Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Breakfast Potato Takes on Smoke!

The smoky deliciousness of breakfast potatoes!

 

Give It A Smoky Start

As with most breakfast potato recipes, this one has just a handful ingredients to make it oh so memorable at the breakfast table.  It starts with a key ingredient – smoked potato – which you can find the technique for on our previous posting.  This is a recipe that can certainly accommodate your specific preferences so alter it as you please.  For my rendition, you’ll need the following:

 

Gather These Ingredients:

  • 2 cups smoked potato cut into pieces no larger than 1 inch
  • 2 cups of chopped sweet pepper – I’m using red, yellow and orange for a pop of color
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper diced
  • 1 cup of rough cut onion
  • 1 Tablespoon oil – I’m using coconut oil for its high heat level
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil or flavored olive oil – I’m using a Tuscan flavor
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1 red tomato sliced into ¼ inch thick slices
  • Oven safe skillet

 

One Hot Skillet Makes It Easy

Be sure you’ve readied all the ingredients as this recipe can be completed quite fast.  Place your oven safe skillet over medium-high heat and allow to heat.  Add the tablespoon of high heat oil and move the pan around to ensure the oil coats the entire bottom surface.  Add the cup of chopped onion and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes.  You’ll know you’re ready for the next step when the onion becomes translucent.  Add the 2 cups of chopped sweet pepper and mix well.  Allow the vegetable mixture to cook until tender, about 8 minutes.

 

Adding Heat and Smoke

Once you see the vegetables take on a shine and tenderness, it’s time to add the diced jalapeno pepper, mixing well.  After just a couple of minutes, go ahead and add the 2 cups of smoked potato to the mixture.  Mix well and allow to absorb some of the existing cooking oil and moisture.  The colors will begin to blend as well as the flavors getting us close to the finished dish.

 

Mellowing Out the Boldness

To add another level of flavor, a tablespoon of flavored olive oil, I’m using a Tuscan blend, is incorporated to the vegetable mixture.  Once this has cooked for a few minutes, I add the cup of ricotta cheese in dollops to the skillet.  Using my spatula, I break this down with the heat to provide a creamy consistency.  The creaminess of the ricotta will help balance the boldness of the smoke and aide all the flavors to mellow.  After 5 minutes of medium heat, this pan will be ready for a quick trip to the oven to finish everything off.

 

The Spectacular Finish

After taking the skillet from the stove top, I place it in a pr-heated 350°F oven to finish.   This will only take about 10 minutes.  Remember, if using cast iron, this material will hold a lot of heat, so once the pan is removed from the oven allow the dish to sit untouched for about 5 minutes.  Then plate to your favorite platter.

I like to add sliced fresh tomato and a sprinkle of fresh parsley to the top.  This is a perfect dish for any type of eggs or served an accompaniment to sausage.  Of course, it can stand alone as well so feel free to treat is as its own meal.

Smoked potato from the charcoal grill with a medley of vegetables gets you to the perfect Smoked Breakfast Potato!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

BEECH IS CERTAINLY “GRAND” IN EUROPEAN SMOKER WOODS

The grand ole tree beech adds a very European flavor to smoked foods, especially sausage style products.
With 10-13 Beech varieties available throughout the world, this is a hardwood tree that can age to some 300 years.  Visually, they are quite impressive often with distinct “root feet” and gray, smooth bark.  The scientific name is Fagus Grandifolia but in North America we know this as American Beech.

I’m With the White Oaks

Beech is a relative to the White Oak hardwood family.  However, there is some differences in its performance as a fuel wood and flavoring wood.  Beech tends to hold more water or moisture than white oak and for that reason, you need to be sure you are using this for cooking when the level is closer to 20-25% or lower.  Anything higher will produce a brown smoke as the energy generated is used to evaporate the water.  Using Beech with a higher moisture level could produce some off coloring to the foods.

Cooking Specifics

Beech is a very easy hardwood to burn and produces a nice bed of coals.  It does not throw spark when it combusts so it is ideal for all types of equipment including fire pits and camp pits.  It has minimal aroma when burned but produces a balanced flavor profile to foods.

The MBTU level is considered high so know you will get a long cook time from this wood.

Neutral Ways

In my opinion, Beech is one of those hardwoods that is neutral when it comes to food pairing.  I have found the ability to cook vegetables, fish, meats, poultry, and even flavor seasonings and herbs with its flavonoids.  You really can’t miss with this choice.  Knowing it is a hot burning wood and makes a great bed of coals, you should attempt to get all the wood can give from a heat point of view.  Think about raking hot coals to one side of your equipment and cooking foods directly in the coals while the remaining fire cooks more traditional foods on the grate.   Remember, there is value in the wood through the entire stages of combustion.

My Tan Skin

Coloring to foods tends to be on the earthy palette side giving a very pleasant appearance.  Because this wood is so well balanced, you can select both sweet and savory ingredients without causing any muted flavoring.  This is true whether the wood is in chunk, chip or dust form.

This can be a harder hardwood to locate since it is more prevalent in the Northeast, especially New York State but if you can locate it, pick some up and enjoy the many benefits of this grand tree.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

STRAWBERRIES GET SMOKY FOR AN AQUA FRESCA COCKTAIL

The process of smoking strawberries for your summer cocktail is very easy. Merely cut your strawberries and place them on your grill to enhance their flavor than process into flavorful drink.
If you enjoy fruity drinks or smoothies, then the Smoked Strawberry Aqua Fresca is perfect!  Using seasonal fresh strawberries will bring this to the ultimate flavor height but any store purchased variety will work as well.  This is the perfect cocktail for a summer event or as a non-alcoholic refresher on an exceptionally warm summer day.  Get ready as we tell you how to do the smoking technique then construct this fabulous drink.

Strawberries Love Smoke

Start with strawberries that are at their peak.  Gently wash them and then trim the stem end.  I cut smaller strawberries in half and larger in quarters to ensure the smoke vapor can penetrate easily but you certainly can leave them whole.  In addition to the strawberries – at least one quart to produce enough liquid for a few drinks – you’ll need the following ingredients and materials

Ingredients & Materials:

  • 4 tablespoons sugar – reserve some extra in case you want to make this sweeter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of fine or coarse sea salt
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Handful of fresh basil or mint
  • Ice cubes
  • Blender
  • Mixing bowl
  • Mortar & pestle (optional)
  • Sheet pan lined with parchment paper
  • 2 double filet wood chunks from SmokinLicious®
While you are getting the strawberries ready you can have your grill warming up.  Set all burners to medium-low and close the lid.

