January 2018

Smoky Cocktail Sauce is very easy to do by simply smoking the Tomatoes for the recipe!

Smoky Cocktail Sauce is very easy to do by simply smoking the Tomatoes for the recipe!


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You’ve seen me use the Orion Cooker before for cooking and smoking more traditional items. Now, see how I produced a great hot smoked tomato using a blend of Sugar Maple and Wild Cherry wood chips to bring subtle smoke flavor. Once smoked, I take the smoked tomato and produce a smoked tomato cocktail sauce that has so many uses.

Easy Hot Smoking

I like to smoke food items that take 40 minutes or less on the Orion Cooker that has been used first for a longer protein cook. Remember, this cooker is a convection cooker so the heat retention can’t be beat. It’s just perfect for our plum tomatoes which can be smoked in 30 minutes or less.

Simply take plum or on the vine tomatoes, and cut in half. Place directly on the grill grate. Use the residual wood chips and briquettes already in the Orion Cooker to smoke the tomatoes. Once smoked, remove and use in your favorite recipe or store in the refrigerator for later use.

Cocktail Sauce Ingredients

With the tomato halves smoked, it’s time to gather the other ingredients needed for our Smoked Tomato Cocktail Sauce. In addition to these ingredients, you’ll also need a food processor.

  • Olive oil – about 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 chipotle in adobo or 1 tablespoon chipotle hot sauce
  • 3 heaping tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • Chopped cilantro leaves – about 2 tablespoons worth
  • 12 smoked tomato halves

Processing for Flavor Outcome

Using a food processor, you will add all the ingredients for our smoky, spicy cocktail sauce:

Tomatoes, honey, prepared horseradish, chipotle in adobe sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, cilantro leaves, salt, and fresh ground pepper. Add just a touch of olive oil. Process all the ingredients until slightly smooth in consistency. Remove, and place in a serving bowl or you can store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

So Many Uses

There are two distinct flavors that work so well in this unique cocktail sauce: spicy chipotle and smoky tomato. Combined with the freshness of cilantro and lime juice, a beautiful balance of flavor develops that makes this perfect as a dipping sauce for calamari, shrimp or used as a sauce on your favorite fish. I’ve had guests who simply want to treat it like a salsa and scoop up some sauce with tortilla chips.

Whatever you decide to use this smoky cocktail sauce with, you sure won’t be disappointed with the flavors. Remember too, you can smoke the tomatoes in the Orion Cooker, on a charcoal grill, on a gas grill with wood chunks, in a stove top smoker pan, or even with a handheld food smoker. The choice is yours for the same easy, great flavor.

Purchase products:

Wood Chips- Minuto®

Additional reading:




Dr Smoke- "

Dr Smoke- “Try this recipe to avoid any “boring” sauces for your dipping pleasure. Avoid double dipping!”



Wood Fired Lobster Tails with Ash Minuto® smoker wood chips on the Plancha stove-top grill

Wood fired Lobster Tails with Ash Minuto® smoker wood chips on the Plancha stove-top grill

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When the temperatures go down and you simply can’t stand the thought of firing up the grill, but you crave something smoked, think plancha. This is a great method of bringing wood fired flavor to foods using the heat from your gas, electric, conduction, or infrared stove top.

I’m going to add a unique flavor to traditional chili by cooking lobster tail meat on the plancha using Ash Minuto® Wood Chips. This will give not only great sear to the lobster meat but a true smoked flavor.

Get ready as we give the SmokinLicious® take on Wood Fired Lobster Tails Chili.

Wood Fired Lobster Tails

I’ve purchased two lobster tails and removed the shells so I can get great wood flavoring into the meat. First I lite up the plancha on my gas range as it’s simply too cold today to fire up the grill. I use a medium-high heat setting under the plancha to ensure I get a great char on the meat. I place Ash Minuto® Wood Chips around the outside of the plancha griddle so the wood fired lobster tails receive the intense heat of the plancha and sear. The chips will smolder and produce great smoke vapor to infuse the lobster while it cooks. These tails will cook about 3-4 minutes before I’ll turn them. Just a few minutes more and they are ready to come off the heat.

Chili Ingredients

With the lobster meat smoked, it’s time to gather the remaining ingredients for the chili. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Ash Minuto® Wood Chips
  • 3 medium shallots
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 8 to 10 ounces grilled/smoked lobster meat (from 2 lobster tails)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons homemade or store-bought chili powder
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup fish stock (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon seafood base seasoning paste mixed with 1 cup very hot water)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Chili Starts with Tender Vegetables

We start this chili recipe off by placing 1 tablespoon of oil into a heavy pan set over medium heat. Once hot and shimmering, it’s time to add the base vegetables. First up, three minced shallots followed by two minced garlic cloves, two celery ribs finely chopped, and one yellow bell pepper seeded and diced fine. These will cook about 6 minutes until tender. Just be sure to stir them occasionally until perfectly tenderized.

