Thursday, November 16, 2017

10 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU COULD SMOKE

10 food items that you never thought you could smoke! Once you master these items your culinary flavoring world with smoke will be end list.
10 food items that you never thought you could smoke! Once you master these items your culinary flavoring world with smoke will be end list.
We are going beyond the obvious and the traditional when it comes to items that you can smoke. It’s time to up your skills and menu items with the top things you would never think of to smoke.
Keep in mind, we are not just referring to hot smoking. We’re including the quick technique of handheld food smoking as well as stove top smoking in a pan.
Let’s get to it!

#1 Banana

Honestly, banana can be smoked via an indirect hot smoking method as well as with a handheld food smoker. With a peak season from January thru April, and imports readily available, you can enjoy this fruit anytime of the year! For the handheld smoker technique, skin the banana and expose to the smoke vapor. This just takes minutes. For the hot smoking technique, you’ll need to be sure that the banana is placed on the side of the grill that does not have the heat source so it doesn’t get too mushy.

#2 Sauces

Do you have a favorite sauce recipe that you would love to add a smoky component to? Don’t waste a lot of time trying to get smoked ingredients into your sauce. Instead, just expose the sauce to a cold smoke application using a handheld food smoker. Using this method lets you decide just how strong to make the overall smoky flavor.

#3 Radish

The best thing about radish is all the root colors they are available in; red, white, purple, and black. Their shape can be round or cylindrical and they have the distinct undertone of spice and zest. They are so easy to smoke on a grill with hardwood by slicing them and placing in a vegetable grill pan. You can even place whole radish directly in hot embers to add flavor and char.

#4 Chestnuts

You’re familiar with roasting chestnuts but did you realize that smoking them is just like slow roasting? Chestnuts have a lot of moisture which make them ideal for the grill. Whether on a charcoal, gas or even a standard stove top grill pan, by including wood in the mix, this nut takes on a whole new flavor. Fresh chestnuts are available during the winter months so start planning.

#5 Chocolate

You’ve probably guessed that chocolate smoking can only be done with a cold smoking technique. This ensures that no chocolate melts and all that yummy goodness stays perfect inside. Using a handheld smoker, smoke infusion can take as little as 15 minutes when you let all the smoke captured with the smoking bag dissipate. Otherwise, it can be a short as just a few minutes.

 

#6 Water

Why would you want to smoke water? First, there are many recipes that require water in them so this is a subtle way to add a smoky ingredient. Second, smoked cocktails are all the rage. Why not smoke the ice cubes instead of the entire drink? The easiest way, is to smoke water and then place it in ice cube trays and freeze. You can smoke the water on a hot smoker, stove top smoker or with a handheld smoker. Lots of options.

#7 Cream

Cream is one of those dairy items that reacts well with smoke vapor. In fact, most items that contain milk by-product will smoke well. I really like cream because you can do so much with it: Include it in sauces, desserts, soups. Each time you use it in a different dish, it will take on a new flavor profile.

#8 Citrus Fruits

All citrus fruits are simply spectacular when they are exposed to smoke. Now you don’t have to smoke the main protein of the meal. Instead, just serve the citrus with it, whether you juice it on fish, add it to a sauce, or drizzle it on your favorite cake. Again, you can hot smoke, stove top smoke, or cold smoke citrus.

 

#9 Spices

Any spice can be turned into a smoked spice. Want smoked curry? Go ahead! Smoked Cinnamon? You go it! You can smoke any spice easily with a handheld food smoker. In minutes, you can have your own version of any spice smoked.

 

#10 Herbs

Just as you can do with many of the previous items on our list, herbs allow you to decide where the intensity of the smoke flavor will come from. You can smoke herbs and then sprinkle on top of a dish, you can smoke the herb and add it to a cooked item — think herb crusted chicken, or it can be married with other ingredients that the specific herb is compatible with. Remember, a cold smoke method will keep the herb in its raw state while hot smoking will produce a dehydrated version of the herb that is so much better than those dry herbs you buy in the grocery store.