Gas Grilling With Wood Chunks

Cooking with wood chunks can be done on the LP Gas Grill by using the heat shields or diffusers, whose purpose is to ensure even heat output over the grill grate.  By keeping a medium-low heat on the burner containing 2 wood chunks from SmokinLicious®I’m using 1 ash and 1 cherry – you won’t get the wood erupting in flames but rather a slow combustion that releases plenty of wood-fired flavor.  While the wood heats up, I combine my strawberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and a pinch of sea salt.

Get Ready For Juicy Bubbles

When you smoke strawberries on the grill, all the locked in pectin water will be released by the heat.  That’s why it’s so important that you line your sheet pan with parchment paper so you don’t end up with a hard to clean mess.

After mixing in the vanilla extract, sugar, and salt it’s time to spread the strawberries onto the lined sheet pan and place on the grill.  Once the pan is in place, turn off all the burners except for the one that has the wood chunks on the diffuser. Cooking time will be about 40 minutes with a grill heat of 300°F maintained with the lid closed and 1 burner lit.

Taste Is The Sweet Aroma

Whenever I smoke fresh strawberries, it brings the memory of my Mom making strawberry jam.  As the strawberries react to the smoke vapor, you will see the pectin release and a beautiful, thick glaze will form around them.  This is the stuff that will make an exceptional aqua fresca so be sure you don’t lose any when removing the pan from the heat.  You’ll see the finished strawberries take on a much darker coloring and reduce size slightly from the water loss.  Now get ready for the fun part – getting our drink together.

Strawberry Base

To start our drink creation, you will need a blender and I prefer a mortar and pestle for combining citrus and fresh herbs.  Add the smoked strawberries to the blender and the remaining sugar. You can add the lime juice and fresh basil or mint right to the blender or add to a pestle and combine with the mortar. Once combined, add to the blender. Process the mixture.  Add a few ice cubes and process again until a smooth mixture is revealed.  You may add lime juice, sugar and ice as you see fit at this point – the recommended amounts are merely a guide.

Creating the Ultimate Aqua Fresca

With our strawberry mixture completed, it’s time to combine everything into a refreshing drink or cocktail.  If making a cocktail, select your spirit of choice.  I recommend tequila, vodka, or rum.  Add some ice cubes to a glass.  If making the alcoholic version, add an ounce of alcohol to the glass. Pour in the strawberry mixture and stir.  Add a sprig of basil or mint to the glass and serve.

If you are a frozen drink person, add more ice during the blending stage to thicken this up and make a milkshake like consistency.  This is so refreshing and so fitting for the warmer months.  Enjoy the Smoked Strawberry Aqua Fresca your way as you stay cool this summer season!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

LEARN WHAT THE SMOKE COLOR MEANS WHEN COOKING WITH WOOD

Smoke has many colors and they all mean something special when cooking- learning what they mean could increase your culinary results!
You smell it before you see it!  The aroma of foods being cooked outdoors.  When those foods involve cooking over wood – hardwood to be specific – well, it’s a flavor experience that is in a league of its own.

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

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

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

From Black to Nearly Invisible, The Language of Smoke

There are four basic attributes to smoke when it leaves equipment: volume, velocity, density, and color.  It is the combination of these attributes that reveal so much about the color of smoke vapor or gas produced from combusted wood.

Black Smoke = No Oxygen

Black smoke is unattractive, highly dense, consisting of large particles, and the key sign that the wood is starved for oxygen.  When air intake is left uncorrected, this black smoke vapor can turn foods acrid, bitter, and sooty.  Certainly, this is not the goal of wood-fired cooking!  Don’t cook with smoke that is black in color.  Learn how to control air intake and exhaust for proper air flow and the best smoke vapor infusion for great flavor.

Gray/Brown Smoke = Poor Wood Quality

You understand air flow, the balance needed between air intake and outtake.  Despite you optimal setting of air flow, you still find gray to brown smoke color occurring.  What happened?

Often, this boils down to a case of poor wood choice.  Gray or brown smoke occurs when there is a mixture of moisture and hydrocarbons.  Bark on woods can stimulate brown smoke as this is the driest and most impure part of the wood.  You can also see gray to brown smoke color when there are other stimulants on the wood.  It may be that something dripped on the wood, was deliberately applied to the wood, or was part of the wood’s manufacturing process if the wood is a bye-product from another process.

White Smoke = Initiation of Heat

Virtually all solid materials exposed to combustion emit white smoke.  This means heat is being stimulated to the wood and drying it out.  Remember, moisture is water and when heat finds water it has to induct it to produce steam.  This takes energy from the fire or ignition and can stall full stages of combustion.  Once moisture is evaporated you will observe white smoke to transition to a clearer color, hopefully the infamous blue.  For longer, lower temperature cooking, wait for the white smoke stage to pass before adding the food to the grates.  For hotter temperature cooking like burgers, steaks, etc., go ahead and add to the grates even with white smoke present.  The abundance of aromatics at the white stage will allow for flavor to permeate shorter cook items.

Blue Smoke (or nearly invisible) = Holy Grail

Keeping in mind that you don’t always need an invisible or blue smoke to have a flavorful wood-fired cooking event, this is still the goal when cooking with wood for many hours.  Blue or invisible smoke means that full combustion has occurred to the wood and the lignin compound is releasing the smoky aromatic that will stick to moist food surfaces.  Take advantage of this pristine stage and get cooking for the best wood-fired flavors.

Finding the Perfect Wood with the Perfect Moisture Level

As a final note, don’t be fooled into thinking that using dry wood will save time on waiting for the fire’s heat to evaporate excess water and get to the flavoring.  There is extensive research demonstrating that the ideal smoke composition containing flavor stimulating compounds called carbonyls and phenols is in hardwoods that have a higher moisture rating not the 10% or less that is considered seasoned wood.  Use caution when making the wood purchase.  Knowing key details about the wood prior to purchasing will help to achieve the smoke color that produces maximum flavor.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

TOP 10 VEGETABLES TO COOK IN HOT EMBERS

Ember cooking can be done in a cask iron plan, fire box and even in a Hibachi! Try this unique cooking method to add a flare and unique tastes to your outdoor grilling and cooking!
I want to be perfectly clear – this is not cooking over hot flame or direct flame.  This is cooking after the wood and/or charcoal has burned down in to very hot coals; when the coals develop a white-gray ash coating. THIS is the time to ember or coal cook these select vegetables.

 

The Rules of Ember and Ash Cooking

The essence of using all that the wood can give for cooking. That it was ember or coal cooking is.   I want to be sure there is no misunderstanding on what is needed to do this type of cooking safely and effectively.