Now it’s time to add the more traditional items for chili. Start by adding the kidney beans, chili powder and tomato paste. This should cook for about 5 minutes with constant stirring. The mixture will thicken as it cooks. Next, add the fish stock stirring to combine. The mixture should cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Last, add the ¼ cup of water and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

The final items go in – wood fired lobster meat that has been rough chopped and the ½ cup of heavy cream. Now is the time to make the final adjustments to the taste – feel free to add more salt, pepper, chili powder, stock, cream – whatever brings the flavor in balance for your taste. Don’t forget, you can swap out ingredients for others too. You may prefer crème fresh over heavy cream or want to add a dollop of sour cream.

Although you’ll likely think of this as an entrée, don’t forgot how perfect this is for parties featuring assorted hors d’oeuvres. Fill shot glasses with this great variation and put out some crostini. That will be the go-to pick of any party.

We hope this recipe inspires you to try smoking more ingredients to add a balance of flavor. We’d love to hear what you think so leave us a comment and subscribe to get all our postings on techniques and recipes. Bringing innovation to wood fired cooking with recipes, techniques and the science behind the fire, that’s SmokinLicious®.

Purchase products:

Wood Chips- Minuto®

Additional reading:





Dr Smoke- " Wonderful recipe for when you want a seafood chili!"

Dr Smoke- “Wonderful recipe for when you want a seafood chili!”

Our finished beef short ribs after applying our techniques of adding rub and cooking on the gas grill with wood chunks. Oh so yummy!

Our finished beef short ribs after applying our techniques we describe in this blog


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Of all the cuts of ribs, this is likely my favorite. Found between the 6th and the 10th ribs of the animal, the meat on these ribs lays on top of the bones rather than between them like with back ribs. Short ribs require a method of cooking that will allow them to tenderize as they have a lot more meat, fat, connective tissue and flavor than pork ribs. Because of all that fat and connective tissue, beef short ribs need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 200°F.

Today, I’m going to cook my beef short ribs on the gas grill using an indirect method of cooking and wood chunks to bring great smoke flavor.

Our beef short ribs on the left side of the gas grill and our cherry smoker wood chunks on the right side burner.Grill Set Up

The gas grill I’m using is equipped with 4 burners and heat shields over those burners. I’ll be pre-heating my grill to maintain a cooking temperature of 225°-275°F. I will only be using the heat of the two burners on the right side of the grill. My short ribs will be placed on the left side of the grill with the two burners in the “off” position.

I let the grill heat up first before adding the cherry wood chunks to the heat shields. While it’s heating, lets prepare the short ribs.

Dinosaur Cut

I prefer my butcher to cut what I refer to as the “Dinosaur cut” of short rib. These are the actual length of the short rib, usually around 8-inch lengths. The butcher will trim some fat but essentially, leave these with quite a bit fat to render during cooking to make them tender.

After trimming the fat to make most of the ribs even in size, it’s time to make a simple, flavorful wet rub before these go on the grill.

Fresh Herb Wet Rub

There are a lot of options for flavors that marry well with beef but I prefer to use as much fresh herb as I can. This wet rub recipe will coat about 4 full size short ribs.

Our fresh herb wet rub applied to the beef short ribs

  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Place each of the above ingredients into a mortar so I can control the amount of crushing to the ingredients. I will be forming a loose paste with my ingredients by crushing the ingredients with the pestle. I like to leave some larger pieces of rosemary and peppercorn to add texture to the finished ribs. Once ready, I take the paste and rub it all over the ribs. You can do this step the night before to allow for more tenderizing to the meat before it goes on the grill.

To the Heat

We maintain the temperature of our gas grill and approximately 275 degrees Farenheit.

With my grill temperature registering at 275°F, its time to place the ribs on the unlit side of the grill. I place 2 cherry wood chunks on the heat shield of the burner that is lit and close the lid. These will cook unchecked for about 2 hours. At that point, it will be time to add additional wood chunks and turn the ribs. I also place a small water pan on the grill to keep the meat moist during the final cooking time.

The Finish

Beef short ribs are one of those cuts of meat that require a lengthy cook time, preferably at a lower temperature. Cooking via indirect method on the gas grill with wood chunks is the perfect way to do just that method. Depending on the size of the short ribs you’ve purchased, this method will take 3-5 hours. For a three hour cook, two cherry Single Filet Wood Chunks from SmokinLicious® is all that is needed. For thicker ribs, you will likely need one or two more wood chunks. Target internal temperature of the ribs is 190°F if you plan to rest them or 200°F if your going from grill to plate.

