How to Cook with Wood
Grilling with wood may just be the easiest way to becoming a “gourmet” chef since man first tasted meat cooked with fire.
Understanding how fire and wood interact to bring back that unmistakable flavor of the open range, or the deep woods campsite, or the shore side fire, is the first step to a great dining experience. And it is easy: wood either flavors the meat or fish with smoke (wood chips or chunks)
or it flavors it with the sap of the wood (grilling planks)
How to Use Wood Chips and Chunks
If you use a CHARCOAL GRILL, a few minutes prior to cooking, place several handfuls of chips or chunks DIRECTLY on your charcoal when it turns grey.
Chips should be used if the cooking time is going to be less than 10 minutes. Chunks should be used for longer cooking. Soaking of the chips or chunks merely extends their life but does not add or detract from the smoke flavor that you desire. If you want to add a little originality to your recipe, you may soak your chips or chunks in apple juice, wine, brandy, or other liquids to add additional subtle flavors to your entree. Be creative.
Should you be like 80% of us patio chefs, you probably have a PROPANE GRILL. Not to worry! There are two easy ways to get your desired smoke flavor using standard propane gas grills.
Using Wood Chunks
Wood chunks can be placed around the perimeter of the cooking surface about 10 minutes before cooking.
Notice that I said “cooking surface”! Gas grills are not designed to have wood thrown onto the burner and flame. However, by placing the wood chunks on the cooking surface, they will get hot…….and smoke! Close the cover of your grill while cooking so that your meat or fish will absorb the flavor of the smoke.
Using Wood Chips
Wood chips should be used with a specially designed “smoker box"
that can be placed on the grilling surface or set directly on the burning element
for a faster smoke grilling. Either way, when you see and smell the wood, it is time to start your cooking! Enjoy.
If you are using a TRADITIONAL CHARCOAL SMOKER, the procedure is the same as the charcoal grill except you will continue to feed your smoker with chips or chunks until the process is complete. The same is true for a PROPANE SMOKER. Just keep adding chips or chunks on the surface or with a smoker box until the meat or fish is done. The key to a successfully smoked entrée is the temperature control and the length of time in the smoking process. Experiment with different techniques and recipes until you find just the right one for you.
How to Use Wood Planks for Grilling or Oven
When you cook with planks, the object is to flavor your fish or meat with the SAP OR JUICES of the wood. This is a very different taste experience than smoke flavored entrees but ……just as easy! Unlike chips and chunks that you want to burn, planks you do not want to burn. Therefore, SOAKING THE PLANKS IN WATER IS IMPORTANT.
Think of wood grilling planks as a dehydrated vegetable. By adding water, you return the wood to its fresh, just cut, flavor.
The longer that you soak planks the better, but at least two hours is the rule of thumb. When cooking with planks you should protect them from flame but not heat. Therefore, cookie sheets on your grill or in your broiler oven is essential. It matters not whether the heat comes from the bottom or top, but rather that the heat is contained in a small area. I personally like the broiler or convection oven because the meat or fish and plank will smoke a little because the heat is from the top, adding just a hint of smoke to the natural flavor of the wood. However, by using the same process on a charcoal or propane grill and adding a little smoke with your chips or chunks, you get the best of both worlds.
Preparing the Planks and Entrée
Here are three very easy recipes using the same standard ingredients that will get you started:
Salmon Fillet or Steak on Cedar Planks
Place soaked planks in a cookie sheet. Coat the surface of the plank with olive oil.
Lay the salmon fillet on the plank skin side down. Sprinkle garlic powder, salt and pepper on the fillet, rubbing the ingredients into the fish. Place in your oven, broiler, or grill and cook until done. Splash with fresh lemon and serve on the plank.
Chicken on Sugar Maple Planks
Prepare planks as usual for grilling. Rub garlic powder, salt and pepper into both sides of the chicken. Place the Chicken upside down on the plank first and cook in your oven, broiler, or grill until the chicken is half cooked. Flip the chicken over on plank and finish.
Beef Steak on Black Cherry Planks
Follow the same instructions as for chicken breasts.
Lamb on Atlantic Olive Planks
Follow the same instructions as for chicken breasts.
Once you have tried the basic recipes, do not be afraid to add your own creative touch.
What Kind of Wood Should I Use?
As for the choice of woods, it is entirely subjective, but here are a few tips: White Cedar for salmon; Golden Birch for seafood; Wild Apple for pork or game birds; Sugar Maple for Poultry; Black Cherry for beef or dark meat fish; Northern Nutwood for trout and catfish; Downeast Hickory for all meats; Atlantic Olive for lamb; and Mountain Mesquite for all meats with a BBQ sauce.
However, there are as many different combinations of woods to meat and fish varieties as there are personal tastes. Never be afraid to experiment!
Great Tips for Professional Chefs
How would you like to offer great smoked entrees without devoting your kitchen and resources to fancy smokers? With our grilling chunks, you can create great dishes like Black Cherry Smoked NY Sirloin, or Sugar Maple Smoked Chicken Breasts, or even delicious Beechwood (Northern Nut) Smoked Burgers!!
If your kitchen is equipped with a gas grill, the process is simple. Toss two or three Maine Grilling Woods chunks (your choice of flavors) on the grilling SURFACE. Do not soak the chunks because you want them to smoke and burn as quickly as possible. Place your meat as usual on the grill beside the smoking chunks. Cover both with a serving tray cover. Finish cooking as usual while keeping the meat and chunks covered. The smoke will flavor the meat every bit as good as an expensive smoker……and you do not have to tie up your entire grill for unique smoking orders!
Do not be afraid to experiment. Wild Apple smoked fresh Tuna Steak is absolutely out of this world. Try finishing a Pizza for 5 minutes under the cover with our hickory chunks. It elevates the wood-fired pizza concept to a whole new level.
And of course, any oven or broiler is adequate for grilling out-of-this-world entrees using our unique Natural Oval or traditional rectangular planks.