Thursday, December 2, 2021

BEST GINGERBREAD MEETS THE GRILL

We served our Best Gingerbread from the Grill as a dessert! The grilled smoky flavor was too good for a Gingerbread house!
We served our Best Gingerbread from the Grill as a dessert! The grilled smoky flavor was too Tasty for a Gingerbread house!

Gingerbread is one of those terms that are generic in the definition for a broad category, in this case, something made from ginger, cinnamon, clove, and a sweetener like molasses and sugar.  Although “bread” is in the name it can produce great cakes, cookies, bars, and of course, bread.

One of the reasons gingerbread is ideal for cooking on the grill is because it contains bold flavors of spices and molasses.  I’ll be taking a traditional recipe for gingerbread and introducing the cooking to the grill that I’m equipping with wood chunks for a unique wood flavoring.

You’re going to love the dense, flavorful result that is the perfect recipe to keep on hand for those unexpected and expected guests.

Smoke coming from our wood chunks! Using a two zone cooking method

#Two-Zone Cooking

If you follow my gas grill recipes, then you know I am a fan of the two-zone cooking method.  By lighting the burners on only half the grill and placing the food on the unlit side, I can guarantee controlled temperature that allows me to walk away as I do with my indoor oven.

I start by preheating my grill by lighting the burners on just one side.  I want a cooking temperature of 325°F so I’ll set the dials to low.  On the lit side, I also add a metal smoker box that contains 3 wood chunks.  By the time my batter is mixed, the wood chunks will be smoking for the cooking of the gingerbread.

Our Batter ready for the baking pan

Quick Batter

First, I butter and flour an 8-inch square cake pan and set aside (you can use the non-stick cooking spray if you prefer).  There is only one mixing bowl needed for this recipe to combine the following ingredients and beat until combined well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed:

  • 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon crème Fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg

Once mixed, pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and get ready to put it on the grill.

Tasting Notes: My non-traditional ingredient is the addition of the crème Fraiche.  I use this only when making a cake or loaf as if used for cookie batter, this would be too thin.  Remember, there are many variations to a gingerbread recipe.  Bolder flavors can be produced through the addition of ground clove and nutmeg.  For sweeter versions, adding honey or condensed milk.  Remember, molasses was used in baking centuries ago as a means of saving money due to the high cost of sugar.

Gingerbread Grilling

Our Batter on the grill cooking and absorbing smoke

With the batter poured, we are ready to wood grill the cake.  Place the prepared pan on the unlit side of the grill, making sure that the grill’s temperature is close to 325°F.  Now you can walk away for about 35 minutes.   Return at that point to simply rotate the cake pan and ensure the cake is cooking evenly.  If the wood chunks are completely black, you may want to add a couple of more.  Total grill-baking time will be 50-55 minutes.  Remove from the grill and cool the cake on a wire rack.  Cut into squares and serve warm or cold.

Tasting Notes:  I prefer to serve this version of gingerbread with butterscotch sauce and whipped topping but other choices include melted semi-sweet chocolate, orange sauce, and even a cream cheese frosting.

 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Smoked Butternut Squash by Stove Top- A Hearty Delicacy

You can do it! Stove top smoked butternut squash!
You can do it! Stove top smoked butternut squash!

It’s squash season and that means you have a tremendous variety of product available to do many styles of cooking. How about trying your hand at stovetop smoking? Today, I’m featuring the very popular butternut squash. You’ll need a stovetop smoker or a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven with an insert pan and lid, Minuto Chips® in Size #4 from SmokinLicious®, and about 1 hour of time. Be sure you also have a hood vent where you will be using the stovetop smoker. Now let’s gather our ingredients and get ready to infuse great wood-fired flavor!

Ingredients- Smoked Butternut Squash

I’ve decided to add a little spice to this smoked butternut squash so here are the ingredients you will need to do this flavor:

  • Curry powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Unsalted butter
  • Coarse salt
  • Fresh pepper
  • And 1 medium-size butternut squash

Cast iron does take a bit of time to heat up, so you can start the medium-high heat under the stove top unit made of cast iron as you are preparing the squash, so by the time you have everything cut, cleaned and seasoned, the smoking pan will be ready to go.

Peeled Squash with Seeds Removed

Smoked Butternut Squash- Preparation

In addition to the food ingredients, you’ll also need a small saucepan for melting the butter or you may use a microwave safe bowl and melt the butter in that manner. A chef’s knife, cutting board, and vegetable peeler are also needed. First, I cut both ends of the squash off so that I have two flat ends to work with. I then peel all the skin and white skin beneath the peel from the squash until the yellow/orange meat is revealed.

Once all the peel and white skin are removed, I cut the squash in half lengthwise revealing the seeded inside. With a spoon, I remove the seeds and membrane strings. I like to pat the squash dry with a few paper towels to remove the excess water as once this vegetable hits the heat, it will start to steam out the water held in the cell membranes. Now, we’re ready to start slicing the squash into ½” slices. Taking each half, I like it on the flat side on a cutting board and slice into ½” pieces. I add these to a bowl in preparation for the flavor ingredients.

Spicing Things Up

Now it’s time to add the spices to these beautiful slices. I take about a tablespoon of cinnamon, 1-2 teaspoons of curry powder, a ½ teaspoon of coarse salt and ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. I then melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Be sure you simply melt the butter and do not let it go to the brown stage. I then pour the melted butter over my spiced butternut squash slices and mix well. I like to do this part with my hands to ensure everything is mixed well. Now, we are ready to get these beauties on the grill grate of our pre-heated stovetop smoker.

cast iron stove top smoker

Stove Top Pan Preparation

Be sure your smoker base pan is clean of any previous wood chips or food scraps. Add the SmokinLicious® Minuto® Wood Chips in the base of the unit, about a handful is needed. I’m using Sugar Maple Minuto® Chips in Size #4 to bring a balance to the squash with my other flavor ingredients. Because I plan to use my smoked squash as an ingredient in other recipes, and squash has a large amount of water naturally in it, I’m using the stovetop smoker unit without soaking my chips. This is commonly how stovetop smokers are used as the chips will combust easier in the dry state and provide perfect smoke infusion. I also make sure to turn my hood vent “on” to help reduce the smoke aroma.

Fueling Up the Stove Top Smoker with SmokinLicious® Minuto® Wood Chips

Smoking

I gently lay each squash section on the grill pan doing the best I can to keep everything from being too crowded. A medium sized squash will fill the pan easily. I then cover the pan and let it cook for about 20 minutes without lifting the lid. Remember, squash contains 94% water weight so once you lift the lid to check the squash slices, you will see the accumulated condensation on the inside of the lid. Do the best you can not to allow the water to pool into the lid and go back into the smoking pan.

