Friday, June 18, 2021

How To Keep A Bundt Cake From Sticking To The Pan

Discusses How to keep a Bundt cake from Sticking
Discussing How to keep a Bundt cake from Sticking

 Introducing to you Peggy Hatfield, the Bella Cupcake Couture’s resident dessert couturier, and baker. Peggy became passionate about baking when she was 9 years old. She served freshly- baked treats in her small town in Alabama for 28 years before her home bakery and café was closed. But with the Bella Cupcake Couture website, she was able to share her expert reviews on the best baking tools, equipment, accessories, and the latest trends, including the know-how of baking. Bella Cupcake Couture is pleased to present to you the expert baker’s how-to guides, expert tips, and hacks for baking and dessert making.

While there are other techniques in cooking, baking is considered one of the most critical types. Baking requires precision and dedication to the entire process. If you forgot one or add too many ingredients, you can ruin the entire dish. Also, cooking a baked item for longer than the required time will also result in a big problem. That is why, in baking, you need to have lots of patience to succeed with your product.

Making A Cake

At some point, people tend to become excited when removing a just baked cake, forgetting to be more careful after the baking process is complete. The last part of the baking, which is removing your cake from the pan, requires the same level of care as was used in mixing the batter. This article provides the key tips in keeping a bundt cake from sticking to your pan.

Prevent Bundt Cake Sticking

The more careful you are in the cooking part, the more cautious you need to be removing your cake from the pan. It is frustrating when you spend your time, effort, and money , then all of a sudden, your cake decides to remain stuck in your pan, ruining your efforts.

Hey! Don’t worry because here are the effective ways to prevent your bundt cake from sticking.

For more pro baking guides and DIY tips, check out Bella Cupcake Couture at www.bellacupcakecouture.com!

Use a Simple and Nonstick Heavy Bundt Cake Pan

This step is one of the highly recommended ways on how you can prevent a cake from sticking. If you are wondering about its efficiency, you can look for reviews online to have an idea on the brand of bundt cake pan with the best value and rating for your purchase.

To maintain the pan’s efficiency, you should put extra care into cleaning it. Avoid using strong dish washing liquid and abrasive sponges because these can cause damage to the pan’s coating. The most efficient way to take care of your nonstick pan is to wash with mild soap, dry it with a soft towel, and avoid using any metal cooking tools or abrasive brushes.

Use Grease

Take note that using just any grease can also affect the quality of your nonstick pan. Nonstick cooking sprays contain chemicals that can degrade your pan’s nonstick coating. Butter may affect the quality of your cake due to the milk properties which can bind your cake to the pan. One of the highly recommended types of grease that proves best for baking is melted shortening.

Loosen the Edges of the Cake

You cannot and should not forcefully remove your cake from a pan. You need to slowly and carefully loosen the edges and let the cake sit for 5 minutes before turning it upside down on a cooling rack. The use of a plastic spatula is a must to avoid scratching your nonstick pan and cutting into your cake.

Get Your Cake Upside Down

Once the pan is upside down on a cooling rack, let it sit for another five minutes before lifting from the cake completely.

Final Notes

Removing the cake from your baking pan is critical to the final result. Following our simple steps above will ensure a perfect bundt cake. Making the investment in high-quality baking equipment adds insurance for the best product results. If it happens that your cake still sticks in your pan, don’t give up! Try and try again until you flawlessly achieve the perfection of your cake.

 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

WATER PAN FOR SMOKER

Chef Bert brings Water Pan for Smoker to neighbor Tom!
Chef Bert brings Water Pan for Smoker to neighbor Tom!

 Neighbor Tom has his Chicken too dry almost a rock

Poor Tom! He, like many other grill and smoker enthusiasts out there, never learned the value of a water pan. By providing moisture to the grilling area, you can avoid drying out your meats and poultry and never have someone mistake your food for a rock!

Moist Environment = Smoke Attraction

Tom's frustration of always cooking dry BBQ

Water pans are a means of introducing valuable moisture into the cooking environment which has immense value when grilling and smoking.

