Author Topic: That smokey flavour... is just char.  (Read 1336 times)

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Offline dylandylan

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That smokey flavour... is just char.
« on: November 04, 2013, 01:45:53 PM »
For a long time my wife has been obsessed with (me being able to achieve) "that smokey flavour".  My wife has been convinced that a wood fired oven is necessary to get that flavour.   This logic seemed to hold true given that any pizza that we ate with the "smokey flavour" had come out of a WFO...  seeing smoke in the oven and tasting smokiness understandably go together.  This was in fact my view too a couple of years ago...

However over the last little while I've gleaned enough from this forum to be fairly convinced that smoke in the oven (from whatever variety of wood, coal or any other fuel) has little if anything to do with the resulting smokiness of pizza - but until recently I've never been able to prove otherwise as I've never had access to a high-temp non-WFO oven.

Well now I do with a Blackstone.  This weekend I cooked a few pies at 800-900f in the Blackstone, and I do believe my wife's words were "OMG that's the smokey flavour!!".  That flavour was entirely the result of the char and caramelization of the pizza cooked at high temperatures - no smoke in sight.

I'm not claiming that smoke doesn't impart some form of flavour to a pizza - but I would doubt if there's much in it, for me that smokiness is 99.9% caused by temperature, not smoke.

And in fact I would go as far as to suspect that using a particular type of wood that generates a certain flavour of smoke, will fill the *cooking environment* with a pleasant flavour - which you can certainly taste without eating anything, but the pizza gets very little of it.


« Last Edit: November 04, 2013, 01:49:04 PM by dylandylan »


Offline mkevenson

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2013, 01:50:12 PM »
I have read that the very short cooking time in a WFO at high temps does not impart smoke flavor. I don't have a WFO but that is what I have read.
 
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2013, 02:35:45 PM »
If someone is baking in a WFO at very low temps - in the low 500F's for example - for 6-8 minute sort of bakes - then I would say it is possible there might be a noticeable smoky flavor from the smoke itself. However, at Neapolitan temps, I believe all the "smoke" flavor comes from the char, and I don't believe the choice of oak, nut, or fruitwood will make a difference. First, how much smoke flavor could you pick up in 90 seconds or less; second, at those temperatures that there really isn't any smoke, and finally, any smoke you see hovers well above the pie. Your observation with the BS is exactly what I would have expected.
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Offline akuban

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2013, 04:17:32 PM »
You said it perfectly, Craig. The only time I even smell a "smokey" odor from a WFO is when the fire is first started or when a large log is added to the fire. Even if you were to cook a pizza at those moments, I don't think much "flavor" would transfer.
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Offline derricktung

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2013, 04:41:30 PM »
"smokey" flavor is definitely from the leoparding/char spots. 

I thought it was somewhere on this forum, but I read that it takes about 2 hrs to impart smoke flavor to meat.  Even if dough had a much higher absorption ability for smoke, I can't imagine that smoke can be imparted into dough within 90 seconds. 

After all, if smoke was penetrating the dough and adding flavor, wouldn't the cheese also be affected by this?  (Mozzarella would taste smokey, as would other ingredients?)


Offline TXCraig1

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2013, 06:06:07 PM »
I thought it was somewhere on this forum, but I read that it takes about 2 hrs to impart smoke flavor to meat. 

This is absolutely not accurate. You can get smoke flavor in meat in less than 10 minutes. Recently I've been absolutely shocked how much smoke flavor I get in beef using a rotisserie in the WFO at 325F +/- in under an hour.
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Offline derricktung

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2013, 11:29:00 PM »
This is absolutely not accurate. You can get smoke flavor in meat in less than 10 minutes. Recently I've been absolutely shocked how much smoke flavor I get in beef using a rotisserie in the WFO at 325F +/- in under an hour.

Hmm... then perhaps it wasn't this forum?  Sounds like it's time to do some looking up on research of smoke penetration for flavor... I wonder if Modernist Cuisine has something on it..

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2013, 08:56:25 AM »
Hmm... then perhaps it wasn't this forum?

I don't remember seeing it, but it wouldn't surprise me if you saw it here. Many of the things I see posted about smoke here are wrong.
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Offline bbqchuck

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2013, 09:23:39 AM »
This is absolutely not accurate. You can get smoke flavor in meat in less than 10 minutes. Recently I've been absolutely shocked how much smoke flavor I get in beef using a rotisserie in the WFO at 325F +/- in under an hour.

It may have been me that posted it.  I can get a smokey flavor in a steak in about 10-15 minutes using mesquite.  Mesquite smoke would never be confused with charred meat.  I sear over blazing hot mesquite lump charcoal and move to the side of the fire to cook thru to desired doneness.  During this time off to the side, I use some mesquite wood for smoke.  Not much, but anyone that uses mesquite knows, it doesn't take much.