You will see the squash slices take on a shiny appearance and soften from the water vaporization and smoke vapor infusion. Depending on what you will use the squash slices for – using them as is as a side dish or in another recipe such as a soup, pureed side dish or even a sauce – will determine how long and how tender they need to be. I like mine to be knife tender but not to the point where they fall apart if picked up with tongs. Notice the condition of my Minuto® wood chips when I finish – perfectly carbonized. In fact, I likely could use them for another batch of squash!

Beautiful Grill Marks on the Smoked Squash

 

The Finish- Smoked Butternut Squash

With just a handful of Minuto® wood chips in size #4, 1 medium butternut squash, and 1 hour of time, I produced golden, rich flavor with a gently touch of smokiness. Notice the grill marks I still achieved by not fussing with my squash. Using cast iron units allow you peace of mind in knowing the chips are safe so you can walk away and not open the lid. That allows that 94% water to vaporize and give gently crusting to the squash. I’m ready now to take these slices into a recipe that will be extra special and memorable. Find out for yourself how easy it is to smoke on the stove top smoked butternut Squash

Bon Bar B Que!

 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

SMOKED TURKEY- NOT-SO-SMOKEY!

Our not so smokey Smoked Turkey is from cooking this on the gas grill, not on a smoker. We selected this photo because of the great color- not dark like a traditional smoker can impart!
Our not so smokey Smoked Turkey is from cooking this on the gas grill, not on a smoker. We selected this photo because of the great color- not dark like a traditional smoker can impart!

Turkey is one of those items that is generally made for a special event – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year – and not associated with everyday cooking.  I’m here to tell you that it’s easy to enjoy turkey any time of year when you use a gas grill for the cooking and smoke infusion.  All you need is a turkey (preferably one under 15 lbs.), 6 wood chunks, a water pan with hot water, and your favorite gas grill.

Smoked Turkey- Turkey 101 Prep

Preparing the Turkey

I’m fortunate to have a local fresh turkey farm, Sprague’s Turkey Farm in Portville, NY, close by so I’ve ordered one that is under 14 lbs.  Before preparing the turkey for marinating overnight, I first need to remove the parts that are commonly found inside the turkey.  This includes the neck, heart, liver, and gizzard which is part of the turkey’s digestive tract.  These parts do make for great stock so if you can, save them to add to a stockpot down the road.

Once the organs and neck are removed, it’s important to wash the entire turkey under running water.  After a thorough wash, pat dry with some paper towels and place in a shallow pan for the rub application.

Herb and Spice Rub

Gently placing the rub on the outside of the Turkey

After washing and patting dry the turkey, I trim the excess skin from the neck area and then begin applying the rub.  I’ve combined an assortment of herbs and spices for my rub as I tend to like a potent mix of ingredients to balance the fresh meat and smoke.  My rub includes: allspice, clove, basil, cumin, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, celery salt, garlic and onion powder, oregano, orange and lemon peel, paprika, and ancho chili powder.  I make sure to cover the entire surface of the bird.  I add a few drops of avocado oil and then apply additional rub.  This will be refrigerated overnight to allow the flavors to marry and penetrate to the meat.

Tasting Notes: Feel free to incorporate different herbs and spices in your rub as there are no rules when it comes to combinations. 

Smoked Turkey- Smoking on the Gas Grill

Placing the Turkey on the grill

As you can see in some of the photos, this was a cold day at the grill, with a temperature below 25°F.  I prepare my LP/Gas grill by first removing one of the grill grates, exposing two of my burner shields.  To one of the shields I place 3 double filet wood chunks from SmokinLicious®.  Now I lite only two burners; the one with the wood chunks and the one directly next to that.  I set these burners to medium heat to start.    Just before I’m ready to grill, I check the temperature readout and adjust my heat setting until I hit my target temperature of 325°F.

Time to add the rubbed turkey to the unlit side of the grill and my water pan right next to the bird.  I insert a thermometer and close the lid.  Basically, for the next couple of hours, I just need to monitor that the water pan has enough hot water in it and the bird gets spritz with water to keep the skin moist.

Tasting Notes: Although I’ve placed my water pan to the side of my turkey, between the lit and unlit sides of the grill, you can use this as a drip pan and place this directly under the turkey.  I elected not to do this today due to my low outdoor temperature.

Time to Serve Your Smoked Turkey!

Our not so smokey smoked turkey on the table for all the guests to enjoy

If you’ve maintained the steady temperature of 325°F and hot water in the drip pan, you won’t need to stay with the grill during most of the turkey’s cooking time.  My skin has crisped up thanks to maintaining moisture both on the bird’s skin and in the cooker with my water pan.  I remove the turkey and take it to the kitchen where I cover it for about 30 minutes prior to carving.  It’s super tender, moist, with a crunch to the skin.  The best part is that the smoke is subtle and does not over power the fresh meat.

That’s why the two-zone method of smoking is perfect when your feeding a variety of tastes.  Those that tend to avoid smoked foods will find this full of flavor that is well balanced due to our rub and consistent cooking temperature.  My turkey of 13-1/2 pounds took just about 4 hours to finish with very little effort on my part, even with a 22°F outdoor temperature and wind chill.  The best part is my oven was free to cook a bunch of side dishes so everything was timed perfectly for the table.

What’s your favorite preparation for turkey?   Bringing innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®.

 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Storage of Cooking Wood- As Fall and Winter Approach

<strong>As Fall approaches think about the storage of cooking wood.</strong>
As Fall approaches think about the storage of cooking wood.

It seems every year as we approach the Fall, weather predictions are made on how severe the winter will be. This includes predictions on subzero cold in our area of the Northeast USA. In preparation for whatever Mother Nature brings our way, we thought this would be a good time to remind you about the storage and maintenance of your cooking wood products. Storage of wood is necessary to keep the flavor essence at its best which makes your foods taste great!

Wood and Water

As you have learned, wood is hygroscopic. That’s just a fancy word for saying wood can attract and absorb water. When you hot smoke, moisture is a friend to the wood because smoke is attracted to moist surfaces. To make sure your wood will produce a good quality smoke vapor, you need some water in the wood.

When wood “drinks” or takes in moisture, the molecules expand. Throughout the seasons, all hardwood will expand and contract as moisture and climate conditions change. Think temperature and humidity levels. Hot summers keep trees conserving water. Wet springs cause trees to swell and limit water intake.

What you may not know is some species of hardwood are more hygroscopic than others. This can bring some challenges at different times of the year and in various locations throughout North America. So,what can you do?

