Thursday, October 29, 2020

UPSIDE DOWN CAKE WITH SMOKED PEACHES

Our Cast Iron pan on the gas grill with double filet wood chunks flavoring our smoked peaches into the upside down cake!
Our Cast Iron pan on the gas grill with double filet wood chunks flavoring our smoked peaches into the upside down cake!

Hopefully, you enjoyed our previous segment on adding smoke flavor to seasonal peaches.  We sure have had fun providing you with different techniques to add the natural flavor of wood. Now is the fun part where you take those smoked fruit pieces and turn them into something great.

I’m going to introduce you to a super flavorful and balanced peach cake done in the style of the traditional pineapple upside down cake – only with peaches!  For this recipe you’ll need three peaches but don’t waste the perfect time to do some extras so you can make all our great smoked peach recipes.

 Skillet Cooking

Our cast Iron pan on the grill

Be sure you follow our posting on how to smoke peaches on a grill with wood or on a traditional smoker.  Our cake recipe starts with 3 tablespoons of butter.  Melt the butter and coat a cast iron skillet with it.  Be sure to get the butter up the sides of the pan as this will be the non-stick guarantee for removing the cake.  Place a ¼ cup of sugar evenly on the bottom of the pan and allow to brown for about 3 minutes.  While the sugar is browning, slice the peach halves into ¾-inch thick slices.  Once the butter/sugar mixture is ready, arrange the peaches around the edge of the pan on top of the sugar.  Then fill the center of the pan with the remaining peach slices.  Cook just for a few minutes until the peaches are sweetened by the butter and sugar mixture.  Remove the skillet from the heat.  Now, time to prepare the cake batter.

 Tasting Notes: Keep in mind, we will be cooking the cake on the grill which means you must use a high heat tolerant cookware.  Cast iron is ideal for this purpose but feel free to use another piece of cookware that will tolerate a grill or smokers heat.

Our upside down cake on the wood fired grill set up for a two zone cooking method.

Upside Down Cake Batter

Our dry ingredients ready to become the dough

The cake batter starts with the dry ingredients.  You’ll need a medium bowl for these ingredients.  Start by whisking 1 cup of coarse yellow cornmeal with ¾ cup all-purpose flour.  Keep in mind, you can use polenta if you prefer.  Add 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh lavender or 1-1/2 teaspoons of dried lavender, and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.  Mix well and set aside.  Next, we’ll work on the wet ingredients for our batter.

It’s important to mix the wet ingredients separate from the dry to ensure each ingredient is mixed well.  Start by getting a large bowl.  Add 6 tablespoons of softened butter and ¾ cup sugar to the bowl.  With a hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy.  Get 3 large eggs and add one egg to the batter at a time, beating well after each addition.  The batter will slowly become thinner.  Mix in ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ cup heavy cream.  Now, taking the medium bowl of cornmeal mixture, add ½ the dry cornmeal mixture to the large bowl of wet ingredients.  Be sure to use a low setting on the mixer and scrap down the sides of the bowl to get a complete mix.  With the batter ready, we’ll be adding batter to our cast iron pan loaded with peaches.

A Beautiful Finish

Our upside down cake baking in the cast iron pan on the gas grill

What’s great about making cakes in a cast iron pan is generally, the batter is dropped into the pan rather than poured.  Using a large spoon, drop the prepared batter over the peaches and spread with a spatula.  Time to add flavor to the entire cake by cooking it on the grill with wood chunks in a smoker box.

Cook until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean; this should be 20-25 minutes with a steady grill temperature of 350°F.  Transfer the skillet to a wire rack and let stand for 10 minutes.  Run a knife or spatula around the edge of the cake and invert onto a serving platter.  Tap the bottom of the skillet to release the cake and remove the skillet slowly.  Let cool slightly, then serve.

Although this is a sweet cake, I like to add a bit of unsweetened freshly whipped heavy cream.  Feel free to change the fruit in the cake to something else that is in season like plums, strawberries, blueberries – you get the picture.  For all you camp cooking lovers, this is one to try at the camp as well.  Just gather some hot coals and place your cast iron near those coals and you’re on your way!