ACORN SQUASH- SWEET & SMOKY

The three stages of preparing acorn squash on the grill-propped-cooking over wood-finished product!
The stages of cooking acorn squash on the grill-stuffing with brown sugar-cooking over wood on the gas grill-finished product!
cherry wood placed on the diffuser of the gas grill to add a smokey flavorOne of the most popular winter squash that can be found pretty much anytime of the year, acorn squash is rich in fiber and potassium.  Time to take this squash favorite and smoke it on the gas grill with cherry wood chunks.  But first, we’ll give it some flavorful stuffing to make this exceptionally sweet.

Clean the Acorn Squash

cut off the top and then scoop out the seeds to provide a great vessal for the sugar and spicesMost acorn squash weigh between 1-2 pounds.  After cleaning the outside under running water, cut off the pointed end and ensure the bottom is flat so the squash won’t tip while cooking.  Now, scoop out the seeds and membrane until clean, just like you would do with a pumpkin.  The seed-free squash is going to be our ingredient vessel that will make the acorn squash so sweet and full of goodness.

Sweeten Things Up

into the cavity of the squash add 3/4 stick of butterOnce the acorn squash is clean of seeds and membrane, it’s time to stuff it.  The ingredients are simple: brown sugar mixed with cinnamon and butter.  That’s it!
First put approximately ¾ stick of softened butter into the acorn squash center.  Then pack in the brown sugar-cinnamon mix.  And I mean pack it in!  Be sure to press down so the butter and brown sugar mix combine.  Once filled, I sprinkle a bit extra of the sugar mixture on the cut top.  Now place the acorns in a pan that will be heat safe on the gas grill.  Time to prepare the gas grill.

Smoking on the Gas Grill

the pan with the squash is placed on the non heated side of the grill, while the heated side has the double filet cherry wood chunksI’ve turned two burners to “on” of my 4-burner grill.  I add two SmokinLicious® Single Filet Cherry Wood Chunks to one of the heat shields on my grill.   Next, I add the acorn squash to a roasting pan and set it on the grate of the grill that has the burners turned “off”.   This is known as an indirect method of cooking.  The squash will cook until tender all the way through.  Depending on the size of the squash, this will take between 1-1/2 to 3 hours.  Then get ready for the sweet, buttery smooth squash meat!

A Side Dish or Dessert

Even though the butter was placed to the bottom of our squash and the brown sugar mix on top, the lighter weight of the butter will rise to the surface while the brown sugar mix sinks to the base.  These ingredients will mix during cooking to sweeten the squash meat.  Once tenderized, remove and allow to cool before handling.  Then scrap out the squash meat with the cooked butter-brown sugar mix, combine, and enjoy.  This is sweet so you can enjoy it as a side dish or as a dessert – a spoonful on pound cake or puffed pastry is define.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

SMOKING FOODS IN FOIL: PROS & CONS

We discuss the pros and cons for foiling or NOT- your foods, in particular your BBQ and how it can affect the food.

“Does cooking something 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 cooking in foil?  Let’s look at the pros and cons of cooking 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 cooking in foil using acidic ingredients both the appearance and taste of the foods can be altered by the reaction to aluminum.  Often, the tastes are 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 and even 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.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

EMBER FIRED ZUCCHINI & RICOTTA GALETTE

Ember roasted zucchini has a unique flavor and when you add Ricotta for a Galette it is a superb recipe to entertain your guests palette
We are going French with a Galette that is simply out of this world.  With ember fired zucchini we previously cooked on our charcoal grill with straight wood, this is one recipe worth making any time of year.  Get 2 zucchini ember cooked and prepare yourself for the ultimate in wood fired flavors featuring summer zucchini!

Gather the Ingredients

For our galette, there are two separate ingredient lists needed; one for the pastry and one for the galette’s filling.

For the pastry:
  • 1-1/4 cups flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup ice water

For the filling, you will need
  • 2 ember fired zucchini sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic glove, minced
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves
  • Egg Wash: 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water combined

Don’t Let the Word Pastry Scare You

Pastry is the first step and our recipe is very simple, so no need to get scared by the word “pastry”.  For the pastry dough, combine the flour, salt, and then cut in the butter. My technique is to use 2 butter knives to produce even mini chunks of butter.

