Thursday, February 25, 2021


Wet or dry wood for smoking? Which is the best!
Wet or dry wood for smoking? Which is the best!

 This is one of the top questions heard when it comes to cooking with wood.  Do you soak the wood chunks or chips before using on the grill or smoker?

I have a definite answer which is do not soak the wood before using in your equipment.

Let us examine why.

Water Becomes Steam

Any time water is introduced to a preheated piece of equipment, whether it is an LP/gas grill, electric unit, or charcoal grill, it will affect the temperature of that equipment.  For the LP/gas and electric units, this can be seen in the call for more gas or electric energy to keep the temperature at the preset level.  For the charcoal unit, the water will reduce the heat of the coals and the fire will need to work harder to regain the energy to sustain the target temperature.

Wet Produces Off Flavor

There is an ideal moisture range for hardwood used for cooking, which includes grilling, smoking, direct coal and ember methods.  You will hear the terms “seasoned” and “green”.  “Green” wood refers to fresh cut wood which has not had an opportunity to dry out.  The risks of using this type of wood is it will burn at variant rates, emit more sap, and has the potential to impart bitter and musty flavors.  “Seasoned” woods refer to hardwoods that have dried out naturally.  These will provide for more consistent temperature, provide cleaner flavors, and combust with less creosote build-up.  Just be aware, you do not want firewood!  If you Google seasoned wood, you will read that this is wood left to dry for 9-12 months or more.  Do not leave your wood that long as it will not release any essence that produces the flavor.

Mold Potential

The wetter the wood the more potential there is for mold to develop.  Mold needs 3 conditions:  moist or damp locations to grow, a food source to survive, ideal temperatures usually from 32° to 120°F but love 70-90°F.

It is important that though you will use wood dry on any equipment (unless the equipment manufacturer specifically requests you soak the wood in water) that the wood not be completely dehydrated of all moisture.  We recommend that you cook with wood that is approximately 20-25% moisture level.  This is the main reason why at SmokinLicious®, we take the moisture reading on every order and provide that information to you.  Here is a tip: if you see wood that is packaged in a plastic bag with no air holes, that is completely dry wood and will not provide any flavor or essence of the wood.  It merely becomes a heat source

Wood Chips Combust Faster

One product that chronically is misrepresented to be prepared wet are wood chips.  I have yet to see packaging in the retail box stores that states to use the chips dry.  All brands make a recommendation to soak the wood chips and apply them to a coal fire wet.  If you do as recommended, you will not only stall the temperature of your equipment, you will stall the production of smoke vapor production.  Remember, water must become steam for the wood to be dry enough to combust.

What should you take away from this article?  It does matter if the wood used for grilling and smoking is wet or dry. Do not stall your cooking, do not taint your food’s flavor, do not risk your health by using wet wood.  Keep it dry for clean, pure flavors that make wood-fired foods so enjoyable.

Do you have a target moisture level or seasoning time you keep your hardwood at?  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, February 18, 2021


Our Wood Fired Mandarin Oranges on the grill, with the batter and the final frosted cake
Our Wood Fired Mandarin Oranges on the grill, with the batter and the final frosted cake

 Desserts on the grill! Whoweey! There is nothing like a sweet influenced by smoke. Whether you do the cooking on the grill with wood or a traditional smoker, desserts become extra special.

This time, mandarin oranges are going into a cake that will be completely baked on the grill. Purchase a bag of mandarin oranges and let me introduce you to a new way of enjoying cake!

Choose Your Grill for Flavor Level

Whenever you use the grill to cook a dessert, know that the type of grill correlates to the intensity of wood-fired flavor. I’ll be using a charcoal kettle grill but this recipe works just as well on a gas grill or electric grill/smoker, even a traditional smoker.

There is no question, charcoal grills will generate the most wood flavor so know that when selecting your equipment. Regardless of the equipment you elect to do the cooking on, set up a two-zone cooking method – charcoal grill: hot coals to one side of the charcoal area; gas grill: turn on burners on half the grill or 1 of 3 burners. Add wood chunks directly to your heat shields or in a smoker box. Be sure the wood is exposed to the heat side of the grill. For the charcoal grill, once the hot coals are poured into half the charcoal area, add 3-4 small wood chunks to the hot coals.