Rule #1: If going with all wood for the coals, only use hardwood and clean hardwood at that.  You’re going to lay foods into this material so I believe it should be clean and mold free with moisture level 15-20%.  If higher, it will simply take longer to get to the coal stage.

Rule #2: Again, if using all hardwood, try to limit the bark or go bark-free if possible to reduce the potential for mold spores that can be released into the air.

Rule #3: Have everything ready before you start.   You’ll need an ash-coal hoe, fire gloves, and small coal shovel at the ready.  I would also have tongs for those times when you don’t bury your foods completely in the coals but rather lay them which requires turning of the vegetables.

Rule #4: Equipment wise, you can use a charcoal grill that has fire brick added for insulation, a clean fireplace (I prefer an outdoor unit), a clean fire pit, or an open pit built in a safe area with brick or gravel as the base to protect the fire from spreading.

 

Hot Embers Birthed in One Hour

On average, it will take about an hour to move a small fire from flame to hot ember.  Depending on whether you elect to use charcoal or wood will determine the amount of time the fire needs to burn down – an all charcoal fire will be 30-45 minutes; all hardwood fire about 45-60 minutes.  Remember, charcoal produces heat and little smoke, whereas hardwood, produces heat, smoke and specific aromatics and flavorings in that smoke.  At the ember-coal level, both have equal carbonization and act similar for this method of cooking.

Using approximately 8 lbs. of charcoal or 10 lbs. of hardwood, or any combination of the two, light a fire in the equipment of your choice.  Let the fire completely burn down until only hot coals remain.  Rake the coals to produce a thick even bed.  Then select your favorite vegetables from the ones listed below, and you’re on your way!  Always keep a small fire going for additional hot coals if doing large amounts of vegetables.

 

Vegetables That Love Hot Coals

Here are the top 10 vegetables to introduce to the hot embers for fantastic flavor:

Asparagus         Broccoli          Cauliflower        Eggplant

Garlic        Leeks         Gourds (squash, pumpkin)

Onion       Peppers       Potato

If you want minimal monitoring to the actual cooking process, then place the selected vegetables into the bed of coals and then shovel hot coals and ash over the top so that the entire vegetable surface is covered in embers.  Leave untouched until tenderized, which will be 45-60 minutes depending on the vegetable selected.   Otherwise, you can set vegetables within the coal bed and turn them during the cooking process to ensure even char.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Flank Steak Pinwheels with Ember Roasted Asparagus

Flank steak pinwheels with ember roasted asparagus – just one of the wonderful ways to use fresh asparagus this season.

Great recipe idea with the use of Ember cooked Asparagus and Flank Steak.  While the pinwheels can be cooked on the Charcoal/LP-Gas grill or even in the oven!

Ingredients:
  •         Ember cooked Asparagus (see previous blog)
  •         2-3 lbs of Flank Steak
  •        4 oz of Spinach leaves
  •         Olive Oil or Pesto
  •         4 oz of Mozzarella cheese
  •          Pepper and Sea Salt for taste
If grilling on Charcoal or LP/Gas grill use Double Filet Wood Chunks to add some additional flavor!

Preparing the Flank Steak

The ideal is to pound out the flank steak with a meat mallet to help tenderize it.  I like to coat my flank steak with olive oil, fresh ground pepper and kosher salt and place in plastic wrap to marinate for at least 6 hours but I prefer marinate overnight.  Once marinated, I can begin to assemble with the other ingredients.

Assembling the Pinwheels

Lay out the flank steak and place the spinach leaves overlapping them as you go.  Now take the halved asparagus stalks and layer them next.  Last, load on the mozzarella cheese and then season with salt and pepper.  Remember, if the mozzarella is not fresh, it will have some salt to it so be careful when adding additional salt. Now, staring on the long end of the steak, begin rolling inward, tucking in the filling as you go.  Once completely rolled, take 6 inch lengths of pre-cut meat twine and tie around the rolled flank steak about every 2-inches.  These sections will become the individual serving sizes.  Cut the steak between the twine ties and lay each cut piece of steak on a baking sheet.

Cooking the Pinwheels

Cook the pinwheels on a baking sheet or pan for approximately 30 minutes.  Flank steak will render a lot of juice so you may want to use a roasting rack in the pan.  Once the mozzarella cheese becomes golden brown, you’ll be ready to remove from the oven.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes then serve.

Serve!

This is just one combination of flavors that work well with the flank steak and ember roasted asparagus.  Other winning combinations include artichoke heart, roasted red peppers, kale, even quinoa if you want to added a grain texture.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

KIWIFRUIT GETS SMOKY FOR A FLAVOR BOOST

Add a new twist to your kiwifruit by cold smoking it to enhance its wonderful sweet flavor.

Kiwifruit is now in season!  It’s time to use this potassium, vitamin A, C & E enriched fruit in your favorite recipes.   How about doing something to up the flavor level a bit?

Packed with more vitamin C than an orange and as much potassium as a banana, Kiwifruit, more commonly called kiwi, is also a fiber powerhouse.  I’m going to take this creamy fruit favorite to a new flavor level by cold smoking it.

The Ease of Hand Held Food Smoking

To do this technique, you’ll need a hand held food smoker, SmokinLicious® Minuto® Smoking Wood Chips in size 6, 8 or 10, a lighter, a sheet pan, a food bag large enough to go over your sheet pan, and a cable tie.  Then gather together the number of kiwifruit you’d like to infuse with smoke vapor, and have a knife and cutting board available.

Let the Smoke In

Simply cut your kiwifruit in half to allow the smoke vapor to penetrate the fruit flesh.  As kiwifruit is covered by a brown, fuzzy skin, you will need some of the fruit’s meat exposed to get real smoke flavor incorporate.  Otherwise, leaving them whole won’t bring much of a smokiness to the fruit meat.

What I love the most about cold smoking with a hand held food smoker like The Smoking Gun™ Smoker, is how fast this flavoring can be done to any food, beverage, liquid, spice or herb item.  After cutting me kiwifruit in half to allow for maximum penetration of the smoke vapor, I place the cut halves on a sheet pan.  I then slip a food bag over the sheet pan.

A Pinch of Hardwood Is All It Takes

Time to prepare The Smoking Gun™ Smoker or other hand held food smoker you might have.  I take just a pinch of Alder Minuto® Smoker Wood Chips and place in the bowl of the food smoker.  I insert the tubing into the food bag, about ½ way back and gently draw in the end of the bag around the tubing.  I’m now ready to turn the food smoker on and light my Alder chips.