What’s your favorite iron skillet dessert?  Leave us a comment to opine and subscribe to get all our postings on tips, techniques and recipes.  Bringing innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Coffee Smoked Foods: A New Flavor Craze

Guest Blog- Kylee Harris on Coffee Smoked Foods!
Guest Blog- Kylee Harris on Coffee Smoked Foods!

Kylee Harris on Coffee Smoked Foods– At one point, all foods had an element of smoke; everything was cooked over an open fire before gas and electric stoves came about. It’s thought that the smell and imparted taste of smoke is programmed into mankind as a result, which is why smoked foods are popular all over the globe. Meat, seafood, and even smoky desserts like fruit pies, are still flavored with a variety of wood smoke. Recently, professional and home cooks alike have begun to wonder about the hidden potential of another thing close to their hearts: coffee. Smoking food with a combination of wood and coffee beans could be the next big taste revolution.

Coffee Varieties for Smoking Foods

Just as there is a variety of options when it comes to smoking food with wood, there are a few choices in coffee as well. For flavor profile, darker and richer bean varieties pair best with red meat, while more mild varieties are better sampled with poultry and seafood. There’s also the question of regular or decaffeinated types of coffee. No, smoking with coffee won’t caffeinate your food (though wouldn’t that be interesting), but there can be a difference in flavor here as well. Regular has a higher level of acidity and thus bitterness, while decaf is less so. Rule of thumb: if you like the bitter tang of a certain coffee, then you will probably like the flavors it lends to smoked food.

Beans, Grounds, and Pellets

Of course, flavor is one thing- this is open to individual tastes- but what about what works best for the actual smoking process? Ground coffee is great as a marinade or rub for meat, but it burns up too quickly to be very useful for smoking. Coffee beans are better for the process, as they can burn more slowly. A combination of wood chips with coffee beans (a 3:1 ratio) is a good balance, allowing the coffee beans to add their subtle flavors without becoming too smoky and overpowering. There’s also the option of coffee pellets, which are coffee grounds and saw dust pressed into compact pellets used as a fuel for both cooking and heating. These are said to have a much more subtle flavor when used for cooking and work particularly well, according to fans, for flavoring smoked corned beef.

Pre-Roasted Versus Green Coffee Beans

While both grounds and pellets have their place, most people prefer smoking food with whole coffee beans, which then poses the question: raw and green, or already roasted? The answer really depends on personal preference, once again. Green coffee beans will give off much more smoke, which can be a good thing if that’s the flavor you’d like to try. Pre roasted, on the other hand, will smoke less, but may need to be soaked in water first in order to be able to smolder for a longer time to produce a sustained smoking processes. 

As you can see, there are quite a few choices you can make to customize your coffee-smoked food experience. Experimenting with flavors and methods is what really makes cooking the art form that it so clearly is. The options are plentiful, and the vision (or taste, as it is) is all up to you.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN IS THE WAY TO MOISTURE & HARDWOOD FOR FLAVOR

Our Cooked Spatcock Chicken with Fresh Curry
Our Cooked Spatchcock Chicken with Fresh Curry

Spatchcock Chicken– One of the questions I field the most is how do you keep chicken moist when you grill?

Today’s feature is intended to answer that question with both method of preparation to allow the chicken to cook evenly and method of wood firing to get exceptional wood flavoring yet be able to walk away from the grill.  I’ll be offering my version of spatchcock chicken with a curry flavor cooked two-zone set up on a gas grill.  Once you try this method of cooking, you’ll want to grill chicken this way all the time, even during the coldest months of the year.  And it will come out perfectly moist and cooked evenly every time.

Go pick up your ideal whole chicken, preferably fresh, and let’s learn the simplest method of cooking and flavoring whole chicken.

Flatten to Even Cooking

The chicken needs to be flatten, so some knife skills will be required

Spatchcocking, by definition, is the removal of the backbone in a chicken so you can flatten it for cooking.  This ensures an even cooking of dark and white meat in the bird, while also guaranteeing moisture is maintained.

