Wednesday, March 29, 2017

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



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

8 common mistakes to avoid when cooking with wood.
From Dr Smoke of SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products
We are approaching that exciting time of the year when just about all of North America can start to enjoy cooking outdoors again! Make it the best outdoor cooking season yet by learning the steps to using wood for cooking and grilling successfully, avoiding the trademark pitfalls that sink those outdoor meals.

#1: Don’t Soak the Wood Chips or Chunks


The goal when you cook on outdoor equipment is to maintain a stable temperature for the cooking process. This ensures that your foods cook evenly and have a pleasant flavor from the cooking process. When you add wet wood products to coals, you stimulate a “cool down” effect to those coals which translates to fluctuating temperature. Energy is expended to steam off the water from the wood and bring the coals back up to temperature. Even when you add wet wood product to a gas or electric assisted unit, you still use up energy for temperature control, requiring more energy to generate steam to dry the wood. Always apply wood products dry whether directly to charcoal, to the flavor bars/diffusers of an LP grill or in a smoker box, smoking tube, or disposable pan.

There is a time when wet wood is preferred. If you are going to do a traditional hot smoking technique on a food item that will take more than a few hours, and you don’t want to constantly replenish the wood chips, you can do a “two-pan” set up of wood. Using disposable foil pans, add dry wood chips to both and place under the food grates. Pour enough warm water into one pan to cover the wood pieces. Leave the other pan dry. By the time the dry wood product has combusted completely, the water in the “wet” pan set up will have dried up (steamed off) making the wood ideal to start smoking. This is a great way to keep the wood flavoring the food the whole cook time without having to constantly feed wood.

#2: Don’t Add a Lot of Wood


Likely the biggest mistake made when cooking with wood is to add too much. I always tell cooks to view the wood as another ingredient in the overall dish and have a tempered hand. Smoke is a vapor that contains very small particles of organic compounds with certain compounds that contain the actual flavoring imparted from wood. As a plant material, these flavonoids, when combusted, can be quite bold. Always start with about 6–8 ounces of wood product and only replenish when the wood has reduced to 1/3 its size. Replenishment is only needed to get the full cooking time completed.

#3: Don’t Measure Flavor Infusion By the Quantity of Smoke


It will take another article to explain the differences in smoke by color so let’s stick to the basics. As I mentioned above, smoke vapor particles are quite small and are known to be attracted to moist surfaces. With most equipment on the market today, materials used in construction ensure an efficient set up so air does not escape other than out the intended vents. Don’t add wood to the equipment just because you don’t see smoke. The best smoke vapor is barely visible and has a blue tint to it. Rest assured, the wood is doing its job even if you don’t see a lot of smoke. You certainly should smell the aroma of the wood as it combusts.

#4: Stop Peaking When Your Smoking or Indirect Cooking


I know it’s hard to keep to this rule but you must stop opening the grill hood or smoker lid and looking! Proper oxygen flow, a balance between intake of air and exhaust damper or vent, is critical to keep everything you grill, smoke or wood-fire tasting good. If you’re using wood on a traditional charcoal smoker or kettle style grill, then you shouldn’t be checking anything — water pan, charcoal level, wood combustion — until at least a couple of hours have passed. And for those units that have a charcoal access door, you can cause a temperature differential when you expose the hot coals to a flood of air as well as cause ash to become air born if windy. No one likes ash on their foods! Limit the amount of time you lift the lid.

#5: Pick the Right Moisture Level for the Cooking Technique


For most wood-fired cooking techniques, a moisture level of between 15–25% is ideal. That level will allow you to hot smoke either via direct method (heat/smoke directly under the food) or indirect method (food placed to the side without direct heat under), produce smoke vapor on the gas grill using the diffusers/flavor bars or a smoker box, and do direct fire cooking. For ember or coal cooking, I prefer to see a wood with a moisture level around 15%, as that will allow the wood to combust faster and produce the bed of coals needed for this type of cooking. If the wood is too dry, say below 10%, you simply are using something designed for a maximum amount of heat output so that wood should be reserved for campfire cooking or direct hot searing. Remember, moisture means there is water in the wood. It takes some time to evaporate the water out which is how the wood will last longer during cooking.

