Thursday, August 30, 2018


Our collage of cooking the leg of lamb, finished and cut leg of Lamb
Our Wood Fired Leg of Lamb

Lamb is one of those proteins that tend to be associated with special holidays and occasions rather than as a common animal protein to introduce to the grill.  Let’s change that with this easy and highly flavorful way to add wood flavoring to cuts of lamb on the charcoal grill.  Know this technique can easily be done on the gas grill as well so simply pick your equipment and follow the suggested technique to bring abundant flavor and juiciness to your favorite cut of lamb.

I’ll be doing a leg of lamb and rib loins of lamb on a charcoal grill using charcoal and wood chunks to bring the great smoke flavor.


Grill Set Up

For the charcoal grill, I like to have a fine mesh screen in place over the charcoal area to utilize even the smallest ember for the heat and temperature control of cooking on the grill.  I get two chimney starters of charcoal (I’m using lump hardwood) ready. My grill will have three rib loins plus a leg of lamb on it.  I also get about four wood chunks – I’m using Single Filet sizing from SmokinLicious® in ash, sugar maple, and wild cherry – ready to go on top of the hot coals once poured into the charcoal area.
Our red hot Charwood ready for cooking!For a gas grill set up, pre-heat the grill to maintain a cooking temperature of 275°-300°F.  Use only the heat of the burners on one side of the grill, while the other side remains off. The lamb will be placed on the grill with the burners in the “off” position.  This is the indirect method of cooking and is an easy way to ensure that the lamb cooks without burning the skin and that you don’t have to babysit the grill!  Wood chunks would be placed either directly on the heat shields of the lit burners or in a smoker box or disposable pan set on the lit burners.


A Flavorful Drip Pan

Before the fire is started, I’ve prepared a drip pan containing Syrah wine, rough cut onion, garlic, and mint leaves to catch the renderings from the meat and prevent flare-ups on my direct method charcoal grill.  If using a gas grill, this pan would go under the grill grate where the meat is placed.   Another benefit to the drip pan is it adds flavor to the cooking environment producing an aromatic convection steam.   Since the leg of lamb is thickest, it will go on the grill about 45 minutes ahead of the loins. The leg must maintain a temperature of 275° to 300°F on the grill.  I insert a temperature probe in the thickest portion of the leg to ensure internal temperature.

Our drip pan with Syrah wine, onions, garlic and fresh mint 

Flavorful, Easy Grilling

After 45 minutes of initial cooking to the leg of lamb only, it’s time to add the rib lions.  Since I have a total of three loins, it is a full grill.  The temperature probe will remain in the leg of lamb as this will determine when everything comes off the grill to rest.  It can be a challenge to add charcoal when the grill grate is full and your cooking on a kettle grill, but if you keep a helper nearby, and you have chimney starter ready with hot coal, this won’t be a huge issue.  Our lamb has been oiled and rubbed with fresh herbs, garlic, and seasoning.  Just a few hours of wood grilling to perfection in flavor.


The Finish

One of the tricks to grilling with wood on either a charcoal or gas grill is to have a plan on how to maintain the main protein while not depleting any of the moisture.  I love to use insulated blankets, the kind you purchase for a hot water tank.  They work perfectly at maintaining the meat’s temperature so you can be up to an hour away from serving.  I wrap the meat in foil and then in the insulated blanket.  Sometimes, I’ll use a cooler if I’ve run out of places to put foods for a big gathering.

The beautiful, flavorful skin on the lamb is a mahogany color providing just the right amount of bite to each piece, courtesy of cherry, maple and ash hardwoods.  We are serving our lamb with a Jasmine rice and wood-fired Brussels sprouts and carrot, along with a wood-fired Canadian salmon.  Remember, lamb doesn’t have to be reserved for the special occasion.  It’s readily available throughout the year and is a perfect protein to add to the grill.

The cut slice of our leg of lamb surrounded by our colorful wood fired finished product! 

Tasting Notes:

To tone down the boldness of the smoke, always reach for hardwoods that are lighter in flavor tones.  These would include Alder, Ash, and Wild Cherry.

Cooking the lamb on a charcoal grill will impart stronger wood flavorings than a gas grill. Especially if you use a direct method of cooking (food is placed directly over the charcoal and wood).

Thursday, August 23, 2018


Smoke trapped in the bottle infusing the Smoked Maple Syrup Marinade
Smoke trapped in the bottle infusing the Smoked Maple Syrup Marinade
A point that I regularly try to drive home is that when it comes to smoking foods and ingredients, it doesn’t have to be the traditional items thought of.  A great example of this is our Dijon Maple Marinade recipe that is especially good with pork.

When you don’t want to smoke the actual protein, think about smoking another ingredient that will be married to the pork.  For me, that was the maple syrup I use in my marinade recipe.  I’ll review for you the cold smoking technique for this and then provide my recipe for this great marinade that can be used on fish, chicken, turkey, pork, and goat.


