Thursday, July 26, 2018


We are doing our grilled tofu adding a BBQ flare recipe on a grill pan to hold the Tofu so we can add a natural smoky flavor
We are doing our grilled tofu adding a BBQ flare recipe on a grill pan to hold the Tofu so we can add a natural smoky flavor!

When you’re ready for a non-animal protein, why not take tofu to the grill and infuse it with hickory wood smoke which is a perfect match to our spicy Hoisin sauce and marinade.   Our 6-ingredient recipe will get you on the way to a perfect healthier alternative to traditional smoked and grilled proteins.


Pressing Is Key

Made from soybean curds, tofu is a great alternative to meat for a source of protein as well as being low in calories with no cholesterol.  It is important to press the tofu to release the trapped water which is commonly packed in.  To do this, simple sandwich the tofu between multiple layers of paper towel-lined plates and weight it from the top.  Once pressed for at least an hour or longer, you can whisk together a spicy marinade that will also become our sauce for the grilling/smoking step. 

Gather together ½ cup of Hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and ½ teaspoon garlic powder.  Whisk all these ingredients together to be used to marinate the tofu for great flavor.

Once the marinade is made, place the tofu in a resealable storage bag and add the marinade.  Allow the tofu to marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour or more; the longer it marinates, the fuller the flavor will be.


Gas or Charcoal Grill Makes It Perfect

For this recipe, we use a grill pan instead of putting tofu directly on the grates.Once ready to grill, preheat all burners of the grill to medium-high and collect 1-2 single or double filet wood chunks from SmokinLicious® to be placed on the heat shield.  This will add the great smoke flavor.  Feel free to cook on a charcoal grill as well.  Once preheated, leave only the heat of a single burner on medium-high which will also have the wood chunks placed on that burner’s heat shield.  All other burners should be turned off.  If using a charcoal grill, keep the wood and charcoal to one side of the grill grate area.  I am using a grill pan for my tofu which I’ve pre-sliced into 1-inch thick pieces but you certainly can place directly on the grill grate.

With our tofu placed in a grill pan for cooking on a gas grill using an indirect method of cooking with wood chunks, this will take roughly 10 minutes per side to cook.  During the cooking time, it is important to continue to brush the slices with the reserved marinade to keep the flavors intact.  Flipping the slices at least once is recommended.  Once cooked, I like to put a final layer of the sauce on the tofu slices and allow to rest.


Hearty & Filling

Providing all the essential amino acids for a healthy diet, tofu is a perfect protein to smoke.  One caution is that this product tends to require a bolder wood flavor to reveal itself through the spicy sauce.  I recommend considering such woods as hickory, oak, beech.  Once cooked, you can cut these up into small pieces to serve as a hors d’oeuvre, or add to a salad, soup, rice dish, or vegetable side dish.   Don’t forget, this is hearty enough to be a meal so feel free to serve it as the main protein with a side of salad, coleslaw, or a vegetable side.  Spicy Smoked Tofu may turn out to be your healthy protein alternative with that hearty barbecue flare!  We hope you will follow our recipe Grilled Tofu adding a BBQ Flare for your next dinner event!

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Recently, I came across a great article on the new hot trends in cold cuts and smoked meats.  The article stressed how the $200 million in sales was the result of companies offering such things as chorizo, pepperoni, salami, and smoked bacon with bolder flavors and cleaner ingredients.  So, why do I have a problem with this?

What About the Smoke

The article went on to explain that the No. 1 trend in smoked and processed meats is products that are “uncured” or “no-nitrates added”, stating that this is due to the new health-conscious consumer.  This got me thinking about smoked products in general.  No one seems to be asking about the smoking process used to get that bacon hickory smoked!

If people are so sensitive to the ingredients in their foods, why haven’t we become concerned about the smoke component used for the actual process?

Demanding Label Changes

There are so many companies investing in the repackaging of their products to include such labels as “no-sugar-added”, “dairy-free”, and “gluten-free”.  Consumers are label readers and keenly interested in how products are made, how animals are raised, how products are preserved, and the percentage of fat in the processing.

One factor in food preparation that doesn’t seem to have been included in labeling is the actual smoking process for food products like smoked bacon, fish, or beef jerky.
Why doesn’t anyone seem concerned enough to ask what are they smoking with?  Is it actual wood or the wood-flavored vapor that is used to make liquid smoke, hardly an ingredient that would be considered chemical-free?

