Thursday, December 7, 2017

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

We explore the question “is wood-tar creosote” bad for your BBQ food?
There are lots of stories out there in the BBQ world about creosote!  Most have the same tone: creosote is not something you want when you cook with wood.
Unfortunately, that can never happen as creosote is always present in wood.

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

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

The Advantages of Wood-Tar Creosote

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

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

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

Risks of Wood-Tar Creosote

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

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

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

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

Not All Hardwoods Are Equal In Compound Percentages

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

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

SMOKED POTATO CURRY SMOKINLICIOUS® STYLE!

This smoked potato curry smells and tastes awesome! Try this around a holiday to just add a small smoky flavor to a favorite vegetable.
Whenever we reach the transition between Winter and Spring, I like to start transitioning my meals from hearty comfort foods to a bit more health conscious to prepare for the “less clothes” season coming.  Since I’m in the southwestern portion of New York State, our warmer temperatures can be a long way away from the calendar date of the first day of Spring.

That’s when I love to do dishes like Indian curries!

Hearty and filling, but loaded with healthy vegetables, I’m taking the traditional potato curry to a new level with my smoked potato!

Despite the many ingredients, this is still a very simple dish.

Ingredient List:

Gather together the following ingredients:
  • 2 cups smoked potato (see are previous posting on how to smoke the potatoes)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Clove, cardamom, fennel seeds, curry, turmeric, chili powder, coriander, cumin
  • 1 large red onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 green chili
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can butter beans
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons high heat oil

Building Flavors

The first ingredients to incorporate will be the cinnamon stick and fennel seeds.  fennel seeds.  Heat the 2 tablespoons of high heat oil – I’m using coconut oil –  in a pan.  I’m using cast iron for the even heat distribution and retention of heat.  Once hot, add the cinnamon stick and fennel seeds and stir to keep the seeds from burning.  While infusing these flavors, mix together 2 teaspoons of curry, 2 teaspoons of cardamom, and 1 teaspoon of cumin.  Add these dry ingredients to the oil mixture and stir well.

You’ll start to smell the wonderful aromatics of these spices.

Vegetables and Spice Are Always Nice

Continuing to build on our flavors, I chop 4 garlic cloves and add to the spiced oil as well as 3 green chili slices, mixing well.  Allow these ingredients to tenderize for a few minutes then add your diced red onion.  But be sure you stir well to allow everything to incorporate.  Allow this mixture to cook on medium heat until the onion has become very tender and begins to darken in color, meaning it is sweating.  Now, get ready to add even more spice flavors.

Kicking Up The Flavors

Once the garlic, chili, onion mixture has tenderized, it’s time to add more spice.  Then, mix 1 teaspoon each of coriander, turmeric, clove, and chili powder together.  Add to the onion mixture in the pan stirring well.  Now we are ready for the 2 cups of the previously smoked potatoes.  Mix everything together well.  As the potatoes tenderize, you can break them apart into smaller pieces if desired.  Then add 1 cup of water and allow the mixture to simmer.  At this point I turn my heat down to medium-low.

Getting A Meaty Texture

Let’s add some additional meatiness to this dish by first incorporating 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.  Next, 2 diced tomatoes and the can of butter beans which if you don’t know, are white Lima beans, a great cholesterol lowering legume and rich in fiber!  Mix well and allow to simmer.  At this stage, you will see the ingredients thicken.  If you would rather more of a thick soup consistency rather than gravy consistency, feel free to add additional water.

After simmering for about 8 minutes on medium-low temperature, I add 2 tablespoons of butter to the mix.  If you’re dairy free, feel free to eliminate the butter and you’ll still have a wonderful dish.
I like to serve my smoked potato curry with chopped fresh green onion on top and brown rice on the side.  Taziki or Greek yogurt adds a nice touch as well for those looking for a “cooling” affect to the dish.

Now, dig in and see how versatile this dish can become.  Think about changing the smoked potato for a grilled or smoked eggplant, zucchini or yellow squash.  All wonderful options for this vegetable hearty dish.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

HOW MUCH AND WHAT KIND OF SALT?

This is our discussion on salt choices and why you should add salt to food
Adding salt choices has a purpose and why


This article was born from a question which was recently forwarded to SmokinLicious® to answer. 

“Why salt choices are necessary in food despite adding different ingredients even for sweet dish need(ing) salt”.

 I realized just how important salt is to the style of cooking known as barbecue.

Our salt box is a great storage unit for any saltWhy the Need to Salt?

Salt is a mineral found in crystalline form that is used as a seasoning for food.  Simply put, salt brings out the flavor or natural essence of food.  Salt choices draw out the natural juices in raw meat and dissolves with the liquid forming a brine that gets reabsorbed by the meat.  This results in the meat’s ability to hold on to more of its own natural juices during cooking.

Types of Salt Choices

Over the past 5 years, salt choices have become a very hot commodity in the food industry.  There are hundreds of kinds of salts but for simplicity sake, I will discuss those that are commonly found in grocery and food specialty stores.