A Cloud of Smoky Goodness

Once the smoke is dispensing at a good rate into the food bag, turn the hand held food smoker off and remove the tubing, cinching the food bag tight.  I attach a cable tie to the end to keep it closed tight.  Here’s a tip: have your cable tie pre-looped for easy application and less chance for any leaking smoke vapor.

Allow the smoke vapor to remain in the bag until dissipated.  If you want an extremely light smoke flavor, then feel free to release the smoke vapor as you see fit.  For me, I will patiently wait for it to clear before releasing the cable tie on the bag.

Containment Is Key

Not only are hand held food smokers, like The Smoking Gun™ Smoker easy to operate and extremely fast at infusing smoke flavor, they generate a lot of smoke that can be easily capture.  Although I’ve used a food bag over a sheet pan, feel free to place the kiwifruit on a plate fit with a dome cover or simply use plastic wrap.  Anything that can trap the smoke is ideal.  You will see as the smoke is produced, it will travel throughout whatever container your using covering the entire food surface.  Although this looks like a huge amount of smoke that would potentially produce strong or bold smoke flavor, I remind you that I am using a very mild hardwood – Alder – to infuse smoke flavor to the kiwifruit.  I highly recommend whenever doing a fruit item – go with a milder hardwood for the infusion process.

15 Minutes to Smoky Goodness

This simple method of using a hand held food smoker with SmokinLicious® Minuto® Smoking Wood Chips in Alder to add a mild smoky flavor to seasonal kiwifruit takes just 15 minutes.  All of the nutritional benefits remain in this healthy fruit; rich in potassium, vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fiber.  Think about all the things you can do with this super fruit: add it to a smoothie, cut it up for fruit salad, pair it with a grain like quinoa, rice, or farro, or simply enjoy it as is.   For me, I’m thinking of entertaining so I will start with a cocktail recipe.

Did you like this idea?  If so, leave us a comment and let us know what you would love to see next.  Be sure to follow and subscribe to us as we bring you innovative ideas for adding wood-fired flavoring to all types of foods.  Check in next for my Smoked Kiwi Caipiroska, a flavorful cocktail featuring kiwifruit, mint and vodka.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

COOKING WITH OAK- A BOLD FLAVOR

Rich harvest area for the best hardwood cooking woods in the world
THE BOLDNESS OF OAK!
New York State is home to the most varieties of Oak anywhere in the world!  Currently, there are 16 native to New York State alone, with many more varieties having been brought into the state.  In Central Park alone, there are 18 species of oak represented.  Comprised of two subgroups – white oaks and black oaks – there is one key distinction between these groups.  White oaks produce acorns that are usually sweet while black oaks produce bitter acorns.  So how does this translate when using Oak wood for smoking?

At SmokinLicious®, we try very hard not to make flavor descriptors of each hardwood we manufacture into cooking wood, as we hold to the belief that there are so many factors that contribute to the reveal of the underlying wood flavonoids (i.e. temperature the wood is exposed to, other ingredients used on the food cooked over oak, moisture level of the wood, etc.).  However, we do have a scale to guide the user on the boldness of flavor.  Oak is at the highest end of that scale.  It is the boldest flavor we offer!

Knowing that oak is a powerful flavor, I must remind you that smoke particles do not penetrate completely into the meat.  In general, for meats, smoke vapor only penetrates about an 1/8” meaning the “flavor” you will decipher from the oak is actually to the outside area of the meat.  Certainly, if you cook a meat until it can be shredded, you will mix the outside flavor areas with the less wood flavored inner meat and get a good balance to the smoky flavor.

As I’ve tried to stress, cooking foods with a specific hardwood is the choice of the cook.  I am not one to say that you can never cook a specific food with a certain hardwood.  Everyone’s palate is different and tolerates different levels of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.  I will, however, remind you that bold flavors need to be balanced and this can easily be done through the other ingredients incorporated with that food item or even on that food.  This will allow you to use oak wood for smoking: cold smoking say beef jerky or game jerky, hot smoking lamb, goat or beef, grilling steaks of beef or pork, stove top smoking pungent flavors like onion and garlic, and hand held cold smoking say a robust cheese.

As always, very little quantity of wood is needed to bring forward the unique qualities of the wood and Oak, with its boldness, is not an exception.  If you’re in the market for a very bold flavor, then go for the black oak varieties including Pin Oak, Scarlet Oak, and Red Oak.  A step down from the black oaks, the white oaks include Chestnut Oak, White Oak, Swamp Oak, and Post Oak.  Either choice will bring you hardwood offering that is strong in appearance, aroma, and flavor!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

I WOULDN'T GRILL WITH MOLDY WOODS- HERE'S WHY

Learn why moldy hardwood is unfit for cooking and smoking food
There are many opinions out there in the BBQ world when it comes to the wood used for smoking and grilling.  Some people preach it doesn’t matter where the wood comes from as long as it isn’t a treated lumber.  Comments include, “don’t worry if there are bugs or bug holes – if they’re in there, they’ll just burn up,” or “fires are hot so anything on the wood just burns.”

But you should worry.  Here’s why.

In the USA, we try hard to re-purpose items so our landfills aren’t overflowing.  What we fail to do, however, is ponder the history of that re-purposed item.  Let’s take the common wooden pallet for example.

Wooden pallets have enjoyed a rebirth with the DIY generation.  Everything from headboards and wine racks, to dining tables and wedding guest books have been constructed from the used wooden pallet.  What should be widely discussed, is the potential for toxic exposure to this wood item.  Wood pallets, just like scrap woods, can harbor mold spores as well as chemical residue if they were used to transport items containing or exposed to chemical toxins.  Use these discarded items for cooking wood and you introduce a whole host of new risks.

A Primer on Mold

Mold growth is stimulated by three specific needs:

#1 Moisture: Mold spores need moist or damp locations to grow

#2 Food Source: Mold spores need food to survive and they love porous materials

#3 Optimal Temperature: Mold spores can thrive in temperatures from 32° to 120°F and have the highest stimulation rate in temperatures of 70-90°F.  Yes, even at the freezing mark, mold spores don’t die, they simply go dormant.

The Look of Mold

Mold has a range of appearances but on wood is mostly reveals itself as a fuzzy or discolored layer on the surface of the wood.  Molds are a type of fungus and they grow on wood when the three conditions mentioned above combine.  Molds feed on the wood nutrients (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin compounds) without weakening the wood itself.

Why is Mold a Risk

Molds produce millions of microscopic spores that can be carried in the air.  Mold spores are around us everywhere.  They search for the ideal surfaces to land on and grow.  When they increase in concentration, allergic reactions are triggered in sensitive individuals.   Expand this concentration to multiple locations and you can become highly sick.

