Cooking with wood is more versatile than you might think. Usually, when cooking, the best woods to use are dry hardwoods such as oak, maple and ash, but if you want to inject some flavour into your dishes, fruitwoods are the better option.
Using flavoured wood is becoming increasingly popular in the wood-fired oven arena. Their fragrance is highly appealing and apple, cherry, hickory, pear and pecan are some of the most popular choices. It’s a really easy way of injecting some different tastes into your cooking and some of the most famous pizzerias in the world recommend apple wood because of the heat it creates, as well as its distinctive aroma and flavour.
If you have a wood oven, one of the best ways to bond with it and develop your cooking skills is to try different types of wood. Each will differ when it comes to the flavour you experience. Every tree has a unique composition and burning point, which is important to take into consideration when cooking with wood in your wood-fired oven.
It’s simple things that you need to appreciate, like knowing that wood chunks will burn slowly and release smoke over a long period of time. Such wood is perfect for slow cooking and smoking meats, whereas wood chips will burn hot and fast giving off smoke in a quick burst. Whilst meats are the most popular food to smoke, you can also use your wood-fired oven to smoke, nuts, cheeses, and vegetables. Making wood work for you, will extend your menu no end!
The top five woods for smoking are:
- Alder. This is a very delicate wood with a subtle flavour. It’s commonly used when smoking salmon but goes well with most fish, pork and poultry.
- Apple. This wood has a very mild, sweet, fruity flavour that is ideal for poultry, beef, hams and lamb.
- Cherry. This wood delivers a sweetness that is a great starting point, if you want to experiment with a different type of wood. It’s very versatile and works with most meats.
- Grapevine wood. This has a tart, fruity flavour that works well with poultry and small game birds, lamb, pork and sausage. Be warned, however, as its tart flavour may be a little overwhelming.
- Hickory. This is great for creating a strong bacon flavour. Its smoke can be pungent but it adds a beautiful taste to all meats. It’s perfect for pork and ribs.
Remember, wood must be completely dry to provide the best heat and to avoid an abundance of smoke. You want to cook food well in your wood fired oven, not choke your guests!
Experienced wood chefs are skilled at using embers to cook over. Using the indirect heat from embers in your wood oven helps to cook the food slowly and evenly and is a perfect way to cook accompaniments for meat, fish and poultry, such as baked potatoes in foil.
It’s also important to remember that different meats cook differently. Small meats such as chicken breasts cook best on a medium heat, whereas larger joints, such as pork, require a blast of heat and then a few hours cooking at a lower temperature. The way to do it is to get the meat close to the fire for the first few minutes and then move it away from the high heat, so it can cook slowly.
Whatever it is that you’re hoping to cook in your wood fired oven, take some time to experiment first. Buy some different types of wood chips to help decide which flavours you like best. The options are numerous and playing around with different flavours and aromas is a great way to bond with your wood oven.