A Few Easy Tips for the Best Storage of Cooking Wood

Here are some suggestions to stabilize cooking hardwoods you may have purchased from us:

• purchase smaller quantities of wood that will meet your immediate cooking needs; a quantity you can use within a month’s time

• don’t store the wood directly on a concrete floor or in plastic containers. Hardwood will seek out the moisture found in concrete. Plastic containers can often make the wood sweat resulting in mold development

• try to maintain the hardwood in a storage location that has a temperature which doesn’t go above 55-60 degrees F. Relative humidity should be in the range of 40-50%

• for larger quantities of wood, try rotating or shaking the wood that is located at the bottom of the storage container to the top so you can ventilate the pieces equally

• if you should see signs of surface mold developing, mix 1 part vinegar (I prefer white) to 10 parts water and place in a spray bottle. Then spray the mixed solution on the wood pieces to halt and reverse any growth. For wood that is showing more severe mold, you can mix the same formula in a soaking bucket and place the pieces in the solution to soak for about an hour.

Select Hardwoods That Store Easier

A final point: denser hardwoods are more prone to instability because moisture variations can trigger more stress in these woods. To help understand what are the denser hardwoods, here is the order of our hardwoods from most dense to least: Hickory, Oak, Beech, Ash, Maple, Cherry, Alder.

With a little planning, you can continue to enjoy our premium cooking woods during all seasons of the year with little to no additional work. Don’t forget, Fall and Winter are two perfect seasons to fire up the grill and/or smoker and start experimenting with the seasonal foods available in your area!

 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Roasted Onions in Fireplace Ashes

Our Roasted onions in fireplace ashes!

 Our Roasted onions in fireplace ashes!The one vegetable we can pretty much get all year long is … the onion! So, why not give this common vegetable a special, no, fabulous flavor infusion. The way to this end? Ember cooking in an outside fireplace or cooking pit.

Ingredients:

  • An outside fireplace or cooking pit that has been cleaned of ash
  • If you prefer, you can use a cast iron skillet within the embers though I prefer to nestle my onions directly in the embers!
  • Grande Sapore® Chips from SmokinLicious® – I recommend Ash wood.
  • Sweet Onions approximately 10-12

Fire Preparation

In preparing to roast onions on the embers in a fireplace I need to first clean out the fire box from any ash and debris. Then I select the hardwood for the actual cooking. Today, I’ve selected Ash for its great coaling ability and uniformity of coal size while it combusts.

Preparing the bed of embers, keeping extra wood to add during the cooking process

Preparing the bed of embers, keeping extra wood to add during the cooking process

I will begin building the bed of coals with the SmokinLicious® Grande Sapore® Ash wood chips. Since wood chips are already in a pre-ground state, the process of setting up the fire will be quicker than with just wood pieces or lump charcoal. It is key to keep a large supply of the chips on hand in order to reach the 2-3” depth of embers needed for the cooking process.

 

Preparing the Roasted Onions in Fireplace Ashes

While allowing the coal fire to build, I begin preparation of the onions, which is rather simple. Wash and clean the onions leaving on the outer skin covering as it will be needed to protect the heart of the onion during the ember cooking process.

Ember Roasting Process

After building up a bed of coals to 2-3” in depth, we’re ready to add the onions to the coals! As I position each onion, I gently push down on them to seat them into the coals. This will allow the coals to completely cover the bottom of the onion as well as allow the heat to radiate completely through the onions.

As the onions cook, you’ll start to see the tops turn brown because I left the outer part of the skin on for protection. Remember, the outer skin of the onion will char during this process. I want to protect the inner core of the onion as I plan to use them in my recipes.

It’s important to remember that the coal bed will need to be replenished during the cooking process so a perimeter of additional wood chips should be going at all times up to the halfway point of the cooking process. Generally, it’s best to keep the additional chips burning at the sides of your ember bed. You can then easily scoop in additional hot embers to the bed to maintain the heat level and flavor infusion.

The onions are seated into the coals as they begin to cook from their bottoms

The onions are seated on the coals as they begin to cook from their bottoms

Unlike other vegetables like peppers, the onions don’t need to be turned but rather simply rotated so there is even char and cook. Onions, like most vegetables, have a high water composition. Don’t be alarmed by the steam trail coming up thru the top of the onions. This is a sure sign of the convection process occurring. Once cooking is about ¾ finished, you may want to pierce the tops of the onions to allow the release of the steam.

Scrumptious Ember Roasted Onions in Fireplace Ashes

You simply won’t believe how flavorful and tender ember roasting makes the average onion. We were able to build the bed of coals by using SmokinLicious® Ash hardwood. Remember, we left the outer skin on the onions to protect the inner core while we developed that exceptional char. Once the outer skin is peeled back you will see the perfectly cooked onion core that is infused with a mild wood char flavor.

Nicely charred onions over a bed of embers adds a great natural flavor

Nicely charred onions over a bed of embers add a great natural flavor

 

Now, get ready to use these Roasted/Toasted Onions over Embers in a fireplace and highly flavored onions in the recipes of your choice and prepare for all the questions on what you did to give the dish such fabulous flavor!

 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

DOES SIZE MATTER?

Our double filet wood chunks can fit where size matters for your smoker or cooker unit
Our double filet wood chunks can fit where size matters for your smoker or cooker unit

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of going into a store and locating the limited supply of wood chips and/or chunks offered, then look closer at the clear plastic bag and ask: Is this it?

It’s always interesting to realize what we are willing to accept versus what we really want.

My Team has spent a lot of time examining the products available in the wood chip line. Boy, have we learned a lot!

For instance, there seem to be two divisions with chip suppliers: those that manufacture wood chips as a waste product to another product line say cleaning agents, animal bedding, or flooring products. Then there are those that offer a product with a brand name on it that may be associated with a specific equipment manufacturer. Generally, that type of supplier is not the manufacturer of the product just simply a re-seller under a brand name. Thus, you can’t be sure what portion of the tree is actually in the bag and where the wood is coming from!

We still hold ourselves to a higher standard believing that a true cooking wood manufacturer should offer different variations in product size to work with the abundance of equipment lines available. That’s why we pride ourselves on being able to offer over 6 chip sizes and 4 chunk sizes. Like other food ingredients, why would you settle for only ground pepper when you can have the whole peppercorn as an option.

We are a food ingredient, a food flavor. Most of all, we are a COOKING WOOD manufacturer!

 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Wood Fired Cauliflower- Roasted on a LP/Gas Grill

Look at this great head of wood fired cauliflower over wood chunks!
Look at this great head of wood fired cauliflower over wood chunks!

 

It’s time to bring your vegetables into grilling season! Nothing beats the smell of a fresh garden vegetable roasting over wood even on an LP/gas grill. Make this the time of the year you’ll get great char wood flavour in your seasonal vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • An LP or gas grill – any brand or size will do.
  • “Double” Filet wood chunks from SmokinLicious®.
  • a couple of heads of cauliflower. Pick the color you like the best – white, yellow or even purple!