Tasting Notes: If you’re leery about putting wood pieces directly on your heat shields, than you can use a metal smoker box to hold the wood. Try to get one that will still fit between your grill grate and the heat shield, otherwise, you’ll have to put the box on the grill grate which will take longer to heat up and start the wood smoking.

Pre-Smoked Oranges Before Batter

Before starting the cake batter, preheat the gas grill to 350°F or start the charcoal in a charcoal grill, being sure to set up for two-zone cooking. While the grill heats to temperature, time to peel mandarin oranges for the cake. Depending on the size of your Springform cake pan, 7-9 mandarin oranges will be needed. Since my pan is a 10-inch Springform, I’ll be adding 9 mandarin oranges to the bottom of my pan. I want my cake to have a prominent wood-fired flavor. That means, I add just the cake pan containing the mandarin oranges to the grill for about 3-4 minutes, to ensure they hold the essence of the wood.

Tasting Notes: Skip the step of infusing the mandarin oranges with smoke vapor if you prefer the cake to have a lighter smoke flavoring.

Batter Up!

Start the cake batter by separating 4 eggs. Whisk the egg whites with 1 cup of sugar and then fold in the 4 yolks, 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 cup of orange juice, and the zest of 2 mandarin oranges or 1 teaspoon of orange peel. Peel 7-9 mandarins depending on the size of your cake pan and place them in a greased and floured Spring-form pan. Pour the cake batter over the mandarin oranges in the pan, use a spatula to smooth it out, put the pan on the grill on the indirect side (no heat), and cook 90 minutes or until golden brown on the outside and firm to the touch at the center. I like to turn the cake at about 45 minutes to ensure an even browning to the surface and even cooking to the overall cake. Let the cake rest for a least 5-10 minutes before releasing the cake ring. Then allow the cake to cool completely on a rack.

Icing for Balanced Flavor

While the cake is cooking, prepare the vanilla cream frosting as this will require at least one hour in the refrigerator before you can apply it to the cooled cake.

Combine 10 ounces of cream cheese, 1 cup mascarpone, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, and ⅔ cup powdered sugar in a small bowl. Refrigerate the mixture for at least one hour. Once the cake has cooled, spread the vanilla cream frosting over the cooled cake and garnish with mandarin pieces and gold sugar if you like. You can refrigerate the entire cake until ready to serve; just remove 10 minutes before serving to allow the icing to warm for cutting.

What is your favorite cake to make on the grill or smoker? Leave us a comment to add your favorite. Bringing innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, smoke, and flavor. That’s SmokinLicious®.


Thursday, February 11, 2021


Chef Bert and Tom combining hardwoods for smoking flavors
Chef Bert and Tom combining hardwoods for smoking flavors

There is misinformation out there that you may have been victim to.  When cooking with hardwood, you may have been under the impression that only certain woods can be used with certain foods.  For instance, hickory is reserved only for pork shoulder and brisket.  Cherry for chicken, etc.

But that is hardly the truth.

Hardwood used for cooking must be viewed as another ingredient.  As a key ingredient, it needs to be balanced with the food item and other ingredients used in preparation before grilling and smoking.

The intent today is to provide a guide on combinations of hardwood that work well for specific foods.  Essentially, the ingredients of a rub, glaze, sauce or marinade will dictate what hardwoods will maximize all the flavors to become a finished masterpiece.

Hardwood Selection as a Compatible Ingredient

The goal when using hardwood is balance of the flavor outcome.  You never want the hardwood to produce an ashy or burnt flavor.  The essence of the wood should simply add to the beautiful flavor outcome for a memorable eating experience.

