Thursday, December 31, 2020

Smoking color

Smoking color is correct when white smoke is present
Smoking color is correct when white smoke is present

 You smell it before you see it!  The aroma of foods being cooked outdoors.  When those foods involve cooking over wood – hardwood to be specific – well, it is a flavor experience that is in a league of its own.

Recently, our cartoon friends, Tom and Bert, had an exchange about what the color of smoke means.

Smoke Color Means…

Chef Bert and Neighbor Tom are grilling buddies

Bert couldn’t be more right!  Hardwoods are the woods to use for cooking but not every hardwood is ideal.  That’s why they produce different colors and aroma/flavors when burnt.  Don’t just pick up any old hardwood.  Be sure to use only those that are know to be ideal choices when cooking: Alder, Ash, Beech, Cherry, Hickory, Pecan, Oak.

The Four Colors of Smoke

Chef Bert discussing color of smoke and what it does to BBQ

You might believe there is nothing complicated about cooking with wood.  How wrong you are!  As Bert mentions, the flavor is directly related to the hardwood selection as is the color of the smoke.  Select a wood that is not considered ideal for smoking and you’ll likely have to throw away your meal!  Let’s cover the 4 colors of smoke Bert mentions.

 Black smoke is a sign of impurities and is not good for cooking  

Black Smoke

Bert is spot on with his description and cause of black smoke.  You never want to put foods on a grill or smoker that is emitting black smoke.  Black smoke means no oxygen, which means you have an airflow issue.  Be sure to read up on how to achieve proper airflow here.

 Gray smoke is a sign of dirty wood 

Gray or Brown Smoke

When unclean wood is used for cooking, Bert knows you’ll get a gray or brown colored smoke.  Always be hesitant to place food over this smoke as you can be sure something isn’t clean.  It may be something dripped on the wood, was a treatment applied to the wood including pesticide application, or it may not even be a hardwood.  Clean out the smoker and start over!

 White smoke is a sign that mositure is leaving the woood 

White Smoke

I love how Bert recognizes that white smoke is a natural process in the stages of combustion.  This tells you that any water remaining in the wood is heating up and steaming out.  Once the wood is dry enough, that white smoke will disappear, and you can start to cook!

Blue smoke is ideal for cooking over  

Invisible or Blue Smoke

You may have read that the goal when smoking is to have a blue tint to your smoke.  That is great in theory but not usually the reality.  Truth is that a clean output from your vent in the form of a nearly invisible smoke is achievable by most of us.  Do not be fooled into thinking that you can simply use dry wood to get to this level faster.  Compounds responsible for ideal smoke color and flavor can only be found in hardwoods with some moisture, usually around the 20% level.  Wood that is too dry will only produce heat and not flavor.

Have you achieved the perfect smoke color for maximum flavor?  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, December 24, 2020


Our homemade Smoked Bacon Ice Cream is absolutely delicious!
Our homemade Smoked Bacon Ice Cream is absolutely delicious!

 As promised, we have a bacon ice cream recipe that will have you craving this as your new favorite flavor.  To complete this recipe, be sure to visit our posting on making your own smoked bacon which by itself, is super easy using the grill of your choice.

Then save just 1-1/2 cups of the bacon for the ice cream recipe and enjoy the rest in recipes or just crisped up.  Though I warn you, you’ll want to reserve more for making additional ice cream.  This creamy, salty flavor with just a hint of rum that will remind you of praline or brittle.   Get out your ice cream maker – you’ll need at least a quart size one –  and your smoked bacon and let’s make the most memorable ice cream flavor ever.

Make the Creamy Base

After smoking the 3-pound pork belly, I reserve about 6 slices and dice the bacon to produce 1-1/2 cups of micro cubes.  Here’s where you can decide how you want the final ice cream to be.  If you prefer a less sweet version, then be sure to crisp up the bacon slices before dicing and these will be added as is to the finish ice cream as it comes out of the ice cream maker.  If you want a sweeter, more praline type of finish, then you’ll proceed to our directive on making the sugar caramel base that the diced bacon will be added to.

Measuring out the cream for the recipe

First, we need an ice cream base so collect salted butter, vanilla, dark brown sugar and dark rum.  To start, melt 3 tablespoons of salted butter in a heavy saucepan.  Add ¾ cup dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and ¼ cup dark rum stirring for about 2 minutes to combine.  Whisk in 3 cups of cold, heavy whipping cream to the mixture and bring to a simmer.  Remove from the heat.  Get 6 large egg yolks separated into a bowl as we will begin the tempering process of the eggs to produce a rich ice cream base.