Grill Preparation

If you want to add special wood flavoring to your LP/Gas grill there are easy steps to follow:

  • Make sure your grill is clean from any significant grease build up.
  • Remove the grilling grates and determine how much space is between the diffuser and the grilling grate.
  • The diffuser is the plate covering the unit’s gas burner(s).
  • Don’t remove the cover.
[setting up the wood chunks on the heat Diffuser to develop hot spots for Charring]
[setting up the wood chunks on the heat Diffuser to develop hot spots for Charring]

Once you have the sizing computed, then select the SmokinLicious® wood chunk size that will fit – Single Filet which is ~4 inches or the Double Filet which is ~2 inches.

 

Wood Preparation

Now, let’s set up the wood on the grill. Remove the cooking grates from the grill then strategically place the wood chunks over the heat diffuser. This is the metal piece covering the actually gas burners. If the SmokinLicious® wood chunks are fresh, then you can add them directly to the unit without pre-soaking them. If not, you may want to consider a lite soaking of about 15 minutes. Because I’m cooking wood fired cauliflower, I am using the chunks in their natural state. However, feel free to consider a pre-soak in liquid with flavouring such as beer, wine or juice.

 

Now replace the grill grates back on the unit, over the SmokinLicious® wood chunks! Make sure the grates are securely seated back on the unit. If there is a lot of space on your unit between the diffuser and the grate you may want to consider a SmokinLicious® single filet or block item. Now light the unit, set the dials to a low heat setting and bring the unit up to temperature. Say around 180 degrees. Do not overheat the unit.

Wood Fired Cauliflower- Preparation

In preparing my wood fired cauliflower for this cook, I’ve elected not to reduce the cauliflower heads into pieces. I prefer to do the cutting towards the end of my grilling presentation.

After pre-heating the grill to around 180 degrees, I add the cauliflower heads to the grill grates. Let the wood infusion flavour begin!

[ Fresh heads added to the grill, note the wood has not ignited yet to develop a hot spot]
[ Fresh heads added to the grill, note the wood has not ignited yet to develop a hot spot]

Roasting Process for Wood Fired Cauliflower

I position the wood fired cauliflower head over the hot spots created by the SmokinLicious® “Double” filet wood pieces which are under the grilling grates. The wood will ignite and begin the charring stage of the heads of cauliflower. I recommend bunching the wood pieces together to produce a hot spot on the LP/gas grill to allow for a direct char technique. While I am not using the smoke from the wood, I am still infusing great natural grilling flavour with the wood.

[Now I have hot spots and look a the char we are putting on the wood fired cauliflower. The green is the Parsley I add at the end of the process]
[Now I have hot spots and look a the char we are putting on the wood fired cauliflower. The green is the Parsley I add at the end of the process]

My cooking is taking place with an open lid because I want to char not smoke! It’s important to keep turning the heads so the flavour will be even. In the final stage of charring, I add some fresh parsley to the wood fired cauliflower heads for final flavour and presentation. And, of course, I love to drizzle melted butter sometimes infused with paprika, to the finished product.

Remember this is a vegetable, not meat so there is no grease to flare up the LP/gas grill. This is another example of why using SmokinLicious® Wood Chunks on the diffuser and under the grill grates of your LP/gas unit can generate such exceptional wood-fired flavour. Now, get to those heads of your wood fired cauliflower and ENJOY!

 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

BBQ SMOKE COLOR

BBQ Smoke color, Black, Brown White or Blue is the key to successful Barbecue flavor
BBQ Smoke color, Black, Brown White or Blue is the key to successful Barbecue flavor

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’s a flavor experience that is in a league of its own.

Today, instead of concentrating on the cooking technique of wood-fires, let’s examine the smoke vapor.

Does BBQ smoke color 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 BBQ Smoke Color

There 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 Oxygen

Black smoke is unattractive, highly dense, consisting of large particles, and the key sign that the wood is starved of 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 Quality

You understand air flow, the balance needed between the air intake and outtake. Despite your 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 as part of the wood’s manufacturing process if the wood is a by-product from another process.

White Smoke = Initiation of Heat

Virtually all solid materials exposed to combustion emit white smoke. This means heat is being stimulated to the wood and drying it out. Remember, moisture is water and when heat finds water it has to induct it to produce steam. This takes energy from the fire or ignition and can stall full stages of combustion. Once moisture is evaporated you will observe white smoke to transition to a clearer color, hopefully, the infamous blue. For longer, lower temperature cooking, wait for the white smoke stage to pass before adding the food to the grates. For hotter temperature cooking like burgers, steaks, etc., go ahead and add to the grates even with the white smoke present. The abundance of aromatics at the white stage will allow for the flavor to permeate shorter cook items.

Blue Smoke (or nearly invisible) = Holy Grail of BBQ Smoke Color

Keeping in mind that you don’t always need an invisible or blue smoke to have a flavorful wood-fired cooking event, this is still the goal when cooking with wood for many hours. Blue or invisible smoke means that full combustion has occurred to the wood and the lignin compound is releasing the smoky aromatic that will stick to moist food surfaces. Take advantage of this pristine stage and get cooking for the best wood-fired flavors.

Finding the Perfect Wood with the Perfect Moisture Level for the Ideal BBQ Smoke Color

As a final note, don’t be fooled into thinking that using dry wood will save time on waiting for the fire’s heat to evaporate excess water and get to the flavoring. There is extensive research demonstrating that the ideal smoke composition containing flavor stimulating compounds called carbonyls and phenols is in hardwoods that have a higher moisture rating not the 10% or less that is considered seasoned wood. Use caution when making the wood purchase. Knowing key details about the wood prior to purchasing will help to achieve the smoke color that produces maximum flavor.

Was this posting helpful? Leave a comment or suggestion. We’d love to hear what you’d like to learn more about in wood-fired cooking methods and techniques. Don’t forget, follow us and subscribe so you don’t miss out on anything.

 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

SNAPPER GETS WRAPPED IN CORN HUSK & COAL FIRED

Snapper Gets Wrapped in Corn Husk and is now ready to rest on our bed of coals to get roasted!
Snapper Gets Wrapped in Corn Husk and is now ready to rest on our bed of coals to get roasted!

When fresh fish comes in season, whether you catch it yourself or find your perfect catch at the seafood market or store, there is no better way to release the flavor than on the charcoal grill. I found some splendid snapper fillets that I plan to marinate, wrap in a corn husk, and cook on the coals of my charcoal grill. Let’s get started!

The Perfect Marinade

The final blended ingredients for this tasty marinade!

