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TIPS for cooking with wood

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BERRY-BRO

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My brother John and I started Berry Bros Firewood in 1974 while we were both still attending Camelback High School in Phoenix and needless to say a lot has changed over the years. We sold Mesquite primarily for cooking and Oak or Pecan for firewood, Boy, were we ever clueless. There was no internet and I sure didn't read books on cooking wood (was there even such a thing???).
Over the years and literally hundreds of restaurants and chefs later, I have a much better understanding of wood used for cooking. I am glad for a forum such as this where some of this info can be shared for the benefit of many!!! Enough small talk, let's get down to business!
Any Nut bearing tree, any fruit bearing tree, and most trees with pods can have their wood used for cooking. Nothing is better than Nut wood (Hickory, Pecan, Almond, Pistachio, ETC.) for great flavor, clean burning and long lasting! (With the exception of Walnut, this can be too smoky!). The Fruit woods are similar (Apple, Peach, Cherry ETC), BUT, they don't burn as hot, last as long and have the strong flavor. (Great with seafood and cheeses). The trees with pods (Mesquite, Ebony, and Ironwood ETC.) are super for making coals or in buried pits, a great choice for cooking over their coals but not the best for an enclosed smoker/BBQ set up. I know I will get arguments here, and I say "to each his own!" I know I'm right  ;D . The great thing about Nut woods is the fact that they can be used almost green without ill effects....try that with Mesquite (please don't!!! I'm kidding). In order of flavor it goes something like this #1 Nut wood, #2 Fruit wood and #3 Mesquite types. For coal #1 Mesquite types, #2 Nut woods, # Fruit woods. More tips coming soon
#1 - July 19, 2006, 12:19:43 pm
Wood for BBQs, Smokers, Grills, Pizza Ovens...ETC.

BERRY-BRO

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You may be saying to yourself: But I have a gas grill or just a small Weber, how can I get the great wood flavor that everyone enjoys so much???
Answer: You can buy a fancy cast iron box with perforated lid and put small chips inside, placing this over your heat source. OR for faster and better results wrap a fist size chunk (not chip) of your favorite wood in a heavy gauge foil, pop some holes in the foil with a ball point pen and toss this over your heat source......Viola, instant success, no soaking necessary!!!
Enjoy, Thomas
#2 - July 19, 2006, 12:30:06 pm
Wood for BBQs, Smokers, Grills, Pizza Ovens...ETC.

Mike (AZBarbeque)

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Thomas,

WOW, great info, I'm really glad you are a part of this web site and provided such an in-depth understanding of the different woods, that is great info to know and I'm sure we will reference it frequently.

Guys, any questions you have on wood and cooking with it, please post them for thomas.  :)
#3 - July 19, 2006, 12:40:14 pm
Michael J. Reimann
Realtor - Clients First Realty (Real Job) - www.TheReimannWay.com
Owner/President - AZBarbeque - #1 BBQ Club in Arizona
Owner/Pitmaster - AZBarbeque Catering - www.AZBarbequeCatering.com

If God wanted us to be Vegetarians, why did he make animals out of meat??

BERRY-BRO

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Question: I have a side box smoker and every time I cook with wood I get this almost greasy, dark film on the surface of the meat I’m cookin’, this makes the meat taste a little bitter and it’s a pain to scrape off. What is it and how do I fix this???

Answer: All wood produces creosote, tar, and other undesirable by products when burning. We have learned how to harness some of these by products (smoke) to make our efforts taste better. Even the cleanest burning Pecan wood can deposit bitter tasting junk on the meat you are cooking. The simplest solution is this: lightly cover the meat with foil, don’t wrap! Just cover! The particulates from the smoke will settle (gravity), hopefully now on the foil and not the meat! Believe me you will still get all the flavors without the bitter and greasy film on your masterpiece!
Thomas
#4 - July 19, 2006, 12:45:21 pm
Wood for BBQs, Smokers, Grills, Pizza Ovens...ETC.

Mike (AZBarbeque)

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Thomas,

I have also heard that using wood without the Bark is a good way to avoid some of that bitterness and tar.  What are your thoughts or experience on this?
#5 - July 19, 2006, 12:49:13 pm
Michael J. Reimann
Realtor - Clients First Realty (Real Job) - www.TheReimannWay.com
Owner/President - AZBarbeque - #1 BBQ Club in Arizona
Owner/Pitmaster - AZBarbeque Catering - www.AZBarbequeCatering.com

If God wanted us to be Vegetarians, why did he make animals out of meat??

BERRY-BRO

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Question:  "using wood without the Bark is a good way to avoid some of that bitterness and tar?"

Answer: a resounding YES and NO!!!
Certain barks can be extra heavy in tannins, Oak for example. Tannins is what keeps animals from chewing bark off trees, it makes unripe fruit bitter, it makes tea brown and gives it its "full body" flavor. Oak with a real thick bark can be a bit harsh but we don't get much of that variety in Arizona. Some barks are unbelievably great flavored, I know of several people that smoke with ONLY the bark from Pecan wood!!! As a rule, the bark on trees found in our climate is not enough to "mess" with the flavor and besides, most wood as it seasons, looses its bark real fast anyway. I would not worry about bark (in Arizona).
Thomas
#6 - July 19, 2006, 01:01:02 pm
Wood for BBQs, Smokers, Grills, Pizza Ovens...ETC.