Beef short ribs, dinosaur cut, with rosemary-thyme wet rub. The ultimate in smoked ribs!

Purchase products:

Wood Chunks- Single Filet

Additional reading:




Dr Smoke- "The lower the temperature and the longer the cook will equal tender meat."

Dr Smoke- “The lower the temperature and the longer the cook will equal tender meat.”

Stuffed Mushroom appetizer featuring smoked artichoke heart cooked on the plancha-stove top.

Stuffed Mushroom appetizer featuring smoked artichoke heart cooked on the plancha-stove top.



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You’ve seen us use our plancha to do squid, now we’re going to smoke some artichoke hearts and mushroom caps using just one application of wood chips. This time, our plancha will be set up with Beech Piccolo® wood chips to infuse wood flavoring into artichoke hearts and button mushroom caps for the ultimate stuffed mushroom appetizer. I’ll take you through the recipe and cooking technique using my plancha on the gas range. Easy entertaining starts here with Stuffed Smoked Artichoke Mushrooms.

Smoking artichoke hearts on the plancha over Beech smoker wood chipsWood Firing the Artichoke Hearts

We start off with a 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts packed in water. This will be roughly 8 artichoke hearts. After draining, rinsing, and patting dry, we fire up the plancha on our gas range placing a small handful of SmokinLicious® Beech Piccolo° wood chips on the plancha. As the plancha temperature rises close to 300° F, it’s time to add the artichoke hearts to the smoker racks. Place the cover on the plancha and let the artichoke smoke for about 8 minutes, turning one time half way through the cooking time. Then remove the hearts from the plancha, rough chop them, and put aside for the mushroom filling.

Button mushrooms preparing to be smoked on the plancha Button Mushroom Caps

Next on the plancha go the mushroom caps. We prepared them by first washing them, patting them dry, and then removing the stems. The stems are reserved to be used in the filling mix. If you want extra smoky flavor, feel free to smoke the stems as well but you should smoke them separate from the caps so they don’t shrink and lose too much water.

We’re still using the Beech wood chips that were used for the artichoke hearts as these still have plenty of smoke vapor to be released. Again, these mushroom caps will only take a matter of minutes. Remember, mushrooms are loaded with water so don’t let the caps stay on the plancha too long causing them to shrink and fall apart. Just bronze them with the smoke vapor, then remove to be stuffed. A good sign that they are ready to come off the plancha is when you see a small puddle of water forming in the cap.

Mushroom Cap Filling

With the artichoke hearts and mushroom caps smoked, it’s time to start on the filling. Here are the ingredients need for the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
  • 1 egg white

First, I chop the mushroom stems, dice the shallots, and mince the garlic cloves. In goes the butter to a hot skillet, then all three prepared ingredients are added. Once cooked down, the white wine is added to the mixture with cooking continuing until the wine has evaporated. This is a highly aromatic filling that will blend well with the smoky flavors of the artichoke and mushroom.

Placing the stuffing into the button mushrooms with a spoon

The aromatics are now ready for the rest of the filling ingredients. First, add the chopped smoked artichokes hearts. Next in, the parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, thyme, and egg white. Mix everything together until it binds well. Time to fill the smoked mushroom caps. Using a teaspoon, I fill each mushroom cap heaping the filling on top. Although we prepared 20 mushroom caps, there is enough filling to do 40-50 caps depending on the size of the mushrooms selected. I place these in a baking dish and slide them into a pre-heated 350°F oven for about 30 minutes.

Soon to be the Favorite Stuffed Mushroom Appetizer

After smoking both the artichoke hearts and the mushroom caps, I infused the filling with the smoked, chopped artichoke hearts. With the additional flavors of parmesan, thyme, parsley, garlic, shallot and wine, these mushroom caps are full of flavors including that subtle smoke undertone. These are sure to become a favorite appetizer or snack. Plus, when done on the plancha, they can be smoked year round without concern for the weather.

Purchase products:

Wood Chips- Piccolo®

Additional reading:


-Crostini with Smoked Asparragus


Dr Smoke- "

Dr Smoke- “This will most likely be one of your favorite recipes once you try it.”

Smiling Burnese child before surgery for wide, bi-lateral cleft Lip repair. After surgery photo of same child showing the correction!