Bringing up the mixture to thickness for our smoked bacon ice cream

With the 6 egg yolks placed in a bowl, begin whisking them until pale yellow in color.  Tempering eggs means you are slowly adding a hot liquid to eggs in a slow stream and constantly whisking in order to prevent the eggs from scrambling.  I prefer to pour the hot cream mixture from the saucepan to a large measuring cup in order to have a spout for controlling the amount of liquid added to the whisked eggs.  Once the cream mixture is completely added to the egg yolks, place the combination back into a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.  You’ll know it is ready when the mixture coats the spatula and you can run your finger thru the coated cream and it doesn’t run back.  Remove from the heat.

Straining the mixture

Once the egg-cream mixture has been thickened and removed from the heat, it’s time to remove any solids.  Start by getting a large bowl full of ice and a second smaller bowl to place on top of the ice bowl.  Using a sieve, pour the egg-cream mixture into the sieve that has been placed over the smaller bowl.  I like to pour the egg-cream mixture from the saucepan to a spouted pitcher to make accuracy of the pour.  Once the mixture has passed through the sieve, you’ll see some solids collected.  Those can be discarded.   Refrigerate this mixture for a least 2 hours.  We’re now ready to start working on the bacon filling.

Sweet or Savory Filling

Here’s the point in our recipe where you need to make a decision.  If you want a sweeter smoked bacon ice cream, then proceed with this step to make a bacon praline.  If you prefer a more subtle sweetness, then simply crisp up your bacon before dicing and that can be added as is to the ice cream maker.

Our Praline with smoked bacon added for the Smoked Bacon Ice Cream
#praline #baconpraline

For the praline, start by lining a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper.  Place 1 cup of granulated sugar in a heavy saucepan and pour ¼ cup of water over the sugar – do not stir!  Turn the heat to medium-low and bring the sugar-water mixture to a boil.  Continue to boil the mixture until it turns amber in color which takes about 15 minutes.  Add the 1-1/2 cups of diced smoked bacon and stir quickly.  Remove from the heat and pour the mixture onto the parchment-lined sheet pan to cool.  Be sure to smooth the mixture into a thin layer.  Once set, break the praline into large chunks, then process in a food processor until coarse crumbs result.

While you were making that luscious bacon praline, our ice cream base was cooling in the refrigerator getting ready for the ice cream maker.  You’ll need a least a quart size ice cream maker for the finish to our recipe.  This is where you follow the directions for your specific ice cream maker.

Pouring the ice cream mixture into the ice cream maker!

While the ice cream maker is running, pour in the cooled ice cream into the maker.  My maker takes 25 minutes to produce the ice cream consistency.  Just a few minutes before the ice cream is ready, I add the smoked bacon praline or if your using only the bacon, the diced smoked bacon pieces.  Just mix for a few turns then turn off the maker and immediately pour the mixture into a freezer safe container.   Place the container into the freezer preferable overnight before scooping out and enjoying this creamy, salty combination.  Remember, this only becomes the best smoked bacon ice cream when you make your own smoked bacon.

Our mixture in the ice cream maker
#icecream #icecreammaker

A creamy, rich ice cream with a twist you’ll find becomes a favorite flavor fast.

What’s your favorite recipe featuring homemade smoked bacon?  Leave us a comment to opine and subscribe to get all our postings on tips, techniques and recipes.  Bringing innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®.


Thursday, December 17, 2020


image of wood safety and our 75-75 rule
Our 75 degree c for 75 minutes is for wood safety product to protect your health and the environment.

You’re likely giving thought to many more potential hosts for the COVID-19 in an effort to keep everyone important to you safe and healthy.  Without question, everything you touch has the potential to be a host for the virus that is spreading so rapidly around the world.  It is without question, a scary time.  What you likely don’t realize is SmokinLicious® has always been committed to protecting our customers from the transfer of potential contaminants.

Not Just Any Wood Supplier

In our previously published article titled, DEMYSTIFYING TERMS USED FOR SELLING SMOKING & GRILLING WOOD we attempted to explain what the varying words used to describe preparation to wood sold for grilling and smoking actually meant.  The important point to take from this article is that these various “labels” don’t relate to what can assure bacterium and viral agents don’t survive if they grab onto the wood to ride as a viral or bacteria host.  In the end, we are the only current supplier who not only sells hardwood only for the purpose of cooking, but utilizes a heat treatment process that is at a level to ensure no microbial or viral agent can latch on to the wood and infect the user.

Even though we use an intense heat level of 75°C/167°F, we developed a method to ensure the hardwood is not dried out to to where it would be classified as firewood, something we never want to be compared with.

Remember, we know some fungi spores are only killed at 60 °C/140 °F, mold spores at 56 °C/133 °F, and listeria at 74 °C/165.2 °F. Although there is no confirmed data on the heat level that COVID-19 dies, we do know that sunlight results in the viral agent only surviving a few hours, given the intensity of the ultraviolet rays.  This suggests that heat does play an important role in reducing the virus surviving.