BERRY-BRO

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I need to add that the bark from Chinaberry trees is very poisonous and should never be burned even in a campfire!!! Please don't breath the smoke! :'(
Oleanders can kill if the smoke is ingested! :(
These are the extreme exceptions and I hope no one is using these types for cooking anyway!
#7 - July 19, 2006, 01:06:42 pm
Wood for BBQs, Smokers, Grills, Pizza Ovens...ETC.

Mike (AZBarbeque)

  • Karma: 110
I need to add that the bark from Chinaberry trees is very poisonous and should never be burned even in a campfire!!! Please don't breath the smoke! :'(
Oleanders can kill if the smoke is ingested! :(
These are the extreme exceptions and I hope no one is using these types for cooking anyway!

Now that I knew, but for those of you out there that did not, this is very good information.... People have a tendency to just put any branch or "Wood" into a fire pit to burn and this could really cause some major health concerns, so take heed....

Great info once again.
#8 - July 19, 2006, 01:09:25 pm
Michael J. Reimann
Realtor - Clients First Realty (Real Job) - www.TheReimannWay.com
Owner/President - AZBarbeque - #1 BBQ Club in Arizona
Owner/Pitmaster - AZBarbeque Catering - www.AZBarbequeCatering.com

If God wanted us to be Vegetarians, why did he make animals out of meat??

ron b

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 People have a tendency to just put any branch or "Wood" into a fire pit to burn and this could really cause some major health concerns, so take heed....



put a do not enter sign by the smoker.....!!!!!
#9 - July 19, 2006, 01:20:04 pm
wwww.jncentertainmentservices.com

Thom Emery

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We do land clearing and resently took out a Grape Vineyard So I am cooking with grape stumps. Very mild flavor
#10 - July 19, 2006, 03:17:32 pm
Catering, Competition Cooking and Community Service

www.bbqthom.com

What Wood Jesus Q

bearbonez

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 A big way to avoid bitter flavors and off flavors from burning wood is to keep your baffles open all the way. Let the smoke pass through the pit. Stiffled smoke becomes stale in seconds and makes for unpleasant taste. Air flow is your friend.
#11 - July 19, 2006, 06:55:03 pm
David "Bear" Nunley

Mike (AZBarbeque)

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  Air flow is your friend.

I've been telling people that for years, especially during Chili nite on the Guys Trip.  :o  ;D  ;D  ;D
#12 - July 19, 2006, 07:03:15 pm
Michael J. Reimann
Realtor - Clients First Realty (Real Job) - www.TheReimannWay.com
Owner/President - AZBarbeque - #1 BBQ Club in Arizona
Owner/Pitmaster - AZBarbeque Catering - www.AZBarbequeCatering.com

If God wanted us to be Vegetarians, why did he make animals out of meat??

BERRY-BRO

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You guys are so right! I deal with beginning and novice “smokers” on a weekly basis ???, I give them a run down on wood types and most importantly I try to give them good advice for using their smokers/pits. It never fails, the next time they come back; they encountered problems with the food being bitter or too smoky! The biggest mistake one can make is trying to “make” your wood smoke. Novices tend to choke back the intake and the exhaust, thinking “the more smoke, the better”.  They choke the air intake to the point that the wood or coals are starving for oxygen and the whole thing is billowing to “high heaven”! My advice has been: open your exhaust at least half way and regulate everything from the intake, always making sure the coal bed is getting oxygen, then whichever way you place your flavor wood in the firebox (soaked, wrapped in foil with holes ETC.) let it smoke naturally, a light, bluish, wispy, trailing smoke is ideal!!! No smoke means the wood has burst into flames and you are now just heating (maybe a mild taste is still being produced). Last but worst, if the exhaust is BILLOWING like a locomotive the coal bead is dying and the air supply is cut off, no good!!! Please anyone jump in and add or subtract from what I’m saying here.
Also in response to the Grapevine, this is better than Mesquite or Oak for making great coals!!! Hard to find in usable sizes. In Europe cooking with Grapevine wood is supposedly called “Fruit of the Vine cooking”. I love the way the gnarly vine produces the most perfectly shaped charcoal cubes…..also, sorry to say, we are fresh out of grapevine wood!!! :'(
#13 - July 20, 2006, 09:06:24 am
Wood for BBQs, Smokers, Grills, Pizza Ovens...ETC.

mike

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Hey All,

New to the forum, but not new to Berry Bros.  Thomas has been keeping me stocked with gourmet wood for years, my neighbors think I am a french fry short of a Happy Meal but they are over every weekend.  Anyway this a great forum and I look forward to all the great tips.

Thanks,

Mike

P.S. Thanks Thomas for letting rape yur grape.

#14 - July 26, 2006, 02:53:49 pm

Mike (AZBarbeque)

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Mike,

Great name...  ;)

Welcome to the site, great to have you on here.  Hope to meet you soon at one of our upcoming events and especially at the Lake Pleasant BBQ Cook-off, it's going to be a great time out there.

I think we are all in the same boat here, a few French Fries short of a Happy Meal, but that's probably why we all get a long so great.

Jump in and enjoy the site and we will look forward to seeing you soon.  ;)

Mike
#15 - July 26, 2006, 02:55:58 pm
Michael J. Reimann
Realtor - Clients First Realty (Real Job) - www.TheReimannWay.com
Owner/President - AZBarbeque - #1 BBQ Club in Arizona
Owner/Pitmaster - AZBarbeque Catering - www.AZBarbequeCatering.com

If God wanted us to be Vegetarians, why did he make animals out of meat??

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