Wood Should Be a Food Ingredient Hot Trend

Let’s examine why wood should be looked at as a food ingredient when used for hot or cold smoking or wood-fired cooking in general.

First, not all companies selling wood products under the guise of smoking, identify what components of the tree are manufactured in the product.  Nor do they give any indication if the wood used in the manufacture of products started for only the purpose of food application. To clarify this point, let’s review one common seller of wood products found on

This popular choice in wood chips started as a hickory and mesquite manufacturer of log products by a single owner back in 1986.  Originally, they sold logs to locals around their area.  Eventually, they branched out to wood chips and wood chunks in retail packaging when BBQ became so popular.
The company was sold to a fire log company who uses recycled wood sawdust and agricultural fibers to produce fireplace log products.  With the change in ownership, the company began selling other woods; pecan, post oak, and mesquite that are native to their home state of Texas, and the rest of the offerings which are brought in from other suppliers and locations.  There is no bark removal, there is no separation of wood layers.  Much of the product lies in open areas on the ground exposed to the southwestern sun as well as to anything else that may make contact.  The product is left uncovered in outdoor areas awaiting packaging, even after it has been kiln dried which is the only reference made to any preparation of the wood.

Here is one concern with the current ownership – keep in mind, with a primary business of manufacturing charcoal and fire log products, this business was originally connected to a cedar and basswood pencil business.  For those who don’t know woods, cedar and basswood are both softwoods, something that can be toxic if used for cooking food.

No Wood Regulations

There are no regulations that specifically state that you must guarantee that the wood packaged is clean, pure, and 100% of what it says it is on the label.  Just about anyone can start to package wood, whether hardwood or softwood or a combination of both, as a “cooking”, “grilling”, “smoking” or “BBQ” wood.  There are no regulations that it must be kiln dried or heat treated.  It is a free-for-all!

There may be claims that we are label readers, but it appears when it comes to wood used for cooking, we don’t have a clue.  This may be the oldest method of cooking in existence, but it certainly doesn’t have to contain the same risks as what the earliest homo sapiens endured.

The next time you see packaging that bacon, jerky, deli meat is of a smoked variety, look at the label and ask the question, “How was this smoked?”  You will be amazed that little or no answers are provided.  I hope you enjoyed our topic “Hot Trend” and the argument for better food labeling!

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Smoked Cabbage on the gas grill using SmokinLicious® filet wood chunk is a wonderful way to add flavor to the vegetable!
Smoked Cabbage on the gas grill using SmokinLicious® filet wood chunk is a wonderful way to add flavor to the vegetable!


Smoked Cabbage

Bringing you another vegetable to take to the grill and smoke with wood for exceptional flavor.  This time we focus on cabbage, a fiber-rich leafy vegetable that has been known to help with so many conditions.  We will take wedges of cabbage, paint them with a spicy Dijon sauce and wood-fire them for about an hour using an indirect cooking method.  Get your gas grill or charcoal grill ready for our version of smoked cabbage that you’ll want to make again and again.


It’s All in The Sauce

Just a few simple ingredientsTo bring a super flavorful taste to our wood-fired cabbage, we’ll first make the spicy sauce that will be brushed on each cabbage wedge.  Start by gathering the following ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt or kosher salt- ½ teaspoon
  • Fresh ground pepper- ½ teaspoon
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
This will be a paste-like consistency once all the ingredients are combined.

For the cabbage preparation, simply cut off the hard root end, cut in half, then cut each half in half.  In the end, you will cut 8 wedges for the grill.


One Hour of Smoky Goodness

Cabbage on the grillAfter pre-heating the grill it’s time to setup the two-zone cooking using single or double filet wood chunks from SmokinLicious®.  Once heated, turn all but one burner off and place the wood chunks on the heat shield of the lit burner.  If cooking on a charcoal grill, place the charcoal and wood to one side of the grill.  Brush on the spicy Dijon sauce on each cabbage wedge.  I’m cooking the wedges on a sheet pan placed on the unlit side of the grill.  Let these cook for at least an hour.  You’ll know they are ready when I knife inserted through the wedge passes through easily.


