Gas grilling or barbecuing? The debate rumbles on about which is best. The barbecue fans will claim that their food has more flavor because of the smoke flavors. You know, they may just be right! But it is not impossible to create the authentic wood cooked flavour with the convenience of the gas grill. Grab yourself some hickory, mesquite, apple wood or cedar and you will soon be producing beautifully smoked meat or fish.
Now, to the wood to use for smoking. There is a bewildering variety of different types, beech, hickory and oak are generally readily available and will complement most foods, meat, fish, game, poultry. For a strong flavor use hickory or for more subtle flavorings use oak or beech. Maple imparts a sweet and mild smoky taste and is reputed to be good for smoking vegetables. Mesquite is popular in the southwest states of the US and gives a strong flavor. It burns hot and is usually used for beef dishes. For sweet flavors, use pear, peach and apple wood chips, these work well with white meats and small game birds.
Smoking on a grill or barbecue can be disappointing at first, the problem usually lies with the type of food used. If the food is likely to be in contact with the smoke for under half an hour - forget it, the smoke will smell nice while you cook but that's about all! Large pieces of fish or meat that will take a good while to cook are the best.
The wood chips will not produce any smoke if they are added to the barbecue or grill as they are. They need to be well soaked before hand. Put them in a container of water for several hours before you intend to cook and let them really soak it in. Take them out of the water and leave them to drain for a while, they should not be dripping when you add them. This will prevent them from setting fire and they will smolder - smoldering wood gives the all-important smoke.
The chips can be added to the barbecue when the coals have settled and immediately before the food is to be cooked. Adding them earlier is a waste of good smoke! For a gas grill, you will need to purchase a smoker box which prevents the ash from damaging the burners (or make one from foil, remembering to pierce holes the top of the foil to release the smoke. In order to get the wood to produce smoke, it must be close to the heat source, which itself must be high. Smoking foods using a gas grill can work well if you can cook the food with the lid down.
So there you have it, how to enhance your cooking in the great outdoors using the power of wood!
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