Table Salt:

Decades ago, this was simply known as iodized salt.  This is the most refined salt that is known to have a metallic taste due to the grinding process and high-heat process to produce it.  It is almost pure sodium chloride and has the highest per-granule sodium content of all salts.  When used in cooking, the cook generally will use too much due to this refined grind size.  I recommend you never cook with standard table salt.

These are our four salt types that we discuss in our blogSea Salt:

This salt type is made by the evaporation of seawater which results in the retainment of natural micronutrients.  Unlike table salt which uses a high-heat process, sea salt provides minerals of iodine, magnesium, calcium, potassium and bromide.  There are many different grind levels in sea salt and each of those, affect the taste, color, and mouthfeel of the salt itself.

Kosher Salt:

Known for its ability to distribute evenly on the surface of food, kosher salt is harvested by mining dried up ocean and sea beds.  It has a much coarser grind than table salt, which is considered flaky (For cooks, it is reliable, consistent, inexpensive, and pure).

Finishing Salt:

Just as the name implies, this type of salt is used only when a dish is finished, for instance, sliced tomato with mozzarella and basil, grilled to perfection steak, and even watermelon.  Therefore, it is considered a very light tasting salt.

Tamari and Soy Sauce:

I am including tamari and soy sauce as these are very common substitutes for salts in sauces used for barbecue.  Sometimes, soy sauce is used in addition to salt or garlic and onion salt for these items, making them much higher in overall sodium content.    On average tamari has 700mg sodium per serving while soy sauce comes in at a whopping 1000mg per serving.

BBQ Rubs & Seasonings

Hopefully, you’ve learned how to read an ingredient list on any label.  The first ingredients listed make up the largest amount of the contents, while the last few ingredients make up the least.  I looked at five (5) popular BBQ rubs and seasonings sold on Amazon.com to see what ingredients made up the bulk of these items and where salt rated on the ingredient list.  Here are my findings:

McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning coarse salt, spices, garlic

17th Street Magic Dust All-Purpose Seasoning & Rub salt, sugar, dextrose

Killer Hogs The BBQ Rub – brown sugar, sugar, salt

Stubb’s Beef Spice Rub sea salt, spices, cane sugar

John Wayne Rubs salt, garlic, sugar

As you can see, salt is a primary ingredient of commercially marketed rubs/seasonings for barbecue.  Therefore, I always recommend that you give some consideration to making your own rub or seasoning.  When produced in large quantity, you can keep these in the refrigerator for up to a month in an air tight container.  Best of all, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you can control the level of sodium in your meal.


EMBER FIRED EGGPLANT & FETA TARTS

Ember Fired Eggplant on the rack cooking above a bed of hot coals. This technique provides the heat for cooking and the aroma of the wood smoke
Ember Fired Eggplant on the rack cooking above a bed of hot coals. This technique provides the heat for cooking and the aroma of the wood smoke


You’ve heard me mention before how great it is to ember or coal fire certain foods, with a good majority of those items falling in the fruit category.  One of the best fruits to use this technique with is eggplant.

we selected two nice and plump eggplants for our ember cooking Not of Nutritional Value

Eggplant, also called aubergine, is part of a flowering plant grown for its edible fruit.  This is a thick-skinned fruit that has a meaty quality to its flesh.  In fact, it can make for a filling meal.  Eggplant contains a lot of water – 92% to be specific!  It is not known to be a contributor for daily nutritional intake.  Despite all that, Eggplant remains a favorite ingredient to cook with.

Nestling is Key

When cooking in the coals, it is best to use medium sized eggplant.  It doesn’t matter what variety you select, the technique for cooking in the coals will remain the same.

Starting the fire

preparing the hot coals for the eggplant. you want these to burn down leaving only the heat and no flame to burn the eggplant. Ember cooking is only over hot coals.First, you need to start with a good wood fire, using clean hardwood.  In order to do this technique successfully, you need to ensure that there are no flames left in the fire, just hot coals.  You’ll know the coals are ready for the cooking when they are completely grayed over.  If your grilling area is large enough, you can stage a couple of burning wood pieces to provide additional heat to the area.  Just don’t cook directly in those flames.
When the coals are ready, make sure the embers are in an even layer and then place the eggplants side by side in the embers.  I like to use a fine screen in the bottom of my charcoal area to aide in heat retention.  Now, leave these untouched for about 10 minutes.  After that time, you can turn the eggplant to ensure all sides get evenly charred.  If you make a large enough fire, you can bury the eggplant completely in the hot coals and not have to do any turning.  That technique will require about 30 minutes of cooking time.

Blackened, Charred Skin Makes It Ready

Once the Ember Fired Eggplant has tenderized in the coals, it’s time to carefully remove it. Cool the eggplant, so it won’t burn and can be handled.  Then, slice each eggplant open from end to end, and gently scoop out the flesh.  Be sure to leave all the charred skin behind.  If you’re ready to use this in a recipe, then no need to do anything more to the eggplant.  If you plan on using it later, you must prevent the eggplant flesh from turning dark by incorporating 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and enough water to cover the flesh.  When finished, it’s best to store the Ember Fired Eggplant in a glass jar, bowl, or other container.