Tom doesn’t realize that a water pan actually aides in attracting the smoke vapor to the food since smoke sticks to moist surfaces. Just remember to use water in the pan and not other liquids such as juice or alcohol. Here is a tip when you fill the water pan: use a teapot to fill the pan while it is in place so you don’t take the chance of spilling hot water on surfaces or you. Remember, water evaporates while other liquids do not which is the main reason to only use water.

Tom thinking there has to bring moisture to his cooking

Say Good-bye to Over Cooked Foods!

Tom hits on two benefits of the water pan: regulating temperature and producing humidity. But if you like to do direct cooking, the water pan can act as a repellent for the flame giving your foods a chance to survive without becoming a blackened, dried out, former piece of food.

Make Your Own Water Pan

Chef Bert presents the water pan for smoker to his neighbor

Bert knows a water pan often is included when smoking equipment is purchased, but you can easily make your own for a grill or smoker using a disposable foil pan. Just find one that fits comfortably in your equipment. For those with a vertical style unit, be sure to use a separate drip pan from the water pan. Otherwise, oil from the drippings will mix with the water and prevent evaporation needed for a moist environment.

Do you prefer a disposable water pan or a metal one? Leave us a comment and subscribe to get our latest tips, techniques, recipes and the science behind the fire and smoke, for all live fire cooking methods. That’s SmokinLicious®!

 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

WOOD CHIPS BY AIR PROCESS

Smokinlicious® collects wood chips by Air

Over the past several months, you have learned how your own hands can play host to transmitting the virus known as COVID-19. Once transmitted, the virus can potentially live on surfaces for up to several days.

Of course, there are factors that determine how attracted the virus is to the surface. Porous surfaces like those of cardboard and wood are not very attractive to the virus. It prefers smooth surfaces.

But there is still so much we do not know. SmokinLicious® continues to prioritize limiting human contact with our product manufacture and packaging. Our position is, we do not know enough to stop being diligent in our efforts.

Time to revisit our cartoon friends! Tom and Bert recently discussed the SmokinLicious® air collection process for wood chips.

Why Air Collected Packaging is Better!

Chef Bert and Tom visiting our production facility

Tom asks a great question, as often, we do not think about the wood we cook with. How is it bulk stored, what has it been exposed to, how much dust is in the product? Remember, dust slows combustion and can cause equipment failures. This is the main reason why SmokinLicious® designed a process for screening our wood chips to eliminate as much dust as possible. That is just step #2 in the process after producing the chips from larger pieces of wood.

Dedicated Air Piping

depiction of our vaccum system and air piping system for packaging

Step #3 in the process is explained by Bert as piping that is used to fill customer orders. At SmokinLicious®, each chip size is segregated into storage totes by size and wood species. When a customer order is filled, clean air piping is introduced to the specific storage tote. The product is then collected and dispensed into the finished packaging using this air collection method. A couple key benefits to this hands-free approach is dust-free collection and no crushing of the chips by human hands, ensuring the product you pay for is not reduced to crumbs!

No Contact

Tom celebrating

Bert is quick to emphasis that no human contact is made with the product during packaging. He also stresses that the air packaging greatly improves the air quality for the worker since this is a contained system. No dust is launched into the air!

No dust for the customer who will scoop out product at home and no dust for the workers packaging the products. With respiratory status key to staying healthy, SmokinLicious® makes the effort to keep our workers breathing clean air.

Do you appreciate the extra steps SmokinLicious® is taking with packaging? Leave us a comment and subscribe to get our latest tips, techniques, recipes and the science behind the fire and smoke, for all live fire cooking methods. That’s SmokinLicious®!

 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Tips to Plan the Best Staycation Ever

Tom and Bert discuss their planning for the best Staycation ever!
Tom and Bert discuss their planning for the best Staycation ever!

Every summer, many people put aside their work, daily stresses and responsibilities and escape on a vacation somewhere far away from reality. It may be a secluded retreat in the mountains, a camping trip with the kids, an arranged tour in another country, an Alaskan cruise, or days relaxing at an exotic beach or resort.

However, with the current pandemic including social distancing and travel restrictions, along with financial constraints for many, those plans may have to be temporarily shelved. But the desire to escape reality – for just a bit – is very much alive. So, with many people remaining in their homes, how can that off-work journey happen? We have some tips for making the best of the situation and creating cherished vacation memories without ever leaving home. It’s called a staycation.