#6: Hardwoods Only


Without question, the type of wood as well as the species is critical for a successful wood cooking event. ONLY use hardwoods! That means no pine, redwood, spruce, fir, cypress, cedar, or hemlock. Softwoods contain a greater percentage of sap which translates into unpleasant flavors when you cook. Additionally, many of these softwoods can trigger reactions to the digestive track which make many people sick. Also, stick to hardwoods that have been tested for cooking. Favorites include: apple, beech, hickory, pecan, oak, cherry, peach, maple, alder, ash, mesquite, walnut (http://www.smokinlicious.com/blog/?p=746 ).

#7: Build a Hot Fire


Many equipment manufacturers include a charcoal basket or grate for the charcoal and wood to sit on. This is done for a very specific reason; wood needs oxygen to generate heat. If wood product sits in ash, it won’t burn consistently and cleanly. This can result in soot coating your foods. Also, don’t build a huge fire. A small fire that can ignite unlit charcoal and wood is the ideal and produces the best temperature control and flavor.

#8: Balance Everything


Don’t simply purchased grilling, smoking, or cooking wood and throw it on the fire without thinking about how you want the dish to taste. If you’re using sweeter ingredients, than pick a hardwood that has a bit more boldness to it like ash, beech, hickory or oak. Fruity ingredients to the food doesn’t translate to using a fruity wood. Remember, taste is aroma so any wood fire you use for cooking should smell pleasant and enticing.

If you keep these tips in mind, you’re on the way to having one of the best outdoor cooking seasons ever when everyone wants to always gather at your house!

From Dr Smoke of SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products

Dr Smoke



Follow us on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Flipboard, Google+


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

BANANA’S ULTIMATE SMOKY CREAMY GOODNESS

BANANA’S ULTIMATE SMOKY CREAMY GOODNESS

Take a very simple fruit and turn it into a culinary delight by adding smoke to it.
Smoking Bananas

Banana’s peak season is from January thru April but you can enjoy this fruit anytime of the year! Although you’ve likely enjoyed most of your bananas raw, they are one fruit that works exceptionally well in all types of recipes, from breads, puddings, smoothies, cookies, and muffins, their sweet undertone makes them ideal as a dessert item. With a light, creamy flavor you’ll find bananas are compatible with so many other ingredients like dark and white chocolate, coconut, blueberries, caramel, ginger, honey, sugar, vanilla, and many nuts. The best part, is they work in recipes whether ripe, under ripe, or overripe! The level of ripeness determines what you do with it.

In this series, we’re going to use the Gourmia® hand held food smoker with Minuto® Chips in Size 8 from SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products to get the perfect level of smoke using this quick, easy method. No spending hours over a traditional smoker and taking the risk of your bananas turning to mush! Get ready for a new flavor to your traditional banana for drinks, breakfast items, and desserts.


MATERIALS:

I’ll be using the Gourmia® hand held food smoker for this series, but any similar unit will work fine. In addition, you will need a cookie sheet, a food storage bag large enough to go over the cookie sheet or you can use plastic wrap, bananas — any variety will do, SmokinLicious® Minuto® Chips in either size #6, #8 or #10, and a lighter or kitchen torch. When selecting your bananas, look for evenly colored yellow bananas flecked with tiny brown specks which indicates ripeness. Avoid those with any visible blemishes as that usually indicates the fruit is bruised.

Be sure you are doing the smoking process in a well ventilated area or even outside. Kitchen hoods work great!


PREPARING THE HAND HELD SMOKER:

A good rule of thumb prior to starting your smoking process is to be sure everything is in working order. Check the batteries of your hand held food smoker and the butane level of your lighter. You’ll also need a few tablespoons of SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products Minuto® Wood Chips. I’m going to use Cherry today for a fruity pairing with the banana.

Attach the smoking tube to the hand held unit and have a lighter at the ready. It is important not to over stuff the bowl of the hand held smoker with chips as a little goes a long way. Now, place the Minuto® wood chips in the bowl of the unit.

 
PREPARING THE BANANAS:

As I want to get good wood flavor to the bananas, I am peeling them and cutting them in 2 inch pieces as the recipe I plan to use them in will require smaller segments. I then place the cut pieces on the sheet pan, and then secure a food storage bag or plastic wrap over the pan. Be sure you’re able to draw in the end of the bag as if you’re going to tie it off with a twist tie. The ability to cinch off the bag is what will ensure that the smoke vapor produced is trapped within the food bag and infuses each piece. If using plastic wrap, leave one end loose so you can insert the smoking tube. The length of time you leave the smoke vapor in the bag or under the plastic wrap will determine the strength of the flavor. I plan to incorporate dark chocolate, coconut and nuts with my smoked banana so I will be filling the bag with smoke vapor and allowing it to dissipate on its own. Remember, you have control of when you release the smoke so timing is up to you!