Offline Jackitup

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2013, 10:08:06 AM »
It may have been me that posted it.  I can get a smokey flavor in a steak in about 10-15 minutes using mesquite.  Mesquite smoke would never be confused with charred meat.  I sear over blazing hot mesquite lump charcoal and move to the side of the fire to cook thru to desired doneness.  During this time off to the side, I use some mesquite wood for smoke.  Not much, but anyone that uses mesquite knows, it doesn't take much.

Mesquite can give a good hearty kiss of smoke or bite your mouth off, especially if only used as a smoke source. Best if used as a heat source and you get plenty of smoke on accident. For most a little too much is way too much, one of the more potent smoke flavors there is but if used correctly can be one of the best. Like a Neapolitan pie, a bit of char is perfect, a little more is burnt!!

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Offline derricktung

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2013, 10:36:19 AM »
Interesting read...

http://www.smackersbbq.com/bbq-tips-science-of-smoke.html

The theory on this page is that myoglobin within meat (muscle tissue) binds to the nitrous produced by smoke to create flavor. 

While in theory this could be what causes "smokey" flavor to bind to meat, it wouldn't explain how cheese can acquire that "smokey" flavor when smoked...  Or maybe the porousness of the cheese just allows the smoke flavor to permeate it directly resulting in smoked cheese? 

(This could be similar to why I feel like after grilling/smoking, even after I shower, I still smell faint smokiness on me... or I'm just not showering right.)

Anyone have a good understanding of smoke "flavor" penetration, and how it may work with dough?

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2013, 11:19:07 AM »

The theory on this page is that myoglobin within meat (muscle tissue) binds to the nitrous produced by smoke to create flavor. 

While in theory this could be what causes "smokey" flavor to bind to meat, it wouldn't explain how cheese can acquire that "smokey" flavor when smoked...  Or maybe the porousness of the cheese just allows the smoke flavor to permeate it directly resulting in smoked cheese? 



The burning of wood produces a couple of hundred individual compounds, depending on the temperature of combustion. The ones that are most water-soluble and fat-soluble will be absorbed over time into food depending on many things including smoke density, surface/volume ratio, the temperature of the food, and the content of the food (water, fat, protein, connective tissue), etc. As food cooks, particularly as proteins denature, driving water out, and fats melt out, the rate of smoke absorption decreases. One interesting exception:  when smoking something like pork shoulder for long periods, the conversion of collagen, which does not absorb much flavor, to gelatin, which does, allows more smoke to be absorbed near the end of the cooking session. People will often wrap the meat in foil late in the process to conserve moisture, but are also blocking many good things such as additional flavor from the smoke.


With regard to pizza dough: only the exposed edges have any chance of picking up flavors from what little smoke might be in contact with it during its brief bake and many of the most desirable flavors may have already been destroyed by the high combustion temp. There is more of a chance for the toppings with higher fat and water content to pick up some smoke flavor, if any. In my mostly sub-minute bakes, smoke flavor is never something I can detect or desire in the dough. Of course, pre-smoked toppings are a great way to add the flavor if desired. I particularly like drizzling some smoked olive oil on certain kinds of pizzas after baking.   

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2013, 11:59:59 AM »
Interesting read...

http://www.smackersbbq.com/bbq-tips-science-of-smoke.html

The theory on this page is that myoglobin within meat (muscle tissue) binds to the nitrous produced by smoke to create flavor. 


I don’t know what the author is a Dr. of, but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to smoke, and he more than a bit off in his explanation. This is the same sort of incorrect information that has been posted here a few times.

NO2 (and NO) is a component of wood smoke, however it is odorless and flavorless. FWIW, it (and NO combined) represents less than 0.1% of wood smoke. NO2 mixes with water on the surface of meat forming weak nitrous acid which is an unstable and rapidly decomposes into nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide (NO), and water.
 
Osmosis carries the NO into the meat where it binds with myoglobin to produce the red color you often see in smoked meats – the “smoke ring.” Myoglobin denatures at around 145F – above that temp the meat will no longer turn pink. The NO bond is much stronger than the O bond which also produces the red color (as you would have in living flesh) which is why smoked or cured meat stays pink for a long time and raw meat doesn’t (nitrites and nitrates used to cure meat ultimately result in the same chemistry that creates the color).

