Thursday, June 28, 2018


Wood-fired Smoked Beets before and in the offsetting smoking position on the gas grill with single filet wood chunks!
It likely is not the first pick from the root vegetable options but beets have a lot to offer.  Not only do they offer health benefits that include potentially lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and improving liver function, they are a naturally sweet item that can be added to salads, side dishes, and appetizers.

I’m going to give you a great recipe for a filled egg that is so much more flavorful and healthy than the traditional deviled egg.  Plus, I’m taking it up a notch by wood firing the beets first on the gas grill using wood chunks.  So, get to the store or farmers market and select your favorite beets.  Then fire up the grill for an easy way to up the flavor on beets.


Get Them Clean

Washing the beets to remove any ground soil.Root vegetables have heavy skins and tend to be dirty when first picked.  It is important that you do some cleaning to them to ensure they are grill and eating ready.  First, cut off the stem end with the greens.  You can certainly reserve these for adding to salads or a smoothie.  Also, cut off the pointy end and any loose roots.  Now place them under running water and scrub them clean.  Pat them dry and place on a foil-lined, grill-safe pan.  For our recipe, you will only need two beets but I like to do extras to have for adding to other recipes or for just snacking on as is.  Remember, you’ll see 3-4 beet bulbs per bunch when you purchase them in the store.


Adding Wood Flavor

Adding wood flavor using the gas grill is simple when you use smoking wood chunks versus wood chips.  First, more flavor will be released into the cooking area using chunks.  Second, there is no need to use any accessory item like a smoker box unless you are opposed to putting the wood pieces on your heat shields.  For a cooking time of about 2 hours, you’ll need roughly three single filet smoker wood chunks from SmokinLicious® or four double filet smoking wood chunks.
Beets on the gas grill using an offset smoking technique with SmokinLicious Single Filet Wood Chunks
Heat the grill first using all burners set to medium.  Once the beets are ready to go on the grill, turn one side of the grill’s burners off.  Place the wood chunks on the lite side of the grill; I place my single filet chunks directly on my heat shield.  Place the grill safe pan with the beets on the unlit side of the grill grate and close the lid.  Let these cook for about 2 hours until a knife inserted in the center passes through easily.  Then remove from the grill and allow to cool just slightly.  Using gloves so you don’t end up with purple stained hands, remove the skin from the beets.


Wood Fired Egg Filling for the WOOD-FIRED SMOKED BEETS recipe.

To make our scrumptious and healthy egg filling here are the ingredients you will need in addition to the two wood-fired beets:
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh parsley leaves
  • 1-1/4 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • ⅓ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped prunes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • ¾ cup chopped pickled beets
  • 8 hard-boiled large eggs
  • 1 small golden beet, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
Tip: I don’t do a traditional boil to my eggs to make them hard boiled.  Instead, I add an inch of water to a pot and place the eggs in a steamer insert.  Then I place the steamer in the pot with the water, put the lid in place, and steam the eggs for exactly 14 minutes.  Then I quickly remove them to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  You’ll have perfectly hard-boiled eggs without boiling them in water!

In a food processor pulse the parsley, mayonnaise, and mustard until smooth; season with salt and pepper.  Add the chopped, wood-fired red beets, garlic, walnuts, prunes and lemon juice with the mayonnaise mixture until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the pickled beets.  Place the mixture into a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag.

Halve the eggs lengthwise removing the yolks.  Cut a 3/4 -inch opening in the pastry bag.  Pipe filling into eggs, mounding slightly.  Top each egg with a golden beet slice, if available.

Serve these up and enjoy the healthy benefits of beets, improved with a little smoky flavor.  Just perfect for a healthy snack, quick appetizer, or as that dish to pass at your next party event. Please try our Deviled Egg Featuring Wood-Fired Smoked Beets recipe.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


Our finished beef short ribs after applying our techniques of adding rub and cooking on the gas grill with wood chunks. Oh so yummy!
Our finished beef short ribs after applying our techniques we describe in this blog

Of all the cuts of ribs, this is likely my favorite.  Found between the 6th and the 10th ribs of the animal, the meat on these ribs lays on top of the bones rather than between them like with back ribs.  Short ribs require a method of cooking that will allow them to tenderize as they have a lot more meat, fat, connective tissue and flavor than pork ribs.  Because of all that fat and connective tissue, beef short ribs need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 200°F.

Today, I’m going to cook my beef short ribs on the gas grill using an indirect method of cooking and wood chunks to bring great smoke flavor.

Our beef short ribs on the left side of the gas grill and our cherry smoker wood chunks on the right side burner. 