What’s a Staycation?

Tom and Bert mmit to your plans!

A staycation is, quite simply, a vacation at home. How realistic, how exciting, or how relaxing you make it is up to you. Theme it up for a more authentic “away-from-home” experience.

What makes a great staycation? Well, that depends on what you consider a vacation. Some people want adventure, while others like relaxing with a drink in their hand. Still others use vacation time to unwind by tackling DIY projects such as renovations. So, what would you enjoy doing if you could craft your own staycation? (Which, by the way, you can.)

Commit To the Best Staycation Ever!

Once you’ve decided to schedule a staycation – whatever it ends up being – commit to it. Mark it on your calendar. Plan for it. Make concrete plans. If you’re working, ask for those days off of work. Don’t just say you’re going to have a vacation and spend the weekend lounging on the sofa, noshing on Cheetos and surfing the internet, unless a week of rest is the staycation you’ve planned.

Whenever you’re going for vacation in your home – especially in these times when so many of us are working from home – try to unplug so your mind’s not on work and responsibilities. Set your work email to the “out of office” setting and write an auto-reply message. Then, don’t check your work emails unless absolutely necessary. Consider NOT telling your boss that you’re vacationing at home. Turn your cell phone off or on silent and set a small window of time each day to check for messages.

Skip the news. The idea is to get away from stress, away from reality. Just concentrate on your vacation experience. The news cycle can wait for a week. Really, it can. This is the time to be good to yourself.

Prepare

Prepare for your staycation much like you’d prep for any other vacation. Create your itinerary. Decide what kind of activities you would like to do each day of your vacation. What kind of staycation would you like? Cultural learning, straight-up fun, pampering, relaxing? Write your vacation goals down, and then make a game plan. Don’t want to cook while on vacation? Gather menus from local restaurants that deliver and have them on hand. You could even incorporate different restaurants into the theme of your vacation.

Before your official vacation start time, do all the necessary prep work. Complete all chores in advance. Wash the dishes, dust, pay the bills, scrub the toilets, empty the trash. Do the laundry BEFORE your staycation begins. You don’t really want to be sorting and folding while on vacation, do you?

Set the Mood for Your Staycation

Many people have saved money in anticipation of an annual vacation to pay for things like hotel rooms, meals, plane tickets and a rental car. Why not channel some of those funds into your at-home vacation paradise?

Create your staycation space – really, truly, set up a space that exudes the theme of your vacation. Move the furniture, change the lighting, order pillows, fairy lights or scented candles – whatever your theme is, run with it. Look at magazines or online trip websites for inspiration. Think about the destination you want. Paradise under the palms? Set up a piña colada or margarita station at home. Roll up the rugs and go barefoot like you’re on the beach. Set up a hammock between backyard trees or on your back porch.

Dreaming of a mountain retreat? Set out pine-scented candles and decorate the room with cottage home decor. Plan for any purchases you’ll need for your staycation. Does your week require some relaxing pillows, aromatherapy candles, a tent or hammock?  Dreaming of an overseas vacation? Hit the international foods section of your grocery and stock up on items from that region to set the mood. Planning a spa retreat week? Buy a set of high-thread-count sheets, a couple of luxurious pillows, scented bath salts, essential oils, and a super-soft robe.

To make your staycation ambiance even more realistic, you can make a vacation soundtrack with music that reminds you of that particular place, or perhaps a past favorite vacation that you’d like to recreate. Going to the beach in your mind? Ramp up some Jimmy Buffet music. Missing that trip to Brazil this summer? Make your own compilation of Brazilian favorites including the likes of Roberto Carlos or Anitta. Or queue up some internet music mixes.

Think about your favorite luxury hotel amenities and try to replicate some of those special touches at your own staycation. Love peppermints or chocolates on your pillows? Do it. How about a fruit basket, or a water pitcher of cold spring water infused with the subtle flavor and inviting look of cut fruit? Make it happen. This is all about helping you feel like you’re somewhere else.

Self-Care Weekend

How about a pampering week, helping you release all the stress that’s built up this year? Consider a self-care “getaway” with a spa day, a YouTube yoga session, or a self-manicure. Start a journal of self-discovery. Draw a warm bubble bath, adding some calming essential oils like lavender or chamomile. Slip into the welcoming suds as you relax your mind and body. Soft music and candles invite you to soak away the stress. Then, wrap yourself up in the soft hug of a luxurious robe. This vacation is all about being good to yourself.

