suffer and eventually die or are cut down. 

We know that the bacterium starts somewhere within the heart of the tree and then travels towards the roots and branches.  This is the reason pruning can sometimes be beneficial.  Research has also shown that there are specific varieties of olive trees that are more susceptible to Xylella resulting in growers moving toward varieties with less risk when they replace or add new growth areas.

There is a pest, the meadow spittlebug, that is the carrier of Xylella and the reason it is necessary to net the trees to prevent this pest from traveling and spreading this major bacterium concern to other areas and other countries.

Much like our North American Emerald Ash Borer pest that is responsible for tens of millions of ash tree death and destruction, the meadow spittlebug and the Xylella bacterium it can carry results in loss of olive production to those damaged branches.  Although the olive oil pressed from the olives research shows does not carry any disease or risk, the bacterium has significantly reduced the volume of olives available to produce oil.  Thus, pricing goes up as availability of olives depletes.

It’s Not Just an Olive Concern

You might think this is just an olive tree issue but you’d be deadly wrong.  Xylella is a strain of bacterium that is considered one of the most dangerous plant bacteria in the world.  It causes a tree to die of thirst from the inside out by blocking the xylem or transport tissue of the tree responsible for moving water and nutrients from the roots upwards to other parts of the tree. Xylella is then carried from tree to tree by the spittlebug who latch on to the tree’s xylem tubes sucking out liquid.  When they travel to the next tree to feed, the bacterium they’ve picked up is passed into that tree’s xylem when they go to feed again.  With no cure, the plant or tree stays infected for life, until it dies. 

There have been strains of Xylella fastidiosa in citrus as well as pear, peach and plum.  There is also a potential new strain in Southern California that could affect the grape production which could decimate the wine production something not needed after all the years of wildfires.

Continents currently affected by this bacterium include North America, Europe, and Asia but more are expected.

What’s Next?

In my opinion, the focused concern is on the specific market of product whether it be olive oil, wine, or fruits and not on the tree destruction that is occurring all around us.  I’m wondering how much longer we have to witness century old trees dying and family businesses evaporating from what appears to be nature taking back or returning to the soil what she feels is rightly hers.  I can’t help but think that these pests that are invading our largest plants on our planet are likely the result of our own actions or even inaction.

How concerned are you about the North American trees?  Leave us a comment and subscribe to get our latest tips, techniques, and recipes, plus, the science behind the fire and smoke. 

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

Charwood

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

More related reading:

-I’LL TAKE MINE WITH AN OLIVE!

-TO BARK OR NOT

-IS THE FOOD INDUSTRY CULPABLE FOR THE SPREAD OF OAK TREE MORTALITY?

Dr. Smoke- Olive trees are threaten with pest just like our forests in the USA.
Dr. Smoke- protect our tree resources.


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

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

Listen to the audio of this blog

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

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

Refresher on Lignin

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

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

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

Profiles of Smoke Compounds Click To Tweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lignin Levels in North American Hardwoods

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

Acer saccharum Marsh./Sugar Maple = 22%

Alnus rubra Bong./Red Alder = 24%

Betula alleghanienstis Britton/Yellow Birch = 21%

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

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

Fagus grandifolia Ehrh./American Beech = 22%

Fraxinus Americana L./White Ash = 26%

Populus tremoides Michx./ Quaking Aspen = 19%

Prunus serotine Ehrh./Black Cherry = 21%

Quercus alba L./White Oak = 27%

Quercus prinus L./Chestnut Oak = 24%

Quercus rubra L./Northern Red Oak = 24%

Quercus stellate Wangenh./ Post Oak = 24%

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

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

SmokinLicious® products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

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

More information on the composition of wood:

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

-TO BARK OR NOT

-Lab Report on Moisture and storage of wood

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

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

We need to keep out Microbial Bacteria from the food chain!
We need to keep out Microbial Bacteria from the food chain!

Prevent microbial bacteria in the food system. Click To Tweet

Listen to the audio of this blog

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

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

Hosts of Contamination

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

Raw Material Transport

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

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

Decreasing Your Risk

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

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

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

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

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

SmokinLicious products:

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

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

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

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

Additional reading:

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

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

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

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

Our 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.

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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

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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. Click To Tweet

#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.”

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