Mix the sour cream, lemon, and water in a separate bowl, then add to the flour mixture until just combined.  Be sure not to overwork the dough.  Now refrigerate for 1 hour.

Cheesy, Creamy Goodness

While the dough chills, let’s get the filling ingredients ready that include our ember fired zucchini rounds.

First, we’ll need to combine the olive oil and garlic so we have an infused oil to add to our cheese filling.  Next, mix the ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses together.  Add one teaspoon of the garlic oil and season with salt and pepper.  You can set this mixture aside as you wait on the dough to finish chilling.

Next up, get the rolling pin at the ready, as the dough will be rolled into the galette shape.

Perfect Balance Comes Together

With our dough chilled and then rolled into a 12-inch round, it’s time to start assembling our galette.  Place the dough on parchment lined baking sheet.  Spread the ricotta mixture over the dough leaving a 2-inch border.  The ember fired zucchini slices are next, which I add in a layered “wheel” formation, followed by a generous drizzle of garlic oil.  It’s important that everything stay even for our dough to fold over and hold in all that fabulous filling.

With the cheese filling, ember fired zucchini and garlic oil added, the final ingredient of fresh basil strips is placed on top.  Time to fold over the dough to trap all the filling inside the pastry while it cooks.  A brushing of egg wash to the pastry will ensure everything gets golden during the 40-minute cook time.  Into a 400° oven, setting the timer for 25 minutes to rotate the baking tray.  That will guarantee a consistent color to our galette.

So Good, You May Not Want to Share

With the smoky, char flavor of our coal fired zucchini, the creamy filling of 3 cheeses plus basil and garlic oil, it doesn’t get any better than this!  Our buttery galette pastry adds that sweet undertone that perfectly balances out the flavors.

Whether you serve this as an appetizer, snack or even a lunch or entrĂ©e, you’ll love how the zucchini becomes the star without tasting overly smoked.  Feel free to add a side of marinara sauce for an acid kick.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

SMOKIN’ DUST®: A SPICE FOR YOUR EQUIPMENT

SIMPLE FLAVOR INFUSION!

There seems to be some legend out there that wood-fired cooking methods are all about the endless hours of tending food and fire that produce taste results that are only granted to a small percentage of committed cooks.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Ready for simple methods of wood flavor infusion that do not take stock piles of wood and equipment so large, you start thinking about adding on to your house?

Wood-fired cooking includes the simplest methods of wood infusion like the current rage with hand-held food smokers or even the stove top smoker.  Kitchen gadgets that have opened the door to anyone who wants to explore the fragrant and flavorful bounty that awaits all foods and beverages.  One thing that still is evolving is the concept of spices not for your food but for your equipment!

If you’ve read some of our previous articles on wood flavoring you’ll come to understand and appreciate that there is no set rule on wood-fired cooking.  Oh, yes, there is plenty of science when it comes to cooking with fire or as I like to say when you combust to flavor, which is what you are accomplishing with wood for cooking.  I feel more attention should be given to the actual wood products put into the equipment rather than focusing on the ingredients to the foods being cooked.

First, wood to us IS an ingredient, one that still needs to be balanced with the other components to bring forth a food memory.  As an ingredient, the easiest by far to manage for wood flavor infusion is sawdust or in our Company’s listing, Smokin’ Dust®.  Compatible with all types of equipment, Smokin’ Dust® literally becomes a ‘spice’ for your equipment.

Thinking of island flavors of pineapple, coconut, and mango for a recipe?  Why not add one or more of those flavorings through the wood product?  Yes, using all-natural flavoring infused into our Smokin’ Dust® is one of the quickest methods of getting great flavor to a specific regional dish.  With 15 flavor-infused options that are 100% all natural, designed for cooking, and infused in hardwood, as well as 8 natural hardwood flavors, we’ve given new meaning to the word ‘spice’ as ours can now apply to the wood product!  Remember, apple wood doesn’t smell or taste anything like an apple.  Use our apple infused product, and you’ll experience hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and the bite of an apple!

