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WhiteTrash BBQ -- Real Pit Barbecue from New York City. This is the story of a fire obsessed guy, living in Brooklyn, with a dream of producing award winning, competition busting, real Barbeque. Come live the dream as I compete around the country in the KCBS Championship Barbecue circuit.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Ingredients: Wood

I hear you, "WTF? Wood is an ingredient?" You bet your sweet bippie wood is an ingredient. When I started cooking with live fire, way back in my Boy Scout days, I was told not to cook with pine. "It makes food bitter," said my Scoutmaster. I didn't really believe him and thought it was just his way of keeping the kids out of his hair. You see, the campgrounds of Long Island were littered with pine branches and finding hard woods for the fire was a most time consuming job. But, we were kids and trying to earn merit badges, so we sought out the hard wood.

Fast forward a few years and I'm camping with some high school buddies. We were hungry after a day of hiking and I built a fire out of pine and whatever other woods that were easily available in this Long Island campground. I wanted a fire. I wanted to eat. I didn't care about the old Boy Scout advice.

Wally's mom made us a baked ziti for the trip, one of her signature dishes and highly enjoyed whenever we where at her home. I wrapped the pan carefully in foil and placed it on the fire, where it sat until it was hot and bubblely. We un-wrapped the ziti and dove in. 5 hungry teen boys shoved that ziti in our mouthes. 5 hungry boys immediately spat out the ziti!Never in my young life had I tasted a more awful food - bitter, smoky and just plain disgusting. I never experienced that from the boy scout campfires.(I hope Wally's mom isn't reading this - it wasn't her cooking, but mine that ruined her food) But I learned my lesson. Only use hard woods for live fire cooking.

So why am I telling you all this tale of woe? Because I'm expecting you to cook your bird over a live fire this Thanksgiving and I'm going to tell you which wood to use. Each wood listed here reacts with the meat differently and injects its unique flavors. Each wood on this list was specifically chosen because it works well with poultry.

ALDER - Very delicate with a hint of sweetness. Good with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds.

ALMOND - A sweet smoke flavor, light ash. Good with all meats.

APPLE - Very mild with a subtle fruity flavor, slightly sweet. Good with poultry (turns the skin dark brown) and pork.

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

CHERRY - Mild and fruity. Good with poultry, pork and beef. Some List members say the cherry wood is the best wood for smoking. Wood from chokecherry trees may produce a bitter flavor. Cherry is my absolute favorite for smoking pork and imparts a beautiful red color to the finished product.

CRABAPPLE - Similar to apple wood.

GRAPEVINES - Tart. Provides a lot of smoke. Rich and fruity. Good with poultry, red meats, game and lamb.

MAPLE - Smoky, mellow and slightly sweet. Good with pork, poultry, cheese, and small game birds.

MULBERRY - The smell is sweet and reminds one of apple. My friend Phil calls this "cotton candy" wood because the smoke smells a lot like cotton candy.

ORANGE, LEMON and GRAPEFRUIT - Produces a nice mild smoky flavor. Excellent with beef, pork, fish and poultry.

PEAR - A nice subtle smoke flavor. Much like apple. Excellent with chicken and pork.

PECAN - Sweet and mild with a flavor similar to hickory. Tasty with a subtle character. Good with poultry, beef, pork and cheese. Pecan is an all-around superior smoking wood.

SWEET FRUIT WOODS - APRICOT, PLUM, PEACH, NECTARINE - Great on most white or pink meats, including chicken, turkey, pork and fish. The flavor is milder and sweeter than hickory.

For a more detailed list of all woods, including hickory, mesquite, oak and others that work best with other foods, and what wood not to use, check out this post from 2004 that dives into the subject more deeply.

Photo of the wood pile courtsey of www.mayang.com/textures Used with permission.

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At 8:46 PM, Blogger Chilebrown said...

That is great wood knowledge. You can look that up in your 'Funk % Wagnells, roll it up in your bippie, and smoke it. Very Interesting!, Sock it to me baby! "Say good night, Dick","Good night, Dick!"

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous grant stringer said...

Hi there
I am in the states for the first time and needed some information how Americans celebrate thanksgiving. Your recipes look real good! Thanks for the posts.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Chris said...

I'm right with you, wood is definitely an ingredient.

I'm leaning towards cherry or peach for my bird this year.

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous BBQ Billy said...

Great compilation of wood flavors... thanks for posting! I went with apple wood for my bird this year and it did not disappoint.

At 12:42 AM, Anonymous positive affirmations said...

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At 11:03 PM, Anonymous positive affirmations said...

Uplifting friends, reaching out
I make new uplifting friends wherever I go and know that I am never alone. As i reach out to others they reach out to me.


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