Wed 4 Apr 2018
Read other related stories: Cooking With Wood , General Smoking Information , Smoking Tips
WHEN YOU COOKING WITH WOOD YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TO THINK
ABOUT YOUR SAFETY
I’m going, to be frank. When having an opportunity to search through social media photos of various foods cooked by fire and smoke and seeing a reference to the wood, I get uncomfortable. There doesn’t appear to be the same concern for the choice of wood as there is for the rub, cut of meat, quality of meat, choice of equipment, and sauce.
Why is it that the wood used to flavor the foods grilled and smoked is an afterthought?
Recently, I ran across an article in Reader’s Digest that focused on the dangers of wildfire smoke, especially for those living in areas of the United States that are hit repeatedly by these events. What struck me the most was the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index: good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, and hazardous. This guide is used to recommend evacuations of locations, use of HEPA filtration to allow people to remain in an affected area, and as a method of gaining valuable data post-fire on the effects, smoke has on plant life. There is considerable data available from tree bark which has long been known to absorb pollutants.
This got me thinking about hardwoods used for smoking, grilling, and overall cooking of foods. There is no regulatory agency that oversees wood used for cooking. Despite efforts to get the Food Safety and Inspection Services division to recognize the risks associated with cooking with wood, no governmental agency has stepped up to offer regulations in this area such as established inspections of equipment and wood.
As the manufacturer of all the products sold under the brand SmokinLicious®, we struggled with what steps to take that would demonstrate our commitment to only offer hardwoods that are considered safe for cooking. Although we stressed that we are bark-free (an important step to reduce the exposure to toxins locked in the bark layers), that we only manufacture from the heartwood (an area of the tree that is known to be resistant to insects and decay), and that we manufacture each cut to the wood for the end cooking product, we simply desired some validation of these steps.
Since we’ve always considered the wood another ingredient to cooking, we decided to explore the options from the food perspective. What certification could we apply for that would demonstrate that we are a food-related item? Kosher certification was the perfect place to start!
For us, the steps we’ve taken to obtain Kosher certification via VA’AD HAKASHRUS OF BUFFALO verified our commitment to keep our manufacturing facility at the highest standard possible. People are drawn to kosher food for various reasons including quality, a healthy lifestyle, food safety, and allergy security. By securing this certification, we can demonstrate to the public that our products satisfy the food quality and safety requirements they should strive for daily. As such, our customers don’t have to settle for an unregulated product that frankly, could contain pretty much anything in the package because, as pointed out, there is no system of check on wood cooking and smoking products.
The SmokinLicious® Index
Taking a page from the Environmental Protection Agency, I thought it would be helpful to develop an index to use for hardwood intended for cooking. Our grading system is based on toxicity factors of a wood, ease of lighting, sustained burn, coal formation, smoke production, and heat level. Our index is: Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, Unhealthy.
Excellent: Alder, American Beech, Ash, Cherry, Hickory, Pecan, Maple, Apple
Good: Persimmon, Red Oak, White Oak, Mesquite
Fair: Birchwood, Chestnut, Walnut, Peach
Poor: Aspen, Basswood, Poplar, Sycamore, Butternut, Cottonwood, Elm, Willow, Dogwood
Unhealthy: Buckeye, Hackberry, Gum (Sweetgum)
We hope you will find this guide useful. Use it as a means of sorting through all the types of wood offerings to make an educated decision, to look for key information on the packaging that will confirm you are making a safe decision. After all, why take any additional risks when it comes to the health and safety of your family.
Making you an informed consumer through valuable articles like this one. Hope you enjoyed this blog about cooking with wood! Leave us a comment and subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor, that’s SmokinLicious®.
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