The current regulations in place for wood just don’t make assurances to safety.  Our efforts reinforce that potentially fatal bacterium cannot enter our food chain.  You can handle our packaging and cook with our products knowing we’ve done our part to ensure no transfer of bacterium or infectious agent.

Can your local firewood or other wood supplier make the same claim?  SmokinLicious® – the brand that’s pure, clean, and safe for cooking.

Do you plan to grill and/or smoke more at home with the recent COVID-19 scare?  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, December 10, 2020


Steps to make Homemade smoked Bacon
Steps to make Homemade smoked Bacon

Just about everyone I know loves bacon, even if it’s the store-bought type.  There are so many foods that have been designed around bacon including a chocolate chip cookie recipe featuring caramelized bacon pieces and a bacon ice cream! (which we’ll offer a recipe for soon).

One thing most bacon lovers don’t know is just how easy it is to make your own bacon at home, even the smoked type.  You’ll be amazed at how different the taste and texture are with bacon you make at home.  Just know, my technique will require you to cure the pork belly for a minimum of 7 days so be sure you have refrigerator room and time to wait.  I know – when it comes to bacon it’s sooooo hard!  But it will be worth the wait!

Quality Meat a Must for Homemade Smoked Bacon

Our fresh butchered pork belly  begining our homemade smoked Belly steps

When making homemade bacon, you’ll need a slab of pork belly, which is a relatively inexpensive cut of pork.   Since this process is a time investment, consider purchasing a quality cut of belly which would be labeled “organic”.  This cut normally comes from heritage breeds like Kurobuta and Berkshire.  This investment will result in richer, meatier, and cleaner flavors to the finished product.

Although a full pork belly will weigh around 12 lbs., you only need about 3 lbs. to give you a sizeable quantity of bacon.  Also, some belly will come with the skin still intact while others will already have the skin removed.  Note, you will need to remove the skin before curing so you likely will want to ask the butcher to do this for you.  If you’re doing skin removal yourself,  simply separate the skin from the fat layer at one corner by inserting a knife point.  Grab hold of the skin and begin making horizontal cuts with the knife in short sections, pulling the skin back as you go.  Leave as much fat layer as you can.  Once removed, it’s time to rub and cure.

Rub and Cure to Flavor

Curing is preserving the meat.  This is done not only by the ingredients in our rub but also by the process of hot smoking which contains antimicrobial benefits.  Remember, when we are done with the smoking process, your bacon will be ready to eat as is, though you will be able to crisp it up if you want in a pan.

For my rub, I’ll be combining the following:

  • 1 cup of maple sugar, coconut sugar or regular sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorn
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon pink salt also known as Prague Powder #1
  • 1 crumbled bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
Our seasoning mixture over the pork belly moving along for homemade smoked bacon

Now cover every area of the pork belly with your rub.  Place the rubbed pork belly in either a 13×9 baking dish covered with plastic wrap or in a storage bag.  I prefer the jumbo size bags.  Just be sure to remove all the air from the bag before sealing.

Place the belly in the refrigerator.  Now starts the curing process.  As it cures, the meat releases liquid.  You’ll need to flip the meat every other day to ensure the cure is evenly distributed.  Begin checking after 7 days if the belly is fully cured.  You’ll know the pork belly is ready to be smoked when the meat feels firm to the touch but is still pliable.  Rinse the pork belly under cold water to remove any excess cure or the outcome will be too salty.  We are ready to smoke!

Make It Smoke!

Even if you don’t own a traditional smoker, you can still smoke the pork belly. Here’s the technique:

Charcoal Grill:

You will set up the charcoal grill using a two-zone cooking method.  Start by loading about 3 lbs. of briquets or hardwood charcoal on one side of the charcoal fuel area.   Place a water pan filled with water about 2-inches deep on the non-charcoal side. Then fill a chimney starter ½ full of briquets or hardwood charcoal.  Lite and allow to burn to hot coals, then pour the hot coals over the top of the unlit charcoal in your charcoal grill.  Add a couple of hardwood chunk pieces to the hot coals and allow to start smoking before you add the pork belly.  Once the chunks are smoking, place the cured pork belly on the unlit side of the grate fat side up.  Put the lid on and allow to smoke for about an hour without disturbing.  Keep in mind, your intake vent should be open ½ way as well as the outtake vent at ½.  A 3lb. pork belly will take about 1-1/2 to 2 hours to reach 150°F internal temperature.  By using both hot and cold charcoal, you should not need to replenish the coal bed, just may need to add another chunk or two of hardwood.

Our Pork Belly on the charcoal grill for our homemade smoked bacon

Gas Grill:

Place a smoker box of small wood chunks directly on your heat shield or on the grill grate.  Turn on only ½ the burners on your gas/LP grill and set to medium temperature setting.  Place a small pan of water on the warming grate to keep a moisture rich environment during the cooking process.  Allow the grill to reach 225°F and to have the wood chunks begin smoking.  Place the cured pork belly fat side up on the unlit side of the grill.  Allow the pork belly to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 150°F.  Replenish the wood chunks in the smoker box as needed.

