Cooking like back-in-the-day by smoking meats over firewood has been observed as a recent food trend across the country. Whether it’s the gourmet restaurant that offers mussels imparted with the wild flavours of smoke or the aspiring barbecue master in his own backyard, every culinarian seems to have rediscovered the delicious aroma glowing red flames, and smoky embers infuse on their meat.
The perfume firewood lends to each dish is determined by the tree, and the place it has grown, hence choosing the right firewood is a key part of smoking meats. Since Australia is home to some unique woods that are suited for low and slow fire cooking, it is more than convenient and sustainable to smoke your meat over native embers than using extremely expensive imported wood.
Smoking meats is not just about the flavour it lends to the product; there are lots of people in the unknown that smoke also adds an appetising colour to the food. Vintage ironbark, for example, is not only popular for its slow but high burning quality, its smoke also gives a rich dark colour to the red meat.
As you choose your firewood, not only take into consideration the smoke flavour you’re aiming for, but the type of meat you’re barbecuing and for how long. Hardwood is a hot fuel, will burn for a long time and is therefore often used for the low and slow barbecue method that creates succulent briskets, more so dense wood is easy for temperature control.
When it comes to flavour, there is no rule in using the right wood for smoking, but advancedbarbecuers would choose the delicate aroma of fruitwood and nutwood to smoke white meats, i.e. chicken, pork and fish as they will impart a more subtle and sweeter flavour and won’t overpower the products naturals taste. For red meats, grape and oak wood is widely used hence the very intense flavour their smoke emits to flavour the food.
There is even the possibility to experiment with the different types of wood by the aroma from mild to strong as renowned chefs do who blend the smoky flavours like spices. An oak and pecan blend of wood is known to work great with beef and game meats, whereas a mix of apple and ironbark goes well with chicken and pork meats. Applewood is widely used in BBQ cooking and despite it being a light fruitwood, will still create a lot of heat burning slow and steady. Its subtle sweet smoke is mild and fruity and will give the meat a patina of vibrant yellow and browns.
Another native hardwood growing in Western Australia is jam wood. When freshly cut, the wood of this specific acacia tree is said to give off a smell like jam. Its heartwood has a dark red colour with a very uniform and fine grain. Jam wood is a quality wood, which burns slowly and has a low moisture content making it perfect for smoking since it is durable and doesn’t shrink easily. When used for BBQ, jam wood will give off a subtle sweet smoke flavour that goes very well with fish, poultry and pork as the raspberry scent might be a little too sweet on red meats.
The number of wood products you can use to create your delicious meal range from logs, plugs, chunks and chips. Obviously larger chunks of wood will burn slower and release smoke over a long period whereas chips burn hot and fast and are great to use at the end of the meat smoking process to add that little hint of flavour still missing.