The Simple Cold Smoke Method

I’m sure you’ve read or seen some type of information for cold smoking cocktails, cheese, salt, and spices.  This technique is easiest when you use one of the many types of handheld food smokers on the market today.

For my method of smoking maple syrup, I’ve selected the Gourmia® Mini Smoker which works best with a very clean, dust-free micro wood chip to produce the smoke for infusion.  This is easily available from SmokinLicious®, offering a variety of sizing to fit your need in 8 hardwood species.  I’ll be using the Minuto® Wood Chip Size #8 for this smoking infusion.

I’ve found the easiest method of smoking and maintaining the maple syrup, is to use a glass container like a wine bottle.  Just be sure that the container is completely clean and dry.

I place about one cup of maple syrup in the glass bottle.  Taking the tubing of the Gourmia® Mini Smoker, I place the end in the glass bottle.  Taking just a finger size pinch or two of the wood chips, I place in the handheld food smoker’s chip bowl and then ignite the wood chips with a lighter while turning the unit’s fan on.  Once the smoke is generated, I turn the unit’s van off and allow the bottle to fill with smoke.  Save a cork as you can use it to plug the bottle allowing for maximum infusion of the smoke.  Be sure to rotate the bottle to allow for the smoke to travel completely within the maple syrup.


Look at how nicely the glaze colors our pork roast- the maple syrup adds a nice sweet touch

The Smoked Maple Syrup Marinade Recipe

Once the maple syrup has been smoked, it’s time to collect the other ingredients and make our marinade.  Using equal parts smoked NYS maple syrup Grade A and Dijon mustard, I add 3 tablespoons of lime juice and fresh ground pepper and whisk until just combined.  Taking a storage bag, I place a 4 lb. boneless pork roast inside, then pour in my Smoked Maple Syrup-Dijon Marinade.  Sealing the bag, I place the bag in the refrigerator for a least 4 hours though I prefer to marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Place the marinated roast in a roasting pan with rack.  This will take about 75 minutes to reach 145° F internal temperature.  About halfway through the cooking process, I rotate the cooking pan and spoon some of the pan juices back over the roast.  That will give it a beautiful bronze finish.  Remove from the oven and cut into ½” slices.  The Aroma-taste of pure maple joy with a smoky kick!

Bringing you great recipes for all types of food ingredients to grill, ember cook, hot smoke, and cold smoke.  We welcome your suggestions on foods you want to see smoked or charred so leave us a comment.  Don’t forget to subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor.

Thursday, August 16, 2018


Our Charred Broccoli soup ingredients, in the pot and finished soup
Our Charred Broccoli soup ingredients, in the pot and finished soup

Known as the mini tree, broccoli is part of the cruciferous vegetable family that includes cabbage, Brussels sprout, cauliflower, and kale to name a few.  Broccoli is low in calories and packed with nutritional value including Vitamin K, C, folate, and potassium.

Although popular as a steamed or stir-fry vegetable, one of the great things when grilling broccoli is it doesn’t lose any nutritional value and you gain great flavor.

I’m going to give you two easy ways to bring wood flavor to broccoli using the equipment of your choice.  Then I’ll tell you how to make an easy broccoli soup that is loaded with hearty flavors of the wood fire.


Gas Grill Method

We are roasting our broccoli on the grates on the gas grill over a wood chunk placed on the diffuser.One of the benefits of using a gas grill is the heat level control and speed at which the grill can do what you want.  For this method of grilling, I’ll first get four wood chunks from SmokinLicious® in the double filet size and place on one of the grill’s heat shields.  This will be the easy way of adding wood flavor to the broccoli while it cooks.  Set the burners to medium and allow the grate to heat up and the smoke to generate from the wood chunks.  Then place pre-cut broccoli florets on the grill grate keeping some space between the pieces.  I usually can close the lid for the first 5-8 minutes before things start to cook rapidly.  At that point, you’ll need heat-safe tongs to turn the broccoli so it cooks and colors evenly.  Once done, remove to a bowl and allow to cool.


Stovetop Smoker Method

Our Nordic Ware® stovetop smoker adding flavor to our broccoliStovetop smokers are perfect for the person who lives in a location that a grill isn’t possible, or who prefers to cook indoors but craves smoke flavor.  I’m using the indoor kettle smoker from Nordic Ware® which uses a wood chip product to produce the smoke.  SmokinLicious® offers a great assortment of wood chip sizing with recommendations specifically for stovetop smokers.  I am using a custom blend of Minuto® Wood Chips in #4 White Oak, #8 Wild Cherry and #6 Hickory.  You can view our series on the specific steps of this method in Dr. Smoke’s Tips and Technique blog.  Unlike the gas grill method, with this one, just load the broccoli florets to the smoker tray, put the cover on and come back in about 40 minutes for the finish.