Cooking with Moldy Wood

You now know the 3 parameters needed for mold spores to concentrate and thrive.  Why would cooking with moldy wood be of concern if you’re simply throwing them into hot coals or exposing them to gas fueled heating elements?

Because mold spores can survive combustion!

Molds can produce mycotoxins, toxic chemicals that are present on spores and small fragments of mold and fungus that are released in the air.  When moldy wood is introduced to fire, these toxins are released into the air and can cause anyone around the equipment to experience coughing, sneezing, eye and throat irritation.  If a preexisting condition like asthma is present, symptoms will be worse.  This can lead to a compromised lung health and disease.

Remember, mold looks for moisture environments so if you are cooking with moldy wood, you take the risk of the airborne spores taking harbor on the food being cooked over that wood.  The moist surface of the food is a perfect visiting ground.

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

The biggest challenge is it is almost impossible to distinguish toxic molds from non-toxic which is why I recommend that you never use moldy woods for cooking.  Some types of molds won’t reveal themselves on the outside of the wood but will be present within the interior wood cells.  It is always best to err on the side of caution and dispose of moldy wood or burn it in an outdoor setting not being used for cooking.

Get Rid of Ash

I highly recommend that you safely dispose of all ash from previous wood-fired cooking to decrease the risk of mold spores and fragments.  As mentioned above, mold spores can survive combustion and so they can remain active in ashes.  Don’t leave old ash laying around and certainly not within the equipment.

Finding hardwoods at the ideal moisture level, storing the woods in a well ventilated area, and rotating wood to circulate air exchange are good practices to help you stay safe during the outdoor cooking season and maintain healthy lung function for life.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Smoked Strawberry Napoleon

A New Flavor Twist- Smoked Strawberry Napoleon
A New Flavor Twist- Smoked Strawberry Napoleon

SMOKED STRAWBERRY NAPOLEON WITH PROSECCO CREAM

Take advantage of the short, fresh strawberry season by using your harvest in unique and flavorful recipes.  Up first, this take on strawberry shortcake that is in a league of its own!

INGREDIENT LIST

 Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Packaged Won-Ton wrappers
  • Frying oil (be sure to use one for high heat)
  • 1 quart of smoked strawberries smoked with Minuto® chips (reserve about 6 whole strawberries for garnish)
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • ¾ cup cold Mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup cold heavy cream
  • ¼ cup cold Prosecco
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

PREPARING THE WON-TONS

In a large skillet, heat 1 cup of high heat oil.  When ready, reduce the heat to medium-high and begin adding won-ton wrappers one at a time without crowding the pan. I usually can fit about 4 at a time. This step will take you a bit to do enough wrappers to ensure you have 3 per Napoleon serving. 

I like to cook the entire package of won-ton wrappers as these make excellent snacks either alone or for dipping salsa, guacamole or your favorite dip.  Plus, they make a great sweet snack when sprinkled with cinnamon/sugar or powdered sugar. When cooking the won tons, watch for a tan hue and bubbles to begin on the wrapper. Turn once and remove to a paper towel lined plate about 20 seconds after turning, as the won-ton holds a lot of heat and will continue to cook out of the pan.

PREPARING THE STRAWBERRY FILLING

Placed the quartered smoked strawberries in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of sugar and the vanilla; toss to coat.  Set aside until we are ready to assemble everything.

PREPARING THE PROSECCO CREAM

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake until golden about 5-7 minutes.  Set aside.

Combine the mascarpone, heavy cream, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, ground red pepper, and the prosecco in a medium bowl.  Beat with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.  Be sure not to over beat.  Refrigerate briefly to bind everything.

ASSEMBLING THE NAPOLEON

Place one cooked won-ton on a serving plate.  Top with a large dollop of Prosecco cream and then cover with smoked strawberries. Repeat this process 2 more times so you have three won-ton layers per plate.  Top with almonds and a whole smoked strawberry on top plus a little extra of your smoked strawberries.

THE ULTIMATE TREAT THAT ISN’T TOO SINFUL!

With the sweetness of the Prosecco cream, the hint of smoke in the strawberries, and that crispy crunch of the won-ton layers, this is a one of kind napoleon that you and your guests won’t soon forget.  Feel free to experiment with different cream fillings and fruits.  I like cannoli cream as well with a hint of cinnamon.  And don’t forget to take picture of your masterpiece and send along to us at SmokinLicious®.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

WHY WON’T MY WOOD CHIPS SMOKE??

Smoking wood chips burn up too fast, while the smoking wood chunks last

WHY WON’T MY WOOD CHIPS SMOKE??

We’ve all been there!  You purposely made a list of all the things you would need for the weekend BBQ.  Carefully selected the meat, cleaned the grill or smoker the weekend before, and purchased the wood chips to impart that great flavoring you can only get from hardwood!  You marinated the meat 24 hours ahead and woke up on grill day full of excitement.

So, what happened?

Instead of having the best, most flavorful meal you had to settle for an ordinary grill day with no special flare.

Why?

The wood chips failed to smoke.  Or, worse yet, they just burned up in minutes.
It’s time you learned exactly what to do with those wood chips so this never happens again!

Tip #1: Understand the basics of hardwood

Wood is loaded with water.  It’s only after the tree is cut that a loss of water or moisture occurs as there are two types of moisture content in wood: free water which is water in the cell cavities and bound water which is water held in the cell walls.

Try to cook or grill with a wood that has been fresh cut and you’ll likely have a very bad meal; acrid undertones and black, sooty color.   Wet wood stimulates acrid smoke vapor.

Now, go the opposite direction.  Take a wood that is dry, as in it’s too low to register on a moisture meter, and you have a full heat generator.  This is what we want in the fireplace or fire pit to keep us warm, not in the grill, as it will simply generate too much heat and produce overdone, dry foods.

Tip #2: Understand Oxygen Flow

Even when using equipment with fuel assist like LP, gas or electric, you still need to be aware of air flow.  Quality equipment is always designed with insulation in mind to keep heat from escaping but all equipment has some level of venting built in.  Whenever you use grilling or smoking woods with equipment, you need to find the balance between air intake (oxygen) and exhaust damper or vent.

Some manufacturers will build in the ideal location for the wood chips by incorporating a drawer. Even if you don’t have this option on your grill, you can still provide the perfect spot for producing combustion to the wood by simply placing your wood chip container on or above the heat source.  That’s it!  Often this can be accomplished by putting your container right on the heat diffuser or bar that is under the grill grate.