Here is SmokinLicious® rating on boldness of flavor for the hardwoods we offer:

When I design wood recipes for specific foods, I like to think about balancing out a medium or bolder flavor with one that is lighter.  For lighter fare items like vegetables and fish, two wood combinations are generally used while longer cooked animal proteins can tolerate three hardwoods well.

In the chart that follows, reference is provided to various foods that benefit from exposure to the specified hardwoods.   Use the color blocks indicated under each food group to guide you on combinations.  Find the same color blocks in that group, and you have the balanced combination of hardwood.   For instance, under Fruit, there are two red squares for an alder and cherry combination.  Under the Fish column, there are 3 options: Alder and Maple represented by the pink square, Beech and Cherry represented by the orange square, and Ash and Maple represented by the gray square.  These combinations are balanced by the essence they produce in the smoke vapor.  Just use equal parts of each wood and remember, always start with a small quantity of hardwood as it does not take much to produce great flavor.

TIP: if you are using a spicy rub, default to combinations that includes mild to moderate flavor intensity.  Using sweet ingredients, include a bolder hardwood flavor.

Our Guide

Experiment to find your favorite combinations of hardwood and soon you’ll have your own personal, detailed guide!

Do you have a favorite combination of hardwood?  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, February 4, 2021


Using our Homemade Bacon, try this smoked bacon potato cheddar round for a yummy meal or snack!
Using our Homemade Bacon, try this smoked bacon potato cheddar round for a yummy meal or snack!

 At SmokinLicious®, we understand how much people love bacon, especially the smoked version. That’s why we encourage you to make your own smoked bacon using a pork belly between 3-5 lbs. This amount will provide for more than a few great recipes as well as enjoyment by the slice. You can find our method of making smoked homemade bacon here.

For this recipe, I’ll be incorporating 1-1/2 pounds of my smoked bacon with potatoes, sharp white cheddar cheese for a simple, flavorful savory round that can be used for breakfast, as a dinner side dish, or an entrĂ©e on its own, as it certainly is hearty enough.

Just 3 Primary Ingredients

This is a super easy recipe from an ingredient standpoint. It does, however, take a bit of preparation of the ingredients to make the round come out perfectly.

Start by taking your previously smoked pork belly which has become perfectly smoked bacon and make ½-inch thick slices that will be diced. You’ll need a total of 1-1/2 pounds of diced smoked bacon. Now take roughly 5 medium sized potatoes, wash them well and pat dry with paper towels. Slice them by hand into thin slices or use a food processor equipped with a slicing disk or use a mandolin slicer. Next, you’ll need approximately 1 pound of sharp cheddar cheese – I prefer white versus yellow – grated.

For making the round I use a large spring form pan which is 9 to 10-inch, with the bottom lined in parchment paper. You can oil the parchment round and the sides of the pan to prevent sticking if your pan is not non-stick already.


Begin with the sliced potatoes and start to layer them in a circular pattern in the pan. Overlap slightly to ensure no leakage. Now sprinkle a layer of grated cheddar cheese. Sprinkle a layer of diced smoked bacon. Then repeat this sequence until all the ingredients are used up, ending with the cheese bacon layer.

Bake or Grill the Smoked Bacon Potato Cheddar Until Tender

I like to place my filled spring form pan onto a sheet pan to ensure if anything leaks out of the pan, it has a place to land. Ideal cooking temperature is 350°F and can be done in the oven or on the grill. If using the grill, be sure to cook using a two-zone setup that will put the pan on the unlit side of the grill. Cooking time will range between 35-45 minutes. You’ll know this is cooked, when the top browns nicely and the base potatoes are tender. Use a knife tip to test for tenderness.

Let cool for just a few minutes, then release the spring form ring. Move the cooked round to a platter and slice either in squares or pie slices. Most definitely, this is hardy enough to fill you up and give you the great flavor of a meat pie but with the great flavor of smoked pork that elevates this for popularity!

Tasting Notes: Consider changing up the flavors of this round by including caramelized onions, diced peppers, mushrooms, etc. I prefer not to add seasonings or herbs to allow the purse flavors of the smoked bacon to come through but certainly you can add as you like.

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®.