Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's in the Wood

Selecting your choice of wood often goes without much thought using what is readily available. While great chefs pride their foods cooked from gas grills, wood and coals allow an aroma the no pit boss of any barbecue establishment would dare use gas. However, there is some tricks to achieving smoke flavors using gas ranges and stoves. Lets start with the woods first.

Alder   
Very delicate with a hint of sweetness.  Good with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds. A favorite in the Pacific Northwest to smoke Salmon.

Ash 
Fast burner, light but distinctive flavor.  Good with fish and red meats.

Birch
Medium hard wood with a flavor similar to maple. Good with pork and poultry. 

Cherry   
Slightly sweet, fruity smoke flavor. Good with all meats.
  
Hickory
Pungent, smoky, bacon-like flavor. Very popular wood used to achieve good aroma smoking pork and ribs. Good cooking all foods. 

Maple   
Mild smoke with a slight sweet flavor. Good with pork, poultry and vegetables. 

Mesquite 
Strong earth flavor that achieves the taste of Texas Barbecue. Great smoke flavor used with most meats, especially beef. Chuck wagon cooks and pit bosses swear by its use. 

Oak 
Heavy smoke flavor. The Red Oak is considered the best by many pit masters and is the second most popular wood to use. Great for really about anything you cook.

Pecan 
Similar to hickory, but not as strong. While not the choice as the best, Pecan has achieved many wins amongst Chili competition and cast iron cooking. Unique flavor on meats, fish and poultry.

Walnut
Very heavy smoke flavor, usually mixed with lighter wood like pecan or apple. Can be bitter if used alone. Good with red meats and wild game.

Fruit Trees  
Some woods are also with excellent values and can be used mixing blends or stand alone. Apple, Peach, Pears and Plums make for a superb wood with good qualities for smoke flavors. They tend to be lighter and can be used in all cooking. 

Smoke Bags
Using smoke bags is an easy way to achieve smoke flavors cooking your favorite dish. The smoke bags can be used indoors or outdoors, are simple to use with easy clean up. Check out our review at Gourmet Smoked Foods Review

Notes:

Burning construction material , pallets and scrap wood is alright for a bon-fire but not for cooking. Treated lumber has chemicals that can be hazardous to breath or smoking into foods. Always use dry wood as green fresh cut wood will smoke heavy often not providing the desire aroma with uneven burn. Coals are very safe, affordable and used often for outdoor grilling, dutch oven cooking but self starting coals and using lighter fluids need to burn long enough to burn chemicals off before cooking over, otherwise the starting fluid can leave a taste in the foods. I tire to avoid starter fluid when possible.

Using wood to filter drinking water:
 
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