Tip #3: Understand What the Lid is For

Have you ever wondered why charcoal grills have a completely removable lid while LP/Gas and Infrared grills always have a hinged lid that is permanently attached?

The reason is very basic; grill grates, regardless of material construction, are designed to absorb heat and produce conduction heat where they contact the food items (conducting heat from the grate to the food).  The lid of the grill reflects the heat back to the food grates in what is termed convection heat (transferring heat by air flow or through a liquid medium like water (think boiling eggs).  These grills maintain vents somewhere on or near the lid to vent out the gases from the LP or natural gas used to operate the grill.  Remember, LP needs to be mixed with air to burn, thus, the reason for all those vents on LP grills!

Here’s the thing – if you keep opening the lid while using wood chips, you change the dynamic of the heat absorption forcing the unit to work harder to produce both conductive and convection heat.  Plus, you will keep altering the stages of combustion of the wood chips.  Leave the lid alone!

Tip #4: Don’t Wet the Wood Chips

I hear this all the time that the worry with wood chip use on a grill is that they will burn too fast.  Let’s break this down so you understand just what happens when smoke vapor is produced from wood material.

The drier the wood the faster it will go through the stages of combustion and the more heat it will produce.  If you have wood that is without measurable moisture, you will get limited or no smoke production, just heat.  You need to purchase wood chips that have some measurable moisture to work effectively.  Chips labeled as kiln dried are likely too dry for producing smoke vapor.

Tip #5: Step Up from Chips to Chunks

Maybe it’s time to abandon wood chips all together in favor of bigger pieces of wood.  Here’s how to know what would work better:

If you’re cooking one item and it is a short cook time, then chips will serve you well.  If, however, you are planning on loading the grill with an assortment of foods say sausage, chicken, corn, peppers, ribs, etc., then you may want to consider using wood chunks either directly on the grill’s diffusers or in a wood chip metal box (learn how to do this).  These pieces, being large and dense, will burn longer giving off more smoke, which means less work for you to replenish.  Plus, you can do different types of wood chunks all at the same time (one cherry, one maple, one hickory … you get the point).

Success with wood chips can be had if you learn to purchase wood with some moisture, use the wood dry (no pre-soaking), keep the wood over the heat source of the equipment so it can combust, and use the right type of wood product – chips versus chunks – for the length of cook time.

Then get ready to truly have the best grill day ever!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

HOW TO CUSTOMIZE YOUR WOOD COOKING TECHNIQUES

Customized Smoking Wood Products Make a Difference with Equipment Efficiency and Taste
Customized Smoking Wood Products Make a Difference with Equipment Efficiency and Taste

Why Not Build Your Own Wood-fired Ingredient Box?

I’m old enough to remember the days when the purchase of a new car was very limited in terms of customizing.  You didn’t get the opportunity to choose much more than the exterior color and even those choices were limited to a few!  Today, you can go online and literally build your own car from the type of engine and fuel it will use, to the color, texture, and material of your interior and everything in between.  This got me thinking about customizing when it comes to the wood-fired cooking experience.  Why should cooking woods be any different than the car industry?  Why not build your own wood-fired ingredient box when it comes to the smoking wood?

Since SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Productsinception, we have offered a level of customization to the user purchasing our products that has been unmatched by any other company.  We provide options that empower the user to combine various products as you would the ingredients to a homemade stew.

Why is This an Option of Value and Importance?

There are times that you need different products on hand to simply do specific functions.  For instance, Grande Sapore® Wood Chips are a means of bringing the temperature of some equipment up quickly.  Smokin’ Dust® provides for a sudden burst of smoke vapor due to its lower moisture level.  Double filet smoker wood chunks tend to be the ideal sizing to place on diffusers/flavor bars of LP grills and achieve smoke vapor around foods being cooked.

I think one of the primary reasons that smoking wood should have a level of customer choice is that most of us don’t own just one piece of equipment.  I think I’m safe to assume that all of us have a conventional stove top.  That gives the opportunity to do stove top smoking.  Many of us have the newer models of LP grills that allow for the placement of woods chunks and/or the use of wood chips.  Then there are those that have the conventional stove top, the LP grill, the charcoal grill, and a dedicated smoker.  Wouldn’t it be great to source all the products need for these different types of equipment from one supplier and even get the chance to purchase a combination of products for one price?

And the icing on the cake –  Now that’s customization at its best!!  That’s SmokinLicious®!
It’s time to make your wood-fired cooking experiences uniquely your own by starting with SmokinLicious® and our wide array of species and flavor options just waiting for your hand and imagination to take your wood-fired cooking memories to new heights!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

GRILLING: THE WOMAN'S GUIDE

Woman ‘Man’-ing the Grill- Tools are Essential

It’s long been the equipment associated with the guys.  Perhaps it’s due to the primal start of cooking over live fire which initially was a man’s skill.  Hunt the animal and cook it on fire and hot coals.
Recently, the trend has begun to turn around in favor of more women grilling components of a meal on the grill.  In fact, it’s not just the traditional LP/gas grill but charcoal grills as well, as women take their new recipe and technique finds out of the traditional indoor kitchen and to the outdoors.

Just Because It’s Outside Doesn’t Change The Purpose

There is no question that outdoor grilling equipment has evolved into something of fantasy.  We now have choices beyond the standard LP, natural gas, charcoal, and electric grills.  Many brands are now featuring dual fuel cooking, meaning they may have gas or electric assist but use wood and/or charcoal for heat and flavor!

What does this mean for the ladies who want to do more outdoor cooking on the grill?

Versatility!  It is so easy to cook an entire meal on the grill without it taking several hours or more.

Accessorize!

The key to ensuring that an entire meal can be cooked on the grill is to have the right tools and that includes some accessory items.  Let’s look at each recommended item and answer the question why it’s important to the woman’s full meal grill event.

#1 Grill Grate Accessories:

First up, the grill pan, grill basket or grill topper.  These are perfect for vegetables and fruits making it so easy to ensure that the food doesn’t stick to the grill grates and that every piece gets cooked evenly.  Plus, since many grills are now sold with a side burner, you can always steam or par boil tougher vegetables first, then transfer to the grill pan/basket/topper.  Or, use that side burner to make rice for a healthy starch side.  Don’t have a side burner on your grill or are using a charcoal grill?  Then buy a butane burner!  These are so inexpensive yet give you another cooking option to get everything ready at the same time.