 

Fish does not require a lot of marination time so know in the time it takes the fish to absorb the marinade’s great flavors, you can set up the charcoal grill. I like to lite the chimney starters while I make the marinade. For that, you’ll need:

  • 6 white fish fillets (tilapia, branzino, snapper)
  • ½ cup finely chopped scallion
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup oil
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 pieces of soaked corn husks

Mix together the scallion, minced garlic, oil, lime juice, paprika, curry powder, salt and black pepper. Place the fish in a baking dish or in a sealable storage bag and top with the marinade mixture. Marinate the fish in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour.

Wrapping the Snapper

It’s time to take our marinated fish and encase it in the corn husk. If you have fish fillets that will fit in a single corn husk, then one will do. However, if you are doing larger pieces of fish, usually over a few ounces in weight, you will need to place 2 corn husks on a work surface overlapping the husks. Place one piece of fish on a pre-soaked corn husk wrapping the husk around the fish. Tie the ends of the husk with meat twine noting that most of the fish is enclosed in the corn husk. Repeat with the remaining pieces of fish. You’ll see that what has been made is a steam packet for the fish. The corn husk is strong enough to allow the extra marinade to stay within the husk and simply tenderize the fish.

Grill Setup

The grill has the Smokinlicious Smoker Wood Chunks around the brick and the snapper wrapped in corn husk on the grill

I’m using a kettle grill with a wire mesh placed in the charcoal area to retain more of my hot coals. Since I started the chimney starters while preparing the marinade, I pour these into the charcoal area that also holds some unlit charcoal. On top of the hot coals, I place a couple of wood chunks which will add great flavor. I’ve also included a foil-covered brick to act as a heat conductor and retention device. This is a two-zone setup. I’ll keep the hot coals and wood going on one side of the brick and place my corn husked fish on the other side of the brick. In less than 20 minutes, these will be ready to go, fully cooked, and full of moisture.

Coal Fired to Perfection

Our finished Snapper wrapped in corn husk opened to show this wonderful method of cooking fish

Know that when you coal or ember cook foods, the temperature even from these small embers is high. The grill will average between 300-350° F for the cooking. There is no need to turn the corn husks, just simply monitor to ensure they don’t catch fire. A spray bottle of water on hand is helpful at this stage. In the end, the char flavor will penetrate the husk and produce the most fantastic flavor to the fish. Simply cut the ties from the corn husk ends and enjoy the fish with your favorite sides. There is nothing like natural fire cooking for fish.

 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

SMOKEY HUNGARIAN PEPPERS ON THE KETTLE GRILL!

Smokey Hungarian Peppers on our kettle Grill!
Smokey Hungarian Peppers on our kettle Grill!

I love growing Hungarian wax peppers in my garden and then harvesting for recipes and freezing for future recipes. Hungarian wax pepper come in different levels of heat depending on the variety chosen. Mine are a hot variety but work perfectly for mixing with other creamy flavors to produce some great condiments and sauces. I will introduce you to two versions of my Smoked Hungarian Pepper Spread in our recipe blog which will post soon.

Previously we showed you how to ember cook Hungarian peppers which entailed placing the peppers whole on hot embers and turning every 5 minutes or so. This time, the cooking will be over the hot coals of a traditional charcoal kettle grill and include wood chunks to the coals for added flavor.

Purchase or pick your favorite variety of Hungarian wax pepper and bring great grilled flavor to them with charcoal and hardwood, using any charcoal grill you have.

Homegrown Is Best

Our homegrown Hungarian peppers on the plants!
Our homegrown Hungarian peppers on the plants!

Just a small number of pepper plants can produce an abundance of peppers! Start with a high-quality organic soil and you will find there is little to be done to peppers other than watch them grow. You will see that though these are a wax variety of Hungarian pepper, if left on the plant, they will turn from the traditional yellow-green coloring to red. Do not confuse these peppers with the banana pepper variety. Though they look the same, they are different in heat level, with the wax variety being higher heat/spice level than banana. Once picked, I simply clean them under running water and pat dry. These are then ready for grilling.

Tasting Note: I don’t remove the membrane or seeds from the peppers prior to grilling. I simply place them on the grill grate whole. Note some of the peppers may have more water than others and burst on the grill. Be sure to turn them before they show wrinkling and that should prevent them from bursting.

Charcoal Grill Set Up

Our wood chunks on the charcoal for the smokey flavor.
Our Wood chunks on the charcoal for the smokey flavor

The key to producing a great char on the peppers is to be sure you are cooking over gray, hot coals and not flame. The easiest method of starting the coals is with a charcoal chimney starter.

Simply fill the starter and light at the base using newspaper or a fire starter. Then allow the chimney to burn down until the charcoal is grayed over and red. I still put a bit of unlit charcoal in the kettle and then pour the hot coals over the unlit. Only do this step if you have more than one grate of peppers to cook or want to use the grill for cooking something else as the heat level produced will last many hours.

Place your peppers on the grill grate and grill until charred on one side. Turn with tongs and grill a few more minutes, then remove. These are now ready for your favorite pepper recipes! Do not forget to freeze some to keep on hand during the months the peppers won’t be available in stores.

What is your favorite pepper to grill? 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, September 23, 2021

SMOKED BROCCOLI CASSEROLE WITH APPLE & QUINOA

Collage of Smoked broccoli ingredients for our SMOKED BROCCOLI CASSEROLE
Collage of Smoked broccoli ingredients for our SMOKED BROCCOLI CASSEROLE

Once you’ve smoked at least one head of broccoli, you’re ready to use it in this wonderfully flavorful creamy dish. Keep in mind, you can make this a vegan recipe by swapping out all the dairy products for comparable vegan ingredients.

For those looking to make this a main meal, add a protein like chicken or turkey. Simply include the pre-cooked protein when you spread the other ingredients into the prepared oven safe dish.

So, here we go with our smoke broccoli casserole with apples and quinoa.

INGREDIENTS:

You will need:

  • 1 cup quinoa, washed
  • 1 head of smoked broccoli, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely diced apple (like Fiji, Golden)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup Panko
  • Salt/fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk (may use coconut, almond, cashew or 2%)
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly oil or spray a 9×13 baking dish. In a large saucepan, add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa. Cook according to package directions. With roughly 10 minutes left to finished cook, add the diced apple. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add Panko and cook, stirring constantly, until browned (about 3 minutes); then remove from heat and set aside. Melt butter in the skillet over medium heat. Whisk in flour until lightly browned. Gradually whisk in milk and cook, whisking constantly until slightly thickened. Stir in quinoa/apple mixture, smoked broccoli, 1 cup of cheese, yogurt, salt and pepper.

quinoa, butter and Apples in a skillet
Quinoa, Butter, and Apples in a skillet

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:

Spread broccoli mixture into the prepared baking dish; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Place in oven and bake until cheese has melted and the mixture is warmed through. Sprinkle with browned Panko and serve.