SMOKING PROCESS:

I turn on the Gourmia® hand held food smoker and lite the Minuto® wood chips. Once I have enough smoke into the bag, I will shut the unit off, remove the tubing, and seal the bag using a cable tie or tighten the wrap around the sheet pan. Can it get any easier than that? This will let you see just how long smoke vapor can last in a contained area.


THE SMOKY FINISH:

As I see the bag start to clear of the smoke vapor, it’s time to release the cable tie and be ready to remove my smoked banana slices for my recipe. So, what do you do with smoked banana? What can you think of? Essentially any recipe that calls for banana can be considered for smoked banana. I’ll get you started with our upcoming series on Smoked Banana Double Bites that you’ll fall in love with. Oh, don’t forget, smoked bananas freeze exceptionally well so put some away for those days when you want something made with the sweet, creaminess of banana and you’ll have a great start.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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



BEYOND PRICING: THE TOP THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PURCHASING COOKING WOOD
This article explores the items to consider when purchasing wood beyond price
smokinlicious.com


We have your top things to consider when purchasing cooking wood!  We are getting closer to peak season in North America for outdoor cooking.  What a perfect time to start thinking about what you want to get out of your outdoor cooking time this year so you’ll be able to source the supplies you’ll need and feel confident in your decisions.  This includes the wood used for cooking.

There are many companies who offer woods for cooking in the United States.  We thought we’d assist you in determining the perfect fit for your needs based on what you’re looking for in the cooking wood as well as a match for your equipment.

Today, we are going to compare 7 popular cooking wood companies who may use the terms cooking woods, grilling woods, wood and BBQ, gourmet cooking woods, or BBQ products.  The comparison will include 9 key areas: Established date of the business, where the wood is harvested or sourced from, wood types offered, how the wood is sold, shipping costs, treatment process the wood is exposed to, packaging of the product, if bark is present, and primary claim made by the Company.   Following this listing, I will highlight any information that you may want to question further.

Our goal is to arm the purchaser with needed information to ensure that they are getting the perfect wood for the cooking technique(s) they plan to do.  Remember, there are different variables needed in a wood for different methods of wood-fired cooking which you can read about further in our blog Taste is Aroma (http://www.smokinlicious.com/blog/?p=405)

CAROLINA COOK WOOD
Established: Unable to locate
Harvest: Local to S. Carolina
Wood Types: Cherry, White Oak, Apple, Hickory, Peach
Shipping: Charge
Product Sold By: Cubic feet for logs/pounds for chunks & chips
Wood Treatment Process: “Naturally cured”; denies kiln drying
Bark On: Yes
Product Packaging: Burlap bags, ½ cord stacked split firewood or on a pallet
Claim: “Our cooking wood is locally harvested, freshly cut and naturally cured”

Notes: All species listed would be native to S. Carolina with Apple and Peach being orchard woods not necessarily forest woods.  Although some products are sold by the cubic foot which is the legal method of sale for the wood commodity, others are sold by weight.  “Naturally cured” implies air drying so the wood could have laid around for many months.


COWBOY CHARCOAL
Established: 1992 under the name Cowboy Charcoal; purchased in 2015 by Duraflame, Inc.
Harvest: Unclear
Wood Types: Apple, Hickory, Mesquite
Shipping: Charge
Product Sold By: Cubic inches
Wood Treatment Process: Not specified
Bark On: Yes
Product Packaging: Plastic bags, individual foil tins for chip product
Claim: Long standing charcoal manufacturer under various trade names

Notes: Apple would be an orchard wood rather than forest grown.  Mesquite is not native to TN and KY which are the manufacturing locations for the Company, thus, it’s likely these woods are imported into the states.  Plastic packaging implies the wood has a very low moisture level which would be in line with a charcoal manufacturing practice.

FRUITA WOOD & BBQ SUPPLY
Established: Unable to locate
Harvest: Not specified
Wood Types: Apple, Cherry, Peach, Apricot, Red Oak, Post Oak, Maple, Hickory, Pecan, Pear, Grape, Plum, Alder, Mesquite, Sassafras
Shipping: Included in pricing
Product Sold By: Weight
Wood Treatment Process: “Naturally cured”
Bark On: Yes
Product Packaging: Cartons
Claim: “The wood out of our valley contained more sugar and moisture than any other wood on the market.”