#2 Easy Charcoal Lighting:

If you don’t know what a chimney starter is, time to learn.  The charcoal chimney starter is the best way to light a charcoal fire.  Although these traditionally use newspaper at the bottom (for ignition) and load charcoal chunks (can be briquettes or lump) into the body of the unit, I take a simple method of lighting my chimney.  I load with my favorite charcoal and use a butane torch under the unit to light – no newspaper needed.  This allows me to leave the butane on auto fire for a few minutes to ensure the lower coals are lit.  Simply pull the torch out, shake the chimney while wearing fire gloves, and return to a heat safe surface until the top coals turn white-gray.  Oh, and you can always light the chimney off that side burner too!

#3 Purchase 2 Thermometers

Stop guessing at when things are done!  You need to invest in 2 quality thermometers; one for the grill/smoker and one instant-read for the food.  Be sure the thermometers you invest in can take a reading in 5 seconds or less, have at least a 4-inch probe for thicker cuts of meat, and have cables that are durable (if you don’t go with a wireless), especially for equipment thermometers that are placed through venting holes or under lids.

#4 Silicone

Anything made from silicone will become a lifesaver at the grill.  Silicone pot handle covers, spatulas, heat resistant tongs – you get the idea.  This material can handle the high heat of grills so stock up on those items you’ll need and use the most.  Suggestions? Tongs, pot handle covers, spatulas, spoons, mat.

Diversify!

Grilling does not necessarily mean you must put all foods on the grill grates.  Use high heat cookware to help you out.  Think cast iron or high heat clay and enamels meant for the grill.  These are perfect for starting one pot wonders like legumes, pasta dishes, even sauces.  With a roomy enough grill, you can fit many different items – grill pan/basket, Dutch oven, and rib racks.  Don’t forget most grills come equipped with a lower and upper grill rack so more fragile items that need less heat can go to the top.  Here’s some tips on food to cooking equipment match:

Tip #1: Cast Iron and Charcoal

Cast iron is, without question, the best material for cooking directly in the coals.  Here’s a tip – if you have an outdoor fireplace or even a fire pit that uses wood, you can do this method of cooking by placing your cast iron skillet or Dutch oven directly in the coals.  Keep in mind, I said coals, not flame.  Coals have a very high BTU rating and can cook foods within cast iron as if they are in the oven.  Just be sure to pack the hot coals around the cast iron after placing the pan in the coal bed.  Perfect items to try: vegetable medley, roasted potato, curry dishes, au gratin dishes.

Tip #2: Cast Iron and LP/Gas Grill

Just like having the side burner on a grill, cast iron on the grill is like having an extra pot on the stove.  Cast iron comes in lots of sizes and cookware type: saucepan, skillet, Dutch oven.  Anything you would traditionally make in cookware on the stove can be done on the grill.  The key is to ensure that you have this on a section of the grill that isn’t set to “high”, as cast iron holds heat.

Tip #3: The Upper Grill Rack

Though small in overall size, the upper grill rack is designed for those fragile items or for items that require simple warming.  Think melting butter for vegetables, heating sauces, warming bread and rolls.  Use it!  It can be of great value to keep you from needing anything indoors.

Tip #4: The Rotisserie

If you have a grill with a rotisserie, use it!  Keep in mind, as that item turns on that rod, the meat or poultry renders some fantastic juices.  Catch them!  Put a high heat pan under the food item with some great vegetables and use the drippings to add superb flavor to the cooking process.

Flavor It Up!

Now, let’s be clear!  Unless you’ve invested in a dual fuel or hybrid grill, one that allows you to use charcoal and/or smoking wood, most standard LP grills are just that: grills not smokers.  If you don’t have a hybrid but want to get some smoking woods flavoring to your foods, then start thinking of adding charcoal and wood chunks!

Yes, you heard me right.  Wood Chunks vs. woodchips which was the product of choice for years with LP grills.

Why Smoking Wood Chunks?

Most grills today are designed with covers for the gas burners to diffuse the heat more evenly.  They go by a lot of names: heat distributors, flame tamers, heat plates, burner shields, flavorizer bars.  The addition to the traditional LP grill is the reason why you can use smoking wood chunks.  Simply place a few small wood chunks under the grill grate right on top of the heat diffuser.  Be sure you only put chunks on a burner you will ignite.  Replace the grill grate and you’re ready to go!  And, yes, you will get real wood smoke vapor to flavor whatever you’re cooking on the grill.  I promise!

Final Points

"Man”-ing the grill is no different than planning a meal in your conventional kitchen.  Pick out the components of the meal and decide what needs to cook where on the grill: directly on the grate, on the rotisserie, in cast iron, on the coals.  If doing a meat, be sure to marinate 6 hours or best, overnight, to ensure a moist outcome and to reduce cooking time.
Have everything prepped including the grilling tools you will need and this is a walk in the park for the woman that is use to planning daily meals for her family.  The best part, you can enjoy more of those great warm days and not sweat in the confines of the hot summer kitchen!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

HOW TO TURN YOUR LP/GAS GRILL INTO A SMOKER

Gas grill technique for adding smoking wood chunks to develop a smoke flavor to your cooking.

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

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

LP/Gas Grills of All Types

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

How To Add Grilling Woods to the LP/Gas Grill

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

Wood Chunks On The Diffusers

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

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

Indirect Cooking Method

What truly makes for barbecue and not just grilling or smoking on an LP/Gas unit is using the indirect method of cooking.  The smoking wood chunks will be set on a burner that is turned on to medium or medium-high heat depending on the BTU level of your unit.  The higher the BTU level, use a medium setting.  Overall, you want the grill’s temperature to average 225-250° F for cooking traditional BBQ items like ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, and poultry.  If using the smoker box, you will place the box on the grill grate of the side with the burner lit.  My preference is, if doing very large cuts of meat, to turn on two burners if you have a 3-burner or more unit.  The foods will be placed on the unlit side of the grill.

Water Keeps Everything Moist

To ensure that any meat or poultry cooked on the grill remains moist and tender, include a water pan or two in your set up.  This is easily done by purchasing readily available disposable pie tins from the discount store.  I like to add warm to hot water so the grill does not have to exert much energy to heat up the water, which takes heat away from the unit.  Remember, the water will be evaporating during the cooking or smoking process so have additional water available if it depletes before the cooking is complete.  Water pans are set on the unlit burner side of the grill, directly under the food.  This will also act as a drip pan, catching all those juices.

Moist Cold Surfaces Attract Smoke Vapor

You have your smoking wood chunks on the lit burner, your water pans on the unlit burner, the grill’s temperature is holding steady, the grill grate has been in place taking on heat – we’re now ready for the meat.  Always take the prepared meat directly from the refrigerator to the grill COLD!  Cold foods will attract smoke vapor faster, allowing the vapor to condense on the food’s surface.  A moist surface also help attract the smoke so feel free to keep a spray bottle of water to spritz your meat’s surface as needed, though this often is not needed.

