When I smoke with a wood fire, should I leave the bark on or remove it?

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meat and vegetables on a large grill 300x225This is one of those questions that’s under continuous debate by smoke- and grill-masters. When you plan to use wood for smoking, does it matter whether or not the bark is still attached?

Some claim that it doesn’t matter, that the bark won’t impart any off-flavors at all. Others report a slightly bitter taste when the food has been smoked with bark-on wood. There’s also an in-between group that will peel the bark off if it’s easy to remove or peeling off already, but will otherwise leave it alone. Finally, there are some who say that they never thought about it either way.

In short, it’s a matter of personal taste and convenience–at least, most of the time. In some cases, leaving the bark on can be risky. That’s because bark is capable of absorbing and retaining dangerous chemicals, as well as other pollutants. The contact doesn’t have to be recent, either: Even if the chemical use has been discontinued, nearby tree bark may still contain high concentrations of residue that’s been built up through traveling airborne particles. For this reason, if you’re planning on using wood for smoking and you aren’t sure where it came from, or if you know the trees were located near a facility that uses a lot of chemicals, it’s a good idea to remove the bark before use.

Are there any other factors to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to remove the bark? As stated above, personal taste can also play a role. Some people claim that the bark can impart a slightly bitter flavor to the food, while others say that they don’t notice a difference at all. If the bark comes off easily, then by all means remove it. If it’s difficult to remove and you trust the wood source, you might want to leave it on, just to see whether or not you can taste the difference.

Finally, there are also some concerns regarding temperature control. Bark-on wood has been known to cause more flare-ups than skinned wood, owing to the volatile texture of the bark itself. This is potentially harmful to the finished product, as smoked food is at its best when the temperature remains consistent throughout the long process. While minor flare-ups are nothing to worry about, it’s something to consider, especially if the bark has significant growth due to moss or lichen.

“To bark or not to bark?” is just one of many questions in the ongoing debate on how to produce the best smoked meats around. Have fun with the experiment!

Get the best types of fire wood for smoking from the best firewood provider in the area. Give Wisconsin Firewood a call at 414-769-9663 and we’ll guide you in the right direction. We’re easy to find on the south side of Milwaukee.

Three Sure-fire Fire-Starting Methods

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fire starting teepee 200x300Whether burning wood for a campfire, barbecue or in a wood stove, starting a wood fire is not as hard as some people make it. Man has been starting wood fires to cook and provide warmth since the beginning of time. Here are three standard ways that work:

* The Tepee method: best for campfires or large grills
* Parallel Logs method: best for grills, fireplace or wood stoves
* Top Down method: best for wood stoves or tight spaces with little access Continue reading

What You Should Know about Barbecuing with Pecan Wood

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pecans hanging on a tree 300x201While some pit-masters and hobbyist cooks are perfectly fine with using pecan wood for smoking, the idea that an excessive use of pecan wood while smoking and barbecuing leads to a pervasive odor within the meat its used to smoke is nonsense. Some of those aforementioned pit-masters will exclusively stick to pecan wood and all without it overpowering all the other seasonings and flavors that are being smoked into whatever cut of meat was placed within that individual’s smoker.

While there’s absolutely no reason why you should ever change out the types of firewood in your smoker midway through the cooking session, some people still do it with woods like pecan in order to avoid tainting the meat with an overwhelming level of pecan flavor. In truth, pecan’s one of the best possible lumber varieties when it comes to wood for smoking meat. Despite what some people may incorrectly think, pecan is a flavorful wood that grants a strong bite to the meat cooked within its smoke. If you were to compare it to other types of firewood, the flavor profile of meat that has been smoked with pecan is only slightly stronger than if you had used wood from an apple or oak tree. The closest description of pecan as a smoking meat would be “a less-bitter hickory.” While some people may describe pecan as a “cool” wood, there’s little evidence to support that; pecan is a great source for coals and burns just as well as other hardwoods. Continue reading

Tips on Buying and Storing Firewood

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firewood burner 300x208Burning firewood to heat our homes has been around since our ancestors first discovered fire. But in case you’re new to this heating alternative, here’s some general information and tips on using and storing firewood you might like to know from somebody who’s cut, sold, and burned firewood all of his life.