Mixing all ingredients together and putting in baking dish
Mixing all ingredients together and putting in baking dish

ADD YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITES:

This recipe can be changed to include some of your other favorites like cubed squash, grapes, cranberries. Or as mentioned earlier, you may add a protein such as chicken or turkey. Simply cook the meat separately in the oven, on the stove top, or on the grill.

You’ll love the balanced smoky flavor of the broccoli with the creaminess of the apple and quinoa. This is soon to be a Fall favorite as you adjust to the cooler temperatures.

Enjoy!

 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

THE ULTIMATE WOOD-FIRED CLAMS CASINO

Our wood-fired clams casino on the offset grill with brick and the finished product
Our wood-fired clams casino on the offset grill with brick and the finished product

Have you ever noticed how many ingredients go with clams?  This low fat, high protein seafood also has many beneficial minerals.  They are also one of the most sustainable seafood resources.

I thought I would provide an easy wood-fired cooking method that can be done on your charcoal grill (you certainly can modify a few setup items and do this on the gas grill as well using wood) and produce the most flavorful clams casino out there.

Go find some similarly sized clams, fire up the grill, and get ready for this recipe and technique to become your favorite.

our ingredient table with everything ready for the stuffing!

Hot Coal Grilling

Our recipe is quite simple: gather together

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 oz. sliced pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced (you can use pre-minced garlic)
  • ¼ teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • salt & fresh ground pepper
  • 18 medium clams, shucked, bottom shells reserved

 

Before starting on the casino filling, it’s important that you get the grill ready.  First, you’ll want to get a chimney starter of charcoal going.  I’m using SmokinLicious® charwood in place of traditional charcoal as this is a partially charred product that will also provide for some hardwood flavor infusion.  Once lit, the chimney starter needs to burn down the charwood to hot coals – no flame should be visible when you dump this into the grill.

our wire mesh on the charcoal rack to retain all the small and hot pieces

For my charcoal grill, I’ve set a mesh screen at the base of my kettle grill to allow me to retain as many hot coals as possible.  The screen helps to prevent small coals from falling through the charcoal area.   I’ve also covered brick with heavy-duty foil to act as a heat conductor and radiator.  This will help to keep a constant temperature during the actual cooking process.  The brick will also separate the cooking area from the fuel area.  A bit of unlit charwood is also added to the charcoal half of the grill so these bits can ignite from the hot coals and sustain the heat level more evenly.

Casino Mixture

With the charwood burning in the chimney starter, I can now start on the casino filling.  After adding a tablespoon of oil and cooking the pancetta or bacon in a skillet, I’ve put that aside on a paper towel lined dish and added the diced red pepper to the fat drippings in my pan.  After cooking a few minutes, I had the shallots, garlic, and parsley to the same skillet and sauté until the shallots are tender and translucent, which is about 5 minutes.  Add the white wine and simmer until it is almost evaporated.  Remove the skillet from the heat and cool completely.

our ingredients in the mixing bowl with cheese added

Assembling the Casinos

While the casino mixture is cooling, I prepare my clams.  Here you have a couple of options depending on your skill level and time management.  You can shuck the clams as normal and reserve the bottom shell with the clam, or you can steam the clams until just open, separate the top from the bottom shell, reserving the bottom shell.  I loosen the clam from the shell so it’s easier to consume with the casino mixture.  After the clams are readied, I take the cooled casino mixture and add the previously cooked pancetta or bacon, 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan, and fresh pepper mixing well.  I then take a tablespoon of the mixture and mound it over the clam in the shell.  The finished clams are placed in a grill-proof pan.

Wood Firing Brings Depth of Flavor

Chef Bert explains the indirect cooking method.

#chefbertandtom

With all my top neck clams stuffed with casino filling, I sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and the 2 tablespoons of panko bread crumbs over each clam.  I am now ready to place the tray on the grill.  Since I’m using a two-zone cooking method, I can safely put the lid on the grill without concern for charring these clams too far.  With a steady temperature of about 300°F, these will take between 15-20 minutes.  You can rotate the tray if you feel the heat level in your grill is not even or steady.  For those that like a crunchy outside to the clam feel free to place these under the broiler for a few minutes.  The clams pick up the wood flavor in a very balanced way, giving just hints of charry goodness with each bit.  Super easy, super flavorful, and super fun to make.  Take your clams to the wood fire for your next event.

The Culinary Crew wants you to know…

about the great results had from indirect cooking or the two-zone grilling technique, as referenced in this recipe blog.  When it comes to this particular recipe, you will find that wood fired clams done on a charcoal grill with indirect heat and a simple brick heat conductor will add a distinctive smoky flavor twist to your clams casino.  This appetizer promises to be a fan favorite for any seasonal or football party!

 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

EMBER FIRED FRESH ZUCCHINI

Zucchini is a great vegetable to not only grill but ember cook. It has the density to hold up over the high heat. Add a distinct char taste to this abundant vegetable either as a side dish or an ingredient by making ember fired fresh zucchini.
Zucchini is a great vegetable to not only grill but ember cook. It has the density to hold up over the high heat. Add a distinct char taste to this abundant vegetable either as a side dish or an ingredient by making ember fired fresh zucchini.

I love thick-skinned vegetables that come in season during Summer.  They are the perfect items to light a fire and make some hot coals to ember fire flavor into them.

We’re getting ready to coal roast one of my favorite vegetables – zucchini!  This is so simple to do and produces an extraordinary flavor for zucchini to be eaten on its own or to be used in your favorite recipe.  Clean out the fire pit, charcoal grill or outdoor fireplace and prepare to roastember fired fresh zucchini” directly on the hot coals.

Building A Small Fire

Starting the fire to burn down the wood into coalsKnow this from the start – You do not need a large fire!  A small fire is best to accomplish your cooking in about an hour’s time.  For my fire, I am using ten SmokinLicious Single Filet Wood Chunks in Ash with a couple of pieces of charwood that were left over from a previous cook.   Why Ash hardwood?  Because it is hands down, the best hardwood to produce an even bed of coals which is what you want when you coal roast.

I stack the wood so there is quite a bit of air space between the pieces.  This ensures I have good oxygen flow to produce combustion quickly. My technique is to stand the wood pieces on their end and make a circle. I try to have a couple of pieces in the center kind of tipped on to each other.  Remember, you want to produce hot embers quickly so it only requires a little wood and a lot of oxygen to burn things down.  I light my wood using a small butane torch. Leave the torch in place until I’m sure the wood has ignited.  I keep the lid off my charcoal grill so I can push the combustion process through completion and get those ash covered, hot embers.