Traditional Smoker:

Set up your smoker as normal targeting a 225°F cooking temperature.  Be sure to include a water pan if your smoker doesn’t include one (a disposable foil pan works great).  Again, use 2-3 hardwood wood chunks for the flavor.  Place the pork belly fat side up and cook until the internal temperature reaches 150°F.

Ready to Eat!

Once the pork belly has reached 150°F internal temperature, it is ready to eat as it is fully cooked!  Remember, smoke has an antimicrobial quality which helps to make this consumable at this temperature level.  I recommend you allow the bacon to cool to room temperature on a wire rack set over a sheet pan.  Then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  This will set all those great flavors.

By slicing it paper thin, you can consume this cold and enjoy a more prominent smoke flavor.  However, you may pan fry this like traditional store-bought bacon or oven cook this on a rack over a foiled lined sheet pan for those who prefer a healthier, more rendered fat version.   This method also allows you to do a lot more bacon at one time then pan frying allows.  

Refrigerated homemade bacon will last 5-7 days while frozen will keep for several months.  Once you sample your own homemade smoked bacon, you’ll never purchase prepackaged again! 

Our finished homemade smoked bacon sliced

 What’s your favorite method of smoking bacon?  Leave us a comment to opine and subscribe to get all our postings on tips, techniques and recipes.  Bringing innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®.

Thursday, December 3, 2020


We smoked the Sweet potatoes first for our Smokey Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup recipe
Smokey Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup is wonderful on cold day!

Let’s make Smokey Sweet Potato and Chipotle soup with our Smoked Sweet Potatoes!

You did it!  You stepped outside the norm and you smoked sweet potatoes.  Congratulations!  You now have a flavor level to a root vegetable that can only be achieved from wood smoke infusion.  Now, what do you make with this flavorful root vegetable?

Why not start with our easy, flavorful soup featuring a kick of spice to balance the creamy sweetness of the potatoes.  You’ll need about 5 medium sized sweet potatoes that have been smoked and tenderized.  You can visit our previous article on smoking sweet potatoes which includes directive on the gas grill as well as the charcoal grill application.

Get your smoked sweet potatoes to the kitchen as we start the makings of a great soup you’ll treasure any time of the year.

Fresh off the smoker our Sweet potatoes are ready for Smokey Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup


Prep Time

When you smoke sweet potatoes with the skin on, you’ll find versatility for your recipes.  For our soup, simply peel the skin away and slice each potato in half lengthwise, then cut into cubes.  You’ll need about 2 lbs. total of cubed, smoked sweet potato which will be 4-5 whole smoked potatoes, dependent on the size.

Chop one medium white onion and preheat a tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan.  Add the chopped onion, some salt and fresh ground pepper and allow to cook until brown around the edges.

Sweeting down the onions and spices for the Smokey Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup


Once the onions have begun to brown, it’s time to spice things up.  Start by adding 2 teaspoons of ground cumin and 2 garlic cloves that have been minced to the onion mixture.  Stir to combine.  Now add 7 cups of low sodium chicken broth and 1 chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce.  Allow these flavors to cook and marry for 15 minutes.

Blending to a Silky Finish

Whenever you make a smooth soup, you start with a softened main ingredient and then add a liquid base to it in stages.  That means start adding your cubes smoked sweet potatoes into the blender container until filled about ½ way.  Begin blending the potatoes.

Our Smoked Sweet potatoes in the blending ready to be liquified into Smokey Sweet potatoe and Chipotle Soup


Add a ladle full of the broth mixture and begin processing again.  If you have a blender equipped with a lid that has a pour opening, you can simply ladle in additional liquid base to reach the desired consistency of the soup.  I like mine to be about the consistency of a smoothie but you can alter the finish thickness by simply adding chicken broth.  Do the pureeing process in batches, returning each batch to a soup pot for a final heating.  I’ve done my puree process in three batches.

Once the finished puree is reheated, you’re done!  The sweetness of the potatoes and the slight kick of the chile combine so well to produce a balanced, silky texture and flavor.  Once ladled into a serving bowl, add a touch of sour cream or cream fraiche for a final swirl of perfection.

We are adding the Creme Fraiche to our Smokey Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup


Honestly, this is one soup that could be enjoyed cold as well as hot, it’s that delicious either way.  Smoked sweet potato and chipotle soup.  Surely a favorite to make during fall but a cold cellar storage will help you enjoy for the whole year!

What’s your favorite recipe featuring sweet potatoes?  Leave us a comment and subscribe for more great recipes, techniques, tips, and the science behind the flavor, that’s SmokinLicious®.


Did you love this recipe?  Then please, share it!