At the very beginning of my journey into smoking, I was quickly introduced to James of Smokewood Shack. He came highly recommended by far too many people for me to ignore. But having sampled smoking wood products from other suppliers, all of which I’d been very happy with, it was a simple telephone conversation with the man himself that convinced me that James’ family run business was the one I would end up being loyal to.
Anyone who’s been fortunate enough to speak with James personally will know exactly what I’m talking about. I later had the pleasure of meeting him at Grillstock last summer and he’s a genuinely nice bloke, who goes out of his way to make sure his customers are happy.
Anyway…. enough of embarassing the poor bloke, lets talk about his terrific products.
Buying cheap smoking wood products is a false economy. You often have no guarantee of how that wood was sourced or how it was processed. Smoking wood should contain the correct amount of moisture to ensure a constant and reliable amount of smoke, just as each bag of wood you use should produce the same amount of smoke to ensure consistency throughout your cooks. Smokewood Shack have strict criteria to ensure a quality product is sent out to you, every time. I’m sure James won’t mind me quoting him here
“At Smokewood Shack we have 10 different varieties always in stock, and most likely have the largest selection in the UK. We cut all our own wood into chunks, chips and even make our own dust for cold smoking. We store about 30 tonnes of logs indoors that have already been seasoned and are ready for dispatch, the rest remains outside in rotation. All our wood has been ethically sourced from managed forests and orchards, which we feel is important to the environment. If you are basing your choice purely on price we are not the cheapest, but I can personally guarantee that if you bought a bag of chunks in December and another bag in July, the moisture content and the quality will be the same”
I think that says it all really. You really do get what you pay for.
Here’s a run down of the woods that Smokewood Shack offer. The majority are always available and I’ve pulled this handy reference from their website. It’s a really great guide on flavour and usage.
A sweet, musky smoke, good with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds. Traditionally used in the pacific Northwest to smoke salmon.
Apple has a light, fruity, slightly sweet aroma and is commonly used with pork and poultry. I like to use it with pork ribs, and it can be mixed with other smoke woods like oak and cherry with fantastic results.
A fast burner with a light but distinctive flavour, good with fish & red meats.
A nice mild wood and a good all rounder, which is great for whatever you care to use it with. Good with meat and seafood.
Cedar (Western Red)
The Pacific Northwest of America is renowned for the spicy and fragrant smoke of cedar. The aromatic and full-‐bodied flavour is what creates delicious cedar planked salmon. Cedar is especially good with Salmon or any strong tasting fish, pork chops, poultry, soft cheeses with a rind (Camembert or Brie), mushrooms, tofu, and vegetables.
Slightly sweet fruity smoke that’s great with poultry . This smoke is a mild, sweet and fruity smoke which gives a rosy tint to light-coloured meats. It has a slight red colour and a subtle, sweet, fruity flavour. It goes well with beef, pork, and poultry and can be mixed with oak and apple.
Hickory is probably the most popular smoke wood used in barbecue, especially pork and ribs. It has a sweet to strong, heavy bacon flavour, and has a strong flavour that complements all meats. Some people find that hickory alone can be overwhelming especially if too much is used. I never use hickory alone, but mix it with oak, and use two parts oak to one part hickory. A good for all round smoking wood and works well with pork, ribs, hams, poultry, and beef.
Maple has a mild flavour. Some say it has a slightly sweet flavour because maple is commonly used in the production of maple syrup. Maple goes especially well with pork and poultry. The wood is dense in weight but light in color.
Mesquite has a strong earthy flavour, and is a popular smoking wood in Texas. Mesquite is sweeter and more delicate than hickory, and a perfect complement to richly flavored meats such as steak, duck or lamb but good with most meats, especially beef and most vegetables. Mesquite works well mixed with Cherry.
Oak is one of my favorite smoke woods. It goes with just about any barbecue meat. It has a medium smoky flavour that is stronger than apple and cherry, but lighter than hickory. As a result, it mixes well with these three woods, but also works great by itself. An excellent wood to start off with.
Pear has a nice subtle smoke flavour, much like apple, a slight sweet woodsy flavour. It is good with game birds, chicken & pork. It can be mixed with other smoke woods like Oak with good results, but take care not to overpower the delicate flavours.
Silver Birch has a flavour similar to maple and is excellent with poultry and pork.
The vines are a mixture of red & white vines that provide a rich & fruity flavour similar to other fruit woods, which is ideal for poultry, red meat, game and lamb.
The whisky oak chips come from aged whisky barrels which have been used to store whisky in for the past 9 – 15 years. The mixture of Whisky & Aged Oak gives you the wonderful Whisky Oak smoke flavour. Fantastic for Beef, Chicken, Lamb Pork or Vegetables. For best results soak the wood chips in water for 30 minutes before using on your barbecue. Drain off the excess water and add the wood chips directly onto the lit charcoal, or alternatively double wrap the chips in cooking foil and pierce to allow the fantastic flavours to infuse your food.
I’ve tried the majority of James’ products now, including the planks, which I love cooking fish on (see my recipe for Planked Salmon for how to use them) My personal favourites, so far as chunks and dust go, are maple (especially for cold smoking cheese) and silver birch, probably because they’re so similar in flavour. Cherry, apple and pear also work very well for me and I love hickory when it comes to smoking any kind of pork.
I don’t tend to use chips, opting for chunks when I smoke, and the chunk sizes are nicely uniform which I also think is important. I often make notes during my cooks and write down how many chunks of which variety of wood I use, in order that I can either replicate a cook or tweak it as required.
The chunks and dust come well packaged and labelled in plastic bags. I always keep my smoking wood products in a cool dry place (although a recent flood of our garage caused a bit of a disaster recently) and I leave the bags of chunks open to allow the wood to breath, or I remove them from their bags and stack them depending on the storage available to me.
The only exception for me is the wood dust, which I like to keep in their zip lock bags in the house. I’ve never come across temperamental wood dust, but I know plenty of folk that have, and minimising any sort of additional moisture is important to reduce the chance of your cold smoke generator going out in the middle of the night. Microwaving dust and warming in an oven prior to cold smoking are all techniques I’ve heard of being used to prevent this, but I’ve never had to resort to that yet (fingers crossed).
I can’t recommend Smokewood Shack enough really. If you want a quality product, value for money and a really personal service then this is the place to go in my opinion. If you’re new to smoking, or just fancy trying a few new woods then contact James, explain what you’re after and he’ll accommodate you in any way he can. There are lots of offers on the website for bulk buying, postage offers and a pick and mix option, just click on the link above.
AND HOW COOL IS THIS?!! James has kindly given me my very own discount code for you lovely lot to use from 3rd January to 3rd February 2017. Just enter the coupon code dreamingoftgl at the checkout and receive 15% off your order!
Note: I was supplied with a selection of products for review, free of charge, however as always I have been free to give my honest opinion.