The Beauty and Benefits of Cooking with Wood
Wood has been used as a cooking fuel for millenia. This was particularly true among ancient peoples who did not have the whole spectrum of gas and electric cooking options we have today. However, cooking with wood has made a recent comeback, because many people are discovering that it imbues the food with extra flavor, while also creating a fun experience and providing health benefits over conventional cooking or grilling methods. In fact, you’re sure to find that cooking with wood is…
Applewood, hickory, mesquite, and cedar—just to name a few—can each contribute a particular scent that’s well suited to imbue paired foods with extra flavor. This adds to the complexity of their effect on your palate. That is because the unique flavor latent in the cell structure is added to the food through the process of smoking. For example, in the case of applewood (or any other fruit-bearing tree) the wood is what carries nutrients from the ground to the fruit. That means all the accents and notes contained within an apple are actually found within the wood itself.
It is well known that meat and fish can soak up the flavors of sauces and marinades. This has lead to a number of practices that contribute to their flavor (such as overnight soaking). But cooking with wood can also infuse your food with some amazing tastes. And there are a number of different pairings between wood and meat that have traditionally yielded great flavor.
Salmon cooks well on White Cedar, while Golden Birch is great for other types of seafood. Wild Applewood is excellent for duck or quail, and Sugar Maple for chicken. Black Cherry or Hickory is a superb complement to all meats. Atlantic Olive can provide some Mediterranean infusions to lamb, and Mesquite a down-home taste to anything coated in barbeque sauce.
Gas grills can leave a subtle, unwanted taste in your food (or, at the very least won’t contribute to the taste). But wood can provide an intense heat while also contributing flavor, something that inorganic fuels cannot do. Because a wood-fueled stove can yield skyrocketing temperatures, certain foods such as fruits and vegetables, can be cooked very quickly. This allows them to retain nutrients and antioxidants they would otherwise lose if cooked with conventional fuel.
On a charcoal grill or outdoor oven, dry wood chips or actual wood can be used with or in lieu of coals as a heat source, while on a propane grill, wood can be placed on top of the grate prior to cooking with the lid closed for around ten minutes, so that a smoky aroma will begin to permeate the grill. Of course, it’s also really appealing to see the wood crackling, glowing, and burning as you cook. Along with smelling the delicious aroma, cooking with wood makes outdoor grilling a more holistic experience.
If you’re grilling, roasting, or baking meat, chicken, or fish, you can try laying them on a wood plank. You’ll want to soak the planks for at least two hours in order to revitalize the sap and juices, and you can get experimental with it, soaking them in different flavors—such as bourbon, wine, or fruit juices— to create subtle permutations in the aroma they let off, adding a creative and fun layer to your cooking experience.
To sum up, cooking with wood is more of a lifestyle than it is a task. It’s an opportunity to slow down, act deliberately and smell the roses (or hickory). There is certainly nothing wrong with using a gas grill, but consider adding a wood cooker to your arsenal. You may find it’s hard to go back to gas.
Get started cooking with wood! Below are just a few of the myriad of possibilities. The best way to learn is to just start somewhere.
- Basic and TRUSTED charcoal grill – Weber 22″ kettle grill (CHECK IT OUT HERE)
- Serious Argentine style grill (cooking with straight up wood) – Norcal Ovenworks The Ash (CHECK IT OUT HERE)
- Affordable yet professional-result pizza oven – Ooni (CHECK IT OUT HERE)
- Cook over your firepit – Sunnydaze firepit (CHECK IT OUT HERE) or just learn about firepit cooking (CHECK THIS OUT)
- Smoking meat – Weber Smokey Mountain (CHECK IT OUT HERE)
- Fireplace cooking – Rome Fireplace Grate (CHECK IT OUT HERE)
- Learn about cooking on your wood stove – (CHECK THIS OUT)