To start, you’ll need a whole chicken with the organs and neck removed.  Turn the chicken so the breast is down on the cutting board.  Locate the backbone and cut along one side of the bone with kitchen shears.  Then cut along the other side until the entire backbone is removed.  Turn the chicken back around so the breast is facing up.

With the backbone removed, I prepare a sheet pan lined with foil for cooking.  I place the palm of my hand on the breastbone of the chicken and push downward to break the cartilage.  The chicken will now lie completely flat.  I remove the chicken from the cutting board and place on my prepared sheet pan breast side up.  Be sure to wash all cutting tools and boards at this stage to remove any contamination of the raw poultry.  Let’s get ready to make our curry sauce for the spatchcock chicken.

Tasting Notes: If fresh whole chicken is not available, you may substitute frozen whole chicken.  Just be sure it is completely defrosted and pat dried before starting this recipe.

 Curry Sauce & Wood Infusion

Fresh curry from our garden

Although I’m referring to this as a Curry Chicken recipe, note this is not a recipe that cooks for hours like a traditional Indian Curry.  It is fast but highly flavorful.  It all starts with 1 stick of butter melted in a saucepan over medium heat.  To that I add about 2-3 tablespoons of curry powder.  Then 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and 3 tablespoons of honey.  Whisk until well combined ensuring the butter does not separate.  I then remove from the heat and grind fresh black pepper into the mix.  I also have fresh curry on hand that I will be topping my sauced chicken with for added fresh curry flavor.

Time to take our great sauce and begin coating our spatchcocked chicken.  Using a basting brush, add a liberal amount of sauce to the entire chicken, ensuring you get under the wings and legs.  Be sure all crevices are coated.  Then top with fresh curry leaves.  While I’m completing the sauce step, I’ve been preheating my grill to 300°F using burners on only one side of the grill.  On that hot side, I’ve added a smoker box that contains four wood chunks.  I’ve used a combination of hardwoods including cherry, maple and ash.  With the grill hot and the wood chunks smoking, it’s time to grill!

Tasting Notes: Fresh curry can be difficult to find so feel free to eliminate this step if it’s not available.  Remember, when two-zone cooking on a grill, the total number of burners will determine how many to turn on.  If the unit is only a three burner, just turn one burner on.  For a four-burner grill, turn on just two burners.

Ready in a Flash!

With our prepared spatchcock curry chicken readied, the sheet pan is added to the grill and the lid is closed.  I leave this to cook on its own for about an hour before returning to rotate the pan and coat on some additional sauce.  I also change out the wood chunks as you’ll find that they have completely charred, which means they no longer are giving off smoke flavor.  I only add 2 new wood chunks to finish the grilling.  Another 20-30 minutes and this should be cooked to 165°F internal temperature.   I then remove from the grill and begin carving.

Our finished curry chicken from the grill

I remove the leg quarters first, then the wings.  Then I slice the breast meat and serve everything on a platter.  You’ll find a small amount of meat will clings and become pulled chicken.  That’s it!  I like to serve mine with rice using the residual juices as flavor for the rice.  This is absolutely a full proof way to get moist flavorful chicken from the grill in a relatively short period of time.

What’s your favorite spatchcock chicken recipe?  Leave us a comment to opine and subscribe to get all our postings on tips, techniques and recipes.  Bringing innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

HOW SEASONS AND EQUILIBRIUM MOISTURE CONTENT AFFECT WOOD STORAGE

The four season has an affect on wood storage and its cooking or smoking potential
The four season has an affect on wood storage and its cooking or smoking potential

Wood Storage-I recently had a lovely telephone conversation with a new customer who had previously lived in the Carolinas and now was dealing with the great variability of climate in the state of Colorado.  This customer had the fortitude to think about the altitude, humidity and temperature differences in Colorado and how they might affect hardwood purchased from us and stored in his new home state.

This got me thinking about the information we currently offer regarding hardwoods.  We’ve provided you with information on differences of hardwoods and which are ideal for cooking, on why moisture is important for certain methods of cooking, and how to store hardwood.  I think what’s missing is maintaining the stability of hardwoods in different climates.  To do this, you need to know Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) for each state and for each season.

Let me first state some facts about hardwood and wood storage. 

The Ideals for Wood Storage

Wood at or above the fiber saturation point – which I define as the point in the drying process when only bound water in the cell walls remain with all free water removed from cell cavities -will lose moisture when exposed to any relative humidity below 100 percent. The average fiber saturation point is 26%. 

Totally dry (oven dried) wood will absorb moisture when exposed to any relative humidity except when at zero. At a constantly maintained temperature and relative humidity, any wood will reach a point where it neither loses nor gains any moisture. When wood is in moisture balance with the relative humidity of the air surrounding it at a given temperature, the wood has reached its equilibrium moisture content (EMC). Put another way, in an environment maintained at a constant relative humidity and temperature, the wood will come to a moisture content that is in equilibrium with the moisture of the air.  I believe the ideals for relative humidity are 37 to 53% and temperature 66° to 74° F.  Keep in mind, relative humidity is much more important to EMC than temperature.

Why is knowing EMC important when it comes to hardwood or in this case, cooking hardwood?

Knowing this information can provide an indication of how fast the cooking wood might dry out or the likelihood that a wood might regain some moisture during specific seasons and in specific states in the USA.

EMC Averages in the USA for Wood Storage

There are five designations I am giving to the outdoor conditions for wood storage: arid (having little or no rain), dry (low relative humidity with little moisture), moist (air with high relative humidity), damp (air with moisture), and wet (air with high water vapor).  As you’ll see, some states have no variation in condition based on season and others see significant variation.  I’ll be listing the average EMC for season and the condition designation per season.  Keep in mind, each hardwood responds to these conditions slightly differently based on the density of the wood and the conditions it grows in.

  • Alaska:

Winter: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Wet

Summer: average EMC = 14.6; Designation = Wet

Fall: average EMC = 15.6; Designation = Wet

  • Alabama:

Winter: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Damp

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Damp

Summer: average EMC = 13.8; Designation = Damp

Fall: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Damp

  • Arkansas:

Winter: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Damp

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Damp

Summer: average EMC = 13.3; Designation = Damp

Fall: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Damp

  • Arizona:

Winter: average EMC = 9.8; Designation = Dry

Spring: average EMC = 7.2; Designation = Arid

Summer: average EMC = 7.9; Designation = Arid

Fall: average EMC = 8.4; Designation = Arid

  • California:

Winter: average EMC = 12.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 10; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 11.4; Designation = Dry

  • Colorado:

Winter: average EMC = 11; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC =8.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 8.6; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 9.4; Designation = Dry

  • Connecticut:

Winter: average EMC = 12.6; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.6; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13; Designation = Dry

  • Delaware:

Winter: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.1; Designation = Dry

  • District of Columbia (DC):

Winter: average EMC = 11.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

  • Florida:

Winter: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 14.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 14.3; Designation = Dry

  • Georgia:

Winter: average EMC = 13; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC =13.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Dry

  • Hawaii:

Winter: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.5; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13; Designation = Dry

  • Idaho:

Winter: average EMC = 14.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 10.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 7.9; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 10.7; Designation = Dry

  • Illinois:

Winter: average EMC = 14.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Dry

  • Indiana:

Winter: average EMC = 15.1; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • Iowa:

Winter: average EMC = 14.8; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13.1; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • Kansas:

Winter: average EMC =13.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Dry

  • Kentucky:

Winter: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.3; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.1; Designation = Dry

  • Louisiana:

Winter: average EMC = 14.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 14.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Dry

  • Maine:

Winter: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.1; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 14.3; Designation = Dry

  • Maryland:

Winter: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.1; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

  • Massachusetts:

Winter: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.6; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Dry

  • Michigan:

Winter: average EMC = 17.3; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 14.7; Designation = Dry

  • Minnesota:

Winter: average EMC = 14.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 14.4; Designation = Dry

  • Mississippi:

Winter: average EMC = 14.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • Missouri:

Winter: average EMC = 14; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.3; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.3; Designation = Dry

  • Montana:

Winter: average EMC = 13.8; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 10.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 9.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 11.4; Designation = Dry

  • Nebraska:

Winter: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Dry

  • Nevada:

Winter: average EMC = 11.4; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 8.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 6.5; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 8.4; Designation = Dry

  • New Hampshire:

Winter: average EMC = 13; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.6; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.5; Designation = Dry

  • New Jersey:

Winter: average EMC = 12.5; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

  • New Mexico:

Winter: average EMC = 9.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 6.8; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 8.5; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 9.2; Designation = Dry

  • New York:

Winter: average EMC = 13.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.6; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.6; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • North Carolina:

Winter: average EMC = 13; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Dry

  • North Dakota:

Winter: average EMC = 15.1; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13.2; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.7; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.6; Designation = Dry

  • Ohio:

Winter: average EMC = 14.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.7; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • Oklahoma:

Winter: average EMC = 13; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.6; Designation = Dry

  • Oregon:

Winter: average EMC = 16.4; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 10.7; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Dry

  • Pennsylvania:

Winter: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.4; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.6; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Dry

  • Rhode Island:

Winter: average EMC =12.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.3; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

  • South Carolina:

Winter: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 13.3; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.2; Designation = Dry

  • South Dakota:

Winter: average EMC = 14.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.5; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.8; Designation = Dry

  • Tennessee:

Winter: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.6; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Dry

  • Texas:

Winter: average EMC = 12.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.1; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 12.5; Designation = Dry

  • Utah:

Winter: average EMC = 14.2; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 9.7; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 7.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 10.2; Designation = Dry

  • Vermont:

Winter: average EMC = 13.4; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 12.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.7; Designation = Dry

  • Virginia:

Winter: average EMC = 10; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 11.9; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 13; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 13.1; Designation = Dry

  • Washington:

Winter: average EMC = 16.9; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.7; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 11.2; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 14.2; Designation = Dry

  • West Virginia:

Winter: average EMC = 13.8; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 12.4; Designation = Moist

5; Designation = Damp

Fall: average EMC = 14.2; Designation = Damp

  • Wyoming:

Winter: average EMC = 11.7; Designation = Wet

Spring: average EMC = 10.5; Designation = Moist

Summer: average EMC = 8.9; Designation = Dry

Fall: average EMC = 10.2; Designation = Dry

So, what do you take from these numbers?  Locations in what we call the dry climates of the US Southwest exhibit the lowest EMCs, with Nevada posting the lowest annual EMC.  Locations considered coastal or near coastal like Alaska, the Gulf coast, and Northwest have the highest EMCs, with an island in Alaska having the highest annual EMC of over 19%.  Of course, for the lower states, Washington state has the highest EMC of over 17%.

The largest variability in EMC occurs in the states of eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and Idaho.  Those states with the smallest variability include the deep South with Texas leading the list.  For 48% of the country, the range of monthly EMC variability is between 2 and 4%.

When it comes to times of the year with the highest EMC, its no surprise that December leads for most of the Midwest, western and northern states.  The south tends to show the most variability in September, with April and May demonstrating the most stability for 58% of the country.

Without question, certain locations will find it more challenging to purchase hardwood for cooking and maintain its stability.  Hopefully, this guide will assist you selecting the best season to purchase or to maintain a sizable inventory of product.

What challenges have you found with wood storage for cooking and barbecue?  Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on all platforms.  Providing tips, techniques, recipes, and the science behind the flame and fire to improve your skills with wood-fired cooking! That’s SmokinLicious®!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

WOOD SMOKERS & GRILLING- RETURN TO THE BASICS!

 

Wood Smokers need Charcoal for fuel/heat/combustion and smoking wood for flavor!
Wood Smokers need Charcoal for fuel/heat/combustion and smoking wood for flavor!Add caption

 WOOD SMOKERS & GRILLING- RETURN TO THE BASICS! – I recently received an email from a new customer who was questioning the moisture level of the wood she recently purchased.  Her claim was, she thought the moisture wasn’t ideal as she was finding that the wood chunks “weren’t catching fire.”  That got me thinking that despite what we publish for information on the various methods of wood-fired cooking, when it comes to smoking, the very basics of this method may not be understood, as well as the basics of grilling with wood.

My goal with this article is to remind you of what is needed to be successful with each type of wood-fired method.

Know the Combustion Need

One of the knowledge areas I feel is weak is understanding what is needed from the wood for different styles of wood-fired cooking.  Let me get you educated.

Smoking

Hopefully you know that hot smoking means you are cooking with wood material to affect the color, aroma, texture, and flavor of the food.  This method requires a lower temperature, a longer cook time, fuel for temperature and wood for flavor.  Certainly, you can use wood for both flavor and fuel but a more cost-effective method is to use charcoal or briquets for fuel and wood just for the flavor, aroma, color, and texture to food.

For cold smoking, you still need the same items listed above but the temperature needs to be under 80°F which means the fuel is often wood which will flavor, color, provide texture, as well as the minimal heat level.

What’s the difference for these methods?  Moisture of the wood product.

Hot smoking needs hardwood that is at least 20% moisture and preferably under 30%.  Cold smoking needs hardwood that is under 15% moisture.

Wood-Fired Grilling

This method of grilling generally requires the use of wood both for higher temperature and for flavor.  Here’s a big difference with this method: you can vary the type of food used on the grill but how you position the food to the active fire versus the hot coals is another need.  Often operators of a wood-fired grill will have a couple of stations to the fire.  One will be direct fire or flame cooking.  This is for mostly animal proteins that you want to get a great char on the outside while cooking relatively quickly.  Then there is wood grilling with the hot coals from the fire.  By raking hot coals to one side, you can direct fire items that need less char to them like fish, vegetables, fruits, etc.

Another option with wood-fired grills is you can do both direct heat cooking and indirect.  These two methods can also be done directly on cooking grates or by using grilling accessories like high heat tolerant cookware, grill baskets, and grilling pans.

Animal Protein Preparation

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to preparing meat or poultry for the grill or smoker.  But did you know that marinating meat or poultry should be done for shorter periods of time not over night or longer.  Why?  Marinades contain oil and meat contains water so… just like the old saying “oil and water don’t mix”.  Don’t take a risk of breaking the fibers down too far and stick to short marinating times.  Don’t forget – any marinade left in the bag or pan after removing the meat or poultry should be discarded as it CANNOT be reused due to bacteria growth potential from exposure to raw product.

Now if you’re thinking about a dry rub, feel free to marinate just as long as you want.  In fact, I’ve been known to marinate up to 3 days!

A wet rub, however, goes by the rule of a marinade.  If you’ve included oil in that rub, short marinating time is best.

Wood Quantity Doesn’t Make It Better for Wood Smokers

If you’ve made the commitment to introduce wood flavor to the grill or smoker, then know up front, it doesn’t take a lot of wood to add flavor.  As mentioned at the start of the article, you need to be sure you select the right wood with the right moisture level for the right application.

When smoking, about 6 ounces of hardwood is ideal to start.  Although you may need to add wood during the cooking process dependent on what your cooking (larger cuts of meat may require you to feed additional wood every hour), always start with a reserved amount.

When grilling, the same quantity of wood applies – about 6 ounces.  Wood is the ingredient that works with the other flavors to bring out a balanced wood-fired flavoring of the food.  Put too much wood on and you’ll have food that tastes like an ashtray.  Put wood on that contains too much moisture and it will produce an acrid smoke that will leave bitter flavors and black coloring to the skin or bark.

Let’s summarize.  Decide what method of wood-fire cooking you plan to do, if you plan to set up a direct cooking method or indirect, and the hardwood you plan to use.  If smoking, plan on that hardwood to smolder given a moisture level of at least 20%.  If wood grilling, plan on that hardwood to be drier, between 15-20% to allow it to release flavonoids quickly.  Start with about 6 ounces of wood regardless of the method you select and add only as the previous wood has combusted.  That’s the basics to having a fun, positive experience no matter what you elect to put on the grill or smoker.

Making you an informed consumer through valuable articles like this one.   Leave us a comment and follow us or subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor and fire.  That’s SmokinLicious®.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

ZUCCHINI ROLLS (WOOD-FIRED) THAT’S EASY TO MAKE ANYTIME!

Our Finished Zucchini Rolls, Rolls that are easy to prepare, prepare your appetite for this great vegetable!
Our Finished Zucchini Rolls, Rolls that are easy to prepare, prepare your appetite for this great vegetable recipe!

 Zucchini Rolls– For those of us who love to grow zucchini you know just how heavy a harvest you can end up with.   Then the question is: what to do with all those zucchinis?  Let me offer up a suggestion.  Zucchini ribbon rolls are a super easy way to make a quick appetizer or a great side dish.  In fact, if you don’t need the fanciness of the ribbons, you can modify this recipe which I’ll cover in this posting.  I’ll be taking the zucchini ribbons to the gas grill which I’ve equipped with wood chunks and provide a subtle smokiness to the zucchini before filling with a flavorful ricotta-basil-Parmesan mixture that easily could be smoked as well.  Pick out some of your larger zucchini and get ready to make a super appetizer or side dish with your harvest.

Become a Ribbon Maker

As you likely know, zucchini grows on a vine so when you start, you will find an end that has a growth nub and then a rounded bottom.  Both ends need to be trimmed after the entire zucchini has been washed and pat dry.

Making the Zucchini RibbonsAlthough you can make the ribbons on a mandolin, I’ve elected to use a wide vegetable peeler.  I located the flattest portion of the zucchini and begin at the stem top down in one peel.  This will produce a ribbon of about 1-inch in width.  I continue peeling on this side until I begin seeing seeds.  I then rotate the zucchini and begin peeling on the opposite side.  You can produce as many ribbons as the zucchini will make until it begins to reach tender inner flesh that won’t support a single ribbon peel.

With the long ribbons of zucchini made, I lay them out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  I then brush each ribbon lightly with olive oil before placing on the grill.  Since my grill is set up for two zone cooking, the zucchini pan will go on the side with no direct heat meaning all burners on that side are off, while my wood chunks are smoking in the smoker box on the direct heat side.  These will only take about 12-15 minutes to flavor with smoke and they do not require any flipping.  Just a quick rotation of the pan about halfway through the cooking process.

Tasting Notes:

Remember, zucchini has a lot of water content which makes it ideal of attracting smoke vapor.  That means, you need to use hardwoods that are more mild or medium in boldness so the intensity of the smoke flavor is pleasant and not bitter.  I like maple, ash, alder, and cherry either alone or in combination.

A Creamy Filling for our Zucchini Rolls

Making the creamy filing

While the zucchini ribbons are cooking with wood flavor, I begin working on the filling for my ribbon rolls.  I start by placing 1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese in a sieve over a bowl to remove any excess liquid.  Once transferred to a bowl, I work on chopping some fresh basil from my garden, until I end up with about 3 tablespoons worth.  I add that to the ricotta bowl along with 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic.  A drizzle of white truffle oil and some fresh ground pepper go in next.  Finally, about a ¼ cup of grated Parmesan is added and mixed in well.

Tasting Notes:

You can substitute many other fillings for the one I’ve included.  Other ingredients that would work well include goat cheese, chives with some chopped nuts for crunch.  Even a dried fruit like cranberry or golden raisins would be a great addition. 

Time to Roll

Zucchini Ribbons on the grill with wood chunks using a two zone cooking technique

With our filling well mixed, it’s time to return to the grill and remove our ribbons in preparation for filling.  If the ribbons are still oily, simply take a paper towel and wipe the residual oil away.  You don’t want the ribbons too wet or they won’t hold up when placed back on the grill.  Working with a single ribbon at a time, lay a generous dab of the filling in the center of the ribbon and spread to within ½ inch of each end.  Starting on one end, gently roll the zucchini ribbon until you have a small spiraled log.  Place on a parchment lined sheet pan leaving 1-inch spacing between rolls.  Continue with the rest of the ribbons until all are filled.  Then return the pan to the grill just to heat the filling up.

I will tell you that you can grill smoke the ribbons to the consistency you prefer you just need to ensure that they stay flexible enough to roll.  It is sometimes beneficial to dry these out a bit more before grilling so making the ribbons a day ahead of the actual grill-smoking is helpful.  Once tender and warmed inside, remove from the grill and serve.  I prefer to place mine on a base of vodka sauce with some fresh basil leaves.  These are slightly smoky, creamy and easy to eat.  They can be served easily as an appetizer or a side dish to your choice of animal protein.  I like these served with a rich short rib or a nice flaky fish like snapper or sea bass.  Oh, and don’t forget about that leftover zucchini you’ll have after you’ve made the ribbons.  I like to matchstick cut my leftover zucchini and add the remaining cheese filling with a bit of sauce and make this for another side dish or healthy lunch.

What’s your favorite zucchini recipe from the grill?  Leave us a comment to opine and subscribe to get all our postings on tips, techniques and recipes.  Bringing innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

HOW TO MAKE THE NEW PLANT-BASED BURGER TASTE EVEN MEATIER!

 Plant-based burger taste better when cooked with wood chips or wood chunks for added flavor!

What is a plant-based burger?  There is no question that this has become the new rage.  Plant-based burgers have been introduced not only to the grocery meat case in over 8000 locations but to thousands of restaurant locations world-wide.

It is a genetically modified version of heme, the iron containing molecule in soy plants, which is what accounts for a “meat” flavor.  It also incorporates coconut oil and potato starch to give a more burger-like texture, something that has been a complaint with vegetarian or vegan patties.  Brands like Impossible Burger® use a braiding of minerals, fats, and proteins to keep the burger from falling apart. 

To compare an animal protein burger with a plant-based burger from a nutritional view, you’ll find that the plant-based burger may not always be the better choice.  It really depends on the brand but know you should look at the saturated fat level and calories as the plant-based burger is not always lower than the traditional beef patty or even a poultry patty.  Sodium levels should also be monitored.

Make It More Like A Burger Experience

You may know that many people accept that there are two camps for cooking burgers: grill grates whether on a gas grill or charcoal, and a griddle whether on a stove top or on a griddle insert of a grill.

I would argue, however, that there is another camp.  Those of us who believe in live fire with wood for cooking common items like burgers and dogs.  This is how you take an average burger and maximize the experience of eating while creating a newness to a very popular American item. 

The influence of plant material combustion and release of the flavonoid composition of this material is what can take your average burger to the next level.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had dinner guests inquire how I made something like a burger taste so high quality.  It’s only then that I reveal my use of hardwood, whether chunks in a smoker box, chunks directly on hot charcoal, or a sprinkle of wood chips on a griddle or plancha.  Wood takes even the most basic food item and brings out umami. 

Grill Set Up

For the easiest cooking of your plant-based burger, start by setting up an outdoor grill with a two-zone cooking set up.  That means one half of the grill has no burners lit for the gas grill, or no hot coals on one half of the charcoal unit. 

Start the burger cooking by placing the plant-based burgers on the indirect side (no direct heat) and adding wood to the direct side.  This is where a smoker box comes in handy on the gas grill, which I fill with small wood chunks.  Close the lid and cook for about 7 minutes, unless the burger is particularly thick which would call for 10 minutes cooking.  Open the lid and turn the burgers over still using the indirect side for cooking and allow to cook for another 7 minutes (or 10 for thicker cuts). 

If you’re going to medium finish which is 145°F, then at about 125°F internal temperature, move the burgers to the direct heat side of the grill and cook leaving the lid up.  This will sear the outside.  Be sure to keep flipping the burgers every minute to ensure a perfect sear and not an overdone burger. 

To me, this makes a plant-based burger even more of an authentic burger flavor with the simple addition of hardwood on the grill of your choice.

Have you tried and loved a specific brand of plant-based burger?   Leave us a comment to state your preference and follow us or subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor.  That’s SmokinLicious®.