A Sauce to Finish It Off

Ingredients on the stove top, ready to make a perfect sauce for smoked cabbageWhile the spicy cabbage wedges smoke and cook on the grill, it’s time to get the ingredients ready for the finishing sauce.  Start by gathering:
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced scallion
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until well combined.  Keep the sauce warm until the cabbage is ready, making sure that the butter does not separate from the other ingredients.

Once the cabbage is tender and lightly charred, it’s time to remove it from the grill, plate, and spoon on the finishing sauce.  With the tang of Dijon, the sweetness of the sun-dried tomato and scallion, and smokiness from hickory wood, this is cabbage like you’ve never had before.  This is filling enough to eat as a meal or makes the perfect side to beef, pork, and chicken.  One of the best things about this recipe is it needs very little attention while on the grill.  Enjoy not only the flavor benefits of this dish but the health benefits as well.

Thursday, July 5, 2018


I’m going to be frank.   When having an opportunity to search through social media photos of various foods cooked by fire and smoke and seeing a reference to the wood, I get uncomfortable.  There doesn’t appear to be the same concern for the choice of wood as there is for the rub, cut of meat, quality of meat, choice of equipment, and sauce.

Why is it that the wood used to flavor the foods grilled and smoked is an afterthought?


Rating Scale

Recently, I ran across an article in Reader’s Digest that focused on the dangers of wildfire smoke, especially for those living in areas of the United States that are hit repeatedly by these events.  What struck me the most was the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index: good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, and hazardous.  This guide is used to recommend evacuations of locations, use of HEPPA filtration to allow people to remain in an affected area, and as a method of gaining valuable data post fire on the affects smoke has on plant life.  There is considerable data available from tree bark which has long been known to absorb pollutants.

This got me thinking about hardwoods used for smoking, grilling, and overall cooking of foods.  There is no regulatory agency that oversees wood used for cooking.  Despite efforts to get the Food Safety and Inspection Services division to recognize the risks associated with cooking with wood, no governmental agency has stepped up to offer regulations in this area such as established inspections of equipment and wood.


Why Kosher

As the manufacturer of all the products sold under the brand SmokinLicious®, we struggled with what steps to take that would demonstrate our commitment to only offer hardwoods that are considered safe for cooking.  Although we stressed that we are bark-free (an important step to reduce the exposure to toxins locked in the bark layers), that we only manufacture from the heartwood (an area of the tree that is known to be resistant to insects and decay), and that we manufacture each cut to the wood for the end cooking product, we simply desired some validation of these steps.

Since we’ve always considered the wood another ingredient to cooking, we decided to explore the options from the food perspective.  What certification could we apply for that would demonstrate that we are a food-related item?  Kosher certification was the perfect place to start!


Certification Means?

For us, the steps taken to obtain Kosher certification via VA’AD HAKASHRUS OF BUFFALO verified our commitment to keep our manufacturing facility at the highest standard possible.  People are drawn to kosher food for various reasons including quality, a healthy lifestyle, food safety and allergy security.  By securing this certification, we can demonstrate to the public that our products satisfy the food quality and safety requirements they should strive for daily.  As such, our customers don’t have to settle for an unregulated product that frankly, could contain pretty much anything in the package because, as pointed out, there is no system of check on wood cooking and smoking products.


The SmokinLicious® Index

Taking a page from the Environmental Protection Agency, I thought it would be helpful to develop an index to use for hardwood intended for cooking.  Our grading system is based on toxicity factors of a wood, ease of lighting, sustained burn, coal formation, smoke production, and heat level.  Our index is: Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, Unhealthy.

Excellent: Alder, American Beech, Ash, Cherry, Hickory, Pecan, Maple, Apple
Good: Persimmon, Red Oak, White Oak, Mesquite
Fair: Birchwood, Chestnut, Walnut, Peach
Poor: Aspen, Basswood, Poplar, Sycamore, Butternut, Cottonwood, Elm, Willow, Dogwood
Unhealthy: Buckeye, Hackberry, Gum (Sweetgum)

We hope you will find this guide useful. Use it as a means of sorting through all the types of wood offerings to make an educated decision, to look for key information on packaging that will confirm you are making a safe decision.  After all, why take any additional risks when it comes to the health and safety of your family.

Making you an informed consumer through valuable articles like this one.  Hope you enjoyed this blog about cooking with wood!  Leave us a comment and subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor, that’s SmokinLicious®.