Why settle for a run-of-the-mill smoking sawdust product that you don’t know where it comes from?  A softwood, swept from the floor, shoveled from the ground, or worse, taken from under an animal?  Instead, get excited about the flavor opportunities awaiting you and your equipment when you use a smoking sawdust product from a real cooking wood company.  Get excited about the opportunities out there to experiment with, whether for hot smoking, cold smoking, hand held food smoking, stove top smoking, or even traditional LP and charcoal grilling.  And get ready to experience the world through flavor aroma!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE!

Alder wood for a light smoke wood flavor

As we highlight another hardwood from our offerings, we need to start by pointing out that we are referring to Eastern Alder not the better known Western Alder or Red Alder of the west coast.  Eastern Alder is part of the Birch family, with the scientific name of Alnus but the common names for the varieties found in the Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania regions of Eastern Alder (Smooth Alder), White Alder, Red Alder.

Alder is a relatively soft hardwood of medium density.  It is most commonly used with fish but I think I need to stress here that really any cooking hardwood can be used with any food item at the discretion of the cook.  Many factors play in to how a hardwood reveals itself during the cooking event: rub ingredients, brine ingredients, quality of the meat/poultry/fish, freshness of the food item, style of cooking (over the coals, in the coals, indirect heat, etc.) and most importantly, oxygen flow which feeds the combustion of the wood.   Alder provides a neutral coloring to the outer skin of foods which is why it is a favorite for fish.  Would this be a first choice for say a steak or other beef item?  No, but I certainly like to use it for lots of other things like fruit, vegetables, cheese dishes, and of course, fish.

For cooking, you can expect Alder to perform as follows:

Heat Level: Medium – 17.6MBTU

Fuel Efficiency: Fair

Ease of Lighting: Good


When you’re looking for something on the lighter menu of woods, keep Alder in mind, and explore its lighter heat level and versatility for the more delicate items of cooking.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

WOOD GRILLING AVOCADO

Add a great flavor to Avocados by grilling them!

Oh, the wonderful, healthy, creamy, flavorful avocado.  With more potassium than a banana and 18 amino acids for daily intake, you can’t go wrong with this single seed fruit.

Did you ever think to grill this fabulous fruit with a little wood to give it even more flavor?  We’ll show you just how easy it is to wood fire avocado on the gas grill using wood chunks for your smoke infusion.

Making It More Than A Grill

Regardless of the brand of gas grill you have, you can add wood chunks to the grill for wood fired flavor.  My grill has heat shields over the burners so I use that area to add one small wood chunk under the grill grate, directly on the heat shield.  No, you won’t damage your grill, as the wood combusts to ash and basically blows away.

One chunk is all it will take to get great flavor into the avocados.  I keep the burner that the wood chunk is located on set to medium as well as the burner next to that one on medium.  Since I have 4 burners, 2 are on and 2 are off.

Once the grill is to 300° F, this technique will take less than 20 minutes.

Simple Avocado Preparation

The only preparation needed for the avocados is to cut them in half and remove the seed.  The avocados are placed flesh side down on the grate only on the side with the burners off.  The heat captured within the grill will spread throughout the grilling area and cook the avocado while adding wood smoke vapor.  Note, it’s important that you don’t attempt to move the avocados for at least 10 minutes otherwise you will find the avocado flesh will stick to the grate and you’ll lose much of the fruit’s flesh.  Wait until some of the fat renders and chars making removal so simple.

Prep To Finish In Less Than 20 Minutes

In less than 20 minutes you will have wonderfully wood flavored, charred flesh avocados ready for your favorite recipes.  Think of using this fruit in smoothies, dips, on salads, as a creamy ingredient for sauces – remember, avocado can be used to substitute the amount of butter used in most recipes.  We will take some of our avocado and make a wood fired guacamole first.  Our recipe will post soon so stay tuned and don’t’ forget to send us your pics of wood fired avocado.