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Oak is the wood most commonly used for outdoor cooking. It imparts
excellent flavor without becoming too strong with normal cooking
techniques. Oak is outstanding for all forms of grilling and smoking. I
prefer white over red, but use them interchangeably. I just don't tell the
meat which color I am using.
Fruit woods - apple, pear, quince, cherry, etc., and maple, beech, birch and ash are mild flavored, excellent choices for roasting and barbecuing
and make excellent coals for broiling. They are especially suitable for mild meats, fish and veggies, but good for any grilling or smoking.
Alder, mulberry, citrus, willow are mild flavored woods that are excellent
for fish, poultry and seafood. They are softer woods and, therefore, their
embers do not produce as much heat as those of harder woods.
Sassafras, bay and pimiento produce identifiable flavors which some might
find intrusive. Use sparingly with other woods until you are familiar with
Faddish fire fodder includes grape vines, oak whiskey barrels and oak wine
barrels. Their greatest value is in conversation.
Using Woods for Flavor
If you live in a deforested area without easy access to wood, use an
insipid charcoal and want to spruce up (just kidding - spruce is a no-no)
the flavor for broiling, try the following. Bring the coal bed up to proper
temperature 700o and add a mere handful of green wood chips or small
limbs or wood chunks soaked for a couple of hours or sawdust soaked
likewise. Wait until the smoke is intense and the temperature has returned
to the proper level. Plop on the meat and close the lid with good draft
top and bottom. In a couple of minutes, turn the steak/burger and close the
lid again. You should have plenty of smoke flavor. Be aware that the meat
will cook much quicker with the lid closed. Don't over cook.
For roasting and barbecuing under the same circumstances, the cheapest
route is to go in with a few friends and buy a cord (4'x4'x8') of dry
hardwood. Then you can burn down some wood for the coals while it is
heating up the grill. You won't need to add any smoke flavor.
Lacking that opportunity, when the grill is ready to start cooking, toss
in a double handful of wood, as above, throw on the meat and close the lid.
Do that once again in about 30 minutes. That is probably all the smoke
flavor that you need, but if you have become hooked on cresote, you can do
it one more time. Beyond that, the meat has sealed and will absorb no more
smoke flavor. Smoke will, however, continue to pile up on the outside with
It is my studied opinion that if the would-be griller spent at least as
much time learning technique as he did chasing exotic fuel, he would be a
10 times better cook. For those mathematically inclined that formula is
[1/2a + 1/2b=110].
And that ain't just blowing smoke.
© C. Clark Hale
8168 Hwy 98 E.
McComb, MS 39648
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