The Chef’s Office
Fire Up That Grill Part II
Smoking, Brining, Marinating
Hey y’all!!! I am going to stay away from the CheffyBabbles so that we can get right into the information, I have quite a bit to say in this issue. In the next issue, we will have a variety of recipes from Chef Tom, myself and a few others for some good ideas in grilling and smoking this summer, if you have a recipe you would like to include simply reply to this address. Enjoy…
There are hundreds of different variations of brining proteins, I prefer this method because when you soak the protein in a combination of water and salt, the brine will go through the cell walls of the protein and be absorbed into the cells. Brining is a method to increase the amount of liquid in the meat cells thus making a juicier piece of meat.
There are two major ways to brine poultry, fowl and seafood. One is to use a small amount of salt to your brining water or a larger content of salt to your brining solution for a shorter period of time. I personally prefer using a stronger solution for a shorter period of time. I use 1 cup of Kosher or Sea Salt for every gallon of water and brine my protein for a half hour. ( This method changes from Chef to Chef, this is just my preference) This method aids in the extraction of blood from the bones as well.
As I said the variations on this is numerous, add sugar, don’t add sugar, use stocks or bouillons, don’t use stocks or bouillons, increase salt, decrease salt, water, time, temperatures, blah, blah, blah…you get the message. Find one you like, use it as a basic thought and develop it as you deem fit, it is one of the things that make food so much fun, we learn by experimentation. If you follow the basics and taste as you develop then there is minimal chance of you harming your product. Having fun is the most important ingredient.
The purpose of using rubs is basically the same reason as brining, it breaks down the cell walls, tenderizes your meats and adds the flavor of your rubs into the cell walls of the protein. Rubs are basically used for meats, and they can be used for several different types of poultry, fowl and seafood as well, but I prefer only using rubs on meats and whole fowl. There will be a good amount of recipes included in the next newsletter which should be done shortly on rubs, marinades, and funky stuff to do on the grill. Stay tuned.
The purpose of marinating your proteins is to infuse flavors into your meats. A basic marinade constitutes the addition of acid with flavorful liquids and aromatic herbs to tenderize and infuse flavors to your product. Some chefs will argue on whether to cook or not to cook the marinade. I will take the stand that a marinade needs to be cooked and cooled if the acid is an important part of your marinade. This process allows for proper infusion of your flavors, and if your marinades are anything like Cheffy’s then you will have a lot of different flavors to infuse.
The length of marination tends to change depending on the product. If you are using a highly acidic marinade, then the marination should be a short one, acids have a tendency to cook your protein, such as the case in the spanish ceviche which is a cold cooking process using lime juice.
We had gotten in the conversation about the jerking process with Chef Tom and my mentor, Chef Roy. Traditional jerking uses pimento wood. The pimento wood was an interesting fact that I had just learned recently on my trip to Michigan while talking to my first culinary mentor, Chef Roy England. He did a Caribbean trip last year and fell in love with this jerk seasoning that he brought back that was invented by a native and the creator of WalkerWoods Jerk Seasoning. He told me about the use of the pimento wood. Since my visit with Chef Roy, I had asked a couple of my Jamaican friends about jerking meats and they simply told me that if you are not smoking over green pimento wood and/or leaves then you “jus’ ain’t jerkin’ Mon!!!!”
Contrary to popular belief, pimento wood is not from the red pepper, which most people associate the word ‘pimento’ with. Pimento wood is actually the wood of the Allspice Tree…just another piece of useless information from your lil’ CheffyBoy….
“…The pimento tree is indigenous to the Caribbean Islands.
It was found growing in Jamaica by early Spanish explorers who were quite impressed with the taste and aroma of the berries and the leaves. Pimento trees were later discovered in Cuba and were presumed to have been taken there by migratory birds which had eaten the berries. They have also been found in Mexico, but it is Jamaica that has the longest history, having been in continuous production since the tree was identified in about the year 1509
The name Pimento originated from the Spanish word "pimienta" (pepper or peppercorn). To most English speaking people the tree is called "pimento" and the berries "allspice". The name allspice originated from the popular notion that the pimento berry contains the characteristic flavour and aroma of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper, all combined in one spice.
The pimento tree, Pimenta dioica, formerly officinalis, Lindl., belongs to the family Myrtaceae and is closely related to the Bay Tree and to Cloves. It is an evergreen tree, medium in size and in favourable locations will attain heights of from 6 to 15 m. Primary branches are generally formed about 1-3 m above the ground. Whilst both male and female varieties will produce blossoms, it is believed that only the blossoms of the female mature to give berries.
1601 Earliest reference of the use of pimento in London.
1693 Pimento was marketed as sweet scented Jamaica pepper
At the end of the nineteenth century, it became fashionable to have umbrellas made of pimento. The great demand led to wanton cutting of the saplings and it was only through strict controls legislated in 1882 and equally strict enforcement of them that saved the young pimento trees from disappearing altogether…”
Going along with this thought, while I was in Mexico studying under Chef Martin we used to make our own Chipotle Peppers. Chipotles, as some know, are smoked jalapenos. What some people do not know is that Chipotles are smoked over banana leaves and really adds a unique flavor to anything that you smoke. I have smoked seafoods and other proteins using banana leaves and it is quite interesting.
A few years ago while living in Virginia, I had a kajillion basil plants and at the end of the year I used the basil stalks to smoke meats with.
Man, was that awesome!!!
Just something to show you that a little imagination really goes a long way, since then I have used thyme, sage, oregano among other herbs and spices, all of which adds its own unique flavor.
Woods to use and not to use when smoking
You do not want to use resinous woods when smoking foods. The best choice is to use some form of hardwood, I have found the best results to be from nut and fruit-bearing trees. In the case of smoking with the wood, I prefer to soak the wood for at least a couple hours to a couple days depending on the size of the chunk of wood that you are using.
Some of my favorites, as Chef Tom said in the last Chef’s Office newsletter are:
Mesquite, Cherry, Apple, Hickory, Oak (both Red and White),Almond, Pecan, Cherry, Maple, and Edible Herb Plants to name a few.
If you have some wood and do not know what it is, DO NOT USE IT FOR SMOKING FOOD. Burn it in your fireplace but not your smoker.
Some woods not to use include pine, fir, spruce, redwood, cedar, cypress to name a few of the bad juju woods.
Here are some more woods that you should not to use for smoking:
Never use lumber scraps, either new or used. First, you cannot know for sure what kind of wood it is; second, the wood may have been chemically treated; third, you have no idea where the wood may have been or how it was used. For all you know, that free oak planking could have been used in a sewage treatment plant. And that would be ungood huh?
Never use any wood that has been painted or stained. Paint and stains can impart a bitter taste to the meat and old paint often contains lead. Again, yuckkk!!!
Do not use wood scraps from a furniture manufacturer as this wood is often chemically treated.
Never use wood from old pallets. Many pallets are treated with chemicals that can be hazardous to your health and the pallet may have been used to carry chemicals or poison.
Avoid old wood that is covered with mold and fungus that can impart a bad taste to your meat. If you have some good cherry wood (or other good smoking wood) that is old and has a fungus growth and you want to use it, pre-burn it down to coals before you put it into your smoker.
OK…this should give y’all an inkling about what has been happening in the CheffyBrain the past few weeks, sorry it took so long to get the newsletter out, the life of a Chef I suppose.
Here’s to hoping that Peace and Serenity find its way into your day today and everyday,
Michael “Cheffy” Hayes