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Let's clear away some smoke
Five Reasons why wood coals are superior to flaming wood for cooking:
1. Green woods are 20-40% water. This must be boiled off before the wood can burn. This means that British Thermal Units (BTUs) a measure of
heat are used to boil water (971 BTUs per lb. of water) rather than to
2. Dry wood still has 8-20% moisture and contains many compounds which must be cooked out absorbing BTUs before the temperature can rise.
3. As long as there are moisture and volatiles to boil out, the temperature cannot rise above the boiling point of the substances.
Therefore, in order to reach broiling temperatures 700o all the
moisture and volatiles must be driven out. At that point the wood becomes
4. Successful broiling steaks, burgers, chops requires very high radiant heat. Flames of burning wood do not generate radiant heat at
temperatures as high as that of live embers.
5. In the hours' long cooking periods, as when roasting and barbecuing, the smoke flavor in the coals, alone, is more than ample. Visible smoke is too much smoke. Anytime that you see a full plume of smoke coming out of a
barbecue cooker, you know that the cook in making a serious error. A faint
wisp of white smoke is the signal of a competent cook.
Useful Common Wood Species
|Lundy Wilder wrote us a while back ......
Here's one quick BBQ story, when we lived in Costa Rica way out in the
boonies we told our CR neighbors that if they would kill and clean our loud
rooster, we'd cook it like Memphis BBQ and split it with them. They did and I
gathered various dry wood from trees I could not identify around our place.
I slow cooked and smoked that bird a long time and when we ate it OUR
MOUTHS WENT NUMB!! Mystery wood-who knows what it was.
Almost any hardwood makes very good embers for cooking. Normally, the
denser the wood, the more lignin, and, therefore, more BTUs per cubic
volume. Resinous woods such as pine, fir, juniper, cedar and yew are not
normally used, with one exception. A few Scots use small amounts of green
cedar boughs as a part of their final stage of cold smoking salmon.
Most commonly used woods, in alphabetical order: Apple/pear, ash, beech, birch, cherry, hickory/pecan, maple, oak.
Regional and miscellaneous woods: Mesquite, alder, citrus, any edible fruit, nut or berry, persimmon, sassafras, gum, pimiento, grape leaves and vines, hackberry, elm, chestnut,
Questionable: Parts are poisonous, cause physical reaction or produce bad
taste: China berry/mahogany, Osage orange, teak, tung, madrone, buckeye.
Definitely don't: Even the smoke can be poisonous! Poison oak, poison sumac, oleander, pine and other resinous woods.
Flavor quotient for common woods suitable for broiling, roasting and
Ignore any presumptuous suitability chart for woods I have see some
dillies. Use common sense instead. Wood flavors, like other seasonings,
should enhance the natural flavor, not overwhelm.
Hickory, and to a lesser degree, its cousin pecan, are powerful flavoring
woods. A little goes a long way. The wood makes great coals for broiling.
When barbecuing or roasting, I use about 20% hickory and 80% oak/apple/etc.
Excellent for cold and hot smoking.
Mesquite has a potent flavor that some like and many dislike. I am of the
latter group. The wood makes excellent hot coals for broiling and, used in
this manner, does not overpower the meat flavor and become offensive. I do
not recommend it for long term cooking roasting and barbecuing. Certainly
not for cold or hot smoking.
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Smoky's 5th basic position for really great barbecue'n.
'According to Smoky' is © by C. Clark Hale
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