Red Means Hot

Red Hot coals is the goal before adding the zucchiniYou will know when the coals or embers are ready for cooking when you have uniform coals and they are glowing red from the bottom and gray on top.  I keep a couple of larger coals banked to the side to maintain heat and for reserved hot coals. Just in case I need to rake more to the cooking side.  I like to nestle a high heat metal cooking rack on the hot coals and then place my whole zucchini on the rack.  This allows for little ash to accumulate on the skin.  Remember, those coals are very hot so the zucchini will take less than 20 minutes to tenderize and char.

Turn For Full Char

Zucchini on the grilling rack over the hot fire coalsWith the zucchini and coal rack in place, I give the embers about 8 minutes to char and cook the first side of the zucchini.  After that time, I gently turn the zucchini so that each side gets an even char.  Once the first 8 minutes are done, there will be less time needed for each of the other sides as the zucchini will hold heat.  I’ve added one additional wood piece to my banked fire just to be sure I have enough heat in the coal area.  I will not put the lid on the unit during the entire cooking process as this is open fire cooking.  My total coal cooking time is approximately 16 minutes.

Perfection In Smoke & Char on Ember Fired Fresh Zucchini

Dr. Smoke's clock for the cooking time requiredAfter placing my ember fired fresh zucchini on hot coals for about 16 minutes total, turning several times to get an even char, this spectacular vegetable is ready for eating.  You will see, there is very little coal bed left following this technique so remember, if you are cooking more than a couple of zucchini, you will need a larger coal bed.

For those of you thinking that the black, charred skin will be bitter and not appealing to eat, think again.  Most of the char will rub right off but the flavor will be infused throughout the ember fired fresh zucchini.  I’ve sliced mine about ¼-inch thick as I plan to make a galette of ricotta, garlic oil, and basil.

The Culinary Crew wants you to know

… that ember roasting is ideal to boost up the bland, delicately flavored zucchini and will add a rich, wood-fired taste dimension to any dish featuring this exquisite summer squash.  So, be prepared to enjoy a rich, char-smoked variation of your ratatouille, quesadillas, stuffed zucchini or soups from ember cooked zucchini!

 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

A FLAVOR RICH TREAT- WOOD GRILLED FRESH CORN!

The how to instructions for cooking fresh corn on a gas grill!
Fresh Corn is the one vegetable that you MUST try on the grill!

It’s that time of year! Fresh corn has arrived but not for long. Time to get your hands on a few dozen and do something truly special with this favorite

There’s Nothing Like Fresh

Yes, you can get corn all year by purchasing in the freezer section of your local grocer. Seriously though. Who wants frozen when by waiting nearly 10 months on the east coast you can have fabulous fresh corn? There is a taste difference between fresh and frozen!

On The Grill With Wood For Smoky Char

Corn is one of those vegetables that just begs to be put on the grill. There are many techniques but I prefer to remove the husks and silks, and grill my corn on the cob with wood chunks on the grill’s heat shields. In answer to the question about soaking the wood in water first – no, I do not do this step as I want my corn kernels to really crackle on the grill. Just see our posting on how to add wood chunks to the LP grill.

putting the wood chunks on the diffuser will allow them to ignite and provide a great wood aroma

Perfect Wood Makes Perfect Char

Smokinlicious double filet wood chunks work perfect on a gas grill for added flavor

SmokinLicious® double filet wood chunks are the perfect size for flavoring as well as fit on most grills. From start to finish, you can easily do a couple dozen ears of corn in about an hour. With this technique, I just need 4-5 wood chunks on one of the heat shields. That will provide enough smoke vapor to collect in the grill’s cooking area to ensure every ear is equally charred and flavored. Next, simply monitor for the need to turn the corn with tongs to produce an even char. Keep in mind, just like popcorn kernels, you will hear some of the raw corn kernels heat up and pop/crackle while cooking. This makes for the sweetest end to your cooking tasks!

So Many Recipe Options

Once I near the end of the corn’s cooking, I snip some fresh herbs from the garden like mint, parsley, and even lavender. I melt butter and add the chopped herbs to the pot. I then brush the nearly cooked corn with this aromatic mix and seal in all the great flavors – smoky, sweet, buttery – just perfect.

After I’ve consumed some of my masterpiece, I remove the kernels from the cob to a large bowl using a knife. This corn will be split into freezer bags and stored for winter recipe cooking that will allow me to bring back the taste of summer.

Need inspiration on what to do with all that corn? Think Cowboy Salsa, Corn Succotash, Smoky Cornbread, Corn Cakes, Corn-Potato Chowder, Corn Pudding, Corn Grits, and so much more. I bet you want to hit the corn stand now! Get going!

Did we inspire you? We’d love to see your photos of your grilled corn and corn recipes. Leave a comment and subscribe. Keep following us as we bring you innovative tips, techniques, and recipes on working with wood for cooking, grilling & smoking.

 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

USING ALUMINUM FOIL IN SMOKING: PROS & CONS

We discuss the pros and cons for using aluminum foil in smoking foods- in particular your BBQ and how it can affect the food.
We discuss the pros and cons for using aluminum foil in smoking foods- in particular your BBQ and how it can affect the food.

“Does using aluminum foil in smoking foods still allow the wood flavor to penetrate?”

It is a common question heard when it comes to hot smoking. In fact, there is even a technique called the Texas Crutch that relies on wrapping meats like ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket in foil with 1-2 ounces of liquid into the foil and then sealing all ends tightly so no liquid or steam escapes. This process tenderizes and speeds the overall cooking process, which with hot smoking, can be quite lengthy.

Here’s the thing – when you use this technique, you do so after the meat product has cooked to about 135-150°F. That means a great deal of smoke flavor has already penetrated. What about if you start out smoking foods in foil? Let’s look at the pros and cons of smoking foods in foil, information you can use for traditional oven cooking as well.

Con #1

Aluminum leaches into foods that are wrapped in it. Current research indicates that the average person can tolerate about 2400mg of aluminum exposure per day due to our body’s ability to excrete the small amounts of this metal efficiently. Therefore, any ingestion levels over this would be considered a health risk by the World Health Organization.

Pro #1

Aluminum foil is disposable so it is a convenience. There is no clean up when you cook foods in foil and often there are recycling programs that accept used foil. It can save on degrading your cookware and grill grates.

Con #2

Aluminum is found in other items like corn, yellow cheese, salt, herbs, spices, tea, cooking utensils, and in over-the-counter medications like antacids. A derived from aluminum is also used during the purification process of drinking water. These all must factor into the recommended daily intake of this metal, meaning you need to assess whether cooking in foil will put you over the daily recommended limit.