Grill Set Up

The gas grill I’m using is equipped with 4 burners and heat shields over those burners.  I’ll be pre-heating my grill to maintain a cooking temperature of 225°-275°F.  I will only be using the heat of the two burners on the right side of the grill.  My short ribs will be placed on the left side of the grill with the two burners in the “off” position.

I let the grill heat up first before adding the cherry wood chunks to the heat shields.  While it’s heating, lets prepare the short ribs.


Dinosaur Cut

I prefer my butcher to cut what I refer to as the “Dinosaur cut” of short rib.  These are the actual length of the short rib, usually around 8-inch lengths.  The butcher will trim some fat but essentially, leave these with quite a bit fat to render during cooking to make them tender.

After trimming the fat to make most of the ribs even in size, it’s time to make a simple, flavorful wet rub before these go on the grill.


Fresh Herb Wet Rub

There are a lot of options for flavors that marry well with beef but I prefer to use as much fresh herb as I can.  This wet rub recipe will coat about 4 full size short ribs.

    Our fresh herb wet rub applied to the beef short ribs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Place each of the above ingredients into a mortar so I can control the amount of crushing to the ingredients.  I will be forming a loose paste with my ingredients by crushing the ingredients with the pestle.  I like to leave some larger pieces of rosemary and peppercorn to add texture to the finished ribs.  Once ready, I take the paste and rub it all over the ribs.  You can do this step the night before to allow for more tenderizing to the meat before it goes on the grill.


To the Heat

We maintain the temperature of our gas grill and approximately 275 degrees Farenheit.With my grill temperature registering at 275°F, its time to place the ribs on the unlit side of the grill.  I place 2 cherry wood chunks on the heat shield of the burner that is lit and close the lid.  These will cook unchecked for about 2 hours.  At that point, it will be time to add additional wood chunks and turn the ribs. I also place a small water pan on the grill to keep the meat moist during the final cooking time.



The Finish

Beef short ribs are one of those cuts of meat that require a lengthy cook time, preferably at a lower temperature.  Cooking via indirect method on the gas grill with wood chunks is the perfect way to do just that method.  Depending on the size of the short ribs you’ve purchased, this method will take 3-5 hours.  For a three hour cook, two cherry Single Filet Wood Chunks from SmokinLicious® is all that is needed.  For thicker ribs, you will likely need one or two more wood chunks.  Target internal temperature of the ribs is 190°F if you plan to rest them or 200°F if your going from grill to plate.

Beef short ribs, dinosaur cut, with rosemary-thyme wet rub.  The ultimate in smoked ribs!

Thursday, June 14, 2018




I see the question asked so many times and in so many ways.  What is the best wood to use for smoking? What is the best wood to use for smoking (fill in the blank with your favorite food)?
I’m going to shake things up a bit by stating there is no rule book saying a specific wood must be used with a specific food.  There are, however, some basic things you should know to reduce the risks of toxicity, damage to your equipment, and overall ruining your barbecue.  Use the wrong hardwood and you can bitter any food you expose to that wood’s smoke.

Absolutely No Softwoods

Right up front, let me tell you, only smoke with hardwood.  Softwoods or coniferous woods should never be used for cooking because they have elevated sap levels and more air in their cell structure.  This causes the wood to burn fast, hot, produce lots of sparks, and produce unpleasant flavors not ideal for flavoring foods.  Let’s be clear on what a softwood is: pine, redwood, cedar, fir, spruce, hemlock, larch, cypress.
I realize that cedar has been a popular softwood used for plank cooking or wrapping foods.  If you want to learn more about the risks associated specifically with cedar, see my earlier article  and learn why you should discontinue this practice.

Meet the North American Hardwoods for what wood to use for smoking

Now, meet the North American Hardwoods!  Known as deciduous trees that produce broad leaves, produce a fruit or a nut, and generally go dormant in the winter, hardwoods are the woods to use for cooking and makeup roughly 40 percent of all trees in the United States.  However, not all hardwoods are created equal when it comes to flavoring foods.  Let’s examine some of the specific hardwoods of North America.  I am referencing our key to the boldness of the wood’s flavor (= Mild = Medium = Strong)


Part of the Birch family of hardwoods, Alder is a relatively soft hardwood of medium density.  It is most commonly used to smoke fish but can be used with mild poultry cuts, pork, vegetables, fruits and spices for natural wood flavoring/smoking.  The flavor profile is mild on our scale of boldness.  Alder provides a neutral coloring to the outer skin of foods and is the preference for those who like to cold smoke.


Ash hardwood is part of the Oleaceae family or olive family of hardwoods and can be used with any food for natural wood flavoring/smoking.  The flavor profile is on the light side making it ideal for most any food but in particular, it works great with wood-fired pizza as it can lose moisture quickly providing for a great bed of coals.  Ash provides a neutral coloring to the outer skin of foods.