Retail Therapy Weekend

If you have money saved up that you won’t spend on a vacation this summer and miss shopping, you may want to arrange a retail therapy staycation. Curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine and start online shopping. You could budget what you had already set aside for your anticipated actual vacation, and spend some of that money, or just “window-shop” and dream from the comfort of your favorite recliner.

Plan Future Vacations

You can’t travel much right now, but the future is wide open. You’ve been staring at your walls for quite a while now, longing to escape. Why not start that escape, at least in your mind? Begin planning your post-pandemic road trip (or plane trip). There’s no time like the present to ponder where you’d like to visit – start with the continent or country, and narrow it down from there. Search online for destinations, hotels and fun activities. Jot them down and start planning for next year.

Look online for interesting destinations and then start searching for places you can stay, like at hotels or bed and breakfast inns. What kind of activities can you participate in while there? Take notes, plan your budget, and work out the details so when it’s time to fly the pandemic coop, you’ll have all your ducks in a row for your next adventure.

Cook a Fancy Dinner

Tom thinks about all the food he can cook on the grill!

The internet is filled with how-to-cook videos. Zero in on one and cook that meal and impress your spouse or family. See if you can find fanciful foods that fit into the theme of your staycation. Or, ask your family to pamper you and cook (including doing the dishes.). You can also sign up for delivered meal preparation kits. These kits arrive at your doorstep with all of the ingredients, already prepped, along with step-by-step directions. You’ll feel like a professional chef in no time.

Chill

You may be someone who just needs to chill for a vacation. Vacations don’t always have to be about excitement and activity. Sometimes, you just need peace and quiet to de-stress from life.

Create your zen vacation in a quiet place of your home – make it off limits to the children (perhaps you have someone who can take care of them). Then, unplug your clocks or put them in the closet so you can’t see them. Turn off your phone, put on earphones (if there’s house noise you can’t block out) and just…chill.

Fun for the Whole Family on the Best Staycation ever

If you’re quarantining with your family and yearning for a vacation, build a staycation with a family-friendly theme or activities. Although you have been in each other’s space for months, there are ways you can spend quality, vacation-esque time as a family and build beautiful bonds.

Camping Out

Go camping for your staycation – for a night, a week, or somewhere in between – you choose. Set up a tent in the backyard, complete with sleeping bags and camp lights. Don’t forget the mosquito repellent or citronella candles. Pack up snacks in bags for a more authentic experience, and string lights in the trees or at the top of the tent for some extra ambiance.

Snag a couple of bags of ice from the store and fill a cooler with food and drinks to keep with the campout theme. Cook your meals on a grill or have a fire pit if regulations allow. Roast marshmallows or craft s’mores. Tell stories around the fire. Stay up too late and laugh too much.

If your idea of camping is closer to glamping, or you don’t have a backyard, then move things indoors. Set up a tent or have your kids create a tent by hanging sheets and other fabrics in clever ways. Unleash your children’s creativity with tent-making – they know how to make the best tents and forts. Set up your indoor camping ambiance with flashlights and flameless candles for light sources. Eat from paper plates and make s’mores in the microwave. Search for a campfire video to play on your TV.

Have a family costume night or a themed party during your staycation. Challenge your kids to dress up as their favorite movie character, singer, or superhero, using clothes, props and supplies already in your home.

Love watching movies? Build a staycation around that. Have a themed movie marathon. Each family member picks a movie that you all watch, or you could categorize movies, like comedies, animation, action or another genre. Don’t forget the popcorn. Plan ahead and surprise your “movie audience” with their favorite movie theater candy and sodas.

Break out the camping gear on your staycation like Tom and Bert

Music or Karaoke Party

Use some of the money you would have spent on lodging, meals, attraction fees and more – and buy a karaoke machine. You may find your family singing until they’re all hoarse and falling down in laughter. Learn a new song on an instrument you play, and hold a “recital” in your living room. If more than one member of your family plays an instrument, work on a performance together.