Notes: It is likely that the woods sources for sale are from areas outside of the state since many of the selections are not native to Colorado.  This implies that the Company is merely the seller and not directly involved with the manufacturing process.  Wood is sold by weight and is air dried as defined by the term “naturally cured”. Their claim to have woods that “have more sugar and moisture than any others on the market” cannot be validated as hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin composition are relative to the wood species.  Plus, they indicate that they “naturally cured” their woods which translates to air drying like you do for seasoning firewood to render out the moisture.

MAINE GRILLING WOODS
Established: 2005
Harvest: “Local wood cutters and farmers in Maine”
Wood Types: Acadian Oak, Black Cherry, DownEast Hickory, Golden Alder, Mountain Mesquite, North Atlantic Olive, Northern Beechnut, Northern White Cedar, Sugar Maple, Wild Apple
Shipping: Included in pricing
Product Sold By: Cubic Inches
Wood Treatment Process: Not specified other than “dried”
Bark On: Yes
Product Packaging: Cartons, poly bags
Claim: “Our wood comes fresh from the many small woodlots and family farms in the nearby rural areas of coastal and central Maine”

Notes:  I assume that Acadian Oak is a reference to the oak coming from the Acadian forest in Maine while the name “DownEast Hickory” is the company’s nickname since there is no variety of Hickory by that name.  I am unclear on the references to North Atlantic Olive as I am aware of no olive trees per se that are native to Maine.  Again, Mesquite would not be native to the state of Maine given its poor tolerance to winter conditions. 


SHARPE GOURMET COOKING WOODS
Established: 2006?
Harvest: None specified – indicates they source woods from all over the USA
Wood Types: Alder, Almond, Hickory, Peach, Apple, Red Oak, Cherry, Pecan, Wine Barrel, Post Oak, Olive logs, Ash, Avocado, Citrus, Grape, Maple, Mesquite, Walnut
Shipping: Charge (note: delivered and stacked for firewood sold in S. California)
Product Sold By: Cubic feet
Wood Treatment Process: Not specified
Bark On: Yes
Product Packaging: Plastic bags
Claim: “All Sharpe Gourmet Products are custom processed, packed & shipped from The Woodshed in Orange, California.  We search the U.S. for the best quality wood & package the finest chips, chunks and logs to enhance the flavor of your favorite foods!  We specialize in exotic, hard to find varieties!”

Notes: Since this Company is sourcing woods from all over, there is likely no consistency in the products moisture or overall condition.  It is also unclear who is completing the manufacturing of the wood into the chips, chunks, and logs.

VAUGHN WOOD PRODUCTS
Established: Unable to locate
Harvest: Within a few weeks of being sold but does not state where the wood’s origin is
Wood Types: Apple, Cherry, Hickory, Maple, Oak, Alder, Grape
Shipping: Included in pricing
Product Sold By: Cubic feet for chunks, weight for split logs, weight for chips
Wood Treatment Process: “heat treated to prevent mold”
Bark On: Yes
Product Packaging: Plastic bags, shrink wrap, cartons
Claim: “Nearly 95% of all our products come from trees we have harvested within a few weeks of our products being sold. We have high quality and the freshest woods on the market.” 

Notes: Although it certainly is possible to harvest fresh wood and heat treat it, as wood, when green can have as much as 50% water by weight, it would take a very long heating process to rid enough moisture from the wood to be able to package it stably in plastic bags.

WESTERN PREMIUM BBQ PRODUCTS
Established: 1986 AS W W Wood Inc.
Harvest: Not specified
Wood Types: Apple, Alder, Hickory, Mesquite, Maple, Oak, Pecan, Orange, Peach, Jack Daniel’s
Shipping: Must be purchased at a partner location
Product Sold By: Liter, cubic feet
Wood Treatment Process: Under USDA-Protocol T-314-a.  Compliance Agreement Permit No. TDA-271
Bark On: Yes
Product Packaging: Plastic bags
Claim: “Business has grown from supplying Hickory and Mesquite wood to local barbequers to supplying the world with a multitude of wood flavors and BBQ related items”

Notes: This is a Texas based Company which means some of the species listed are not native to that state.  They likely source outside wood supply for the inventory.   Online purchases will dictate if shipping is included or is a separate charge based on the online business dealer selected.



Now you have the key list of points to compare to us- www.smokinlicious.com. By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Wood Flavourist at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS.