The first test for this new technique was smokehouse burgers. They cooked for just under 15 minutes but had a nice hint of hickory smoke.
Up until now Standard Operation Procedure for using wood chips that was touted by every cookbook I’ve ever seen was to soak the chips for one hour before use. This made the chips smolder and not burn. When I soaked the chips for an hour, I would have to light the grill and wait at least 15 minutes for the first signs of smoke. Once the smoke began you would get a moderate but not heavy amount of smoke for the next 15 or 20 minutes and then you would get heavier smoke for the next 25 minutes or so. At 45 minutes into the cook the remaining chips would fully combust and quickly burn up. That is one of the reason I liked the Steven Raichlen Wood Chip Soaker was you could soak two batches at once. Where the chips only lasted 45 minutes and you needed to soak for an hour, for long cooks you’d need to have two batches going at once. Every so often a recipe would call for the use of smoke to enhance a quick cook item like a burger or grilled chicken wings or grilled fish. I used to try to use the smoker drawer in the grill but the results weren’t worth it. After the grill warmed up I had that first 15 or 20 minutes where the smoke gradually built up, but this wasn’t really enough to make a noticeable difference in the flavor. It really wasn’t waiting and burning an extra 20 minutes or gas in addition to the 15 minutes used during warmup. Frankly you really couldn’t taste it.
The second test was some chicken wings which were indirect cooked for 25 minutes & the potatoes were along for the ride over the lit burners.
Along came the COOKS ILLUSTRATED SUMMER GRILLING GUIDE 2010 which had a thick burger called a smokehouse burger that used smoke. I was going to ignore the smoke part, until I saw they used a different method and gave their logic behind it. They suggested soaking the chips for only 15 minutes. The shorter soak allowed the chips to smolder more and make more smoke in a shorter period of time. This seemed to make sense and so I gave it a chance on their Smokehouse Burgers and sure enough it worked as planned. I noticed after the 15 minute warmup, I was getting more smoke. The burger cooked for 15 minutes and I had a decent amount of smoke and the burger did indeed have a nice smoke flavor, noticeable but not overpowering. A second round of Smokehouse Burgers proved this was no fluke. On Memorial Day I used the quick soak on some BBQ CHICKEN WINGS & some GRILLED NEW POTATOES I was making. The wings recipe was also out of COOKS ILLUSTRATED SUMMER GRILLING GUIDE 2010 and called for the same 15 short soak. Once again it worked as advertised and this time the cook lasted long enough that I was able to see how long the chips lasted. At about the 30 minute mark the remaining chips began to burn up. It makes sense that if you get more smoke up front the chips won’t last as long. At the point where the chips burned up, I was searing the wings and they were done. The heavy smoke had lasted through the 25 minute indirect portion. The wings were great and once again had just the right amount of smoke.
The wings & the potatoes had just the right amount of smoke, so I plan to use this technique even more in the future.
So at this point I know this technique works and works well. If you have a short cook of about 25 minutes or less, try soaking the wood chips for only 15 minutes. You’ll get more smoke in less time, perfect for shorter length cooks.
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