Virtual Travel and Games

You could also spend the summer vacation money on virtual reality headsets. This marvelous technology is a fantastic way to virtually leave your house and go on vacations together, using 3D travel apps. Want to walk the streets of Paris? Climb mountains in the Himalayas? You’re only a VR headset away.

Backyard Water Game Day for best Staycation ever

Beat the summer heat on your staycation with a day of water games in your backyard. Ask your kids to plan games and gather the necessary accessories like water hoses, kiddie pools, sprinklers, soaking guns, water slides, water balloons (be sure to pick up the broken balloon pieces) and plenty of sunblock. You can go all out renting an inflatable water play set, or you can keep it budget-friendly. Bring on the popsicles and laughter.

Night in for the Parents

Parents may just need a vacation from their kids. Try to set up a cozy, romantic room or patio area for your loved one. Group candles around your backyard. Flameless candles4 are great and there’s no fire hazard. Set up a hammock or pillows or some other way to relax. Chill a bottle of wine, soda or whatever happens to be your favorite beverage. Make up a cheese tray. It can be fancy, or it can be laid-back. Pour a bag of chips into a bowl if that’s your style. Set some mood music, relax and kick back.

Learning Vacation

Many people love to travel to new locations and learn about culture, architecture, art, languages, food, and more. The opportunity to learn something new during your staycation is limited only by your imagination.

Because of the pandemic, many museums now offer free virtual tours. Spend days in the Louvre, or take an interactive tour of Mark Twain’s house. Visit zoos virtually, or set up Zoom meetings with friends or relatives in different countries so you can practice conversing in a foreign language.

Travel the world for free using your local library card. Libraries have a wealth of e-books available to download from the library’s website onto your own device. Just pick them out and download, prop your feet up and escape into a mystery, thriller, romance, fantasy, or whatever genre you enjoy. Have your favorite beverage and snacks near your reading haven.

Take an online class on cooking, digital art, sewing, or something that intrigues you. This is your staycation. If your goal is to spend more time outdoors, consider starting a new flower or vegetable garden or a compost pile. Set up a rain barrel water collection system, making use of the rainwater rolling off your roof.

You can even make it a learning vacation for your pet. Learn how to teach your pet tricks or a new skill, like sniffing out smells. Or, just chill with your cuddly cat on your lap. For some, that’s a heavenly vacation.

For those who would rather “do” than chill, spend your staycation time learning a new craft. Clear out your schedule and spend that time really digging into whatever it is you want to learn. Use budgeted summer vacation money to order acrylic or oil paints, modeling clay, mosaics or stained glass supplies, whatever strikes your fancy, and learn a new skill you’ll maintain long after your staycation is over.

Renovate a Space in Your Home

For those who need to be active during vacations, think about a renovation vacation. Since you’ve been home so much the last two months, no doubt you’ve zeroed in on a corner or a room of your house that’s begging for an update or a redo. Repaint the kitchen and add a backsplash or replace the flooring. Update your bedroom, adding new curtains or blinds. Turn that depressing basement into a new game room, guest room or home office. Browse among the DIY articles from professionals for inspiration and guidance.

Whatever your stay-at-home vacation fantasy is, try to make it happen. This pandemic won’t last forever, and the vacation you take this summer, at your own home, may just spark some of the best memories ever. Don’t forget to take photos!

 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

HOW TO STORE WOOD CHIPS

Tom did pay attention to our tips on how to store wood chips!
Tom did pay attention to our tips on how to store wood chips!

 It is one of our top questions. Wood storage. Where to store wood, how to store wood, temperature ideal for storing wood, shelf life of stored wood. If you are an avid follower of our readings, you are likely familiar with our two cartoon characters, Tom and Bert. Thru these characters, SmokinLicious® has been able to guide millions of home grilling and smoking enthusiasts on techniques and tips to make every wood-fired cooking event a success.

Here are some great lessons to learn from Tom’s wood storage mistakes.

Tip #1

Tom having issues lighting his fire

Tom is using a traditional charcoal grill. One of the first tips concerns the charcoal. Be sure it is super hot (gray in color) and that once you add the wood chunks or chips to the hot coals, you have your lid ready to go on.