Types of Firewood/Cost

Firewood prices can vary, depending on where you live and your winter climate. Not all wood burns the same, and because of this they put out different amounts of BTUs (British Thermal Units). The more BTUs, the higher the price will be. Hardwoods, such as oak, hickory, and hard maple burn slowly and generally produce a lot of heat. They’re also more dense, and thus heavier than softwoods. Oak is one of the more popular types, and it can be found almost everywhere in the U.S. One of the drawbacks to hardwoods is they can be hard to start. Continue reading

Where To Find The Perfect Wood For Your Barbecue

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stacked mesquite wood 300x225When barbecuing, the most common woods people look for are Oak, Hickory, Maple, Mesquite, Pecan, Apple, Alder, and Cherry, but what if you already know what kind of wood you want and just need to know where to find it?

Finding good wood for barbecue isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Most of the time, when people look for wood to barbecue with, the wood is purchased from a firewood dealer or a dealer who specializes in the sale of wood for burning. Dealers are not the only option. If you don’t have a good local firewood supplier, they can be hard to find, or just not carry good firewood. Try some of these other options if you don’t have a reliable source of quality wood for your barbeque: Continue reading

How Do I Start My Wood or Charcoal Fire?

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fire starting teepee 200x300Fire is the cornerstone of any smoking experience. The burning wood pro­vides the heat that cooks the meat and the smoke that flavors it. Building your fire correctly is an important step in making excellent barbecue, and there are several methods you can use to start a fire.

1. Tee-pee Method with Kindling

The traditional method of fire building is known as the tee-pee method. This simple combination of kindling and wood is useful for pit smokers and campfires alike. The idea is simple; a vertical cone of wood surrounds a pile of kindling. The vertical shape of the tee-pee allows the fire to naturally grow upward. This method is effective because it allows for a high level of airflow to feed the flames. Continue reading

Can I Use Old Dead Limbs for Smoking?

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barbecue fire 300x225Cherry, ash, hickory, mesquite, apple, oak, peach and pecan—the list of woods you can use for smoking goes on and on. The fact that there is such a wide range of woods suitable for smoking means that, if you’re lucky, you might just have a tree on your property that will work perfectly the next time you plan on making a deliciously smoky brisket or pork butt. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to use any old wood branches you get out of your yard as it’s important to make sure the wood is in proper condition before putting it in your smoker. While there are better wood sources available, if you want to take the risk go ahead.

In this sense, you might be wondering whether those limbs you trimmed out of your apple, oak or other tree a few years ago are still suitable. To answer this question, it’s necessary to look in greater detail at the characteristics that make a piece of wood good for smoking. Continue reading

Understanding BTU Content in Smoking Woods

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stacked wood burning 300x201The key to understanding the BTU content in wood is all about understanding density.

Remember the old trick question, “Which weighs more: one ton of bricks or one ton of feathers”? The answer, of course, is that they weigh the same, one ton is one ton. But it would take a lot more feathers to create one ton of weight than it would bricks because of the difference in density between the two objects. Continue reading

Which Wood for Smoking Meat?

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ham knife eat food delicious 300x225If you love the taste of smoked meat, sooner or later, you’ll probably want to try making it yourself. However, the world of smoking can seem pretty daunting at first. Maybe you’re still at “square one” wondering “What’s the best wood for smoking?” Well, we’ve got some tips for you.

Best Woods for Beginning Smokers

If you’re new to barbecuing and smoking meat, a few safe bets are:
* Oak
* Cherry
Continue reading

What Wood Not to Use for Smoking

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wood burning fire 300x200Choosing the right wood for smoking is something that a lot of people obsess about when they are learning how to smoke foods. However, it is equally important to know which wood to avoid. As they say at Bon Appétit, “some woods just aren’t meant to smoke food.” The following tips provide information about wood to avoid when smoking food.

Softwoods

Avoid wood from conifers such as pine, redwood, fir, spruce, cypress, or cedar. These trees contain high levels of sap and turpenes, which results in a funny taste and can make people sick. Cedar planks are popular for cooking salmon, but don’t burn the wood for smoke. Continue reading