Bring on the Soup!

After wood firing the broccoli, it’s time to gather the additional ingredients to make our charred broccoli soup.  Here’s what you’ll need:
  • 3 cups of baby spinach
  • 6 cups of wood-fired broccoli, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1-1/2 fresh avocado, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups of broth plus extra for thinning soup
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or olive oil
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper
We now add our spinach to the pot.To start the soup, place the oil in a pot and add the diced onion, red pepper flakes, and minced garlic.  Allow time to cook until tender, about 6-8 minutes.  Then add the 4 cups of broth and bring to a boil.
After tenderizing the aromatics and adding the broth, add the 6 cups of chopped wood fired broccoli.  Allow the flavors to marry for about 5 minutes on boil, then turn the heat off.  Add the 3 cups of baby spinach, mixing to combine.  Allow the mixture to cool until just warm.

Place ½ the mixture in a blender or food processor with some of the diced avocado and pulse until pureed.  At this stage, the soup mixture will be thick.  Once the ingredients are completely pureed, transfer back to the pot and place on low heat.  You can alter the thickness of your final soup by adding broth as needed.  Season again with salt and pepper to taste.


Happiness in a Bowl

Once the soup has been returned to the stove on low heat, you can start to alter the consistency and flavors to suit your taste.  If you prefer a thinner soup, add broth.  Don’t like quite that much smoke flavor?  Add a touch of cream or sour cream to balance out the flavors.  Like a bit more kick?  A drop or two of hot sauce works great.  Once the consistency is achieved, top each serving with a drip of cream and some chopped avocado.  Or, if you want to be dairy free, add a stream of olive oil and chopped avocado.  This is a soup that you can make your own.

I’ve gone cheese-free but you certainly can add that as well.   Frankly, this soup is even yummy served cold.  No matter if you pick the gas grill method or the stovetop method, you’ll have a flavorful, hearty broccoli to use in this soup recipe or other recipes featuring this healthy cruciferous vegetable.


Tasting Notes on our Charred Broccoli Soup recipe:

To tone down the boldness of the smoke, always reach for hardwoods that are noted to be lighter in flavor tones.  These would include Alder, Ash, and Wild Cherry.

If you want to make this a cream-based soup, simply add ¾ cup of light cream or ½ cup of sour cream to the finished soup.  Allow for marrying with the other ingredients for 10-15 minutes before serving.

If you’re looking for a broccoli-cheese version, good choices for cheese include white cheddar, Gruyere, Asiago, Maasdam.

If you want a thinner soup consistency, add an additional 1 cup of broth.

For a spicy kick, add 2 teaspoons of hot sauce or a tablespoon of Hoisin sauce.

Thursday, August 9, 2018


Package labeling.  It is the key to drawing attention to a product, to reduce interest in other similar products, and to make someone buy a specific product.  Let’s be honest.  Not everything printed on a label necessarily provides ALL the information.  Use certain words and an “implied” thought will occur.

When it comes to packaging wood for smoking and grilling purposes, there are a lot of terms floating out there that certainly can be deceiving.  Let’s see if I can provide clarity on what specific terms and wording mean when it comes to purchasing wood for cooking, smoking, and grilling. SMOKING-GRILLING WOOD SELLING TERMS


100% Natural

The intended meaning of 100% natural implies that it has not been touched by human hands.  As such, with wood, this would refer to the fact that a tree is a plant designed by nature and other than cutting the tree down, it is not modified in any way.

However, we do know that trees, like flowers, can be manipulated when it comes to their genetics.  Genetically modified trees are quite common in the growth of orchard woods, especially those seeking to develop dwarf varieties or specific blossom colors or hybrids.  Keep in mind, genetically modified trees will have a reduction in the lignin compound which is responsible for the flavor the wood gives when it burns and gives off smoke vapor.

Currently, it is not legal to genetically modify forest trees but there is a lot of allowances when it comes to plantation and orchard/nursery trees, which often have chemicals applied to make up for the weak lignin which makes the wood susceptible to decay and pest infestation.



Wood that is dried in a closed chamber in which the temperature and relative humidity of the circulated air can be controlled is called “kiln drying”.  There are three types of Kiln Drying methods: low-temperature drying which is below 130° F, conventional electric dehumidification drying, and conventional steam-heated drying which have temperatures up to 180° F.

For the most part, when a smoking or grilling wood product lists “kiln-dried” on the packaging, it does not state the type of method being employed.  Also, many that use this term do so without providing any information on what compliance record keeping is in place to attest that they are doing what they say.

There is one company who states that they adhere to the protocol designed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) but quote a core temperature and length in minutes of the heating process that is not the standard written by the USDA.  Their compliance agreement is provided by the state in which the business is located, which may have a different standard in place than the USDA.