This is when the difference between hardwood that has some measurable moisture versus one that is too dry to register determines if smoke vapor will be produced. No moisture means no smolder. That in turn means no smoke vapor to infuse your foods.

Tip #2

image of wood chips on the open picnic table

Tom admits that he did nothing special to store his extra wood chips. He made the mistake of leaving the leftover chips exposed to the elements – sun, rain, air. These elements can cause the wood to lose moisture much faster, especial when the product is a wood chip.

Moisture depletes much faster in chips than in chunks. All wood needs to be stored under proper conditions regardless of the size of the pieces. Cooler temperatures like those in your refrigerator are best which is why many people find garages and basements to be ideal.

Tip #3

Chef Bert upset that Tom left his wood chips outside

Tom’s friend, Bert, is quick to point out that wood does require proper storage. If you want to be sure any extra wood will be good material for your next grilling/smoking event, take the time to store it properly.

A cool, dark, dry location is ideal. If you are considering a garage or basement, be sure the wood is not set directly on any cement flooring or additional moisture can be drawn in from the cement making the wood too wet. That is when mold can set in!

You can use just about anything to store the wood: cardboard box, plastic crate with air holes, metal crate or basket, wood box.

Tip #4

Chef Bert discussing how to store wood chips properly

When you want to use hardwood for flavor essence infusion, moisture is important. Without any measurable water level in the hardwood, what was intended to be used as a flavor enhancer literally becomes a fuel wood.

Just like the seasoned firewood used in the home fireplace or wood stove, wood that dries out too much produces more heat with less aromatic. Dry wood added to charcoal equipment will become fuel, just like the charcoal. No long burst of smoke will result as the dry wood burns up too quickly. This is not the outcome you want when hot smoking food.

Learn from Tom’s mistakes and properly store your hardwood chunk and/or chip investment. By taking the time to store the wood correctly, you get the longest value from your purchase.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

THE SCIENCE OF MEAT COLOR INCLUDING THE INFAMOUS SMOKE RING

Learn how the science of meat color affects our appetite through our sense of sight!

Barbecue is one of those methods of cooking that is loved by many but not truly understood by those who love it!  I’m always entranced by the fact that barbecue gets mingled with the word grilling when the reality is, these two methods of cooking mean very different things.  One common denominator though is the meat used for these cooking methods that simply becomes a variant of color so completely different from traditional cooking methods like the frying pan, slow cooker, and oven.

Let’s take a closer look first, at what meat is and then how color develops when cooked.

Meat Defined

You likely define meat as an animal protein that is derived from an animal like cattle, pig, chicken, lamb, goat, etc., and you would be correct in a very abbreviated definition.  But there is so much more to meat that most don’t understand. 

Meat is mostly the muscle tissue of an animal which is made up of 75% water, 20% protein, and 5% fat, carbohydrates, and various other protein.  The muscles themselves are made of bundles of cells called fibers.  Each cell is comprised of thread-like fibers made of two proteins: actin and myosin.

The purpose of these protein fibers is to make muscles contract and relax, which requires an immense amount of energy, which the fibers derive from the energy-carrying molecule ATP -adenosine triphosphate.  To produce ATP there must be oxygen which muscles get from circulating blood.  When an animal is killed, blood circulation stops resulting in all muscles exhausting their supply of oxygen.  When oxygen is halted it halts the production of ATP, resulting in the sugar stored in muscles known as glycogen, to be broken down without oxygen support.  The result is the production of lactic acid that builds up in the muscle tissue.  If this acid level is too high, the meat loses its water-binding ability and becomes pale and watery.  Too low, and the meat will be tough and dry.  Add to this the calcium release that occurs when the lactic acid builds up, and the myosin and actin proteins become fixed.  It’s important not to freeze animal meat too soon after slaughter or the meat will become tough.  The meat needs to age to allow the enzymes in the muscle cells to break down these overlapping proteins and produce tender meat.

Why We Cook Meat

Denaturing is the process of breaking, unwinding, and coagulating the protein molecules when meat is heated.  When heated, muscle fibers release water.  Remember, meat is roughly 75% water when raw.  You can retain moisture or water content of meat by using some specific techniques including brining, steaming, braising or poaching, and tenderizing using acid.