Smiling Burmese child before surgery for wide, bi-lateral cleft Lip repair. After surgery photo of same child showing the correction! DINING FOR SMILES EVENT PREPARATIONS


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With the goal to repair children’s broken smiles by providing free comprehensive treatment for cleft lip and palate anomalies in under-served areas of the world, Alliance for Smiles, founded by six members of the San Francisco Rotary Club, Board member Carl Vahl (Chef Calle) hosted a gourmet, six-course dinner to raise funds for this exceptional cause at the Enchanted Valley Inn. And SmokinLicious® was right there to lend our support. We’re going to provide you with a behind-the-scenes look at what goes in to preparing a six-course gourmet meal featuring wood-fired fresh Canadian salmon and wood-fired leg and loin of lamb.

Early Fire Start

Charwood burning in preparation for the grill and food cooking For SmokinLicious®, set up is crucial for a long event that has the menu relying on the perfection of the wood-fired proteins. That means ensuring plenty of charwood and wood chunks are at the ready. We keep two chimney starters loaded with charwood to keep a steady flow of hot coals going into the grills. Since this event’s gourmet menu featured four foods to be wood fired – lamb, salmon, red peppers, and Brussels sprouts – it’s necessary to get the fires going early so they can burn down to hot coal beds. That is the key to successful wood-fire cooking. Don’t cook over flames, only hot coals that will radiate heat throughout the grill.

The Wood-Fired Foods

For this Dining for Smiles event preparations, we used a kettle grill and small charcoal grill from Stôk®. Our wood selections included Ash, Sugar Maple, and Wild Cherry to compliment the Chef’s fresh ingredients. At the ready, digital thermometers, fire gloves, fire extinguisher, ash can, and coal shovel.

Leg and loin of lamb on the grill Chef Calle picked up some sensational rib loins and a leg of lamb for the event. Since the leg of lamb is the thickest, it will go on the grill about 45 minutes ahead of the loins. We will maintain a temperature of 300° to 325°F. My set up includes using a fine steel screen over the traditional charcoal grate to keep the hot coals from falling through. I also use a disposable drip pan that contains a bottle of Syrah wine, rough cut onion, garlic, and mint leaves. The leg of lamb will cook over that drip pan so I can collect the drippings for use later. I probe the leg of lamb as I want to pull the lamb at 123°F internal temperature and rest it in an insulated blanket to the finished temperature of 130°F.


The inside of the Salmon waThe Salmon was stuffed with fresh Thyme, lemon slices and seasoned with a pinch of salt pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil s stuffed Fresh Thyme and lemon slices The fishmonger cleaned and gutted the whole 12lb. Canadian salmon but Chef still needs to cut off the gills and fins, and scale the fish. After that, time for the fun stuffing! With fresh herbs, lemon slices, and olive oil, this is ready for the grill. We do make about four slices into the skin of the fish to allow water to steam out otherwise the fish would shrink. Yes, it is a big fish for our kettle grill but we’ll get it done! Once on the grill, we will leave the salmon untouched for about an hour before we flip and add some orange butter to the skin and insides.

The Finish

After cooking the lamb for approximately 2-1/2 hours, to an internal temperature of 123°F, it is removed and wrapped in an insulated sheet, then rested in a disposable pan. The salmon is given one more rub of the orange butter and then it too is wrapped in an insulated blanket and rested until service. With a combination of sugar maple and wild cherry woods on the salmon and ash, maple and cherry on the lamb, it doesn’t get any better than this for balanced flavor without being too smoky for our guests.

 Whole organic Red Bell pepper purchased from the local Farmers Market, roasting directly on the smoking embers to add a tasty char flavor! Chef wanted a few vegetable items wood fired as well so we started with red bell peppers right on the hot coals for a char finish. Next, sweet onion into a pan set on the insert opening of the grill. Once translucent and starting to brown, in go the Brussels sprouts and carrot. The plan is the ember roasted pepper slices will be added to the salad course while the Brussels sprout medley will go on top of the rice for a flavorful side to the lamb and salmon.

With 18 invited guests attending this intimate event for a cause, the tables are set with a Fall festive theme. Wine pairings are at the ready for the six courses as we welcome in our guests at 6pm for great conversation and a pre-dinner cocktail.

The Team

It certainly takes a Team to pull off an event like this. Special thanks go out to the Culinary Team of SmokinLicious® as well as the Kintner family and their business 360Rize who filmed the Dining for Smiles event preparations including the aerial view via drone. Special thanks to our service team, Monica, Renee, Allison, Ashley, and Jackie. It’s the giving of time that truly makes events like these. And of course, to Chef Vahl who composed an unforgettable menu of foods and flavors.

Be sure to see our upcoming series on the six-course meal for Dining for Smiles after the event preparations and how it all was received.

Purchase products:


Wood Chips- Grande Sapore®

Wood Chunks- Double & Single Filet

Additional reading:




Dr Smoke- "This is a great cause and desires everyone's support!

Dr Smoke- “This is a great cause for cleft lip repair and desires everyone’s support!