Pro #2

Aluminum foil aides in producing a convection heat as it is an excellent heat conductor. Thus, cooking times can be significantly reduced when foods are placed in foil.

Con #3

Foods with higher levels of acid have a higher rate of leaching aluminum into them. This is true whether the acidic ingredient is in solid or liquid form. In fact, acidic liquids have a higher leaching rate than solids. Give this consideration when working with foods such as tomatoes, vinegar and citrus items.

Pro #3

Using aluminum foil can tenderize tougher cuts of meat when you include an ounce or two of liquid. Additionally, aluminum foil is leak proof when you seal all ends.

Con #4

When you cook acidic ingredients in foil, both the appearance and taste of the foods can be altered by the reaction to aluminum. The tastes are often described as metallic.

Smoking Considerations

From the smoking perspective, if you start the foods on the grill grates without any aluminum foil, cook until 135-150°F internal temperature, and then wrap in foil to finish, you likely will find very little change in taste. Ingredients containing acid would have cooked down and not be at a level that would interact as aggressively with the aluminum.

If you do elect to cook on the smoker, charcoal grill or LP grill with foil, know that you can see firsthand the reaction of the aluminum with food ingredients. You can see the wood molecules by the smoke vapor particles that develops on the outside surface of the foil. As foil is a heat conductor, it also is somewhat of a sponge and will steal some of the smoke vapor particles from the food.

Remember, one of the key benefits to using aluminum foil is its ability to seal tightly whether preventing spillage to a piece of cookware or sealing in liquids for cooking. Cooking smoked items wrapped in foil from start to finish will not allow for full penetration of the smoke vapor particles that account for the unique color, texture, and taste to smoked foods. Plus, you likely will increase your risk of health issues with repeated exposure to high aluminum levels.

Thank you for the question submission and we hope you found value in our information. We welcome all types of questions and encourage you to follow and subscribe to our social channels so you don’t miss anything. We look forward to providing you with tip, techniques, recipes, and science for all types of wood-fired cooking.

 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

SUCCULENT WOOD FIRED STUFFED TOMATO WITH HERB RICE

Wood fired stuffed tomato with Rice!
Wood fired stuffed tomato with Rice!

 It’s tomato season! Boy, do we have a great technique for you to try on your charcoal grill as well as a tasty recipe to make- wood fired stuffed tomato.

Bring 8 large tomatoes in from the garden or purchased at the fresh market, clean out the charcoal grill, fire pit, or fireplace, and give a few hours to a great cooking experience and exceptionally flavorful recipe.

Lighting a Fire for Hot Embers

Coal cooking can be a very easy method of cooking foods once you know how to make and manage the fire. First, I am going to use only hardwood for my fire as I want to produce as much flavor as I can into the cooking area. For tomatoes, I am using Beech hardwood in the SmokinLicious® Single Filet Wood chunk. Once lit, I let the wood burn down to hot embers before even thinking about cooking. Oh, and the lid stays off my grill – I’m using a kettle from Stok®, while the wood burns down. I wait until the coal bed shows gray embers on top with hot red spots on the bottom. I’ve used a mesh screen in the charcoal area, to keep all my coals from ending up in the ash collection area, since many will get to be quite small.

Preparing the Tomatoes for Hot Coals

With our tomatoes washed, it’s time to prepare them for the coals. First, I cut about ¼ of the way around the top. I’ll be cooking both the body of the tomato as well as the tops. Next, I add a high heat roasting rack to my raked coals. Try to make the coal bed as even as possible to keep the tomatoes balanced. First cooking time will be about 12 minutes before any turning needs to be done. You will see bubbling juices in the tomatoes which will makes these red beauties even more flavorful.

Coal Firing to Unbelievable Flavor

After placing the tomatoes on the coal rack and leaving for about 12 minutes, it’s time to turn them. You’ll see how the outer skin will start to flake. When I get some cooking time on the entire tomato, I separate the cut top from the body and coal roast the tops separately to get a nice char. Once cooked through, which takes a total time of about 22 minutes, I remove the tomatoes to a cooling rack. Once cooled enough to handle, it’s time to take all the wood fired pulp out of each tomato leaving the charred skins as the base to my wood fired stuffed tomato recipe.

Fresh Recipe Ingredients

With our fresh tomatoes coal fired over hardwood, it’s time to start on our recipe. First, we need to remove all the tomato pulp from the charred tomatoes. You can do this with a spoon or the way I like to do it – with my fingers. Place the pulp only in a blender keeping as much of the shell of the tomato as possible for our base in the roasting pan. Then blend until a puree is formed. Meanwhile gather the other ingredients needed to make wood fired stuffed tomatoes:

  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 8 medium to large tomatoes
  • 2 anchovy fillets mashed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced (feel free to use hot pepper as well)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
  • Fresh ground pepper

Herb Rice Mixture & Anchovy Butter

This recipe allows you to use any rice you prefer. I like the texture of brown rice for this dish. As you cook the rice according to the package directions, you can start on the flavor mixture for the cooked rice. First, combine the 2 anchovy filets with the 2 tablespoons softened butter. I use a mortar and pestle. This will be added to the hot rice as soon as it is cooked. In a bowl, combine the tomato puree, diced pepper, parsley, basil, Parmesan cheese, and fresh ground pepper. Mix until just combined.

With all the ingredients combined, it’s time to put it all together. First, to our anchovy butter, brown rice, I add the tomato puree mixture combining well. Taking the tomato shells, I place them in a roasting pan that has been coated with oil. Next, comes the rice mixture, layering it in making sure all the tomatoes are covered. Last, top the rice mixture with the coal fired tomato tops. Now this pan is ready for a 350°F oven to bake for about 30 minutes.

Preserve the Flavors

After cooking our beautiful tomatoes over hot coals made from 100% beech hardwood, we removed the wood flavored pulp and produced a tomato puree. To that, we added Parmesan, basil, parsley, red pepper, and fresh ground pepper. Infusing anchovy butter into hot brown rice, we pour the tomato puree into the rice. Our wood fired stuffed tomato is made by layering the tomato shells in a roasting pan, then topping with the tomato puree-rice mixture, and the charred tomato tops. Then bake for 30 minutes in a 350°F oven, this is the perfect dish to serve with rustic bread. Stock up on your coal fired tomatoes – they can well – so you can enjoy your take on this wood fired stuffed tomatoes.

Now that we spurred your imagination with this recipe, we need your comment and rating, so subscribe and follow us so you don’t miss a thing. Finally, suggestions are always welcome as well on recipes and techniques you want to learn about. We are your source for all things wood-fired, providing tips, techniques, recipes, and the science behind the fire.