Here’s a summary of what happens at specific cooking temperatures to meat:

105°F/40°C - 122°F/50°C: blanch or sear meat first kills surface microbes then allow the proteins to denature at these temperatures giving an aging effect to the meat

120°F/50°C: meat has a white opacity as the myosin protein denatures.  Red meat begins to turn pink.  This is known as the “rare” stage of meat cooking and when sliced, the juices will break through the weak spots in the connective tissue.

140°F/60°C: Red myoglobin begins to denature and turns tan colored.  Myoglobin is another protein store in muscle that is water soluble.  You would know this protein as the red juice in meat packaging when you purchase store bought product.  It’s not blood but it does receive oxygen and iron from hemoglobin in blood.  At this temperature, meat releases a lot of juice, shrinks in size, and becomes chewy.  It is known as “medium” in doneness.

160°F/70°C:  Connective tissue is what binds muscles to bone.  Throughout the muscle is a softer connective tissue called collagen.  When cooked, collagen dissolves or melts and becomes gelatin.  This melting is what gives meat a silky texture and moisture.  Collagen starts to accelerate the melting stage at 160°F and continues rapidly until 180°F.  Despite the meat drying out at this temperature, melted collagen is what makes meat seem more tender.  Just remember, lean meats as well as chicken and turkey don’t have much collagen so don’t over-cook them.

The Smoke Ring

Before we discuss the smoke ring, I need to mention the Maillard reaction.  This is the reaction that occurs between amino acids and reducing sugars in meat that is exposed to dry heat such as a frying pan.  What results is that beautiful, brown exterior that gives meat a rich, deep flavor.  This only occurs with a temperature above 300°F and with dry heat.

Now to the pink ring that commonly occurs just under the surface of a smoked meat. The smoke ring is caused by gases in the smoke that preserve the myoglobin and interact with the nitric oxide (NO) and carbon monoxide (CO) in combustible material like charcoal and wood.  The gases react with the iron in myoglobin and result in the telltale ring of pink just under the surface, while the rest of the meat will turn gray due to the NO and CO only having limited penetration ability in the meat.  This chemical reaction is similar to what happens to meats exposed to curing salts which also produce a pink coloring.  The ring stops growing when the meat hits about 170°F and myoglobin loses its oxygen retaining ability.

If you want a smoke ring then you must incorporate cold meat into a low-temperature equipment.  This will allow the meat to remain below 140°F for a longer time which is the temperature at which myoglobin begins turning brown.

As a final note, keep in mind that any meat that goes to black in color is never good.  That means the meat’s surface has essentially turned to carbon and the ingestion of carbon laced foods has been proven to be a carcinogen.  If you take your meat to this stage, do everyone a favor and throw it away.   No one needs to know you took the meat too far!

What is your preferred finished cooked meat method and color?  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®!

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

HOW TO TURN YOUR CHARCOAL GRILL INTO A SMOKER

How to turn your charcoal grill into a smoker

 Let’s be honest.  When you bought that charcoal grill you were likely thinking that you could both grill and smoke without needing to add anything.  Soon, you realized, that just wasn’t the case.  Now, you’re contemplating whether you need to purchase a smoker.  Well, hold on the shopping trip until you read this.

  You can turn your charcoal grill into a smoker with these simple steps!

 Any Charcoal Unit Will Smoke

 Obviously, if you own a little tailgate model of a charcoal grill, you won’t be doing multiple slabs of ribs or a full packer cut brisket on that unit.  But you can smoke on any charcoal grill if you follow some simple steps and afford yourself enough time to do it right.

 How To Add Smoking Woods to the Charcoal Grill

Essentially, when you smoke on a charcoal grill you are roasting outdoors like you do in your conventional oven.  If you use a good quality hardwood charcoal, you will get some flavor from that product but not like true smoked foods you may have experienced in your favorite barbecue restaurant.  That bolder flavor only comes from unprocessed hardwoods.

 Picking Your Fuel and Smoke Flavor

There are three primary fuel types you can use in your charcoal grill: briquettes with instant lite, briquettes, and lump hardwood charcoal.  Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you to eliminate the briquettes with instant lite.  That is a product that contains an accelerant or petroleum product to make it quick lighting.  Unfortunately, it adds a very distinct, unpleasant component to the cooking process that can transfer off-flavors to your foods.  Stick with plain briquettes or lump hardwood charcoal.  Just note, that you likely will find a bit more ash developing faster with lump hardwood charcoals than you would with briquettes.