Leave the Lid Alone!

Remember, this isn’t traditional grilling on the grill.  We are doing barbecue smoking using an indirect method of cooking.  Keep the lid closed!  Every time you do so, you release heat, smoke, and moisture.  What you do need to watch closely is the temperature of your unit as the consistent temperature is what ensures an evenly cooked food item, as well as a tender, moist outcome.

Was this just what you were looking for?  If so, leave a comment as we’d love to hear from you.  Don’t forget to let us know what other questions you have, as we also design our postings after the needs of our follows.  As always, subscribe and follow us, so you don’t miss a thing!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

PEA SALAD WITH A SMOKY FLAVOR TWIST

Snow peas kissed by smoke adds a delicious flavor to this spring salad combination 

With four select ingredients readily available throughout the year, you can make this flavorful and healthy salad anytime of the year.  Perfect on its own for lunch or as a side dish to beef, pork, poultry, and fish, you’ll find your own variations to keep it unique.

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. of smoked sugar snow peas (see our previous posting on smoking snow peas)
  • 2 mini cucumbers, unpeeled, thinly sliced
  • ½ pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup of fresh dill chopped (or use a quality jar dill if fresh is not available)
Dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper
Nothing But the Most Fresh Ingredients
Fresh & Savory Ingredients


Preparing The Salad: Add the smoked snow peas to a salad bowl.  Stir in the cucumbers, tomatoes, and dill.  Be sure you stir gently to prevent breaking up the cucumbers and tomatoes.  Stirring will allow some of the char flavor of the peas to reach the juices of the cucumber and tomato.

Adding A Pop of Red Color to the Cucumbers and Peas
Adding Tomatoes


Preparing The Dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and lemon zest until smooth.  You will see the dressing thicken as you whisk. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until coated.

Thickening the Dressing
A Quick Whisk


The Finish:
I simply love this salad for a healthy lunch, snack, or as a side to dinner. Feel free to add some additional crunchy items like pumpkin seeds, dried fruits, or even tortilla shell strips.  And DON’T FORGET to take a picture of your masterpiece and send along to us at SmokinLicious®.

FOREST STEWARDSHIP

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

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

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

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

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

  • Emerald Ash Borer
  • Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
  • Whitebark Pine Beatle
  • Beech Bark Disease
  • Dutch Elm Disease
  • Butternut Canker
  • Asian Longhorn Beetle
  • Dogwood Anthracnose
  • Gypsy Moth
  • Balsam Woolly Adelgid
  • Laurel Wilt disease
  • Sirex Wood Wasp
  • Sudden Oak Death
  • Polyphagous & Kuroshio Shot Hole Borer affecting sycamores, willows, oaks, maples (including Boxelder), and commercial avocado trees.
EVERY state in the US has battled imported forest pests with the hardest hit being New York State followed closely by MA, WI, IL, VA, MI, NJ, OH, and CA.  Every decade, 25 new insect pests are established in the US which can lead for potential decimate of an entire tree species in just decades.
So why if you are a lover of BBQ smoking chips or BBQ smoker wood chunks (smoking using smoker woodchunks or smoker woodchips) or other wood fired foods, should issues with bugs be of concern?  Because cooking by fire is the oldest known cooking method for human kind.  Right now, you may simply enjoy 3 benefits of trees: for shade, for beauty (viewing), and for flavor to foods cooked on your grill/smoker.

But there are many other benefits:

  • Decrease atmospheric carbon by capturing and storing CO2
  • Improve air quality by filtering pollutants and releasing oxygen
  • Reduce storm water runoff and pollutants entering local water bodies
  • Increase property values by 3-7%
The pollutant removal alone that trees are responsible for provides a human health benefit worth $6.8 billion per year!  Trees keep us alive!

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

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

SmokinLicious® Premier Manufacturer of Cooking Grilling and Smoking Wood Products for the Culinary Industry 
www.smokinlicious.com 


 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

IS HEARTWOOD REALLY THE ‘HEART’ OF THE TREE?

Cross section of a harvested hard wood tree

Heartwood
By now you’ve come to recognize SmokinLicious®Gourmet Wood Products as the Company that produces it’s cooking wood products from only heartwood.  Yet, there are still many questions out there as to what that means for the individual using our products.  Is heartwood where all the life forces of the tree thrive?

The short answer is, no, but there are benefits to using woods derived from the heartwood of the tree for cooking.  Let’s explore!

Mini molecular-biology course: wood is an organic material that is porous and fibrous.  It contains hundreds of organic compounds but there are three primary compounds responsible for the cell construction in trees: Cellulose which is a glucose that is tasteless and odorless but comprises 40-50% of the cell.  It is crystalline so it provides for the strength of the cell wall.  Hemicellulose is also a glucose and carbohydrate but unlike cellulose, it has little strength and makes up 15-25% of the tree’s cell structure.  Lignin is the cell compound that is responsible for the structural materials in the support tissues of wood and bark, and makes up 15-30% of wood cells.  Lignin is what fills the cell wall spaces between the cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin components and is crucial for conducting water.  Lignin yields more energy than cellulose when burned.  Most importantly, lignin is what gives wood-fired cooked foods their flavor and aroma.

Now, on to the heartwood.  All wood starts life as sapwood, the living, outermost portion of the tree that is just under the bark.  Sapwood is where water and dissolved minerals are transported from the roots to the crown of the tree.  Essentially, it is where energy for the tree is stored.  As older sapwood cells age and die, they become heartwood, which plays no role with transport of essential nutrients for the tree.  Then what are the benefits to heartwood?

Heartwood is known to be resistive to insects and decay.  An additional benefit is heartwood tends to be darker in color than the sapwood.  Because the cells die off, the moisture level is less difficult to manage than sapwood, meaning it can be dialed in with greater ease.  That’s why traditional firewood can take so long to season (up to a year) as it will contain bark, sapwood and heartwood due to the splitting of the harvested tree.  The combination of these three distinct components can alter the aroma and flavor when used together in cooking, producing a more muddled flavor profile.  This is where the risks for toxicity in cooking reveal themselves.

One of the reasons that SmokinLicious® has specific hardwood species in our product offerings is because the hardwoods we’ve selected tend to have a healthier heartwood to sapwood ratio, are known to have less risk of heartwood rot, and have lignin percentages that are more complimenting to cooking.  We’ve done the hard thinking for you so go ahead and select one of our hardwoods with confidence that you will get a super aroma and taste to your wood-fired menu items!