This guy is completely wrong when he says this reaction has anything to do with the smoke flavor – or the flavor at all for that matter. It only has an effect on color. You can make a brisket with no pink ring that is so smoky you won't want to eat it, and you can make one with a 1/2"+ bright red ring and no smoke flavor whatsoever. If you want to see this for yourself, rub a piece of brisket with Morton Tender Quick and bake it in the oven (TQ is banned from most BBQ competitions). You can even get a "smoke ring" from a propane fire with a bit of effort as it can be coaxed into producing some NO when burned. The smoke flavor entirely comes from other compounds in the smoke.

Quote
While in theory this could be what causes "smokey" flavor to bind to meat, it wouldn't explain how cheese can acquire that "smokey" flavor when smoked...  Or maybe the porousness of the cheese just allows the smoke flavor to permeate it directly resulting in smoked cheese?

(This could be similar to why I feel like after grilling/smoking, even after I shower, I still smell faint smokiness on me... or I'm just not showering right.)

Anyone have a good understanding of smoke "flavor" penetration, and how it may work with dough?


Cheese and anything else acquire smoke flavor the same way as meat – the compounds responsible for the flavor are either dissolved in water or fat and absorbed into the product, or they stick on the surface. Wet things like meat or cheese allow more penetration because osmosis actually pulls the compounds inwards. Dough dries very quickly on the surface, so the accumulation of smoke flavor is more difficult. There isn’t anything to dissolve the compounds in the smoke or pull them below the surface. When I smoke salt, for example, I periodically mist it lightly with water to help the compounds in the smoke dissolve on the surface of the salt where they dry and remain in place. I think if you were going to taste smoke anywhere on a pie, I would think it would be in the sauce.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 12:01:31 PM by TXCraig1 »
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Offline PizzaAlaJoey

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2013, 01:31:53 PM »
Well either way if you own a wood fire oven, you or whoever is eating should somehow notice the smell of smoke which makes you enjoy the experience more. Smell and taste are both olfactory and connected senses. I think it still is awesome.

Offline dylandylan

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2013, 12:55:17 AM »
Well either way if you own a wood fire oven, you or whoever is eating should somehow notice the smell of smoke which makes you enjoy the experience more. Smell and taste are both olfactory and connected senses. I think it still is awesome.

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Offline derricktung

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2013, 08:21:17 PM »
Much learned about the smoking process.  Thanks for the info, Bill and Craig!

Offline homebrewpizza

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #16 on: November 17, 2013, 10:53:24 AM »
I cook NP pies in my modified Weber grill (two stones+side firebricks, and firebox door). Obtaining 800-1000 degrees is easy and fast. Creating a lot of smoke is also easy (but not preferable), and there have been plenty of times I've cooked pies in under 90 seconds that had so much smoke flavor, it was practically inedible. You can certainly impart smoke into an NP pie, even at short cook times, and you can overdo it, underdo it, or get it just right. YMMV, but I think a pleasant and desirable smoke flavor is distinct from charring (which is also pleasant and desirable) and does require the exposure to a wood combustion source. Even if there is no visible smoke, the combustion of wood matter is still producing smoke compounds, and some of it, if only a tiny bit, is making its way into the cheese, gluten proteins, and even toppings, in 90 seconds.

Offline PizzaAlaJoey

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #17 on: November 17, 2013, 06:43:51 PM »
That's good to know. Seems like it migt be easier to get more with a good Weber grill to me.

Offline Jackitup

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2013, 09:26:22 PM »
I cook NP pies in my modified Weber grill (two stones+side firebricks, and firebox door). Obtaining 800-1000 degrees is easy and fast. Creating a lot of smoke is also easy (but not preferable), and there have been plenty of times I've cooked pies in under 90 seconds that had so much smoke flavor, it was practically inedible. You can certainly impart smoke into an NP pie, even at short cook times, and you can overdo it, underdo it, or get it just right. YMMV, but I think a pleasant and desirable smoke flavor is distinct from charring (which is also pleasant and desirable) and does require the exposure to a wood combustion source. Even if there is no visible smoke, the combustion of wood matter is still producing smoke compounds, and some of it, if only a tiny bit, is making its way into the cheese, gluten proteins, and even toppings, in 90 seconds.

Don't confuse the good flavor of smoke with the nasty bitter acrid taste of creosote.  One is from smoldering chunks of wood the other is the black heavy stuff from burning wood, usually too green
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Offline wotavidone

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Re: That smokey flavour... is just char.
« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2013, 08:36:53 PM »
The only time I've managed to get a really discernable smoke flavour in my WFO oven was the day I had a "difficult" excessively wet dough, and accidentally lingered too long getting it off the (timber) peel. The resultant incineration of the peel imparted a very nice smokey flavour. :) :) Other than that, WFO's burn hot and clean, and make very little smoke when they are working right. That's why the char, and cooking straight on the bricks where you can't help but pick up a tiny amount of ash even if you clean the floor diligently, is so desirable.


 

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