6 Needed Ingredients

To make the Ember Fired Eggplant with Feta Tarts, you’ll need a muffin pan and the following food ingredients:
  • Flesh from 1 medium size coal-fired eggplant
  • ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped pistachios, plus 2 tablespoons for topping the tarts
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 5 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • Extra virgin olive oil for brushing dough and preparing muffin pan

removing any char from the fire and then chopping up the eggplant to be added as the tart fillingWood Flavored Eggplant Mixture

Roughly chop the wood fired eggplant.  Then transfer to a medium bowl and add feta, 3 tablespoons chopped pistachios, coriander, red-pepper flakes, and mint.  Season with salt and fresh ground pepper and stir gently to combine.

Making the Tarts

showcasing the finished product! Our ember roasted eggplant within the feta tart- yummyLightly oil the muffin pan cups.  Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough on a board and lightly brush with oil.  Stack 4 more phyllo sheets on top, brushing each with oil.  Cut the stacked sheets into 6 equal squares.  Carefully, pick up each square and place in a muffin cup, gently pressing in place.  Fill each dough cup with about ¼ cup of eggplant mixture.  Gently fold over the corners of the dough to enclose the filling as a tart.  Brush tops with oil and sprinkle with crushed pistachios.  Then Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve.




Tuesday, November 21, 2017

EMBER FIRED FRESH ZUCCHINI

Zucchini is a great vegetable to not only grill but ember cook. It has the density to hold up over the high heat. Add a distinct char taste to this abundant vegetable either as a side dish or an ingredient by making ember fired fresh zucchini.
I love thick skinned vegetables that come in season during Summer.  They are the perfect items to light a fire and make some hot coals to ember fire flavor into them.
We’re getting ready to coal roast one of my favorite vegetables – zucchini!  This is so simple to do and produces an extraordinary flavor for zucchini to be eaten on its own or to be used in your favorite recipe.  Clean out the fire pit, charcoal grill or outdoor fireplace and prepare to roast “ember fired fresh zucchini” directly on the hot coals.

Starting the fire to burn down the wood into coals Building A Small Fire

Know this from the start – You do not need a large fire!  A small fire is best to accomplish your cooking in about an hour’s time.  For my fire, I am using ten SmokinLicious Single Filet Wood Chunks in Ash with a couple of pieces of charwood that were left over from a previous cook.   Why Ash hardwood?  Because it is hands down, the best hardwood to produce an even bed of coals which is what you want when you coal roast.

I stack the wood so there is quite a bit of air space between the pieces.  This ensures I have good oxygen flow to produce combustion quickly. My technique is to stand the wood pieces on their end and make a circle. I try to have a couple of pieces in the center kind of tipped on to each other.  Remember, you want to produce hot embers quickly so it only requires a little wood and a lot of oxygen to burn things down.  I light my wood using a small butane torch. Leave the torch in place until I’m sure the wood has ignited.  I keep the lid off my charcoal grill so I can push the combustion process through completion and get those ash covered, hot embers.

Red Hot coals is the goal before adding the zucchiniRed Means Hot

You will know when the coals or embers are ready for cooking when you have uniform coals and they are glowing red from the bottom and gray on top.  I keep a couple of larger coals banked to the side to maintain heat and for reserved hot coals. Just in case I need to rake more to the cooking side.  I like to nestle a high heat metal cooking rack on the hot coals and then place my whole zucchini on the rack.  This allows for little ash to accumulate on the skin.  Remember, those coals are very hot so the zucchini will take less than 20 minutes to tenderize and char.

Turn For Full Char

With the zucchini and coal rack in place, I give the embers about 8 minutes to char and cook the first side of the zucchini.  After that time, I gentle turn the zucchini so that each side gets an even char.  Once the first 8 minutes are done, there will be less time needed for each of the other sides as the zucchini will hold heat.  I’ve added one additional wood piece to my banked fire just to be sure I have enough heat in the coal area.  I will not put the lid on the unit during the entire cooking process as this is open fire cooking.  My total coal cooking time is approximately 16 minutes.

Perfection In Smoke & Char on Ember Fired Fresh Zucchini

After placing my ember fired fresh zucchini on hot coals for about 16 minutes total, turning several times to get an even char, this spectacular vegetable is ready for eating.  You will see, there is very little coal bed left following this technique so remember, if you are cooking more than a couple of zucchini, you will need a larger coal bed.

For those of you thinking that the black, charred skin will be bitter and not appealing to eat, think again.  Most of the char will rub right off but the flavor will be infused throughout the ember fired fresh zucchini.  I’ve sliced mine about ¼-inch thick as I plan to make a galette of ricotta, garlic oil, and basil.

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.