The process of drying green wood by exposure to prevailing natural atmospheric conditions outdoors or in an unheated shed is known as air drying.  There are three dominate Air Drying methods: open yard, shed, and forced-air shed.  The first is not held in high regard as the wood is exposed to all the elements making it the longest method of depleting moisture content from the wood.  The second has the addition of a roof covering to maintain a precipitation-free environment, while the third option is mostly used by traditional lumber companies as it produces quicker results meaning products can be sold quicker.

Here’s the issue when you see “Air-Dried” on package labeling of grilling and smoking woods: you don’t know what method is used and no one is saying how long the wood was air-dried for.  You don’t know how old the wood is, what method of air drying was employed, how long it took to “dry” it, and you likely won’t know what moisture content is left in the wood.  Remember, dry out a piece of wood too far, and it is simply firewood designed for heat output only.


Naturally Cured

This is another term that floats out on the packaging that implies it is different from air drying techniques.  It is not different.

Naturally curing wood means the wood is stacked in a manner that allows air to flow around the wood pieces usually in an outdoor setting.  It may be left exposed, covered with a tarp or have a roof structure overhead.  Naturally curing wood for fireplace use is recommend for 365 days but there is no benchmark for the timing used to dry the wood for the use of smoking or grilling.  Some suppliers will use moisture levels of 20-30% as their benchmark but 10% is a large variable in moisture when it comes to wood.

Here is the biggest challenge with a natural curing method: dry the wood too quickly and you will find cracks, splitting, honeycombing, and/or warping.  Dry too slowly and the wood will stain and suffer decay.  Remember, decay attracts pests as that is what they feed on. SMOKING-GRILLING WOOD SELLING TERMS



I won’t lie to you – there are a lot of choices out there for wood.  How do you go about selecting from the limited information on the packaging?

Some decisions you’ll have to make on your own: do you want to cook with bark or do you find that bark indeed fluctuates the temperature of your equipment too much?  Do you want to use a kiln-dried product even if you don’t know what temperature and for how long that product was heated?  Would you want to use a product that hasn’t had any heat application applied to it meaning there may be pests, larvae, mold, and spores that haven’t been eliminated by a heat process?  Do you want to use a product from a supplier that provides no information on the moisture of the wood?  Do you want to go with a “natural”, “air dried” product that may have been exposed to anything that could access the wood: animal feces and urine, insects, chemical contaminants from the ground or another source?
In the end, I think the selection can be easy by simply looking at the wood for purity and cleanliness, looking at the packaging for evidence of air exchange meaning its likely not completely dried out and looking at the packaging information for claims that don’t seem to match the product that is packaged inside.

Most of all, you should be able to gain valuable information from any supplier’s website on the wood they are selling to you.   If not, be cautious that they may not know anything about the manufacturing process of the wood and/or what is needed in wood to qualify it as cooking ingredient.  We hope that our discussion of smoking & Grilling Wood Selling Terms adds clarity to your selection process.

Thursday, August 2, 2018


Our Savory Corn Muffins on the cool down rack. Just waiting to be served!
Our Savory Corn Muffins on the cool down rack. Just waiting to be served!
Ready for a savory take on the standard corn muffin recipe?  I’m adding a smoked chive to bring these muffins to a whole new level.

You may have seen someone bake cornbread in a cast iron skillet on the grill but that’s just cast iron cooking.  I’m taking fresh chives that have been smoked on the stovetop with hardwood chips from SmokinLicious® and adding them to a favorite buttermilk cornbread recipe for a sweet-savory combination.  You can read about our technique for smoking the chives in Dr. Smoke’s Tips and Technique blog.

We are pouring our batter into the muffin pan and topping it off with our smoked chives in preparation for bacon.A Flavorful Batter

To make 12 muffins you’ll need the following:
  • 1-1/4 cups fat-free buttermilk
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup yellow cornmeal, medium ground
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 3 oz. grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons finely chopped smoked fresh chives, divided
Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Combine the buttermilk, olive oil, and egg in a small bowl.  Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground red pepper in a medium size bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour into that well the milk mixture, stirring just until moist.  Stir in ½ cup of the cheese and 2 Tablespoons of the smoked chives.  Spoon into 12 muffin cups that have been greased.  Sprinkle muffins with the remaining cheese and chives.  Now bake in the oven for about 13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Remove from the oven and the remove the muffins from the tin to a wire cooling rack.

Our finished muffins hot from the oven on our plate to be served with your favorite jam or butter. 

Culinary Crew Tasting Notes

There are so many variations you can add to this standard recipe while keeping the smoked chives.
  • Add fruit such as blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries and leave out the cheese and pepper.
  • Go meaty with bacon or pancetta but hold the sugar and think about adding a different cheese such as Gruyere or Swiss.
  • You can also change the flavor by swapping out almond flour or coconut flour for the all-purpose.