Alternative Smoking

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Knowing Alternative Woods

Perhaps I’ve already said it on other occasions: the world of smoking is perhaps my favorite facet among the thousand that the barbecue can offer. If, when you move your first steps between tongs and coals, producing smoke during cooking is almost as a secondary effect, when you get acquainted with the principles that regulate it, smoke reveals as the classic Pandora pot, a door behind which hides a fantastic scenario from the unpredictable boundaries.

Post Affumicazione 2To rethink, right to the smoking are linked many of the good memories that I carry behind these my years so intensely tied to the barbecue. I remember my first competition on the European circuit when I was set to want to use a blend I had not yet perfected and that I started experimenting the night before in the parking lot, on a poorly sacrifice picanha, naturally completely oversmoked in final. I remember my first wood chips: Jack Daniels barrel chips brought me by a US friend left unused for a year in my tool cabinet. Even today 13 years after that when I open it, the perfume is distinctly noticeable. I remember the first searches for smoking wood on foreign sites, with the resulting stingy experimental purchases, including the first wooden sheets (by Weber!) Almost a decade before arriving in Italy and the absurd single dose cans Containing hardwood pellets, with a small hole covered by a film, to be removed before it could be thrown into the chest: at the cost of a can I could buy a whole bag but it was fine at that time.

Indeed, the funniest part in smoking has always been the play, the ability to taste flavors and aromas, playing on the fact that each wood is able to characterize a dish so sharply that it makes it completely different. Today luckily the choice of essences on the Italian shelves is making every day more articulate but I can say that over the years my desire to play has made me try some woods out of ordinary paths, not particularly easy to find and I came In the mind of telling someone.


Absolutely one of the most enjoyable discoveries. It is a fruity wood that would fit in many ways with cherry but certainly more elegant, with a sweet, personality profile but less dull. Among the various combinations, I fell in love with that with lamb meat. As long as I had available it was my one-way choice to smoke the franched carrè of lamb. Even blended with cherry or with more austere woods like oak, it works very well.

Black Walnut

It is a very fascinating wood, always part of the vast nut family, which also includes Hickory and Pecan. It gives a powerful smell, even more than Hickory. Clearly even the aromatic complexity, with facets pointing to the underwood, tobacco. As much I find it interesting as I have always made a little effort to find an application: it is rather cumbersome and requires a proper wide dish. Once, however, I used it with a standing ribroast which I had applied on a rub with coffee and the match was really remarkable.


The Sassafras was a bit the joke of my early years when the barbecue had become something more than a hobby. It was a wood by the funny name through which I was joking cause of my passion. The reason was that it turned out to be an essence of very singular notes. It gives an agre taste concerning somewhat with officinal herbs, very difficult to match. I have some discrete results in this regard on Asian dishes but in general I can not say I love it particularly. It is a North American plant, of which I have found little information to support.


In fact this is a wood if compared to those who preceded it, you try it can be found even though it is certainly not so widespread. It is not a fruity wood, therefore it has a rather dry impact but it is a surprisingly sophisticated essence, with a very clean and linear profile. I use it very much on elegant dishes, on which I want a clear and recognizable imprint, but without overdoing anything, even in the case of delicate foods. A classic combination that I propose is an appetizer of devil eggs made with quail eggs.


We go back to the talk about the Birch: the one who seeks finds, but probably not in the store underneath your house. It represents the last stage of the fruity: a rather marked and recognizable personality, which on some occasions may also be intrusive. Few know it but just like cherry, it has the ability to chromatically characterize food. However, if cherry attributes a mahogany color, the plum chunk gives an amber color. I usually match it to the pork (interesting on ribs and sausage) but if dosed with the pliers you could even dare it on the chicken.


And I would include citrus fruits, such as Lemon and Mandarin. These are very special woods, less sweet than other fruity ones, with a note that is vaguely sour, that concerning what I happened to see people hate or love. I frankly propose more for the first group, let’s say they tolerate them. Many suggest using it with fish but frankly I can not figure out how to do it. For me the best match is with white meats, especially those less banal like duck or goose.


It is a profile that is very close to apple characteristics, also in terms of breadth and wideness, so a bit of wood for everyone, fit a bit at all matches. Compared to the apple, it has a distinctly distinctive spicy note that constitutes its business card. I like to use it for blends more than it does with apple, right for this particular peculiarity.

Cognac Barrel

This is a thing that is worth. You just have to pay a little attention when you keep them: in the box they are still damp and the cognac is highly volatile, making the chunks particularly delicate. If he gets caught, he loses much of his effectiveness. It gives remarkable, sweet and extremely intriguing complexity. I find it unsurpassable to smoke cakes or the fruit, one on all the smoked apple with amaretti

Is there anyone who intrigues you? And have you ever tried to smoke with some essence outside of traditional trade routes?

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