Considered a lightweight hardwood, Aspen is known to have “wet pockets” which can lead to some difficulty with using this as a cooking wood due to its tendency for bacteria development.  Variations in moisture can result in temperature variation during cooking which is directly opposite the goal when fire cooking.


This hardwood is known as the preferred wood for carving.  It grows commonly with red oak, white ash, and sugar maple trees.  This wood is soft and light which makes it a quick burner.  It does not have any notable odor or taste which makes it a poor choice as a cooking wood.

American Beech:

This hardwood grows in large stands and mixes in with many of the other dominate hardwoods.  It is a popular filler wood for making charcoal so you know it burns long and evenly.  It is classified as moderate in flavor boldness.


This can be an ideal firewood choice due to the prevalence of the varieties of birch and the strength of the wood itself.  However, it is not a highly flavorful hardwood for cooking and burns too hot.  If used for fire cooking, you will have a challenge controlling the cooking temperature.


This hardwood produces a poisonous nut as well as twigs.  For that reason alone, it is not recommended as a smoking/cooking wood.


This hardwood belongs to the genus that includes walnut though it is not as weight-heavy a wood as walnut.  Don’t let the name confuse you.  There is no buttery taste to this wood.  In fact, it does not offer any balanced qualities when used for cooking and for that reason, is not recommended.


Like Oak, there are many species within the genus of cherry.  It has an obvious fruity aroma and tends to light easily producing a steady burn and flavor.  Wild or forest grown cherry is very different from orchard cherry which can have bitter undertones which may in part, be due to the chemical application commonly applied to nursery trees.  Feel free to use it with poultry, beef, pork, lamb, even vegetables, as it is a workhorse when it comes to flavoring foods.  Be sure to use a meat probe when cooking with cherry wood as this wood provides a reddish-pink hue to the meat that can easily be mistaken for under-cooking.


This is a very hearty hardwood that is resistive to decay so it is not necessarily an easy lighting wood.  It can be used for smoking though I certainly feel there are better choices out there.


This hardwood is part of the genus that contains the aspens and poplars.  As such, like its siblings, it does not make for a good smoking wood.  In fact, when it becomes wet, it produces a sour odor which can transfer to food.


Although this is a dominant hardwood in the USA it is a hardwood that has no characteristic odor or taste.  For that reason, it does not make for an ideal cooking wood.

  Gum (Sweetgum):

A very heavy hardwood that holds moisture for indefinite periods of time which causes it to be a poor choice for pleasant smoke flavors.  This can produce musty aromas that can transmit to foods.


This is a moderately hard wood that has a yellow to grayish heartwood that does not make it the best choice for smoking.  The benefits of exposing food to this wood are not well documented and for that reason, is not an ideal choice.


Since these hardwoods are part of the same genus they share similar qualities: dense wood that is strong, can be difficult to lite, but produce a lot of color and flavor to foods.  What should be noted here is that not all the species are the same.  Some hickory varieties are very bold and can have bitter undertones.  It is important to learn the differences between varieties before selecting one for cooking.


There are over 120 species of maple so let’s clarify some of the terms.  Sugar maple and black maple are also called hard maple.  Silver maple, red maple, and boxelder are called soft maple.  These maples make for excellent smoking and cooking woods producing beautiful even coloring and a moderate flavor level.


This is not a heavily populated hardwood in the USA and it is a slow grower.  It can be confused with Hickory due to similar coloring.  However, it does not produce the same flavors as hickory.


An extremely light hardwood that does not hold any ideal moisture for smoldering to produce a clean smoke.  Poplar burns too quickly to be an ideal choice for cooking.


Although this hardwood has a medium weight and can burn evenly and for good length, it does not do anything for coloring foods or adding any pleasant flavor.  For this reason, it is not recommended for cooking.

  Red Oak:

The oaks are the one hardwood that worldwide dominates with the greatest number of species.  This is a heavy wood that can be difficult to light but once it ignites, it produces intense smoke and flavoring that is easy to distinguish when consuming foods cooked over it.  Red oak has a strong aroma and flavor, requiring a trained hand to use it.


One of the heaviest hardwoods available, it belongs to the same genus as hickory and pecan.  If classified as smoking, it is on the bold side and should be used in small quantities.  The wood produces a very dark outer “bark” coloring.

  White Oak:

Similar in structure to Red Oak, the white variety tends to be less strong aromatically though it still produces an obvious bold flavor to foods.  Because it is a heavy, dense wood, it holds moisture for a long time making it more ideal for hot smoking and grilling rather than for cold smoke application.
There you have a quick guide on the hardwoods of North America and those considered ideals for fire cooking.  Experiment and keep a written log of what works with the other ingredients you use in your wood cooking.  Hope you enjoyed our discussion of what wood to use for smoking!