Food Smoking Versus Cooking Food with Wood, What is the Difference?

Food Smoking Versus Cooking Food with Wood, What is the Difference?

Posted on: January 12, 2023

There is a big difference from food smoking and cooking food with wood. This fact is not only regarding the process but reaching the desired flavor to deliver a healthier meal.

There is a big difference from food smoking and cooking food with wood. This fact is not only regarding the process but reaching the desired flavor to deliver a healthier meal.

I have no bias against food cooked using wood and I have done it myself many times. Today we’ll understand both methods, and weigh the pros and cons. So you can make a conscious choice for your next preparation.

The Food Smoking Process

Food smoking is a very traditional method of preserving food and it was invented way before chemical preservers or refrigerators were a reality. Food smoking is simply adding smoke flavor to your food.

By choosing specific types of wood, you can enhance the smoke flavor with the natural characteristics of each tree: from fruity and sweet, to strong and pungent wood; you can pair flavors to perfection.

The two traditional smoking methods are cold and hot smoking. With hot smoking you are exposing the food to smoke and heat. On the other hand, cold smoking involves no heat inside of your smoker, and the wood is heated in a separated chamber.

Learn more about the food smoking process in detail here!

How heat source can change the flavor of your food

You must understand your source of heat to achieve the intended results. Many people who find smoked food too harsh and acidic tasting associate this with food that is cooked with wood.

Eliminating the acidic and harsh flavors is only possible if the wood is not allowed to burn down to ash!

Therefore, for an enhanced and rich smoker flavor, your smoke source should be wood. However, the heat source to cook the food should be a different one.

The stages of wood to generate pure smoke, and the definite do’s and don’t’s

The desired smoke flavor can only be achieved within the first few minutes when the wood starts smoking. Once rich and aromatic, it cannot continue to burn without a heat source. This is kind of like starting a fire and failing to give it enough heat for it to start burning on its own.

Getting the wood to combust on its own and continue to burn down to ash will bolster acidic taste and add a lot of chemicals to your food. The most abundant is NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide).

Nitrogen Dioxide is highly toxic and harmful to humans because when it is inhaled, it inflames the lungs. This reduces immunity to lung infections in humans and may cause many long-term health problems.

Why should you not want a Smoke Ring on your food?

Have you heard of the SMOKE RING? That’s the red lining under the surface (bark) of meat that is being cooked with charcoal or wood as the heat source. The SMOKE RING has nothing to do with the smoke or flavor and is not created by smoke.

It is a reaction of NO2 coming in contact with myoglobin, a protein found in meat. There is no flavor, and there is no benefit of seeing this ring of red in meat other than evidence that you and your family are ingesting high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide.

It can be a high volume of NO2 when you are cooking your food using a enclose grill like a pellet grill, wood burning grill, or a Kamado grill.

My exception for wood and charcoal

I have no problem cooking using wood or charcoal on an open-air grill because the NO2 has very little chance of accumulating on your food. This is the same with offset grills where the wood & charcoal is burnt offset of the food being cooked. This is because the majority of the NO2 is discharged before it has a chance to impart into the food being cooked.

The best combination for your flavor

For best results, use sawdust! Food smokers that uses this fuel can make great tasting food. For that to happen, you must remove the wood before it goes to charcoal. So, you must keep an eye on your smoker, and remove the sawdust when it is blackening all the way through, replace it with sawdust and continue your smoke. Certainly, do not leave it to turn to ash or you know the outcome.

Why Bradley Smokers deliver the purest smoke

How the smoke is generated

The taste of smoke food is achieved by only using the finest sawdust of different woods available, which is my choice for Bradley Wood Smoking Bisquettes. The size, shape, and weight of Bisquettes have the same exact standards every time. If they are too heavy, or if they are too dense, they will not burn up completely. If they are burned for too long, they will impart the harsh flavor, and if they are left to burn to ash, yes you guessed it, that nasty NO2 gas will be discharged.

That is why every bisquette is burned at the same temperature, for the same amount of time. And each bisquette is extinguished by water when is finished. This process makes you the finest smoked food possible.

How air flows through the smoker

Every Bradley Smoker is classified as a natural draft smoker. By this I mean air is allowed into the smoker continuously from the bottom or the side of the smoke house. There are no fans and there is no way for smoke and or air to be contained in the Bradley Smoke house.

Why would you want to contain the smoke anyways? As I have said previously, the smoke that imparts the truly good smoke flavor is in the initial smoke … BAM! I just gave away another secret and blew another myth away about food smoking.

It is another myth that you can open the door and check your food, close the door and not worry about losing all that smoke. You want to lose the smoke, because more great tasting smoke is just seconds away from being made.

My final thoughts

Stop the wood from burning down to ash! That is the secret to food smoking, and the secret to great tasting smoked food!

The only smoker in the world that consistently makes the purest smoke flavor without NO2 gaseous buildup in your food is the Bradley Smoker. When you use a Bradley you not only taste the difference, but you will see the difference. There is no (let’s call it what it is) RED CHEMICAL RING in your food.

I do have a lot more to add, stay tuned on our blog for our next articles with more food smoking facts, tips and tricks.

Happy Smoking to you all.

Wade Bradley