Use These Ingredients to Imbue Your Barbecue Smoke With More Intense Flavor
Think beyond wood chips and charcoal.
Barbecue is all about the smoke. Whether you’re cooking over coals, using a redhot cast iron pan, or firing up with wood chips, smoke -- alongside rubs and marinades -- is the backbone of every signature barbecue dish. That being said, the way smoke tastes varies depending on what’s being burned. There are pitmasters who argue the merit of cooking over coal versus burning wood chips -- or using both. Is maplewood better or will hickory do?
The conversation around smoke, however, doesn’t have to be limited to types of wood or appliances. Whether you’re cooking with gas, electric, or over an open flame, using and burning ingredients -- like rosemary, coconut chips, or banana leaves -- can infuse even more flavor into your food than if you were just barbecuing over a standalone pile of mesquite.Here are some ingredients that will impart depth into your dish next time you’re barbecuing.
RosemarySprigs of rosemary bathed in a pool of butter makes for the perfect thing to baste a steak in. But rosemary doesn’t have to just be infused in butter or tossed with chicken; the fragrant herb works well in an open flame to infuse its signature, evergreen flavor into the smoke. When heated, the needles that make up the leaves on a rosemary bush release that unmistakable floral flavor. Use rosemary-tinged smoke with chicken, lamb, and beef. Pro tip: use the sturdiest stems you can find as a skewer for kebabs.
Bay LeavesBay leaves are one of those ingredients that, for the longest time, I questioned how effective they were. If a recipe called for bay leaves, I wondered if I could get away with leaving them out. The answer is sure, you can, but bay leaves certainly bring an added earthy, full-bodiedness to a dish. you can really taste the difference. Bay leaves are often used to infuse flavor into soups and rice, but if you toss them straight on top of coals during barbecue, you’ll get that herbaceous flavor in your smoke, and consequently, your food, too. So yes, we do recommend stocking your pantry with bay leaves and no, do not skip them when the recipe calls for it.
Whether you go gas or charcoal, you have standards to uphold. This summer, complement the cookout with Rémy Martin VSOP. With notes of vanilla, stone fruit, and licorice, VSOP is complex enough to drink neat, versatile enough for cocktails, and always in a class of its own. It’s the style upgrade your BBQ deserves.