|Smoke has many colors and they all mean something special when cooking- learning what they mean could increase your culinary results!|
Today, instead of concentrating on the cooking technique of wood-fires, let’s examine the smoke vapor.
Does the color of the smoke being produced mean anything for flavor outcome?The quick answer: absolutely! Let’s take a closer look at the finer points of smoke vapor colors.
From Black to Nearly Invisible, The Language of SmokeThere are four basic attributes to smoke when it leaves equipment: volume, velocity, density, and color. It is the combination of these attributes that reveal so much about the color of smoke vapor or gas produced from combusted wood.
Black Smoke = No OxygenBlack smoke is unattractive, highly dense, consisting of large particles, and the key sign that the wood is starved for oxygen. When air intake is left uncorrected, this black smoke vapor can turn foods acrid, bitter, and sooty. Certainly, this is not the goal of wood-fired cooking! Don’t cook with smoke that is black in color. Learn how to control air intake and exhaust for proper air flow and the best smoke vapor infusion for great flavor.
Gray/Brown Smoke = Poor Wood QualityYou understand air flow, the balance needed between air intake and outtake. Despite you optimal setting of air flow, you still find gray to brown smoke color occurring. What happened?
Often, this boils down to a case of poor wood choice. Gray or brown smoke occurs when there is a mixture of moisture and hydrocarbons. Bark on woods can stimulate brown smoke as this is the driest and most impure part of the wood. You can also see gray to brown smoke color when there are other stimulants on the wood. It may be that something dripped on the wood, was deliberately applied to the wood, or was part of the wood’s manufacturing process if the wood is a bye-product from another process.