 Picking the wood for smoke flavor has a few rules you should adhere to: only use hardwoods, try to limit the bark on the wood or go bark-free for the best temperature control, find woods that have some measurable moisture level so they smolder – around the 20% level is ideal, and use chunks of wood versus chips.

 Indirect Cooking Method

What truly makes for barbecue and not just grilling is using the indirect method of cooking.  There are many ways to set up a two-zone cooking method which is also referred to as indirect cooking.  Often, what you are cooking and the quantity will determine the setup of the fuel.

 There are two popular methods that work the best: banking the charcoal to one side of the unit with the food going on the unlit side and putting the charcoal on each side of the unit with the food going in the middle where no charcoal is present.

For those that need a bit more help keeping everything where it’s supposed to go, there is an accessory called the Slow “N Sear that works well with kettle grills and includes a trough that holds water.  This allows you to place foods on the upper grates as well as below on the opposite side of the charcoal.  It certainly will give you ample room to cook many pounds of meat.

Water Keeps Everything Moist

To ensure that any protein cooked on the grill remains moist and tender, include a water pan in your set up.  This is easily done by purchasing readily available disposable foil pans from the discount store.  The shape and size will be dependent on your actual grill.  I like to add warm water to the water pan so the grill does not have to exert energy to heat up the water, which takes heat away from the unit.  Remember, the water will be evaporating during the cooking process so have additional water available if it depletes before the cooking is complete.  Water pans are set in the base of the unit on the charcoal free side, directly under the food.  This will also act as a drip pan, catching all those juices as well.

Chimney Starter for Easy Lighting

Once you have your charcoal set up, the water pan laying in the charcoal free section, it’s time to light the charcoal.  The easiest way to do this and ensure that the grill gets hot pretty fast is to light a chimney starter.  These are portable containers made of metal that allow you to pour a couple of pounds of charcoal into and light from vent openings at the base.  Usually these devices require you to place newspaper at the base which is then lit with a lighter to ignite the cold charcoal.  I skip the newspaper step and simply use a MAP gas canister with easy operating torch head to lite the charcoal.  The best part is I can leave the torch under the chimney starter on a safe surface such as concrete, while I finish the grill set up.  Once the charcoal at the bottom of the chimney starter is lit, I remove the torch and allow it to burn up through the rest of the charcoal.  Once the pieces are grayed over and showing hot embers, it’s ready to pour into the grill’s charcoal area.  I carefully pour the hot coals on top of the unlit coals.  This will ensure plenty of fuel during the cooking process.  Next, 3-4 wood chunks are placed on the hot coal area.  I usually disperse these with a couple of inches between pieces.

Moist Cold Surfaces Attract Smoke Vapor

With the grill set up complete, the hot coals going and the wood chunks beginning to smolder, it’s time for the meat.  Always take the prepared meat directly from the refrigerator to the grill COLD!  Cold foods will attract smoke vapor faster, allowing the vapor to condense on the food’s surface.  The water pan will ensure that moisture remains within the grill which also will ensure attraction of the smoke vapor.

Vent Settings Guarantee Temperature Control!

Although charcoal as a fuel also aides in temperature control, I’m going to speak about air control.   To sustain fire or combustion, you need oxygen flowing into the grill, stimulating the hot coals.  This is the intake damper.  Close it completely, and you’ll put the fire out and lose all temperature.  Open it wide and you’ll increase the temperature as the coals get stimulated for more heat.

On the opposing end is the exhaust damper also called a vent or flue/chimney.  This vent is what pulls in the oxygen through the lower intake damper.  Yes, smoke is expelled through the exhaust vent but heat as well as the gases that are derived from the combustion of the fuel material including the hardwood chunks are also vented.  The exhaust vent needs to be partially open all the time.  If the temperature starts to fall, open the intake damper wider.  If the temperature is too high, reduce the oxygen to the fire by closing the intake damper.

 Now, make your shopping list for your favorite foods to smoke and set up that charcoal grill for a fabulous flavorful day.  It’s really that simple!

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